Why I Hate Non-Free Software

I read about a useful application now available on GNU/Linux as a $free beta download. A .deb package was provided and did install easily on my Debian Jessie 64-bit system.

The programme mostly worked as advertised but despite Aspell being distributed with the package, spell-checking did not work out of the box. Otherwise, the appearance, layout and documentation were all first-rate. So far so good. Then I looked around for a licence. Buried in the .deb was some HTML but this was in your face:.

The “About” tab showed this:.

The text of the licence includes the usual stuff and this: “1. Licence
Upon accepting the terms of this agreement, the Licensor grants you, the licensee, (“you”) and your family that live with you at the same address (“family members”) a non-exclusive, non-transferable limited licence to use the accompanying Scrivener Apple Mac version software, including (if applicable) electronic documentation and associated material (the “Software”) strictly in accordance with the terms and conditions of this licence agreement.
This licence agreement enables you and your family members to use the Software on your own respective computers within your household but you may not copy or transfer the Software to any other computer or hard drive. Any members of your family not residing at your address for eight months of any year or more are not family members for the purposes of this licence agreement and must purchase a separate Software licence.
Additionally, you may make one copy of the Software for back-up purposes, maintaining always the same copyright information as the original, and you may also install one copy of the Software outside of the household provided it is for personal use by you or a family member and reasonable steps are taken to ensure that no one else can use the Software.
You are taking responsibility for the actions of your family members and agree to indemnify the Licensor for any breaches of the terms of this licence agreement by you or your family members.

3. Restrictions
You and your family members are not permitted to copy the Software otherwise than for use of the Software for normal operation in accordance with this licence agreement. You shall not (save as to the extent allowed by law) disassemble, decompile or reverse engineer the Software, nor translate, adapt, modify, lease, rent, loan, redistribute, sub-lease, sub-license or create derivative works from the Software. You must ensure that the copyright notice of Licensor is duplicated as it appears in or on the Software on all authorised copies.
This licence agreement does not entitle you or your family members to use the Microsoft Windows version or any other version of the Software unless you have entered into a separate licence agreement for that version.”

Some of that is entirely reasonable but the part about having only one backup copy is just plain silly on Debian GNU/Linux. The APT package management system clearly keeps one backup on each PC on which it is installed. So, if you have N PCs in your household upon which you install the programme, you have 2N-2 violations of the licence. One can manually delete those extra backups but they want us to download to each machine rather than copying over the LAN which is so simple with GNU/Linux… Also, the typical user will run the application before seeing the licensing terms yet is considered to have accepted the terms by running the application…

I know why authours of software include such restrictions, to make sure they get paid per whatever. On the other hand, we should not have to enslave ourselves and our families in order to use a smooth, convenient application on our PCs. That’s like selling our children or self-flagellation before having any fun at all to nullify evil. It’s just evil to accept such restrictions. The licence began with “PLEASE READ THIS LICENCE AGREEMENT CAREFULLY BEFORE USING THIS SOFTWARE. IF YOU USE THIS SOFTWARE THEN YOU AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS OF THIS LICENCE AGREEMENT.” Sweet, eh? I did not agree and purged the .deb from my system. I am not a slave. I do not agree to be bound in slavery to the authours of software. To add insult to injury, the authours presume to enslave us while we perform them the free service of testing their beta-software.

Give me FLOSS any day. I can examine, run, modify and distribute the software under a licence that comes along for the ride on a $free download. That’s freedom and the right way to do IT. Information should be $free and unencumbered by burdensome licensing terms.

I purged the files left by the programme after converting the .rtf it had created to ODT.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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11 Responses to Why I Hate Non-Free Software

  1. A Pesky Interloper wrote, “you just went ahead and removed functionality from your reach, that is to say, you shot yourself in the foot.”

    No. I can still create beautiful documents with great tools: LibreOffice, GNUmeric, LyX, Imagemagick, Gimp, grep, dict and other tools available to me on Debian GNU/Linux. I can however do so knowing I have the right to run, examine, modify and distribute any way I want. The licence that covers all that software does not require me to spy on my family nor count installations nor pay taxes. The software is also quite easy to use and I already know how to use it. That other stuff requires tutorials and changing how I do things, a further burden. I also don’t like the idea of using RTF as an archival or working standard. I prefer ODF and PDF.

    A Pesky Interloper wrote, “You didn’t break the license (also called “piracy”) thus freeing yourself. (This is a passive strategy that most people who can’t pay subscribe to.)
    You didn’t call onto your government (you’re a citizen aren’t you) to regulate software restrictions, prohibit practices you consider “enslaving,” thus freeing the users.”

