A Free Society and Free Software 

A Free Society and Free Software

In "The Open Society and Its Enemies" Karl Popper discussed how a free society can hope to triumph over a totalitarian society. The book written at a time when Nazi and Communist regimes seemed to be on the verge of destroying Democracy. One principle that Popper advocated was that only political parties and groups that support freedom should have the support of that freedom
"In a democracy, the full protection of minorities should not extend to those who vilate the law, and especially not to those who incite others to the violent overthrow of the democracy."

This type of argument allows free speech to be curtailed in the case of “hate speech”. So for example this reasoning was used in Ireland during the troubles where Section 31 banned broadcasts by the IRA's political branch Sinn Fein. So the question arises should those who refuse to defend the principles of a free society be sheltered by those freedoms? You would refuse to play a game of chess against someone who did not obey the rules but are the freedoms of a free society so fundamental that they should be given even to those who would remove them from others?

Free software is a movement that believes that software is like speech and the text used to produce programs should be openly available. Also you should be able to modify this text and this modified version then becomes available. The free software movement has recently been arguing whether software that curtails certain freedoms should be allowed to be classed as free software. This DRM software is designed to ensure that only authorised computers can access certain information. So when you buy a new song file on the internet DRM software could ensure that this song can only play on the computer you purchased the song file on.

Free speech does not cover shouting “Fire” in a cinema and I assume certain kinds of free software are also not covered, can anyone confirm this?

The question of whether free software should allow software that impinges on freedom seems closely related to whether free speech laws should allow speech that encourages freedoms to be impinged on. So if free software really is about freedom can and should this freedom be constrained?

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