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Thus Spake Stallman

Roblimo posted more than 14 years ago | from the prophets-don't-mince-words dept.

GNU is Not Unix 539

On Monday, April 17th, we requested questions for Richard M. Stallman. Here, at last, are his answers. Warning: The interview below contains mature concepts and strong opinions. It may not be suitable reading for easily-angered readers whose views conflict with Mr. Stallman's.

Q: Lets assume for a moment that free software becomes the way business happens. Every company, if it wants to keep shareholder value anyway, opens up the source, makes their softwre free. What's next? Where do you go from there? What do you do for an encore? Or is that the "end of the war" and at that point, GPL protecting our freedoms, you go back to coding?

RMS: Non-free software is not the world's only problem. I undertook to work on this problem because (1) it dropped in my lap (I could not be neutral except by leaving my field), (2) I had an idea for how I could tackle it effectively, and (3) nobody else was even working on it.

It's clear that other problems such as religious fundamentalism, overpopulation, damage to the environment, and the domination of business over government, science, thought, and society, are much bigger than non-free software. But many other people are already working on them, and I don't have any great aptitude or ideas for how to address them. So it seems best for me to keep working on the issue of free software. Besides, free software does counter one aspect of business domination of society.

If in my lifetime the problem of non-free software is solved, I could perhaps relax and write software again. But I might instead try to help deal with the world's larger problems. Standing up to an evil system is exhilarating, and now I have a taste for it. I could volunteer my time to the ACLU, Amnesty International, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, or ZPG, if I'm of any use to them.

(In 1988, George Bush called Mike Dukakis a "card-carrying member of the ACLU", in effect comparing the Bill of Rights with Communism and its defenders with Communists. This insult to the US Constitution inspired me, as it did many others, to join the ACLU. Let's hope the Shrub will not be president; one Bush was too many.)

Or I could work on winning for other kind of published information the freedoms that are appropriate for them. These could include dictionaries and encyclopedias, textbooks, scientific papers, music, and other things.

Q: Are there any good case studies of large corporations opening up proprietary in-house source code?

RMS: It's appropriate that you've used the terminology of the Open Source Movement for this question, because this is the sort of question they would be most interested in. That movement, founded in 1998, argues that "open source" is good because it is more profitable for software developers. They collect examples to justify that claim, and might be able to help you.

I am not the best person to ask for this kind of help, because I focus on something else. Rather than trying to convince IT managers that it is more profitable to respect our freedom--I don't know whether that is true--I try to convince computer users that they should insist on software that respects their freedom.

I am not affiliated with the Open Source Movement. I founded the Free Software Movement, which has been working to spread freedom and cooperation since 1984, and is concerned not only with practical benefits but with a social and ethical issue: whether to encourage people to cooperate with their neighbors, or prohibit cooperation. The Free Software Movement raises issues of freedom, community, principle, and ethics, which the Open Source Movement studiously avoids.

What the Open Source Movement explicitly say is right, as far as it goes; but I'm very unhappy with what they leave out. By appealing only to practical benefits, such as developing powerful reliable software, they imply by omission that nothing more important is at stake.

The Open Source Movement seems to think of proprietary software as a suboptimal solution (at least, usually suboptimal). For the Free Software Movement, proprietary software is the problem, and free software is the solution. Free software is often very powerful and reliable, and I'm glad that adds to its appeal; but I would choose a bare-bones unreliable free program rather than a featureful and reliable proprietary program that doesn't respect my freedom.

Eric Raymond said publicly that if "open source" isn't better (he means, more profitable) for software developers, it deserves to fail:

"Either open source is a net win for both producers and consumers on pure self-interest grounds or it is not. If it is, you cannot lose; if it is not, you cannot (and *should* not) win."
(Quoted in Salon, September or October 1998.) Implicit in this position is Eric's belief that proprietary software is legitimate, and his rejection of the idea that free software is imperative for freedom, ethics or social responsibility.)

Imagine someone saying, "If an uncensored press is not better for publishers as well as readers, it cannot (and should not) prevail." This would show that person does not understand freedom of the press as an issue of liberty. For people who value civil liberties, such views are ludicrous. (This example is not entirely artificial, since corporate media owners and corporate advertisers increasingly exclude certain issues and views from press coverage.)

Although I will not join the Open Source Movement, I agree that they do some useful things. They might be the best ones to suggest something useful to say to your IT manager.

Q: Today everyone is hearing the critics about how open source is also hurting the community. All that aside did you ever in your wildest dreams at the very start of the "crusade" think that open source would be a "movment"?

RMS: I thought of free software as a movement years before the GNU Project. I learned about free software as a way of life by joining a community of programmers who already lived it. My contribution, the place where I took things a step further, was in thinking in ethical and political terms about the contrast between our way of life and the way most computer users lived. I made free software a movement.

But I never imagined that the Free Software Movement would spawn a watered-down alternative, the Open Source Movement, which would become so well-known that people would ask me questions about "open source" thinking that I work under that banner.

If we in the Free Software Movement are lumped in with them, people will think we are championing their views, not ours. For this reason, I don't want to discuss my work or the ideas I advocate under the rubric of "open source". If people seem to be lumping me in with them, I have to correct that mistake. The work I do is free software; if you want to discuss it with me, let's have the discussion using the term "free software".

Q: What would happen, in the hypothetical case, where you litigated the GPL, and lost? Do you have a Plan B?

RMS: It would depend on the precise details of the decision. Perhaps we would change some words in the GPL. Perhaps we would just say "Too bad, copyleft can't be done entirely right in that particular country or state." That would be unfortunate, but not necessarily a disaster.

For example, there are companies in China that distribute versions of the GNU/Linux system in China, and violate the GPL completely, by not distributing source code at all. As a practical matter, we cannot enforce the GPL against violators in China, because China does not enforce copyright law very much. (That policy makes perfect sense for China--the US likewise did not recognize foreign copyrights when it was a developing country.) But I don't think this means that the GPL is a failure in general.

Q: Have you ever thought of taking a more conciliatory attitude to things? Does the phrase "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" (I'm thinking of the "GNU/Linux" thing) have any resonance at all with you?

RMS: The reason I continue asking people to use the term "GNU/Linux" for the combination of the GNU operating system with the kernel, Linux, is that it's an important little detail. It makes a big difference for the GNU Project's effectiveness in spreading the philosophy of the Free Software Movement.

Calling the whole system "Linux" leads people to think that the system's development was started in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. That is what most users seem to think. The occasional few users that do know about the GNU Project often think we played a secondary role--for example, they say to me, "Of course I know about GNU--GNU developed some tools that are part of Linux."