    If I had installed that software on my wife’s PC or my daughter’s as well as my own, I would have broken the licence because APT keeps a copy in /var as well as installing it in the file-system. The licence only allows for one backup, not one backup per PC. I couold have gone around removing the cached copy but it would still have been a momentary violation. I should not have to change the way I do IT in order to use some particular piece of software. What if the next piece of non-Free software required something else of me and the next and the next… I would need to have a checklist of unnecessary stuff to do just to remain in compliance. That’s slavery, $free labour provided for as long as I use the software and it’s not in anyone’s benefit really, not even the authours’. I’ve been in schools where no one could keep up with the mess of requirements and eventually software that cost $thousands became unusable. In one school a package costing $4K became unusable because no one could find a “key”. In another school a similarly expensive package was unused for years because no one could figure out how to install it. Eventually the authours figured it out after I demonstrated an equivalent FLOSS application at work, KOHA. It took me 15 minutes to install it.

    Authours are entitled to protection by copyright. The abuse of copyright by EULAs is disgusting and I have advised the Canadian government to prefer FLOSS. They haven’t done so and in the next election, I am going to demand each party state a position on that and hold them to it. Recently, my vote has hinged on firearms law. I may well pivot to copyright and use of FLOSS by government. I don’t want my taxes supporting M$ and “partners” and I don’t want my government to be enslaved to foreign powers.

    A Pesky Interloper also wrote, “This is a passive strategy that most people who can’t pay subscribe to.”, implying that I am passive or poor. I live in a mini-mansion in an expensive low-crime neighbourhood. I drive a luxury car when it is not in the shop and when I want to drive it. I have a legacy PC in many different rooms of my roomy home, with wifi and wired with gigabit copper from a room with a 19″ rack. I have expensive pass-times and a garden larger than most houses and a landscaped lot. Next week I will start the new season of deer-hunting, a luxury these days, and I will pay for fuel, insurance, a licence to hunt etc. I can pay but I am a free man and pay what I choose to pay, not what twits on the Internet demand I pay.

  2. A Pesky Interloper says:

    “I am not a slave. I do not agree to be bound in slavery to the authours of software. To add insult to injury, the authours presume to enslave us while we perform them the free service of testing their beta-software.”
    But you didn’t actually do anything, did you now.
    You didn’t break the license (also called “piracy”) thus freeing yourself. (This is a passive strategy that most people who can’t pay subscribe to.)
    You didn’t call onto your government (you’re a citizen aren’t you) to regulate software restrictions, prohibit practices you consider “enslaving,” thus freeing the users. (This would be an active strategy that could have significant ramifications, if successful, as unlikely as that would be, considering previous freetarded “exploits.”)
    No, you just went ahead and removed functionality from your reach, that is to say, you shot yourself in the foot. Also, you did this, in response to the licensing document, which apparently commands your every move, i.e. you acted like a slave.
    “I am not a number!” said No. 7.

  3. olderman wrote, “Robert Pogson has shown himself time and again as a cheapskate who will expend huge amounts of time and effort trying to use his free FOSS tools rather than plunk down even a modest amount of cash to get a job done.”

    Nonsense.

    1. I don’t like paying more for anything than I have to, and
    2. this particular programme seems just fine to me except for the arbitrary restrictions in the licence. When I use software I want to use the software, not count installations and backups and worry what my relatives are doing with it. I can do that with FLOSS.
    3. oiaohm says:

      kurkosdr sorry the anti-tivoization might apply to GPLv2 as well. GPLv2 does effect binaries minorally. There has been a recent case over a party providing GPLv2 code then trying to enforce patent. The modify section of GPLv2 seams to prevent this. GPLv3 has a lot of things started that by GPLv2 are implied. The problem is implied comes down to how the court interprets the document.

    4. olderman says:

      Mf. Laden:

      You are wasting your time talking to Robert Pogson.
      .
      As someone who used to post here quite a lot, I can assure you that Robert Pogson has shown himself time and again as a cheapskate who will expend huge amounts of time and effort trying to use his free FOSS tools rather than plunk down even a modest amount of cash to get a job done.

      So much for “avoiding slavery”

    5. Greg Laden says:

      Robert, that is all true and the majority of large documents I’ve worked on were either done as you suggest or using emacs and the file system.

      But while one CAN do it that way, Scrivener is incredibly well designed … though it is a matter of taste of course … to handle a lot of moving around and scattershot development of a bunch of related documents, and the metadata includig the different kinds of notes leave comments/etc in LO in the dust.

      Also, the word processing experience itself is nice, not like word/openoffice/libraoffice in it’s look and feel, much more like a nice install of emacs with a nice .emacs file. Much more text editor-like.

