everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
=> mo-money-mo-problems.html mo-money-mo-problems
*originally posted:* feb 2022
this article explores the challenges in doing for games (making free software versions of them) what was done for other applications. the effective solution may be to continue making mostly new games instead, and free software has done that for a long time. please note this article is not meant to dismiss the idea of "remaking" games as free software, only to explain why it is likely more difficult to do so.
im not pessimistic for pessimisms sake, im pessimistic from experience. i hope someone will prove me wrong, that would make me very happy. it only pisses me off when people try to do so with self-serving dishonesty, like theyre saving the world but havent actually done anything to change it. open source is good at that.
free software has the task of actually doing (only some portion of) what open source makes empty promises about. it certainly doesnt have to meet every one of open sources (purported) goals-- only those they share.
remaking non-free games as free software is a lovely idea, and maybe someone can figure out how to make it work. games are a difficult road for free software-- no matter how much progress is made, to many (each of whom are either foolish or actually have a point) it doesnt seem to count for a lot. technically, there seems to be a lot of free software games, but culturally it seems like a relatively small offering. marketing on the non-free (and open source) side surely counts for part of this perception-- but probably not all of it. there are still more non-free games, for those who value selection over freedom.
heres the challenge: remaking existing games is a potential copyright nightmare. not that it should be-- copyright is the geocentric universe model of the 21st century. hell, so are corporations altogether-- they clearly believe the sun (along with every man, woman and child) should go around them. nice of them to reinvent religion, but seriously, fuck off.
to remake existing games, we are of course talking about replacing non-free artwork with free artwork (and then NOT putting it on github) but theres look-and-feel, theres copyrighted ui, theres all kinds of shit with characters that seems separate from actually copying images or text-- it ALMOST works like trademark law but i think there are still other copyright issues. plus, trademark laws still apply. again, this is not an endorsement of modern, extreme copyright-- it is a list of potential challenges.
if im right, then applying the free software PROCESS to existing games is like 2 or 3 times harder, because there are 2 or 3 times as many tricky things to consider to have any kind of "clean-room" game remake.
this doesnt make it impossible, unless it does.
the free culture movement would be great help here, except they joined the coup and stabbed stallman in the back. i probably shouldnt blame all free culture advocates, and i really dont. but some of their prominent advocates and other related figures were involved.
free software would have been a great help here, if it had done like id been pushing FOR YEARS and taken on free culture values. ive gone as far as writing a rhetorical programming language compiler-- rhetorical but it actually exists and works-- that used stallmans no-derivs/verbatim only essays as source code.
stallman wasnt amused though he missed the point-- i wasnt trying to PROVE him wrong, i was trying to get him to look at something differently. but the fsf was ALWAYS stupid about free culture. stallman clearly never understood the point of it. im extremely famliar with his positions on it and ive tried to debate him on it many times. he simply bows to his own authority and makes other circular arguments about it. i think on most issues, stallman is more reasonable. its when he steps outside of issues he fully understands that he can be truly difficult. hes a brilliant person and truly one of the great minds of the past century, but even they (einstein, anybody) are dumb about something, at least. the comparison to einstein is no joke, and einstein was about as sympathetic to quantum theory as stallman is to free culture.
i blame both sides for this failure. free culture is a bit stupid and treacherous and bullshit about free software, and vice versa. i actually stopped renewing my fsf membership over this issue, so im pretty sympathetic to free culture on this; but those who participated in the coup against stallman i refer to as traitors and other equally nasty words. along with the fsf, creative commons never gave a shit about free culture either, and i would consider it a special treat to watch their offices get bulldozed. my sincerest admiration for professor lessig continues; cc has fuck-all to do with him or anything he ever stood for, and i hope any remaining fsf fans understand this.
free culture has on many occasions neglected itself as much as it has neglected free software, and for that it can only blame itself. it is just as tragic, because i consider free culture a very important cause.
BUT EVEN IF WE HAD THIS UNION OF FREE SOFTWARE AND FREE CULTURE-- which would be the BEST foundation for exactly this idea of remaking non-free games as free software (and free culture) works, it would still (imo) be 2 or 3 times harder.
its harder to "rewrite" cultural works-- and stallman at least understood this part, but maybe wasnt imaginative enough (in general, yes; regarding this, no) to think of reasonable exceptions-- than it is to recreate functional software.
in fact BEING FUNCTIONAL makes things harder to copyright traditionally, in theory and in the first place. copyright applies much more loosely (only in part) to recipes because of this, and it applies less (if at all) to clothing. a logo on a pair of trousers may be protected by trademarks, but the trousers themselves are more or less fair game.
putting software aside for a moment to illustrate the challenge further: imagine trying to rewrite the first harry potter book in a way that didnt have the publisher coming down on you for it.
thats a hell of a task, before you even consider artwork.