This leads users to take their philosophical lead from Linus's "apolitical" views, rather than from the GNU Project. They tend to adopt the goal of boosting the popularity of "Linux" (what Linus jocularly calls "world domination"), rather than spreading freedom. Ironically, these users of the GNU system love the system so much that they cast aside the freedom for which we developed the system, in the name of the system's success. You might call this "success" for GNU, but it is not success for freedom.

Businesses that distribute "Linux" are actively urging people to adopt success as the goal, and sacrifice freedom for that. See http://www.zdnet.com/filters/printerfriendly/0,6061,2552025-2,00.html for a clear-cut example in a recent speech by the CEO of Caldera. They can do this more more easily and effectively when their audience does not connect the "Linux" system with that inconvenient, idealistic, uncompromising GNU Project. The ability to avoid calling to mind issues of freedom, by using the term "open source", is also convenient for them: they can ask people implicitly to give up their freedom, without explicitly acknowledging this implication of the conduct they recommend.

As businesses get more involved with free software, they will be faced with a choice: whether to do business in a way that contributes to the community, as Red Hat mostly does, or base their business on proprietary add-ons, as Oracle does and Corel mostly does. It will be up to the public--the community--to make business respect our freedom, by rewarding the businesses that do. The future of our community depends above all on what we value. If people adopt the value of popularity or success, we will end up with many people using a system that is based on GNU and Linux combined with lots of proprietary software.

I ask you to call the system GNU/Linux so you can help inform the system's users that it exists because of the GNU Project's idealism. Users who know that will probably take a look at our views, and some of them will agree. Later on, they may stand up for freedom.

Q: Are there any things that you sort of care about, but not very much?

RMS: Sure, plenty--but I don't argue about those things.

Q: What sort of things do you do in your spare time, and do you approach them with the same amount of intensity that you have for free software?

RMS: I like reading, music, eating delicious food, seeing natural beauty. I also like to dance, mostly Balkan folk dance, but an ankle problem means I can't do it any more. I also like sharing tenderness with someone I adore, but I only occasionally have a chance to do that.

Q: How applicable do you think the GPL is to these other areas? (As in, the concepts embodied in the GPL). Also, what are the essential aspects of any license that wishes to convey the same kind of freedom the GPL conveys?

RMS: I don't have a simple answer for this. The ethical issues about copying and modifying works depend on the kind of work and how people can use it. There is a certain basic similarity between all the kinds of works that can be in a file on a computer: you can always copy them, unless someone has gone out of his way to obstruct you. There are also differences. Novels, musical recordings, dictionaries, textbooks, scientific papers, essays, and software are not all used the same ways.

So I don't have the same views for all these different kinds of works. Textbooks and dictionaries should be free in the same strong sense as software: people should have the freedom to publish improved versions of them. For scientific papers, I think that everyone should be allowed to mirror them, but I see no reason to permit modified versions (that would be tampering with the historical record). For some kinds of works, such as novels, I am not sure just which kinds of freedom are essential.

However, a certain minimum freedom is essential for any kind of published work that is in a file on a computer: the freedom to occasionally make copies for other people. To deny people this basic freedom is intrusive and antisocial, and only Soviet-style methods can enforce the prohibition.

Q: I'm currently attempting to persuade a hardware manufacturer to provide unobfuscated source code and hardware documentation to free driver writers.

In your opinion, what is the best and/or most effective way to go about this? The court of public opinion? Economic arguments? Pointing out the higher quality of free drivers? Or should I just advise people to move to more enlightened hardware manufacturers.

RMS: I think it is best to use a combination of approaches:

  • Informing them that people who want freedom will have to buy the other hardware for which free drivers are available (which is not quite a threat, because we would be doing this not as a punishment but in order to do the job with free software).
  • Saying that the community is encouraging people to do reverse engineering to write free drivers (thus, obstinacy may be futile).
  • Offering them the community's good will and commercial patronage if they cooperate.
  • Asking them what their concerns are, and creatively suggest ways they can cooperate enough to enable us to write the free software soon, while still partly achieving those concerns.
I would like to have a page on www.gnu.org which lists hardware products and states whether they are supported by a wholly free GNU/Linux system. (Covering *BSD as well would be welcome.) Writing and updating this page would be a substantial job. If you would like to take the initiative to develop this page, please send me mail.

Q: (from Bruce Perens) - I'm concerned that GPL restrictions on derived works haven't kept up with software technology.

RMS: I am working on GPL version 3, but this is not something that should be rushed. I put it aside for most of a year to work on the GNU Free Documentation License, but now I plan to get back to it.

Bruce: The most pernicious example is CORBA, which lets us create derived works from components that aren't in the same address space at all, yet work seamlessly as if they were. I'd rather not see my GPL work end up in somebody's proprietary program, simply because it's been server-ized to avoid my license restrictions.

RMS: If people can write non-free software that makes use of free CORBA components, that is bad in one way: it means that their non-free software can build on our work. But using our free software through CORBA does not make our programs themselves non-free. So it is not as bad as extending our programs with their non-free code.

I think it will be hard to claim that a program is covered by our licenses because it uses CORBA to communicate with our code. Perhaps in cases of particularly intimate coupling we could convince a court of that view, but in general I think we could not.

Bruce: A more common problem is dynamic libraries that are distributed separately from the executable. You say that a court would hold those to be devices explicitly used to circumvent the license restrictions, but that's rather chancy, and no substitute for explicit language regarding what is, and what isn't, considered a derived work in the GPL.

RMS: We have no say in what is considered a derivative work. That is a matter of copyright law, decided by courts. When copyright law holds that a certain thing is not a derivative of our work, then our license for that work does not apply to it. Whatever our licenses say, they are operative only for works that are derivative of our code.

A license can say that we will treat a certain kind of work as if it were not derivative, even if the courts think it is. The Lesser GPL does this in certain cases, in effect declining to use some of the power that the courts would give us. But we cannot tell the courts to treat a certain kind of work as if it were derivative, if the courts think it is not.

I think we have a pretty good argument that nontrivial dynamic linking creates a combined (i.e. derivative) work. I have an idea for how to change the GPL to make it clearer and more certain, but I need to see if we can work out the details in a way that our lawyer believes will really work.

Bruce: There's also the problem of Application Service Providers, who make a work available for people to use without distributing it, and thus would be under no obligation to make the source code of their modifications available. Do I have to see my GPL work abused that way as well?

RMS: I too feel these servers are not playing fair with our community, but this problem is very hard to solve. It is hard for a copyright-based license to make a requirement for these servers that will really stick. The difficulty is that they servers are not distributing the program, just running it. So it is hard to make any conditions under copyright that affect what they can do.

I had an idea recently for an indirect method that might perhaps work. I'd rather not talk about it until our lawyer figures out better whether it can really do the job.

Bruce: It seems there's a lot of new technology that the GPL isn't keeping up with.

