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Richard Stallman
the Father of Free Software

copyright vs. copyleft


(Also see Music: Free Music Book Page 1 )

Richard Stallman launched the development of the
GNU operating system (see in 1984

GNU is free software: everyone has the freedom to copy it and redistribute it, as well as to make changes either large or small. The GNU/Linux system, basically the GNU operating system with Linux added, is used on tens of millions of computers today. Stallman has received the ACM Grace Hopper Award, a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award, and the the Takeda Award for Social/Economic Betterment, as well as several honorary doctorates.

Richard Stallman April 24 2006, 8:14
In this interview we talk with Richard Stallman, the keynote speaker at Fosdem 2006. Richard Stallman is the founder of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU project.

We talk briefly about the drafting process of the upcoming version of the GNU GPL (reports of GPL-v3 related events). Then Richard talks about a whole range of issues that are very much relevant to free and open source software and user freedom in general, namely Digital Rights/Restrictions Management, CRAP, software patents, and HDTV.

For further information: The GNU project website has extensive background information about the philosophy behind free software. It also has an archive with audio and video material, which can be accessed through The transscript and links to the video of a keynote by Richard Stallman in Turin on March 18 of this year about the future of free software can be found here. Notes of a lecture at the Australian National University in Canberra in October 2004 can be found here. An interesting keynote by Eben Moglen, the lawyer of the FSF, at the Wizards of OS on June 10 2004 can be found here. The FSF website has an overview of current campaigns. And finally, Sam Williams wrote a publicly available book about Richard Stallman, which is a nice read.

Free Software Foundation Apr 12, 2011 Copyright vs Community by Richard Stallman
About the talk: Copyright developed in the age of the printing press, and was designed to fit with the system of centralized copying imposed by the printing press. But the copyright system does not fit well with computer networks, and only draconian punishments can enforce it.
The global corporations that profit from copyright are lobbying for draconian punishments, and to increase their copyright powers, while suppressing public access to technology. But if we seriously hope to serve the only legitimate purpose of copyright--to promote progress, for the benefit of the public--then we must make changes in the other direction.
The talk will also explain how referring to copyright as "intellectual property" misrepresents the purpose of copyright and confuses it gratuitously with other unrelated laws.
There will be no streaming because Stanford's streaming arrangements require the use of proprietary (nonfree) software with features designed to restrict the user. This speech will condemn such features; therefore, to stream it in a format that requires them would be ethically contradictory.


02 May Our articles and videos are released under the Creative Commons BY NC SA license. At Richard Stallmans request you may in this case also use the following license for both article and video: “Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted in any medium provided this notice is preserved.”


Unethical Products

that restrict freedom.

HDTV plot to control technology available to the public.

READ The report about threats to their revenue models or to their "systems" or their control by John Gillmore

Facism: Gov't toadies to big business Disney, Intel, Sony, Microsoft conspiracy. After 2013 Analog video outputs will be forbidden and won't be allowed to be manufactured.

Not funny Yes Funny

Vive la Conference by Declan McCullagh February 20, 1998

Richard Stallman is nothing if not determined. For over two decades this bristly MIT geek has championed an arcane cause: free computer programs. Stallman wants you to have the right to twiddle your software -- to be able to add features, rewrite it and, if you can figure out how, teach it get down and do the fandango. Last month Netscape endorsed Stallman's idea by deciding to open the lid to its software toolbox and encouraging any interested programmer to tinker with it.
Yesterday Stallman won an award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for his efforts, including writing the popular (and, of course, free) EMACS text editor. "I was trying to give people freedom," he said during them ceremony at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy (CFP) conference.
Stallman is the type of fellow who frequents CFP, an annual event that brings together academics, government officials and Pilot-toting bitheads. Sparring is commonplace. Lawyers from the ACLU and the Center for Democracy and Technology shouted at each other yesterday morning when debating whether to cut deals on legislation in Congress. Former FTC commissioner Christine Varney said that the government should regulate corporations' privacy practices, and Solveig Singleton from the Cato Institute argued on a panel that the private sector should (not that I'm biased or anything). But the folks who trekked to Austin, Texas, this week generally share a common goal: preserving the unique culture of the Internet.


This culture -- marked by scientific values like the free exchange of information and beliefs that a technology is important no matter who invents it -- has, to the minds of the people here, come under threat. Microsoft has done its level best to seize control of the Net's historically open standards. So has Sun Microsystems.

Governments from Australia to Zambia have tried censorship. The Clinton-Gore administration has restricted data-scrambling encryption products.

Software companies successfully fought for a new law that imprisons you for up to five years and levies fines of up to $250,000 if you copy software without permission. In other words, the last five years have been marked by increasingly fierce assaults on the freedom that made the online world so attractive to its early adopters.

Much of this was inevitable when the Net became commercial. Domain names like or were suddenly worth something, and domain-name squatters spread like a nasty virus. Then copyright holders like Microsoft, Sony and Time-Warner (Netly's corporate big brother) demanded stricter intellectual property laws. They argued that without that protection, they wouldn't post their articles, movies or songs online. Cash became more important than cooperation.

The biotechnology industry has wrestled with similar problems. When genetic engineering exploded, the industry found itself transformed from a traditional share-everything scientific environment into one where the discovery of a gene could be worth billions. Unrestricted information flow soon stopped.

"The culture of the Net was the culture of science," says Dan Burk, a law professor at Seton Hall University who spoke at CFP. Like science, information was shared; the technology was more important than the credentials of who invented it; rewards came mostly through the recognition of your peers. But then, like biotech, he says, "suddenly it became worth money."

At dinner last night in an Austin steakhouse, however, money was the last thing on anyone's mind. At one end of the table, Whitfield Diffie, coinventor of the mathematics underlying modern encryption, told the story of his discovery. Frustrated by the lack of public information on crypto, he took a leave of absence from Stanford University in the 1970s and drove around the country -- meeting his wife in the process. Then he found Martin Hellman, and "each of us found the other person the best informed." Together the duo invented public key cryptography.

Back at the conference hotel, Richard Stallman was talking up his "copyleft" idea, which he called "a mirror image" of copyright. "If society forbids cooperation, it attacks its very root," he said at the awards ceremony. "We should all be able to have information and use it constructively." Stallman points out how Net culture has strayed far from its early days of open software to closed, proprietary systems like Microsoft Windows and suggests the Linux operating system as a free alternative. Sure, he may be preaching to the converted at CFP -- but then again, maybe the Net would be a better, or at least freer, place if more people were converts.

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