We’re gearing up for an incredible WordCamp here in Atlanta and because I’m part of the organizing team I have to review nearly everything that goes into making this thing “work” – and it’s a lot of work, believe you me!
But it’s an incredible amount of fun and I’m having a blast with Judi Knight, Carel Bekker, and Russell Fair as we build this thing together with a lot of community help.
One of the things that has been interesting in the launch of WordCamp is the adherence to the GPL – which we all know has recently caused a bit of a stir. I’m not going to rehash those things or necessarily put my foot down on where I stand in this post, but it’s been interesting to note the process through which we vet potential speakers as well as sponsors to the event.
One of the things that comes up often in conversation is this simple question:
Does this speaker or sponsor adhere to the 4 freedoms of GPL and free software?
I’ve been familiar with them but I’ve had so much interaction recently that I’ve almost internalized them through direct memorization!
For those that are unfamiliar with them explicitly, here they are:
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
This came up a few times and in a few circumstances I’ve had to personally call the speaker/sponsor and ask if they have issues with the 4 freedoms and/or if their product or promoted service will conflict, at all.
In all cases so far the answer has been a good one but it’s fascinating to observe the conversation as speakers and sponsors are forced to wrestle with some of these things directly in a way that they haven’t had to previously. Philosophically-speaking, all of them had no problem with the 4 freedoms specifically given for the GPL although they couldn’t have told me what the 4 are.
Sure, they could charge for downloading the plugin and charge for support or updates, but if they’re distributing WP-derivative code, they can’t do anything that would infringe on their users having the aove freedoms for the code of the plugin(s).
Again, the sponsor said “Yes” to all the above but not after having to pause a few times and generally think it over.
All this to say it’s been a healthy dialogue forcing everything to consider thoughtfully what their position is and how they want to serve their users and create value for their businesses.
Heck, which goes for you, as well – when was the last time you reviewed the four freedoms and could you have enumerated them by heart?