RMS: You make it sound as if solving these problems were only a matter working hard enough to change the GPL. But the GPL can only use copyright law as it exists. The recent changes in US copyright law to "keep up" with technology, in the DMCA, were commanded by the software privateers, and they were designed to help them restrict away the users' freedom, not to help us protect users' freedom. They allow copyright owners to restrict the mere running of a program--but only if some sort of hard-to-bypass license manager or access control enforces the restrictions. The freedom of free software means that even if we did put such artificial restriction into a program, the user could easily bypass them--and that's a good thing! But it means that new legal power is not available for use for copyleft.

The DMCA is a perfect example of the harm done when business dominates government and society. One part of the law explicitly says that only commercially significant activities are considered important (to legitimize a program which is often used to bypass technological means of controlling the users)--showing explicit prejudice against educational uses, recreational uses, communitarian uses, military uses, and religious uses.

Q: What kind of a position do you take on applications such as Napster?

RMS: Napster is bad because it is proprietary software, but I see nothing unethical in the job it does. Why shouldn't you send a copy of some music to a friend? I don't play music from files on my computer, but I've occasionally made tapes of records and given them to my friends.

Q: In particular, I see GTK Napster carries a standard GPL. I'd just like to know what happens when someone like Metallica wins a lawsuit against Napster who has a GPL'd counterpart such as GTK Napster? Can they touch it at all?

RMS: I don't know who will win those lawsuits, but I don't see anything that would give free programs any special protection from this kind of suppression. It seems to me that if they win against Napster, they would probably win against any program doing a similar job.

If they do not win using present-day law, we can expect to see the record companies purchase new laws they can use to suppress these programs in the future--and trot out famous musicians like Metallica (only famous musicians get much of their income from copyright) who will say that copying music is like killing their baby.

We can also expect to see fierce attempts to catch individuals who use Napster and imprison them. The War on Copying will become more vicious.

The War on Drugs has continued for some 20 years, and we see little prospect of peace, despite the fact that it has totally failed and given the US an imprisonment rate almost equal to Russia. I fear that the War on Copying could go on for decades as well. To end it, we will need to rethink the copyright system, based on the Constitution's view that it is meant to benefit the public, not the copyright owners. Today, one of the benefits the public wants is the use of computers to share copies.

Metallica justifies their lawsuit saying they think it is an outrage that their music has become a "commodity". Apparently they think music is a commodity when shared between fans, but not when large companies sell copies through record stores. What hypocritical absurdity!

Such drivel is normally laughable. But Metallica is presenting it as an excuse to attack our freedom, and that is no laughing matter. I encourage people to write letters to periodicals that cover this story, stating disgust for Metallica's lawsuit and rejecting their views.

Q: The battle over CSS has been about whether people have the right to use software (I consider DVDs software because they are programs read by a computer chip) when it is controlled by the content control system CSS, even after they've bought it. I hope they'll lose in the courts, but it is unclear at this point whether they will, however, my question is on another, related topic.

Suppose very strong, nearly unbreakable encryption were used on traditional Software DVD (i.e. stuff like M$ software or other companies software, just in a DVD format) and a DVD CCA for software were set up saying, "You aren't allowed to access the content of any DVDs unless you use our licensed DVD decryption software. Oh, and our DVD decryption software contains a legally enforceable (under UCITA) software license which states that you cannot reverse engineer any content you have decrypted using our decryption software." How would Free Software handle it?

RMS: With laws like that, there would be no lawful way to solve the problem. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act comes close to what you imagine, and it may be enough to prohibit free software for this job. (I don't know for certain, and I think the answer is not known yet.) It may be necessary to develop this software in countries which do not have these laws.

Q: Does there now need to be a Free Hardware philosophy which states that "Hardware which exists tied to a proprietary software system must be replaced by Free Hardware standards" or something similar?

RMS: I agree--but it will be hard to get the movie companies to release movies for that hardware. Fundamentally, the only solution will be when enough of the public believes in freedom to change the laws that are the basis for denying our freedom.

Q: I've been reading your opinions for some time now, and while they make sense in and of themselves, they beg certain other questions. What interest me most are your meta-ethical notions.

You often speak of notions such as right and wrong as if they were objective things; do you hold them to be so?

RMS: I think of right and wrong as based on how what we could do affects other people--the implications of imagining ourselves in the situation of the people our actions affect.

People can come to different conclusions about the implications. I don't believe in relativism; I don't believe that any conclusion is as valid as any other. If I and someone else disagree, at least one of us is wrong. Unfortunately, there's no way to place to get complete certainty about what's right and what's wrong. We can only try our best to figure it out.

The generalizations that we get from our consciences are our values. Our specific conclusions about ethics derive from these values; arguments about ethics depart from them. So my arguments about free software, or anything else, start from the values I believe in. They are addressed to people who at least partly share these values. When people persistently reject these values, there is nothing I can say to them. But sometimes people will start to share my values when I point out to them the situations the values are based on. They may then imagine the same feelings I felt or imagined.

Q: Are there "natural" rights, and what is the nature of their existence?

RMS: I think there are natural rights, natural in the sense that people are entitled to them regardless of what governments say about them. Freedom of speech is a good example; I think people are entitled to freedom of speech, and censorship is wrong. That is one example that I think most people reading this would agree with. I also believe that the freedom to share software and other published information is also a natural right.

There are also artificial rights, rights that are not natural. I agree with the US legal system, for example, in the view that copyright is an artificial right, not a natural one. It can be reasonable to have a limited kind of copyright system for some kinds of works, but this is a concession made to benefit the public, not an entitlement of authors and publishers. This system should be limited so that it doesn't seriously conflict with other people's natural rights.

Q: If so, how does this fit with your atheism? If not, do you feel that ethical claims have some basis beyond personal taste?

RMS: Religious people often say that religion offers absolute certainty about right and wrong; "god tells them" what it is. Even supposing that the aforementioned gods exist, and that the believers really know what the gods think, that still does not provide certainty, because any being no matter how powerful can still be wrong. Whether gods exist or not, there is no way to get absolute certainty about ethics.

Without absolute certainty, what do we do? We do the best we can. Injustice is happening now; suffering is happening now. We have choices to make now. To insist on absolute certainty before starting to apply ethics to life decisions is a way of choosing to be amoral.

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Re:Overpopulation a "problem"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1099236)

and just for even more fun, the last figures I was aware of (a year ago, so it probably hasn't changed that much) put the earth at a population that is too large to be supported by the physical resources around the year 2050. that should be fun

Re:Overpopulation a "problem"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1099237)

This is flamebait, right?

