The that sentence should end before "but". Free software is _essential_, and any software that would deny those freedoms is, we believe, unethical.
You are operating under the premise that there is not enough free software out there to serve as a foundation, and that proprietary software is necessary for children to get "out there playing with technology". That is simply untrue. By accepting that and avoiding discussion of freedom, the problem perpetuates. People simply don't think about these issues---when I begin having discussions with my kids' school district about free software and education, do I expect that more than perhaps one or two people---if any---have even heard of free software or given thought to this? I do not.
Orthodoxy is one way to live life, but for a growing organism it might be more harmful than anything. I mean, at a young age, are they going to understand that they can't play with their friends because the software they're using is not available under a freedom-ensuring license? Or that they can't talk to them on propietary websites? Or are they, instead, going to rebel - and potentially develop a lifetime grudge against the whole idea of free software?
I buy music from artists that don't release the scores for their music free and without copyright. Yet nobody seems to have a problem with them. It's unfathomable to me where this righteous sense of entitlement comes from. But that's just me.
When you say "none of their business", I assume you're talking about meddling in the business of the developer(s). But when you write proprietary software, you aren't affecting yourself---you're affecting the _users_ of the software. The point of the free software movement is to protect the freedoms of the users of software, not the developers; the developers are the ones that take advantage of users. Perhaps not intentionally.
Free cultural works are a different issue entirely; that's not a useful comparison.
I encourage you to take a look at this essay:
I do accept that there is ask issue of protecting customer's and users rights, e.g such as the role for regulation in markets. I'm not a free market fundamentalist. Fitness for purpose, basic minimum quality requirements, etc are reasonable and fair constraints for society to impose to protect the rights of customers. But I don't accept that access to source code comes anywhere close to that level of significance to make it a right.
Regulations like that primarily exist to serve the needs of society. They are practical compromises, not fundamental. So for example there are minimum quality requirements for commodities traded on the commodities markets. But if I know a shipment of e.g. Heating oil is below market standard and that's fine by me, I can still buy it. It just can't be marketed to me as heating oil. The merchantability requirements aren't fundamental to whether it's ethical to sell the oil at all, only to whether it can be sold as heating oil.
So I believe it is with software. I don't think you can make source code availability a fundamental requirement, as you would expect for an ethical issue. It's nice to have, and you can make it a quality standard, but assigning it ethical status and implying that this makes it a fundamental issue of merchantability or fitness for purpose at all is going way too far.
As for cooperating with others, you can't force people to cooperate against their will, either vendors or customers. If you want to share your source code and cooperate with others nobody is stopping you.
Now, free software is more empowering than proprietary software. And kids need exposure to software they can tinker with. But if you meet a kid who is a little intimidated by the thought of learning coding, but loves playing Minecraft, then you're really going to tell them to stop playing Minecraft and use some weird GNU programs? Versus getting them going on Minecraft Portable Edition on a Raspberry Pi and working through some Python tutorials so that they can make something awesome?
That's making the perfect the enemy of the good. I'm all for software freedom, but you need to hook a fish before you can reel it in.
I'm not going to tell them to stop playing, no; that's not going to work.
What I am going to do in that situation is explain what free software is, its social benefits, and the problems with proprietary software. I'll introduce him/her to a free operating system like GNU/Linux and introduce him/her to the world of free software. Maybe hack a few programs, and show him/her how transparent the operating system is.
Hopefully then he/she will continue to explore that. If not, that's unfortunate, but hopefully it provides some benefit.
By allowing children to grow up without recognizing proprietary software, you are setting them up to be okay with a world where sharing is a privilage, companies and developers are in control of everything they do. Companies make effort to lock in children and get them dependent on their software---e.g. Windows providing their software gratis to educational institutions. Free software in this case serves a broader social cause.
You might argue that this is teaching them reality. Yes, that's a reality that others permitted to happen. The goal is to _change_ that.
Most of us will teach our children about free software while not demonizing proprietary software or its developers.
Now, I'm not sure what the right way of introducing a child to this concept is (I'm still a teenager, so I have no parenting experience). I believe that topics like this should become relevant when the child is much older, mainly because social interaction is much more important than ethics about software at a young age.
But I personally feel worried about the fact that many children are now growing up in an age when Google has always existed and they have Google accounts from a young age (it pangs of the children in 1984 that don't know a time before Ingsoc and that planes were not invented by the Party).
