Free as in Speech or Free as in Beer?

I wrote about “free” in the previous post. Now free has more meanings, it can also mean free of charge, “gratis”. Maybe that’s what keeping the internet free means? Keeping it free of charge. For sure, a lot of successful internet companies have built their fortune on free services. And a lot of us users are used to getting a lot  for free: news, search, e-mail… you name it. Sure, we pay a lot to get online in terms of hardware and subscription fees, but once we’re there, we really like to get what we can for free. In most cases we can get almost everything for free, just as long as we are prepared to spend some time looking. Don’t get me wrong, free of charge is great. I’d much rather pay zero than plenty for the same thing. But it’s not real freedom. It’s not worth dying for. Somewhere along the line, it seems these two meanings of the word free got mixed up. The internet should be free, but it should be free as in freedom, that it is free of charge is not nearly as important. Actually, there is an old joke from Silicon Valley that explains this a lot better, we should remind ourselves of it: “Free as in Speech, or Free as in Beer?”