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GNU Guru: Linux Steam "Unethical"

The GNU Website has statement from Richard Stallman where the founder of GNU and the Free Software Foundation describes his concerns about Valve's plans to bring Steam to Linux (thanks Ars Technica). He explains the freedom to install Steam games will impinge on a user's freedom:

A well known company, Valve, that distributes nonfree computer games with Digital Restrictions Management, recently announced it would distribute these games for GNU/Linux. What good and bad effects can this have?

I suppose that availability of popular nonfree programs on GNU/Linux can boost adoption of the system. However, our goal goes beyond making this system a “success”; its purpose is to bring freedom to the users. Thus, the question is how this development affects users' freedom.

Nonfree game programs (like other nonfree programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users. (Game art is a different issue, because it isn't software.) If you want freedom, one requisite for it is not having nonfree programs on your computer. That much is clear.

However, if you're going to use these games, you're better off using them on GNU/Linux rather than on Microsoft Windows. At least you avoid the harm to your freedom that Windows would do.

Thus, in direct practical terms, this development can do both harm and good. It might encourage GNU/Linux users to install these games, and it might encourage users of the games to replace Windows with GNU/Linux. My guess is that the direct good effect will be bigger than the direct harm. But there is also an indirect effect: what does the use of these games teach people in our community?

Any GNU/Linux distro that comes with software to offer these games will teach users that the point is not freedom. Nonfree software in GNU/Linux distros already works against the goal of freedom. Adding these games to a distro would augment that effect.

If you want to promote freedom, please take care not to talk about the availability of these games on GNU/Linux as support for our cause. Instead you could tell people about the Liberated Pixel Cup free game contest, the Free Game Dev Forum, and the LibrePlanet Gaming Collective's free gaming night.

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63. Re: GNU Guru: Linux Steam Jul 31, 2012, 19:15 jdreyer
 
Bhruic wrote on Jul 31, 2012, 14:13:
Beamer wrote on Jul 31, 2012, 13:51:
Nice to see I wasn't the only one that goofed on his terminology. "Non-free" means "the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. With these freedoms, the users (both individually and collectively) control the program and what it does for them."

It has nothing to do with price.

I don't understand how so many people are confusing "freedom" and "free". There's a reason he continually uses the word "freedom" in there, and that's because you can't (or shouldn't be able to) confuse "freedom" with pricing.

Look at it this way - all of the words in a book are publicly available. There's nothing "hidden" behind the scenes. Books are, effectively, open-source. And yet people still make money selling them.

Being open-source doesn't mean you have to give it away. Being open-source doesn't mean you give up your copyright (although there are licensing agreements that do, which you aren't obliged to use). All of this talk about people not being able to make money is nonsense.

What Stallman said was vague and confusing, thus people were confused. If he had said, "Software with EULAs that you're not allowed to modify infringe on your freedom" this thread would have been much smaller and more focused on what he meant.

As for your analogy, it's a poor one. The words correlate to programming languages like Java or C++. Anyone can write programs in those languages. The book itself is not open source. I can't cut and paste paragraphs from LOTR into my new book and call it mine, nor can I changed passages in LOTR and republish it. I'd be sued by Tolkien's estate for copyright infringement, at least until the CR expires. The same goes for software: I can't take the weapons from UT3 and put them into MW2, redistribute it, and say I improved it, but Stallman is saying that being restricted from doing that infringes your freedom, that's why non-open source is bad (according to him).
 
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