Feeds

RMS: why open source needs Free Software's ideals

To fight MS lobbying, argues Stallman, the community needs to stop downplaying its origins

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

The following is an open letter from Free Software Foundation President Richard Stallman to SecurityFocus' Jon Lasser, in response to his article Lobbying for Insecurity:

I read your article about Microsoft and Security-Enhanced Linux with interest, and saw your advice to the open-source community.

I do not advocate open source, but I wrote a free software license, the GNU General Public License, that is described by some as "open source". I also launched, in 1984, the development of a free software operating system that is "Linux" by some. I hope this makes my response worth reading.

The article said:

"None of which is to say that Microsoft is doing anything wrong. They're a business, and they are doing what they need to do to win in the marketplace. What's wrong is the rest of the industry allowing them to get away with it."

I beg to differ: Microsoft is doing plenty of things that are wrong. For one thing, it is developing proprietary, non-free software - software with licenses designed to keep users divided and dependent. That is fundamentally wrong.

Beyond that, Microsoft is pressuring our government to abandon a useful public-service project simply because that might help more people escape dependence on Microsoft. That is wrong too; Microsoft is wrong to ask for it, and the government is wrong to give in.

The purpose of a company is profit, but profit can be made in various ways. Some methods respect the freedom and well-being of others, while some trample other people's rights and lives. When the executives of a company have no principles or scruples to restrain them, it is only natural that they will try the latter methods. It is natural, but that is not an excuse. To accept selfishness as an all-purpose excuse for mistreating others is to reject the whole idea of right and wrong.

Your advice is that the community should begin practicing politics, which seems to mean, working in nontechnical ways for success. This is ironic because the term "open source" was coined to avoid politics.

The free software movement, since its inception in 1984, has had a political goal, political in the highest sense of the word. We are concerned with the question of what kind of society we should live in. We believe that computer users should have the freedom to share and change software, and we developed the GNU operating system for that purpose. (Linux, the kernel that Linus Torvalds wrote, is normally used together with GNU, in the GNU/Linux combination; see Linux and the GNU Project.)

The open source movement was founded in 1998 by people who wanted to talk about our system without mentioning the political ideals that motivated us to develop it. They got lots of publicity, and as a result most of the users of our software think it was developed under the name of open source for apolitical reasons. A recent survey showed that more developers prefer the affiliation with free software, on account of our principles, but the users get a misleading picture of this. That picture contributes to the political weakness in our community.

You can help our community become stronger politically simply by informing the public that GNU/Linux comes out of the free software movement, whose central motivation was a political insistence on freedom. Condemning harmful corporate behavior from an ethical viewpoint will help too.

See Why Free Software is better than Open Source for more explanation about the difference between the free software movement and the open source movement.

Richard Stallman
President, Free Software Foundation
Cambridge, Mass

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.