I live in Salt Lake City, with quite the booming population (in part because of a decent economy, but also because of the up-coming winter olympics). Now I'll try not to be insensitive here by saying that the Mormon majority here certainly loves its ability to procreate (because many religions, cultures, and even individuals do), but seeing families with 5 or more kids is just sickening to me. Common, folks -- unless you live on the family farm and want to breed some free labor, you have no business with that many kids anymore.

Overpopulation taxes the enviroment, which is the worst problem I see. I've been here only 4 years, but I've seen a lot of wonderful open space get sliced and diced by housing developers. It just sucks. My wife and I bought a used home, and will likely never build a new house unless we buy a large chunk of land with the intention of preserving it from development.

Overpopulation taxes the social systems we have in place. Why the hell should I have to pay more property tax every bloody year for schools for families who are cranking out tons of kids, when they get the better tax benefits?

It taxes the family. I have 2 kids, and my wife and I are "fixed". Part of that decision was a kind of social obligation to not take more from the community/planet/our-kids than we deserve. Neither of us can see how parents can give their kids enough of what they need (money/support, nurturing, education, time, friendship, etc.) when there are so many. Maybe my wife and I are just lousy parents? *shrug*

What really infuriates me is when I see city/state (or whatever) officials whine about declining populations. What's so wrong with that? Someone who knows better about these matters once told me that the current birthrate for a sustaining the population was something like 2.1 children per couple (anyone know where I can find these stats?). What's wrong with slowing down a little? Oh yes... it's all about money. Without more mouths to feed, people to build homes for, and teens to sell Sony Walkmans to, our economic system goes down the toilet. We can't just hold the financial status quo, we must always be growing.

The earth is nowhere near its capacity to hold humans (I read the entire earth population could fit in Texas is efficiently done). However, we don't do a good job of using our resources. Take Salt Lake (again) -- we live in a f*cking desert, yet there's all these golf courses around here, and the city is (was?) suing some woman for trying to landscape her front parking-strips with desert plants, rather than the ordinance-required grass! WTF?!?

Sometimes I don't think people really stop to ponder what they're doing. I'm in no way advocating State involvment in the procreation practices of individuals, but I think people are too selfish when it comes to having kids.

(Sorry about the off-topic rant. This response just struck a nerve in me this morning.)

Fanatics (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1099238)

RMS has been something of a conundrum to me. On the one hand, he's strange, fanatical, and has likely scared away many from the free software movement. He has no idea of diplomacy, has scolded many of his supporters, and he looks like a wierdo. On the other hand, he is that horrible thorn in the side of those who would restrict freedoms we have now. In other words, laws are being passed to change the status quo; laws that will encroach further on our freedoms. It is not so much a matter of causing a revolution of thought, but of keeping the small freedoms we have now. Moderation may be suicidal when the opposition is ruthless. And RMS' foes have proven themselves to be ruthless (but so very presentable and professional). For this I am glad that there is an RMS.

Re:Stallman phonetically sounds alot like Stalin (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1099242)

militant and are overreacting.
almost a new religion.

It's a fanatical cult. How else can you explain the blind devotion to Stallman that they have?

Movements are for gorilla warfare and revolutions. This is a good thing, but it's only software.

These people honestly believe that they are the freedom fighters of the internet. They think that they are fighting repressive corporations and evil governments to maintain the net as they believe it should be. And in a sense, they are right. But they have taken it a tad far. They have set up a decentralized government in much the same way that the internet itself is built, with major routers like Stallman controlling the power of the entire community. Remember, to these people, it's not 'only software'. This is these people's life.

Too much argueing and bickering.

Isn't that originally what fragmented Unix? Whatever. I wasn't into Unices back then, so I wouldn't know.

Well, prepare to be moderated down to (Score:-1, Not Linux Zealot).

Here we go again with the guns thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1099245)

The 'civil right not to get shot' is already well-protected by various and sundry murder and attempted-murder felony laws.

And even if gun ownership was made illegal, we'd still have a bunch of thugs running around with them. Criminals aren't going to pitch all their guns just because they aren't legal to own anymore...

The only thing outlawing guns will do is tell the criminals that they're *guaranteed to not get shot* by the law-abiding citizens they're mugging and robbing.

Hey - a Suprise! (1)

DG (989) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099259)

This is the most well-balanced, well-spoken interviews with RMS that I've read in a long while.

Y'know, it's kinda funny - ESR got into the position he's in right now (spokesmodel for the Open Source folks) by being a less-radical, "warm and fuzzy" version of RMS. Someone who could convey the underlying message of the FSF without all the revolutionary language.

But yet lately, it's been ESR who's been foaming at the mouth, and here ol' RMS comes off as the calm, level-headed one.

And even funnier, people accuse RMS of being a Communist all the time, and yet here he accuses his opponents of being "Soviets" - twice!

Ahh, it's people like RMS and ESR who make this stuff fun. :)

Where's that Open Legal Community? (1)

pb (1020) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099260)

I find it funny when Stallman says something like "I'd rather not talk about it until I've talked to a lawyer"....

There's nothing wrong with being careful, we get enough phony legal advice on Slashdot. But what would it hurt? Looks like Stallman needs an Open Legal Community, so he can freely exchange ideas and get answers. "Many lawyers make all lawsuits trivial", or that sort of thing.
---
pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu] .

Re:Overpopulation a "problem"? (1)

pb (1020) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099261)

Think of it as a moral problem.

People don't like to starve.

Too many people and not enough food make for some unhappy people.

Or, if you like, starving people don't do a very good job of producing goods or performing services, and might end up stunted for life, besides.

"Overpopulation" means having more people than an area can support, like overgrazing. Overpopulation is a problem in precisely these times. Optimally using the Earth's resources, maybe we could have more people on Earth and keep them all happy. But as long as there are places where we can't, overpopulation is a problem.

Also, from my time on slashdot, "the more people [...] the better" isn't true at all. Society breaks down whenever it gets too crowded. This is true of rats, people, governments, and online forums.
---
pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu] .

Piracy would be hipocracy (1)

Troy Roberts (4682) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099273)

Stallman does not suggest anywhere that copyright law should be ignored. If he made such an arguement, it would be hard for him to then use copyright law to protect GPLed code. The GPL relies on copyright law. It may be the case that the US copyright law is not best suited for the protection of freedoms that the GPL is meant to protect. This is no reason to argue lawlessness. The best solution is to actively support the Free Software Movement and increase public awareness. These type of activities may help change the laws to better support our freedoms.

Protection of freedoms may only be achieved through appropiate laws. Anarchy protects nothing .

Troy Roberts

Of COURSE there's a moderate movement. (1)

clintp (5169) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099277)

But I never imagined that the Free Software Movement would spawn a watered-down alternative, the Open Source Movement, which would become so well-known that people would ask me questions about "open source" thinking that I work under that banner.

