Commercial Use

Wed, 29 Mar 2017

Someone recently asked me "in what way the freedoms of the readers/spectators/... of an artistic work are harmed if that work cannot be commercially used?"

This person is already supportive of free software.

I decided to put my response here:

Apply those same questions to software. It's a multi-part answer.

Free software (and also free culture) is for everyone. Even people doing it commercially (i.e., for money) like companies or individuals. Otherwise it treats people differently, with different classes. Because if commercial usage was disallowed for everyone else the copyright holder isn't barred from doing it. Avoiding that (because everyone should be treated equally; isn't that what this whole thing's been about to begin with? Avoiding the power control of one over another?) means companies should have the same rights to free software (and free culture) as individuals do and use the free software (and free culture) stuff for their own purposes. Why can't they use that scheduling program to manage the appointment schedule of their haircutting business? Why can't they use that music for their hold music (i.e., a "commercial use.") So that's part 1.

Part 2 is: Do we want free software (and also free culture) to be limited to the sidelines where people do the free software (and free culture) stuff only at night and on weekends while during the day time they go back to their day job making proprietary things instead? I certainly don't. I want free software (and free culture) stuff to become culturally relevant, if not dominant. And to eventually stamp out the non-free entirely. That means said person needs to be able to quit their job and work on free software (and free culture) things full time if they want to and still be able to pay their rent. That would actually be a good thing: We need more free software (and free culture) stuff - not less.

That means being able to make money from them. Don't forget that creativity isn't just "I had this wonderful idea and now I am the only person that can use it." See All Creative Work Is Derivative. Part of being creative also includes reusing stuff from others, since it's already derivative.

So let's look at it another way: Take Mimi and Eunice for example. Nina is no longer working on them. But even if she were what's the harm if someone decided that they wanted to continue making new episodes while getting some money via, say, Patreon? There's no harm at all.

If we want free software (and free culture) to be more than a side activity from hobbyists on nights and weekends doing bits here and there gratis then money needs to be allowed.

And hence we have "a free program must be available for commercial use, commercial development, and commercial distribution", says the FSF in their Free Software Definition. The same should apply to free culture too, and for the same reasons.