      But is is a matter of what works for the individual.

    6. Greg Laden wrote, ” If there are areas of computer use by individuals (private or business) that are only addressed by commercial software on a particular non-GNU/Linux OS, then people who need that stuff will simply disregard GNU/Linux.”

      I’d bet there are thousands of folks who just need a browser and/or and office suite for everyone who needs something like scrivener. I can see where scrivener is great for sliding around huge chunks of a book. Copy-and-paste has its limitations but we have huge file-systems and databases to take care of contexts for files. Just put each chunk in a file and concatenate them in any order you want. The “Master Document” feature of LibreOffice does this nicely. One can drag and drop the icon representing a file to anywhere in the master document and update the whole thing. The File/properties feature of LibreOffice is a little brief/crude but could hold notes relevant for whole files/scenes/timelines. The “comment” feature is great for inserting reminders/contexts for future reference. As long as one can relate the text to files reasonably, it works. Where that would break down is when you need to use some block of text in two places. Then you do have to copy and paste and split files up. Fortunately, files can have very descriptive names/numbers.

    7. DrLoser says:

      So, let’s get this straight, Robert.
      You downloaded a beta of Scrivener, in the full knowledge that it is not amenable to “examination, modification, and redistribution,” and is therefore, how can I put it, naughty ab initio?
      And then you have the unmitigated gall to complain about the attached EULA?
      And your defense is that you were prepared to do all the beta-testing for Scrivener-on-Gnu-Linux? As in, you would diligently report bugs?
      I’m just guessing here, but you were hoping to get a professional grade product, worth $40, for free, weren’t you?
      So much for “Free as in Speech.”

    8. kurkosdr says:

      Or, you could just download a crack for the software and be over with it. Nobody will hunt you because it’s for home use and they won’t know.

      EULAs are a problem for businesses. Normally EULAs should be illegal and only the standard copyright would apply. Authors shouldn’t have the ability to stack extra rules on top of the standard copyright rules

      But… aren’t the GPLv3’s “anti-tivoization” rules a form of EULA too? “Here is a copy, but don’t you dare put it inside the wrong hardware, those are the arbitary rules I wish to put on top of the standard copyright rules”. The GPLv2 and other FOSS licenses only restrict source code while standard copyright applies for binaries, but GPLv3 restricts binaries too.

    9. Greg Laden says:

      I’m a big supporter of FOSS. However, not everything is FOSS and the truth is there are areas of software development where the FOSS community simply hasn’t developed anything good or, for that matter, anything at all. As it is, Scrivener serves a niche market, starving writers (and a few successful writers). This might be a great place for FOSS to step in, but it simply isn’t there at the moment.

      On my Linux boxes, I run 100% free, generally GPL or similar licensed FOSS. One exception is VueScan, which is the only scanning software I could find to do a major ongoing scanning job in a way that actually saved me time. The few bucks I spent on it were worth it, and the guy who makes it is good about use and licenses. The guy who develops Scrivener is good about these things too despite the legalese in the license area.

      Here’s the thing. If there are areas of computer use by individuals (private or business) that are only addressed by commercial software on a particular non-GNU/Linux OS, then people who need that stuff will simply disregard GNU/Linux. I’d rather see a few paid-for solutions to those specific problems so that such people can use Linux.

      For example, say you are a starving writer but managed to buy a Mac because it runs Scrivener and a few other apps you consider essential. But you can’t afford a Mac laptop/notebook. You can probably get a Linux laptop/notebook going. In this case, Scrivener is available to the extent that it works OK on a Linux box.

      Also, consider the difference between high-cost and low cost paid-for software. Scrivener is something like $40. We’re not talking about an Adobe product where the suit may cost you many hundreds of dollars, or MS Office where who knows what it will cost or what it even is from release to release!

      I’d rather not damage the good in tenacious insistence on the perfect. Meanwhile, if the FOSS community steps up to the plate to develop a Scrivener-like product (and there are other commercial examples out there to model from), then I’d use it if it worked!

      There is, of course, an entirely FOSS based way to write stuff. I mentioned in my post the novel I compiled with Scrivener. The original draft was written in emacs. I just moved it over to Scrivener before producing the ebook because it seemed easy (and it was) and to play with Scrivener.

      I thought I wrote a blog post on writer’s workflow with Linux but I can’t seem to locate it … maybe I should write a new (first) one on that topic. Despite liking Scrivener, I also like the idea of using the amazing existing tools for organizing text and developing it, such as the file system on your computer!

    10. Adam King says:

      Well said brother Pogson. Another blow struck in the name of freedom.

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