OF COURSE if you look at popular culture, it is still an endless string of ripoffs... usually by companies big enough to tell each other "go fuck yourself" and they rarely ever worry about a big copyright lawsuit. sure, it happens now and then. mostly its a recursive soup of posturing, sabre rattling, fud and bullshit. on rare occasions it is at least potentially world-changing and cause for real worry, but not very often.
if youre a little company, you could easily become lunch.
its MUCH easier to recreate software that is less artistic, less cultural and less visual-design dependent. and it probably always was.
but already exceptions exist: trivial things like space invaders, frozen bubble, angry birds, etc. arcade shit is easy to "recreate" and people do this all the time.
but please, do prove me wrong. i do not want to be right about this. if you can find ways around these challenges, you can do something good.
though the goal of free software isnt to be right, its to change the way things are.
but this is the good news: sometimes when a bigger-than-ever challenge shows up, THATS exactly when new heroes crop up as well.
the other issue of course, is that any free software that becomes popular gets exploited. in the short run, we can theoretically have non-free games made into free games-- if that promotes free software values, excellent.
but free software itself is collapsing and to have free games, we need free software too. which is absolutely not to say that one must be fixed before the other-- im not sure thats true. but regardless of order, free software itself must be mended for free software games to work from a freedom standpoint. and since working for freedom is the actual point of the idea, this really cant ignore the terrible state of free software either. by terrible of course, i mean that free software has been almost entirely co-opted, exploited and occupied by open source.
even the fsf has (99% or so) given up on doing anything about it-- theyre just the osf (or even the msf) now, the fsf works not for free software, but for open source. even people within the gnu project pretend its "a few developers" who are working for microsoft-- thats bullshit, and shows how even gnu developers dont know (or dont care) whats going on.
its not a few developers: its wget. its the fsf president. its COREUTILS. and stop calling it a "mirror" when it accepts pull requests, you fucking frauds. youre not liberating users anymore-- youre exploiting workers now, and the fsf has ALREADY ended. it wont un-abandon its mission-- it is done.
you can point to the little insignificant efforts made now, as evidence to the contrary. i point to them as proof of what im saying-- roy says hes talked dozens of people away from github. roy is a fucking joke who mocks people for actually keeping track of (and stating exactly) how much footing weve lost. roy is an open source liar who pretends to be about free software-- it isnt free software who pays his salary though, its open source.
the little efforts the fsf makes now serve one purpose only-- to fool people into thinking that it still gives a shit, so youll send them money.
yes, i imagine there are a few honest people still working for the fsf. thats a mistake; they are being gaslighted and manipulated, just like "before" (during) the coup and just like "after" (still during) the coup. better to call it an occupation now, because thats what it is.
they arent fighting for your freedom, theyre covering up what they did and rewriting "their own" (stolen, co-opted) history. osi isnt dead (too bad, i wish it was)-- it merged. open source is doing to the fsf exactly what ibm is doing to redhat. and when techrights finally admits it, it will be a postmortum posing as a route to progress, which is exactly the same thing techrights does with linux (dead) and systemd (too late, you knew TEN YEARS AGO what the problem was and DID N-O-T-H-I-N-G!)
free software will move on, without the (completely worthless) fsf. the fsf will continue to hold stallman hostage-- he could do far more OUTSIDE their control, gaslighting ("yes buddy, we ALL work for you of course!") and manipulation. the fsf is exiling stallman in place by pretending to let him save the corpse of his own organisation.
but thats how the open source scam works-- it dangles a fake carrot, fake freedom and makes you work for it-- then it exploits your work. exactly what the fsf (open source foundation) is doing now.
we DONT KNOW what free software will LOOK like when it moves on from this failed chapter in its history. what we DO KNOW is that from here, things follow EACH in two directions:
the first direction is that free software tries to fix its old mistakes-- unlike the fsf entirely, which sat on problems for too many years at a time as if they didnt exist-- and still does "after" the coup, during the occupation.
the second direction is people from the occupation try to convince you (as they always did) that theyre free software when they were / are actually open source, and continue their decades-old practices of co-opting everything free software does and exploiting it for not only profit-- but CONTROL and MONOPOLY. these "values" are 100% incompatible with freedom. they are NOT free software. they are not even compatible, they work directly against us while lying and claiming alliance. the fsf failed because they DIDNT FIGHT BACK.
non-free software has ALWAYS fought competition. free software was (is) competition, to them. they will always fight us, as long as non-free software exists. marketing, lying, treachery-- its a GIVEN from non-free software. so once again, the first thing you can do to help free software is to USE free software.
in the open source world, free software is a product that you are expected to "pay" for (in one way or another). this was a little too on the nose, because open source never cared about anything other than converting freedom back into commercial (company-OWNED, company-controlled) products. the proof is so abundant its a wonder there was (is) ever any question about this.
but with free software, it is a process that you can help by participating-- and standing (with us) for your freedom. no person can do this alone (nor did stallman ever try to, thats a little rewrite of history from knauths self-introduction as github-software-foundation president) so we must find ways to fight this together.
but the idea that you have to "pay for" free software (regardless of whether a project needs financial help, which it may at times) implies it was never yours in the first place. thats not true-- free software is intended to belong (not in the copyright sense, but in a much more meaningful way) to everyone. if its yours, why pretend its a product? it was never a product, its a subculture. thats what it was, what it needs to be, and exactly what was lost to turn it into a product again. and dont EVER let an open source person use the words "cultural appropriation". theyve got to be fucking kidding!
pretending sworn, self-declared enemies are allies is something the fsf already tried. that was never going to work, and all it cost us was the gnu project and the now-fake foundation propping it up like weekend at bernies.
open source already has the gnu head, mounted on its wall. lets not give them any more.