All insane, militant, extremist, dogmatic and propaganda-filled jihads eventually spawn a more moderate branch. The moderate movements tend to be the ones that catch on. This is how life works.

Not everyone wants to be a 'card-carrying' lunatic in order to bring about some change for the good.

Re:Overpopulation a "problem"? (1)

leeke (6789) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099281)

You, my friend, are a truly sheltered and ignorant individual. Next time, try doing a little reading before you inject your utterly senseless opinions into a conversation you know nothing about, and which has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Re:ASP's do distribute their products (1)

fatboy (6851) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099282)

Actually, ASP's do distribute. If multiple users using a cental fileserver with Word on it are counted for licencing purposes as having had the product distributed to them, what difference does it make if the server is hundreds of miles away? If someone can use a product to do work then that product has been distributed.

With ASP's, you access a program through a terminal, such as a web browser. You a not downloading and executing a program. If you are not distributing a modified GPL'd _PROGRAM_, you do not need to make your source avaliable. Your logic would follow that if a modified GPL'd program was used to make video effects for a movie, the source must be released because the "product" is being distributed. This is not how the GPL works, nor should it work that way.

Re:Stallman = 2 scary for sesame street (1)

fatboy (6851) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099283)

For Linux to get mainstream we must get rid of the radicals and focus on the quality of the results.

Without RMS, there would be no Linux. The reason Linux has done so well is because of the GPL. There are many other X86 OSes out there that are just as good or better than Linux, but they are not GPL'd. Please remeber these two things, Linux _IS_ mainstream and all movements have their crackpot/wacko founders. RMS is our wacko/crackpot founder and should be treated with respect, no matter how crazy he speaks :)

Re:Some thoughts (1)

Romen (10819) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099304)

Bad analogy, I know, but the only better one I can think of involves Tolkien, and I don't want to go there ;-)

Well, go there anyway -

I can think of at least 4 potentail examples

1 - After the capture of Melkor after he overthrew the Lamps, they could have shoved him out into the Void, but didn't. This analogy reveals that your question in some ways boils down to one about the death penalty.

2 - After the War of Wrath, Melkor does get the 'death penalty', but they don't end up killing all the bad guys (hence LotR).

3 - After the victory of the Last Alliance, they could have destroyed Sauron, but did not. They just try to imprison him.

4 - After the War of the Ring, Sauron is finally disposed of, but evil is not entirely wiped out (no scorched earth).

Well, I hope that doesn't reveal me to be too much of a Tolkien geek.

Sam TH

Re:ASP's do distribute their products (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099324)

Isn't "distribution" the act of transferring the program media, and not the act of running the program?

Companies like Microsoft handle licencing as a run-time issue, not a distribution issue. This leads to interesting paradoxes such as it being illegal to make a copy of a Word CD (except for backup purposes), but MS themselves continually spams-er-distributes my place of work with unlicenced Word CDs that we would need to pay for if we decided to install them.

In your ASP Word example, you really having nothing more than the ol' Host-Terminal model, which is nothing new, and not considered "distribution", as far as I know. If my ISP offers a shell service where I can telnet into a Linux box, they are really acting as an ASP for bash and vi and pine and so on. Do they now have to host the source code for the entire Linux distribution they are using?

Admittedly, this gets more complex if, say, the ASP was using a modified version of Apache to host a peoplesoft front end. But in that case, the ASP probably didn't write the modifications, and probably got them 'distributed' from someone else.
--

RMS Rocks (1)

flanker (12275) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099327)

What a fantastic interview! He must certainly be considered one of the most seminal thinkers of our time. I loved his refutation of ESR and the open source movement. It's about freedom -- not about better software or companies getting geeks to write their software for free or cyber psuedo-communities or anything else.

This man should be commended for somehow managing to stay above the bullshit and sticking to his principles, even when they aren't popular or grate on people's nerves. I hope ESR enjoys his million shares of LNUX because in a hundred years his initials will be long forgotten or remembered as a toadying dilution of the principles of RMS and GNU.

Re:Some thoughts (1)

mattc (12417) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099328)

Yeah, I was also wondering about the lack of credit to the people who asked questions. Is this yet another sign of slashdot's decay into a corporate entity?

Re:Kook? (1)

Blue Lang (13117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099341)

Yeah, I'm replying to my own post, so sue me. :P

I do want to say (since I expected to be moderated to -1, not up where people would see it) that I completely disagree with RMS's viewpoint on absolute right and wrong and on his standpoint that relativism is incorrect.

I am a firm believer that 'right' is defined by the individual, and the needs of the individual - I just happen to agree with him that freedom is being eroded, and I sincerely appreciate his efforts to halt or slow that erosion.

No matter whether you agree with everything he says, you can at least give him credit - he lives by his ideals, and his work helps you.

--
blue

Re:ASP's do distribute their products (1)

Zinho (17895) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099356)

I'm more interested in the freedom-related issues related to ASP's in this case. For example, whose freedom is beng infringed if the source code is not distributed along with the software? Does the end-user need his freedom to modify and redistribute a program written to be distributed across a large network by a central server?

It would seem to me that the end users are unlikely to benefit from the source code, and are very unlikely to set up a competing ASP server using their workstation as the hardware platform for it. Even if they are qualified to suggest patches, those patches would have to be approved through the sysadmin anyway. These freedoms would be more valued by the system administrator who runs the ASP server.

ACLU?? (1)

angelo (21182) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099368)

(In 1988, George Bush called Mike Dukakis a "card-carrying member of the ACLU", in effect comparing the Bill of Rights with Communism and its defenders with Communists. This insult to the US Constitution inspired me, as it did many others, to join the ACLU. Let's hope the Shrub will not be president; one Bush was too many.)

The bill of rights guarantees that all are equal under law (despite its wording) and the ACLU tries to force the distinction on people. Constitutional rights are guaranteed, and Civil rights are assumed. I'm not saying that the ACLU is wrongheaded or evil or something, I am simply making a distinction.

BTW, a good example of this is the second amendment. It guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, but a "civil" right is the right not to get shot. The constitutional right would be the right to shoot back. Which is more important, and which is more feasable to guarantee?

Ummmm....what? (1)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099378)

"The more people we have on the planet, the better."

Is this a troll?

So you are saying that 100 billion billion trillion people trying to live on Earth would be better than a mere 10 billion? There wouldn't be enough room within Earth's core to pack them in, let alone feed them.

And this isn't just a stupid example. It points out that, even if your "more workers" argument holds water (which it might not once AI becomes sufficiently powerful) it only works up to a point. And that point is where overpopulation becomes a problem.
--
Have Exchange users? Want to run Linux? Can't afford OpenMail?

