I have been noticing a resurrection of the “open” vs “free” debate in several lists, particularly in discussions about Creative Commons. This is rather disheartening, because I have been hoping that Creative Commons could stay away from the quasi-religious debates that have been affecting the Free/Open Source camps for years.
The proponents of Free Software and the “free” philosophy claim that their movement has more certainties and better direction than the proponents of Open Source and “open” philosophies. This may be true, but certainty is not always a good thing. Whenever I talk to free software proponents I am struck by how much they sound like religious fundamentalists, who are emboldened and guided by the certainty that they are right. I am also generally struck by the strange use of the term “freedom” in the movement, given that generally the movement advocates one specific type of freedom. People have the freedom to maintain the source code open, but they do not have the freedom to choose their own licence, this is done for them by the viral restrictions of the GPL. One cannot elevate freedom to the highest pedestal and yet begrudge those who choose to exercise their freedom, unless freedom means “you are free to do as you are told”.