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Is the Linux kernel really free, as in freedom? Or is it following the "open core" model defined by Andrew Lampitt in 2008, as claimed by Alexandre Oliva of the Free Software Foundation Latin America?


Oliva (below) is the maintainer of the Linux-libre project, which releases a version of the kernel with no non-free software.

Earlier this week, Oliva issued an announcement on behalf of the FSFLA, claiming, "Linux now contains more non-Free Software, and more drivers in its Free core that require separately distributed non-Free Software to function."

Quoting from articles written by Open Source Initiative directors Simon Phipps and Andrew Oliver, to support his argument, Oliva said: "The welcome news is that Open Source advocates have joined the Free Software Movement in denouncing the practice of Free Bait or Open Core."

Open core, as Lampitt defined it, is software that has a GPL core with commercial extensions. It is a kind of bait-and-switch approach.

Oliva believes Linux is following the same model. He told iTWire that though he had known for a long time that Linux was non-free because it contains blobs (sourceless software), it was only a couple of months back that he decided to go public.
Alexandre Oliva
"It was only in the last week of September, one week past the due date for my monthly column in Revista Espírito Livre (a Free Software magazine published monthly in Brazil), that my wife suggested that, rather than write yet another article on Linux-libre, I focused on (lack of) clarity and transparency in Linux. That brought to mind Linus' (Torvalds) rant about RMS (Richard Stallman) and FSF being too 'black and white'.

"A few hours later, the realization (sic) that Linux was Open Core dawned on me, and then I knew exactly what I wanted to write about for that issue, whose main focus was Linux, including an interview with Linus at LinuxCon Brazil in which he happened to mention black and white too. So I looked at (Simon) Phipps' article again and wrote the article."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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