Stallman: If you want freedom don't follow Linus Torvalds

The founder of the Free Software Foundation asks readers whether they will fight for freedom or be too lazy to resist.

"Please don't call GNU 'Linux'," says Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation. In this interview, he also asks readers whether they will fight for freedom or be too lazy to resist.

You launched the GNU Project in September 1983 to create a free Unix-like operating system, and have been the project's lead architect and organizer since then. Why did you start it in the first place? Back then it was already clear that software was becoming proprietary?

Stallman: In 1983, all operating systems were proprietary, non-free software. It was impossible to buy a computer and use it in freedom. Proprietary software keeps the users divided and helpless, by forbidding them to share it and denying them the source code to change it. The only way I could use computers in freedom was to develop another operating system and make it free software. I announced the plan in September 1983, and began development of the GNU system in January 1984.

On Feb. 3, 1976, Bill Gates wrote his famous "open letter to hobbyists" where he stated that software should be paid [for] just like hardware. Did you read that manifesto at the time? What was your impression back then?

Stallman: I never heard of it at the time. I was not a hobbyist, I was a system developer employed at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. I had little interest in 16-bit microcomputers, because the lab's PDP-10, with a memory equivalent to 2.5 megabytes, was much more fun. Pascal is both weak and inelegant compared with Lisp, our high-level language, and for things that had to be fast, assembler language was more flexible.

I don't know how I would have reacted at that time if I had seen that memo. My experience at the AI lab had taught me to appreciate the spirit of sharing and free software, but I had not yet come to the conclusion that non-free (proprietary) software was an injustice. In 1976 I did not use any non-free software. It was only in 1977, when Emacs was ported to the non-free Twenex time-sharing system that I started to experience the nastiness of proprietary software. After that, I needed time to recognize this as an ethical and political issue.

What do you think about intellectual property?

Stallman: I am careful not to use that confusing term in my thoughts, because it does not refer to a coherent thing, although it misleadingly appears to. The term lumps together laws that raise totally different issues, as if they were one subject.

Copyrights exist, and I have opinions about copyright law. Patents also exist, but patent law is almost completely different from copyright law. My opinions about patent law are also completely different from my opinions about copyright law. Trademark law exists too and it has nothing at all in common with copyright law or patent law. If you want to think clearly about any of these laws, the first step is firmly insisting on treating them as three different subjects.

If you say something about "intellectual property," you are trying to generalize about three laws that are totally different. Whatever you say will be a foolish over-generalization, because that term only leads to such. I've decided to avoid that pitfall by never using the term. [See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html for more explanation.]

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15 Comments

Ali Kouhzadi

1

I just don't get it! Why would I want to change the source code?! I'm using Ubuntu 10.04 right now, I have never felt like "changing its code"!! and how is this related to "freedom"?!!! I just dont get this guy! statistically, nobody does!

"By 2000, ironically, every version of GNU/Linux included non-free software and thus invited users to surrender their freedom by installing some."
WHAT FREEDOM?!!! How many people do you think even understand what the "code" is in this context?! let alone changin' the code!!

i just dont get it.....!!!! what's his problem?! what's the real reason behind his hatred and biased ideas?! i just dont get it!! and I dont care really...!

i hope you "freedom"(!) freaks publish my comment !!!

Ladislaus

2

@Ali and everyone who don't get it.
it is very good to have the chance to be on a free OS. maybe you don't want to chance, or even understand the code. But there are People who does, and that those people now are able to chance the code of the Operatinsystem they are using is not the only reason why freedom is important.
So, there are People who understand the Code, and there are many people who help to improve the Code. for example your Ubuntu! Many People are improving the Code of Debian, and with the Freedom, Ubuntu copied Debian. without the freedom of Debian, there is no Ubuntu. And without the freedom. only a group of people are able to edit the code. and those People have the power to control the system you are using. but with the freedom, there is now group of people who have the power to control your system. Freedom is very important. And even if you don't care. i hope some people who are reading this do.
best regards --Ladislaus

Ladislaus

3

Bye the way, my Text above was only a freestyle explanation trying. If you realy interested why freedom in Software ist imported, listen to Richard Stallman at UofC. There, and in many other Videos he ist Talking about that topic. Very interesting!

Yaro Kasear

4

RMS is an idiot. I understand what he's saying, I'm just outright disagreeing with him. To RMS "freedom" means doing everything mindlessly his way.

Sorry, I'm with Linus Torvalds on this, I'd much rather use what works, not what's "free according to Stallman." There's big reasons why RMS is increasingly irrelevant these days. It's because guys like Torvalds did what Stallman tried to do but didn't because he got sidetracked trying to make himself look like a fantastic person.

It's Linux. Not GNU. Using the GNU toolchain doesn't magically make Linux itself into GNU. The OS core itself isn't GNU, and the distribution itself is whatever the makers of the distribution want to call it.

Linux is not GNU. No matter how much RMS doesn't want people to think that, Linux is *not* GNU. If RMS wants people to use GNU, maybe he should stop this BS and get the HURD finished and put out the *actual* GNU.