Re:Stallman = 2 scary for sesame street (1)

J Story (30227) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099400)

Stallman's views are interesting, and certainly have some grain of truth. But you have to be careful to pick only the parts of his theology that seem right to you. Otherwise, you might find one day a glass of funny-tasting kool-aid in your hand.

Re:Overpopulation a "problem"? (1)

Vryl (31994) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099413)

Oh well, lets get seriously offtopic ...

It is arguable that 'overpopulation' is a created artifact of food distribution, despotic regimes, world bank policies such as cash-cropping and more.

There are ecological definitions of overpopulation, but with a global food distribution system, the earth is a long long way from overpopulated.

That there are people starving is a situation created by greed and not by lack of food, or means to distribute it.

Re:More Stallman (1)

albalbo (33890) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099426)

Software related questions? Why? Slashdot isn't a software site. Stallman doesn't write software (anymore). That kind of makes it pointless.

I don't think Stallman is duping anyone. If you find that you don't agree with his views after hearing them, fine, but that doesn't mean everyone else should follow you lemming-like as if you were the third coming. A good rule of thumb is to assume others are as intelligent as you ('Did you see that advert? So many people are buying that product because of that advert, they're all sheep. Of course, advertising doesn't affect *me*'.., etc.) - to assume otherwise is to disrespect someone else and their views, and not only is it a lack of respect, it's usually an underestimation also....

Re:your last paragraph (1)

NME (36282) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099432)

Offtopic->
You might want to check out this month's Scientific American. It has an interesting article on exactly that. It looks like the rat studies have been superceded by some ape studies. Interesting reading. (sorry, it's not online)

-nme!

Re:ASP's do distribute their products (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099433)

Nagora wrote: "If someone can use a product to do work then that product has been distributed. ... I may be foolish but I can't see even the most out-of-touch judge supporting the idea that an item can be used by many people and yet not have been distributed to those people."

Without trying to discount this point of view, I don't think it's the only one. ASPs can be thought of somewhat like a remote library (of the book variety) which accepts requests from patrons to search their stacks, collate information, neatly format the results and send it out. ASPs are still obligated to have paid for the software whose use they provide --assuming it's commercial software -- whether it's on a single-fee, a per-use, or a per-active-copies basis, so that imaginary library has (say) only the same number of copies of Catcher In the Rye after a reader has gained the use (but not posession) of the book.

All analogies stretch and fail, but there's mine;)

timothy

The real RMS compiler (1)

xeer0 (42098) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099437)

I always enjoy reading what RMS has to say. I applaud his uncompromising defense of the things he believes in, even when I don't agree with him.

We all know about gcc, but I think RMS himself is actually a pretty damn good compiler. Witness:

$cat src.c
#define OPEN_SOURCE = FREE_SOFTWARE;
$rms src.c
semantic error:1000:OPEN_SOURCE != FREE_SOFTWARE, refer to the GNU Manifesto.

and in the end don't we all agree:

"Garbage in, garbage out."

Flame Bait? (1)

Wedman (58748) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099460)

Flam bait?!

What? I think I had a point here.



Alright then... bring it on

Re:Yes, a kook (1)

mccrew (62494) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099464)

The difference between GNU/Linux and Linux is the same one as between saying free as in "free speech" instead of free as in "free beer"

Here is is 16 years later, and still trying to explain what free means. Seems to me that if you go that long and still have to explain that free really means free but not free, then it is time to pack it in.

RMS is a talented coder. Wish he would do more of it and leave the political B.S. alone.

----
Wind and temp at my house [halcyon.com]

Re:Overpopulation is THE "problem"? (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099466)

How many people do you know that collect welfare or UN "assistance" without making an effort to even sustain their own existance.

Just having labor is not enough. Unless you have resources to turn into something useful, labor is useless. What you see on the streets of Calcutta are not a bunch of lazy underacheivers, but a bunch of people without any resources.

If I put you out on a barren rock in the middle of the north atlantic, you could work your hands to the bone, day and night, and you'd still starve. Put you on the streets of Calcutta with no education and no possessions, and you'd not do much better.

That's one reason the US a smaller percentage of dirt poor than India does. Not because Indians are lazier than Americans. Because India has fewer resources to go around than the United States.

Re:Some thoughts (1)

zantispam (78764) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099485)

I was actually thinking of the Shire after the Hobbits' return.

Saruman was in control of the shire and doing his best to destroy it. Trees had been cut, sherrifs were hassling the populace, and black smoke was choking the air.

After the battle in the square, Saruman could have been easily taken, tried, and executed for his crimes. As a matter of fact, that's what most of the town wanted.

Frodo said no.

Worm was the one who killed Saruman. Frodo knew when to pursue, and when to lay off.

That was actually the example I was thinking of... :-)

(Tolkien ru13z)

Here's my [redrival.com] copy of DeCSS. Where's yours?

Re:Stallman = 2 scary for sesame street (1)

cheezus (95036) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099507)

He is just the kind of guy who scares my clients away from Open Source. And I don't believe his slashing attacks are representative of most developers I know, who are rather apolitical and quiet. For Linux to get mainstream we must get rid of the radicals and focus on the quality of the results.

i think that is kind of his point, if i read the article correctly. I would agree that just opening the source for software isn't good enough. Now that Open Source software has taken place of Free Software, corporations can take something that was intended to give us freedom, and just use it to make more money. Open source shouldn't be a business model.

One thing that did kind of bother me about stallman's article was what he said about rather using an inferior piece of free software than using something propreitary. What about piracy? I think that piracy would be a good way of using good quality software, and also a form of civil disobedience

---

Re:All of slashdot insulted by Roblimo AGAIN? (1)

F452 (97091) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099515)

Now that you point it out, it does sound a little patronizing. (Not as bad as your high school example - that would have been irritating!) Still, I didn't take any offense at all when I read the interview intro. I knew it didn't apply to me, and I further knew it did apply to a lot of slashdot readers.

Re:Damnit... (1)

CanadaMan (121016) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099544)

take a class in Philosophy, and you will find out that you too can believe him and be more enlightened and aware of the infinite possibilities inherent in human societal co-operation.

Re:RMS's time is over (1)

christophersaul (127003) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099550)

"And he still won't let the
GNU/Linux thing go, although at least he's stopped pushing "LiGNUx" as I once heard him say."

Hardly surprising since just calling it Linux is pretty incorrect - It's a little like Americans calling Great Britain 'England' - just 'cos lots of people do it, doesn't mean it's right.

" His time as the leader of Open Source is over."

He never was leader of the Open Source movement. In the interview he statest on numerous occasions that he sees a lot of problems with OS and holds a lot of differing views.

Re:Hey - a Suprise! (1)

christophersaul (127003) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099551)

"And even funnier, people accuse RMS of being a Communist all the time, and yet here he accuses his opponents of being "Soviets" - twice!"