Using proprietary software is not giving away one's freedom, no matter what the free software prophets teach. When one joins the military one is signing away one's freedom (rightly or wrongly), because one cannot change one's mind after signing without being subject to penalty. When I use proprietary software I'm not shackled to it.
I wonder, when you eat at a restaurant do you demand to know the recipe? I can understand having a right to know the ingredients, because of health concerns, but do you insist that the chef publish his or her secret? If you eat a bite of that culinary delight, have you lost something?
The ethics questions become important when you consider the fact that most proprietary software developers do mistreat their users and the users are powerless to do anything about it
This is a ludicrous statement, unless you take the FSF's view that any distribution of any non-free software is in itself mistreating users. I'd ask for some kind of evidence for the claim that most software developers mistreat their users, but I know there exists no such evidence.
The restaurant/recipe example is a good one because health codes are important. Most people think it's important to have some rules and regulations in place to protect the consumer. But most people also think these have to be kept at a minimum, because overly strict rules and regulations take away people's freedom, in a real way. Any problems you think exist regarding software can be fixed in a much more judicious manner than a blunt and heavy-handed "MAKE IT ALL FREE!" declaration.
This is the sad irony of the FSF's position. They want to restrict freedom. They want to restrict my freedom to sell (or even give away!) closed-source software. They want to restrict my freedom to purchase (or even receive for free!) closed-source software. And in the name of the preservation of freedom! It's absurd!
I don't have the time right now to respond to much of the above, but I do want say that you are misrepresenting the FSF's stance.
"The issue here is not whether people should be able or allowed to install nonfree software; a general-purpose system enables and allows users to do whatever they wish. The issue is whether we guide users towards nonfree software. What they do on their own is their responsibility; what we do for them, and what we direct them towards, is ours. We must not direct the users towards proprietary software as if it were a solution, because proprietary software is the problem."
Yes you are, since they often have vendor lock-in with proprietary formats. Sure, those formats are eventually reverse engineered by free software developers, but why not just cut out the middle man and use free software in the first place? .doc and .docx were proprietary formats that were reverse engineered so that you can use LibreOffice to open them (even though you still can't do stuff like fill in .docx forms using LibreOffice). How do you not see that as "being shackled"? Active Directory was a huge vendor lock-in for Microsoft until Samba came along, and Microsoft would every release make their proprietary protocol different so that Samba wouldn't work. How is that not being shackled?
> > The ethics questions become important when you consider the fact that most proprietary software developers do mistreat their users and the users are powerless to do anything about it
> This is a ludicrous statement, unless you take the FSF's view that any distribution of any non-free software is in itself mistreating users. I'd ask for some kind of evidence for the claim that most software developers mistreat their users, but I know there exists no such evidence.
Considering how many universal backdoors have been found in countless proprietary software systems, I'm surprised that you can't remember a single example. Cisco has universal backdoors. Windows has universal backdoors. NetGear had some too IIRC. There are far too many to mention.
For example: every single WiFi router that is owned by your ISP that supports WPS has a "feature" that allows the cable company to dump the entire configuration remotely (this is how the Reaver attack against WPS access points works). If that isn't a backdoor, I don't know what is. And you can't change the PIN on most of these boxes because they are proprietary and there's no option added to the web UI.
Not to mention that very many pieces of proprietary software send analytics to the software developers (which is usually hard if not impossible to disable).
Mobile phones have secondary CPUs that allow the phones to listen in on conversations and many other nefarious mis-features.
I'm not sure if you're trolling that you haven't considered ANY of the above "features" as being examples of software developers mistreating their users.
> The restaurant/recipe example is a good one because health codes are important. Most people think it's important to have some rules and regulations in place to protect the consumer. But most people also think these have to be kept at a minimum, because overly strict rules and regulations take away people's freedom, in a real way. Any problems you think exist regarding software can be fixed in a much more judicious manner than a blunt and heavy-handed "MAKE IT ALL FREE!" declaration.
I don't understand why you're talking about regulation. Without free software, you have no way of verifying that the software is actually what the developers say it is. Why is regulation necessary if companies could just release their code (under the 4 freedoms) to anybody who they give their software to?
> They want to restrict freedom. They want to restrict my freedom to sell (or even give away!) closed-source software. They want to restrict my freedom to purchase (or even receive for free!) closed-source software.
In the same (although more extreme) vein, the US constitution "restricts your freedom to become a slave". You are misusing the word freedom. It has a very strict definition. And I think the FSF wants to replace proprietary software, not make it illegal. If nobody has to use proprietary software, then the companies that produce will either have to liberate it or die on their own.