BSD and Stallman’s Four Freedoms

Many free and open source aware people and advocates including the FSF believe software under the BSD or BSD-like ISC licenses are free and open software. The truth is the opposite. The BSD licenses and ISC license are one of the most unfree and legally compromising licenses second only to the proprietary EULA attached to Microsoft and Apple products.

To explain, let’s start with revising the four requirements emphasized by the great philosopher and founder of the Free Software Movement Richard Stallman.

These requirements are also called the 4 Freedoms.

Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.

Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.

Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.

Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

When a software is under a license that satisfies all four of these freedoms, it is free software. Notice the word free here means freedom to do anything to the software and not price of the software.

Now we have to take a look at the BSD licenses. This is not easy as infighting and fragmentation of the BSD projects have created countless different BSD and BSD-like licenses which are nearly identical to each other in terms of stating how their software becomes proprietary. So we will use the most common BSD license, the FreeBSD license which is also called the 2-clause BSD license. In which it states:

 Copyright (c) <YEAR>, <OWNER>
All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this
list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice,
this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation
and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS “AS IS” AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT OWNER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

Now let’s look at this license with respect to the four freedoms. The first freedom, freedom 0 states that the license should allow people to run the program for any purpose. Immediately, the FreeBSD license fails to satisfy this freedom as shown by the bolded words below:

Copyright (c) <YEAR>, <OWNER> All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer. 2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS “AS IS” AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT OWNER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

The parts that are bolded shows that the licenses allows distribution without making the source code available which allows the distributor to add nasty DRMs to the software which in turn may prevent the users from using the software for certain things and it still can be licensed under the FreeBSD license. This is the same as what Microsoft and Apple does and it shows, that the FreeBSD license fails to satisfy the first of the four freedoms. The other BSD licenses and ISC license have very similar statement which means they fail into the same boat as the FreeBSD license.

The second freedom called Freedom 1, states that the license must allow people to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what they wish.

The fact that the BSD and ISC licenses allows distribution of binary code without making the source code available means that the license doesn’t guarantee the second freedom to all users.

To make matters worse, the BSD and ISC licenses allows modifications and states that all copies source or binary have to display the copyright notice, the 2 conditions and the disclaimer but never states whether they could be modified or not or even what could be modified, source or license. This means that a corporation like Apple which use BSD code can change the license on the context of “modification” to make it look as if they, Apple have written it and then sue others would are using the same piece of code because now they have a false proof that the code belongs to them. Apple has already done this as one can only find statement “Portions, copyright regents of Berkley” in BSD based Apple products and not the original BSD license even though there are actual BSD written code in them. (see post #95 in the link: http://phoronix.com/forums/showthread.php?77561-BSDs-Struggle-With-Open-Source-Graphics-Drivers&p=312422&highlight=#post312422)

This makes the FreeBSD license even more incapable of satisfying not just freedom 1 but all the four freedoms as anyone using or modifying BSD for any purpose is vulnerable to being sued or controlled by Apple or Microsoft which leads to the next problem with the third freedom which is also known as freedom 2.

For freedom 2 which is the freedom to redistribute copies to help your neighbour, because Apple and Microsoft can change the copyright and license of the BSD license software, claim it as theirs and then sue other people who use it, the FreeBSD license fails to satisfy freedom 2.

For freedom 3 which is the freedom to redistribute modifications to the public, because the FreeBSD and BSD licenses allow distribution without source code availability and once again the fact that corporations like Apple using BSD code can sue others also using BSD code, BSD licensed software cannot be freely modified and redisturbed thus, the BSD license does not satisfy freedom 3.

So we can see that software under the BSD and BSD-like licenses like the ISC license does not satisfy any of Stallman’s Four Freedoms which means that the BSD and ISC licenses are not Free software licenses and neither are they open source.

This leads to the sad fact that many people, the FSF and even Stallman himself have been fooled and mistakes BSD and ISC licenses as Free and Open source software. Clearly the fault of the corrupted BSD projects like Free, Open, Net and DragonflyBSD.

I sincerely hope that this article with help people be awaken to the sickening truth about BSD, their license and their scheme.

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6 Responses to BSD and Stallman’s Four Freedoms

  1. Rodney Fissplaps says:

    I should have the freedom to troll BSD forums. The fact that they restrict me from doing this is sickening. Clearly, they, are fascists.

  2. Also about the bsd scheme that you might aswell give your sexual organs M$ and crapple

  3. woodsspam says:

    BSD license supporters rests on a twisted notion of freedom — In that the BSD license is obviously more free because proprietary fucks have the _freedom_ to modify the software _without the obligation_ of giving back the modified sources to the community. How the hell does that make the BSD license more free than the GPL one?

  4. Atheologian says:

    Many Linuxen conform to Stallman and free principles.

    Which one do you use?

    Freedom also implies ‘or not’.

    Stallman is a genius! His only slightly less annoying than Theo de Raadt however, he has least HAS produced a full operating system (GNU), and not copy an unusable one (NetBSD -> OpenBSD).

  5. Soulsuke says:

    To me, you’re missing an obvious point.
    The BSD license has been created by enthusiasts who had little knowledge of laws, thus they put up a vague license together. Extremely free, but at the same time extremely easy to bend (also, let’s all remember how the common law system works, and what happens when a person with no knowledge on a subject is called to judge it).
    The FreeBSD license does satisfy the 4 freedoms, since it allows to run the program for any purpose, to study it, to redestribute it, and to edit it. It’s a little naive, indeed, but if the 4 freedoms are respected or not, in the end, is up to the person who is gonna edit the code, he’s gonna use an ethical approach or if he’s just going to copy/paste for profit. So, let’s say it’s 50-50. FreeBSD license does allow the 4 freedoms, but at the same time doesn’t deny the possibility to ignore one or more of them. Let’s say you’re free to follow them or not.
    On a closing note: freedom is a positive word, but in truth does 4 freedoms put some restrictions on what you can or can’t do with the code. It’s quite a nice paradox.

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