There's a large difference between being a communist and a 'Soviet', just as it would be wrong to assume that being American, meant being a conservative ultra-capitalist gun toter.

Re:Oh dear (1)

christophersaul (127003) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099552)

"Perhaps he should see the kind of cruelty and callousness exhibited by elements of our society. Perhaps then he wouldn't be so quick to complain about high rates of imprisonment in the U.S."

Perhaps he thinks that locking people up isn't always the right solution, for society as a whole, or for the person who committed the crime.

Plenty of other countries appear to manage well without incarcerating such a huge percentage of their population!

sweet (1)

small_dick (127697) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099553)

heh caldera sucks! that ransom love link definately has me shying away from all things caldera. too bad; they have some good people. "Extremism in the face of tyranny is no vice". B. Goldwater. ...and it is tyranny, when the protocols, the pipe, and the software which use them are kept secret. look at other disciplines -- architecture, mechanical engineering -- you can't hide that. you can go to a library and look up every detail on how it's done. but the proprietary protocols used in a number of areas in the software industry are an anathema to this freedom.

You can be helped... (1)

GNUs-Not-Good (130016) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099554)

take a class in economics, and you will find out that you too can believe him and be broke and somewhat off your rocker.

Stallman = 2 scary for sesame street (1)

Hobart XI (134711) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099556)

He is just the kind of guy who scares my clients away from Open Source. And I don't believe his slashing attacks are representative of most developers I know, who are rather apolitical and quiet. For Linux to get mainstream we must get rid of the radicals and focus on the quality of the results.

Re:Overpopulation a "problem"? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099568)

There is one proven cure for overpopulation; development. Large-scale family planning, such as that practiced in India and China, has pretty much failed because of social pressures; the only way to reduce global population pressures is to spread resources, both technological and educational, around a little bit more evenly.

As for those posters who claim that the earth can support an even larger population, they're right. But it would be at an incredible cost in terms of ecology, health, and quality of life.

Re:Stallman phonetically sounds alot like Stalin (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099569)

Blind devotion to Stallman? I think that I've heard more negative opinions than positive ones here and elsewhere, by a factor of at least 3 to 1. I personally disagree with a lot of what he says, but he's always interesting to read, and I still don't understand this blind hatred of the man. I can't speak for everyone, but he never broke into MY house and forced me at gunpoint to only use GPLed software.

And what fragmented UNIX was simply corporate greed.

Re:Stallman = 2 scary for sesame street (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099570)

Well he's not really part of the linux movement; why should he care? I mean, linux is a subset of the free software movement, not the other way around.

Re:Overpopulation a "problem"? (1)

blackdefiance (142579) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099571)

I probably shouldn't pick fights here, but how exactly is overpopulation a problem?

At some point the resource consumption of the population overwhelms the resources of the planet. This idea was stated by a guy named malthus in the eighteenth century. Or maybe ninteenth. This is known as the malthusian dillema -- more people = good in some dimensions, catastrophic in others.

Damnit... (1)

Rodney L Caston (143815) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099572)

Everytime I read RMS, I begin to see things 'his' way... Hes beginning to ... make... sense.. oh god.. help me!

Re:I'm disappointed. (1)

Bitter Cup O Joe (146008) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099575)

Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

Of course, this comes back to the same old problem. Let's say I go home tonite, dump all my CDs and all my videogames and scan all my books and dump them all on some ftp server. Assume you get maybe a quarter of the US population to do it (I'm being really optimistic here). Suddenly, the work of hundreds of thousands, even millions of people becomes worth less than the paper it was printed on (or CDs it was pressed on, whatever). What happens when IP becomes worthless because it cannot be protected? It would probably continue to lumber on for a year or two while the lawsuits went on and on; then the record companies, etc. would drop dead. And what then? Well, all those writers and musicians and game coders that you love so much? Time for day jobs. Oh, but wait. They've honed their skills for years, even decades in a particular direction. That means they can either a) do what they love doing for free and hope that someone will pay them to do it or b) become unskilled labor or c) train themselves up on something that doesn't require as much creativity or skill, such as business and leave their art for when they get a chance to use it.

Of course, there's another possibility: becoming the court artisan. If you think things are bad right now, when the artists have some type of handle on getting things past their companies that may be objectionable because they can convince them that consumers will buy it, imagine what it'll be like when there's one consumer per artist, and the artist is terrified of pissing off his meal ticket.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of free software, and even free music and free art. The problem is that, while it will be free to the consumer, what about the artist? Beyond that, while I think that there can be a system, a style of government that can be setup where free IP is beneficial to everyone involved, forcing the outright collapse of the current system without having a good plan is not the way to do it. I think the most likely outcome of governments collapsing under unenforceable IP laws will be a feudal system with the corporate types STILL in charge, but even moreso.

So, does being the big, badass, unthinking rebel still sound as appealing to you? Maybe it does, especially if you don't actually contribute any IP, just use it.

An Interesting Article and response (1)

Rans0m (163674) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099586)

I admire Mr. Stallman for being willing to share his opinions, especially in light of the fact that his views are shared by so few. For someone who is so technically advanced, Mr. Stallman seems to want to go back in time to when his ideas about capitalism hadn't been disproved. The irony is that only in a capitalist economy can one even care about these issues. Prosperity gives people the money and time to worry about free software and improving the environment and the other problems mentioned. sigh. Another point of interest is how these posts are moderated. As of this posting (11 comments), most of the comments that were critical of Mr. Stallman had been moderated to a -1. Freedom doesn't tolerate disagreement well I guess. I won't get started on the rest, as I bet there are over 100 comments now.

religion and socialism (1)

geekpress (171549) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099592)

Stallman summarized his method of moral reasoning as: I think of right and wrong as based on how what we could do affects other people--the implications of imagining ourselves in the situation of the people our actions affect.

This, of course, is Christianity. Think of others, not yourself; walk a mile in another man's shoes, blah blah blah. But Stallman is also an atheist.

This really shouldn't come as a surprise. Socialism relies upon a watered-down form of Christianity for it's moral foundation. What's pathetic is that Stallman probably has no idea that he's really a Christian at heart.

It's always an eye opener to see socialism in action. Let's talk about how unfree business makes us, but forget that Lenin and Stalin killed more people than Hitler. Were the people living under the glories of socialism in the Soviet death camps free? Is the bounteous freedom and prosperity of socialism the reason why every socialist country has had to shoot people who try to leave to prevent a mass exodus?

Stallman should go back to what he's good at: writing software. He obviously sucks at political philosophy.

