Free as in?
There are a few points from her post I would like to react to. It started as a comment on her blog, but became so big that I thought I'd trackback on part of it instead.
Florence seems to be afraid that the "free" definitions (both free as in speech and free as in beer) are in the end endangered when it comes to the Wikimedia projects, mainly for technical reasons, and basically because the dumps and/or feeds are not readily available for anyone to use.
However, whether this actually limits the freedom in the "free as in speech" sense is not a conclusion I would jump to very easily. The GFDL states:
"You may not use technical measures to obstruct or control the reading or further copying of the copies you make or distribute"
This is a negative definition. It does not tell you to do something, it tells you not to do something. The Foundation owns the technical means to effectively copy and distribute the content (the servers on which the website is hosted). Which means, as long as the Foundation never refuses to give access to the content and there is a way to retrieve it, ie. in how things work today, if our sites are on line, we are not breaching the "free as in speech" statement. It's there for the taking, click on the edit button, the text is there, in
machine-readable Transparent copy, as the licence requires.
As for the free as in beer part of the story, to tell you the truth, until the Foundation, or anyone else actually, develops Mediawiki to make sure the software allows some kind of automated backup process, and provides the content in a ready to use kind of shape, even if the dumps are provided, this will prove hard to keep true. There will come a time (it's actually probably already here), where the mere size of the projects will just prevent any Dick, Tom or Harry to actually use the full content easily (you'll need a hard disk so big and a computer so powerful that personal use will be de facto restricted). I have, unfortunately, no solution to prevent that. There is only so much one can do. And unfortunately I can hardly see the Foundation providing not only the dump, but the computer that goes with it and allows to process it.
I understand Florence's concerns, but I believe we need to be very clear on the difference between what the Foundation has an obligation to do (respect the free as in speech) and what the Foundation wants to do (allow the free as in beer). Therefore, I do not share her concern that the Foundation's mission statement emphasizes the free as in beer, on the contrary. It is very important that the mission statemnet somehow binds the Foundation to provide the content free as in beer. Because without breaching the free as in speech statement, the Foundation could decide that all access to the sites are only possible to people who have paid, say 100 dollars. The only thing the Foundation would have to do then is provide a
machine-readable Transparent copy to anyone who pays the 100 dollars. And that, I agree, would be very sad.