Faith+1

5

Stallman has never had a realistic view of the real world. He's always worked in an academic environment where others have worked to make money allowing him to chase the "freedom" nonsense. A brilliant computer scientist in some rights, but a blithering idiot in others. If the world had gone his way would have held back computing by decades.

Thank the computing gods he passed into irrelevancy years ago and never had a significant impact on the market. Yes, he started GNU, but it was the work of others that made it what it is.

He doesn't like Linus because Linus actually produced something more people could use. Stallman just lived in a dream world.

Steve

6

Stallman is starting to sound like those scary religious fundies who can only see the world one way and will stick their fingers in their ears shouting "LA LA LA" if you try to reason with them.

yess

7

You cannot use Linux for anything useful without GNU created components. Thus ALL Linux distributions using the Linux kernels ARE GNU/Linux.

If you want, try to remove all GNU components from your Linux distribution. Then if you want, also try to remove all programs that does not use the brilliant GPL Licence that protects both Linux, GNU and all other bits of the distro you use. GPL3 just protects it more than GPL2.

The Other Guy

8

Stallman reminds me of those religious mindless freaks like Pat Robertson, and his "fans" (read fanboys) are no better than Jesus freaks, believing ANY BS that their beloved "leader" says!

Take number 7 as an example! Some random nameless guy on the Internet who solves a problem as big as this one with just a few lines of comment! They just (think that they) know everything! Everything is SO simple and straight forward for them! Just read his comment one more time... he just knows it!

Now, what is interesting here is that why people in the "open source/free software" community are fighting over such an insignificant thing?! I mean what's in a name?! People call it Linux, you can't change that! and whoever named those components "GNU" should be held responsible for it! what the hell is "GNU"?! How the hell should I pronounce it?! It's an UGLY name, and its pronunciation is hard... it's just easier to call the thing Linux! I can't even imagine calling it GNU/Linux everytime I'm talking about it! What an ugly name!

Tony

9

If you go to a backery and buy a cake, is it unethical if you don't get the recipe as well?
If you buy a radio, is it unethical if you don't get the construction plans for it?
If you buy some software, is it unethical if you don't get the source-code?
If you buy a processor, is it unethical if you don't get the "hardware description language"-description of the processor?

Stallman sees it as an ethical issue. Maby he is ultimately right. I simply don't know.
He's right that sharing is a good thing.
But is it really an ethical issue whether or not you get some recipe, construction plans or source-code??

lol

10

@8
How can you not be able to pronounce GNU, it's so(!) simple, just a hard G followed by /nu/, /g.nu/. Most people are unable to pronounce Linux and Ubuntu (correctly).

@9
Is it ethical to sell malware?
Of course it is an ethical issue, it is unethical to hinder development and filling your wallet ad infinitum.

I exercise freedom 3, and I thing my live have been better because of it. And I'm quite happy to be able to help anyone and everyone, as well as get help my self.

P.S. I haven't read the article (I'm already familiar when RMS's view of Linus and agree with him), I just think commenters, except number 7, are a laugh, especially number 1.

your daddy

11

@10

hey there Mr. I Know It All !

why don't you tell us who's exactly selling malware?! oh wait, you mean Windows is a malware, am I right?! typical RMS fanboy!

and why in the world would anyone think making money by building a product is "unethical"?! on what planet are you living?!

it's simple... you're just a typical Stallman fanboy! you know i pity you people, anywhere you look you just make up some stupid conspiracy theory and act like it's a well-known and proven fact!

P.S. why would you comment here if you haven't read the article?! that's just stupid!

10

12

Yay, you guessed my name. Congratulations!

Why would I waste my time reading an article. I just saw those funny comments.

Actually I did not mean Windows. Why would I care about some crappy OS. But proprietary software are difficult do verify that they are not malware. Kazaa is probably the must famous case of malware which seemed to be legit. But whether it contains malware it not as important as being able to get bug fixed and support.

And I pity the fools whom despise freedom just because they think you be more happy the more money you have, and thus think that is the only thing that is important.

10

13

I think I was not clear.
There was I reason what I said "ad infinitum".

I have to same view on commercial so software as rms:
it should be encouraged.

There is nothing wrong with making money on software,
and rms himself sold copies of Emacs. And Red Hat and
Oracle sells distributions of GNU, and I think Canonical
also does so. But you can also make money on software
by selling merchandise.

PJ

14

If nothing else, you should read Stallman's tour rider. I think that says it all. And don't buy him a parrot!

10

15

Doesn't Apple iPhone contain malware?
Nevertheless, it is defective by design.

Why don't don't you guys try unstalling all free software (and open source software), and use only proprietary software. And you will see how I world with only proprietary software is; you will not get as good help. You can't fix bug you encounter, or get someone to fix it for you, just beg and hope it will be fixed in a year or two. You can not study programs and learn how you solve a problem you encounter while hacking your own programs. Your installed programs will not be as usable or user friendly.

It is of course only a secondary reason for free software, but I can't possibly describe the primary reason in a comment, it's too long and to complex. But, for the primary reason; would you rather be a criminal or a bad friend, or would you rather be neither.

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