RMS: Free Software is not communism (OC: Email Digest #20
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 12:05:24 -0700
From: Rich Cowan <email@example.com>
Subject: OC: Email Digest #20: Free Software Responses; GOP $$ Tricks
[We received many responses on the issue of activist free software in
response to the list of suggestions we posted in last week's digest.
The director of Compumentor let us know they have a free software
section on their new nonprofit resource, techsoup.org. Someone asked
about macs; check our web site links for "Mac OS Open Source SW" page.
We are including below the response from Free Software Foundation
president Richard Stallman, the originator of the GNU project which
created most of what is commonly known as Linux. Mako Hill (from
protest.net) who has been sharing space this summer with us chimed in
with two important corrections: that the effort to develop a completely
free Unix was MUCH more than 50% complete by the early 90's and that
"Linux was first released in 1991." I have probably been getting
too much of my info from trade magazines! -rich ]
From: Richard Stallman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I am looking forward to posting a list of activism tasks. For the
sake of accuracy I had better correct a few of the background points
in your message.
"GPL" is a form of
copyright. It stands for "GNU Public License."
Actually "GPL" is short for "GNU GPL", which stands for "GNU General
The GPL is not a *form* of copyright, because there is only one form
of copyright on software. The GPL is a license for *using* copyright,
so as to protect freedom for all users.
Well, developers of free
software often share an anti-corporate philosophy. The concept
of a movement of idealistic programmers, developing "software
for people, not for profit" is the antithesis of the capitalist
tenet that innovation depends on an ability to make a killing
when you bring your new product, be it a software program or a
new AIDS drug, to market.
This is partly true and partly not. We do have an idealistic
philosophy of developing software to make a better community, but are
not against corporations or against business; in fact, there are
corporations whose business is specifically contributing to free
software, and we welcome them. We are against a specific business
practice, the practice of dividing computer users and keeping them
helpless -- in other words, publishing software that users are
prohibiting from sharing and changing.
The best analogy is with the environmental movement, which is not
against corporations per se but is against business practices that
The only restriction on those who might copy is
that they must include with their copy a "the complete corresponding
machine-readable source code." See http://www.fsf.org/copyleft/gpl.html
Actually, the GPL has another restriction, a crucial one: you may not
add any other restrictions when you redistribute the software. This
is what ensures that someone else cannot give you a copy of the
software without the freedom. In other words, the GPL says that
"Forbidding is forbidden."