LilyPond’s Freedom

Oops, I have to plead guilty for some vanity-Googling my name in combination with “LilyPond”. OK, this is embarassing, but on the bright side it revealed some blog posts I didn’t know yet. And there’s one in particular that I want to recommend today because it’s a post that actually should have appeared here a long time ago (and my mention is actually very minor). Joshua Nichols wrote a very interesting piece on software freedom, which I suggest to read here: https://joshdnichols.com/2015/11/16/why-i-love-lilypond-freedom/

8 thoughts on “LilyPond’s Freedom

  1. David Kastrup

    Well, it confuses the GPL with free-for-all: “For LilyPond there’s no end-user restriction, no licensing, no protections (except against users trying to sell it), and you get it and use it for free.”

    Of course there is licensing. There are strong protections, but they are not against users trying to sell it, but rather against users trying to distribute versions in manners conflicting with the license. Selling copies of LilyPond source and binaries (and support for them) is totally fine as long as you heed the conditions. And “you get it and use it for free” is also wrong: someone has to pay for the servers, and someone ultimately has to actually do and/or pay the ongoing work invested into it. Once everybody decides that he gets to have and use LilyPond for free, it will stop being available.

    Someone has to shoulder the bills. If not you, someone else. And there are only so many “someone else”s to go around. Now when development ceases, Free Software needs a lot less expensive life support systems than proprietary software to stay around until somebody may want to pick it up again.

    But it still needs them. Suggesting to people that this isn’t so is ultimately not doing Free Software a favor. Freedom is precious and you should be willing to invest into it _more_ than into maintaining your fetters, not less. For most people, this may be an investment in time improving the software and its documentation and helping others use it. But there are also monetary costs for keeping a project afloat.

    Reply
    1. Joshua Nichols

      While I agree with you, the scope of my comment addresses a larger and more pernicious mindset in its context, the idea of the “intellectual-property” of software and the goal of creating protections for the freedom of information.

      I think stating “no such thing as a free sandwich” can be taken in stride with it, no? The truth is, it IS free to the user, unless they WANT to pay for it (which should be more common).

      So while I believe your points are granted, I don’t believe that my comments missed the mark in their context. Would you not agree?

      Reply
      1. David Kastrup

        I stopped working on LilyPond because I was unable to support myself in that manner. So no, my work did _not_ come “free to the user”, and the gratis propaganda associated with Free Software did contribute to my departure from the project. If more people expected to help either with investments of time and/or money, the ultimately collapsing load would have been distributed across more shoulders and would have required less of an advertiser’s and beggar’s mind set for me to be successful.

        People who work with 95% of Free Software tend to invest less time and money into keeping Free Software alive than they do with the 5% of proprietary software they may be using.

        And that’s just not a healthy idea to keep spreading.

        Reply
        1. Joshua Nichols

          I agree with what you are saying, but free software is a gift, no? I know it didn’t support you, but it is a gift, albeit a gift worth paying for and investing money into if you use it a lot.

          Perhaps what you are conflating is the idea that the “open source” mindset shouldn’t be seen as free, but the software in and of itself should be seen as a gift (worth paying what you can, even if it is $0).

          Reply
          1. David Kastrup

            Uh, no? It can only truly be a “gift” when development has finally ended, like an animal can only truly be a “gift” once it is dead. Until then, it is an obligation, in this case a community obligation. When everybody considers it “somebody else’s problem”, it dies.

            The characterization as a “gift” and of the gratis mindset is a primary contributor to making organized free software development precarious.

            People love to praise free software developers instead of paying them.

            Reply

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