November 8th & 9th, 2024
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Philosophy of Free Software

SeaGL 2015

Born in an era of increasing social freedom but increasing political and corporate conservatism, Free Software didn’t begin as a rebellion against an entrenched proprietary majority, but more as a jolt of surprise that earlier attitudes of open collaboration were disappearing. Academic experimentation gave way to the “Big Business” of software, and to economic motivations to lock down legal ownership. Until the 1970’s, the United States considered software as a “utilitarian good” and granted it no copyright protection. Free Software and proprietary software grew more-or-less at the same time, in response to new ideas of software as a creative work, due the same treatment as other forms of property.

Free Software has always been firmly planted in the ideals of freedom, liberty, equality, and a society of individuals working toward a common good. These concepts are steeped in a heritage stretching back centuries, including Socrates, Plato, Scotus, John Locke, Thomas Paine, Thomas Hill Green, and numerous others. This talk explores the philosophical roots of Free Software, for a deeper understanding of the movement today.


Allison Randal

Allison Randal, HP and OSI

Allison is a software developer and open source strategist. She is president of the Open Source Initiative, board member at the Perl Foundation, and co-founder of the FLOSS Foundations group for open source leaders. She previously served as president of the Perl Foundation, chief architect of the Parrot virtual machine and chairman of the Board at the Parrot Foundation, board member at the Python Software Foundation, Open Source Evangelist and OSCON Conference Chair at O’Reilly Media, and Technical Architect of Ubuntu and Open Source Advisor at Canonical. She collaborates in the Debian, Ubuntu, Python, Perl, and OpenStack projects, and currently works on open source strategy at Hewlett Packard.