-- Diana Hsieh

Re:Overpopulation a "problem"? (1)

mbaker (176346) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099604)

For the record, I'm assuming what you really meant is "How is overpopulation a problem for us, now?" and not "Overpopulation is good!"
If this is the case, then I'll somewhat agree with you. There is no world overpopulation problem, but there are many local overpopulation problems. China, India, many African countries, etc are having problems with feeding their current population properly. The land they live upon, apparently, simply can't support the number of people that they have.

Of course populations in industrial nations are actually on a decline, or are projected to be in the near future. The U.S. is currently just barely replacing the people that die off, for instance.
This, hopefully, will mean that there will never been a global overpopulation problem, because one can speculate that because this is occuring to developed nations, now, that given help in reaching this point, other countries will follow the same pattern.

For our current world population, there really is the world land area and technologies to grow sufficient amounts of food for everyone. If people in overpopulated areas gradually moved to less densely populated regions, living areas could also be guranteed to everyone.

Unfortunately people care more about finances than providing the neccesities of life to all people. Sad, really.

Richard M Stalin? (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099608)

Interesting glimpse at the man behind GNU (which we all love so well), but a little spooky.

For the Free Software Movement, proprietary software is the problem, and free software is the solution. Free software is often very powerful and reliable, and I'm glad that adds to its appeal; but I would choose a bare-bones unreliable free program rather than a featureful and reliable proprietary program that doesn't respect my freedom.

Here is the point where he begins to depart from normal human beings. Setting aside from the hyperbole of closed-sourced products "not respecting his freedom"... I, like most people, am willing to pay for a product that works well enough to justify the cost within my budget. This does not mean that I am a blind fool being exploited by a company that is disrespecting my freedom. It just means that I am not a Cheap Bastard.

I like Free Beer as much as the next guy, and if RMS wants to buy the rounds I'm drinking... but he seems to think that we will all help him overthrow the Csar and build a worker's paradise behind his leadership. Unfortunately for the Revolution, there is no Csar this time. Gates, Jobs, and Ellison are all very rich, but we are completely free to ignore them (and many of us do). Capitalism is not a monarchy, no matter how much you enjoy hating it.

Hey, spewing absolute dogma like this is fun. Maybe I could be a stubborn techno-political pundint like RMS!

Re:Ummmm....what? (1)

James Earl Jones (176396) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099610)

Crackmonkey.

My vote is that living in the earth's core would suck, whether I had to share it with 10 billion or 100 billion others. I'm thinking enough elbow room would be the least of my problems.

That said, broad overpopulation is not the problem. The earth has plenty of resources untapped and areas unused for food and other life-supporting production. The problem becomes how to make use of those resources - in short, the people aren't the problem, it is making those resources available to everyone, everywhere, at any time that is the problem. All a matter of logistics, really.

Re:Oh dear (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099621)

Therefore, painting the ACLU as the Grand Defenders of the Bill of Rights omits a pretty important detail.

Agreed. I think most would agree that occasionally the ACLU does some good, but they are NOT the defenders of rights that they would like people to think. They very carefully pick and choose which rights they will defend, and invent rights where none exist.

On balance, they are far worse than any Microsoft or any DMCA.


--

No Attribution on questions? (1)

Oarboat_7 (179743) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099625)

I couldn't help but notice that, unless almost all the questions were asked by an idnvidual with the nick 'Q' on here, that all identifiers on the questions were stripped off. Except for the mini-dialogue in the middle that RMS has with Bruce Perens (who apparently is some form of disciple... brings to mind memories of watching to see who's in the picture at the annual MayDay Military Parade in Moscow).

I can't help but think about all the pain and anguish this must be causing the Karma-whores whose questions got answered, but minus their 'handles.'

Re:Stallman = 2 scary for sesame street (2)

pb (1020) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099639)

Oh no. He's different. Get rid of him.

He's made it clear that he's part of a separate movement. If you read that article and thought he was part of an "Open Source" movement, then you don't know how to read.

Also, gcc seems to compile code rather well, and I hear emacs can even be used to edit text!

So... just because someone doesn't fit in with your idea of a developer, they don't need to be deposed by some mainstream linux mafia. And RMS has one helluva track record for his quality of results.

The reason Linux is GPL'ed is out of respect for gcc. Think about that.

(For example:

I hate the GNU/Linux fiasco as much as the next guy, (in part just because RMS is being an asshole here, Linus has acknowledged the FSF's contribution from the very beginning) but I still don't hold it against Stallman, especially if Linus doesn't.
(don't be an involved third party when the first two parties don't care == none of your business))
---
pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu] .

Stallman is right... GPL encourages sharing (2)

ahornby (1734) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099645)

His clear and principaled stance on free software is needed in this muddled world.

I have published software under the GPL, and had to remind those porting it to Amiga and Archimedes (hey it was a while ago!) to make source available.

The whole concept of sharing had never occured them before. I felt that the GPL had accomplished something then.

Re:Overpopulation is THE "problem"? (2)

Glytch (4881) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099649)

How about this:

Give people massive tax breaks for not having any children, or for only having one child. It's not violating anyone's civil rights, it's not imprisoning anyone, and it's humane. It appeals to the one thing that drives most people: their wallets. This is a totally biased solution on my part, though, since I never plan to have any kids.

The big drawback is sheer time it would take to succeed, and it would probably only work in countries where taxes are fairly high to being with. Oh, well...

Re:You might be able to use the DMCA, anyway... (2)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099653)

Yup, apparently the DMCA covers such trivial things as the Serial Copy Management System, which is simply a copy/don't copy bit that could easily be ignored, and built-in Macrovision defeaters (such as in Go video decks), which are $5 at Radio Shack.

(On a side note, I've heard that this has already hampered free software to some extent, with Matrox unwilling to release specs for their TV card because someone could just flip a bit and turn off MacroVision.)

I'm not sure how this would be implemented, but I could imagine that your software could contain some sort of "GPL Licenced" signature that must be encoded in the binary. Removing the signature would be trival, but might be considered a violation of the DMCA. Although, perhaps Stallman would rather have folks work to overturn/subvert the DMCA than figure out a way to implement it.
--

The computer industry isn't Sesame St (2)

finkployd (12902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099655)

Get rid of the radicals? Did you just get here?!

The whole concept of open source is radical (in today's world).

If getting linux (and open source as a concept) into the mainstream means ignoring our ideals and forgetting how we got here, then it IS NOT worth it.

The way to 'go mainstream' is to beat the proprietary software using OUR rules, by producing better programs. This is already happening and soon the software industry will not be able to ignore it. Then we will have won on our own terms, using our own tools.

Besides, how do ou propose to 'get rid' of someone who is responsible for most of the code in any given linux distro?

Finkployd

Finkployd

Re:RMS as philosopher (2)

Disco Stu (13103) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099656)

Hm, so you *are* certain of the worth of "millions of dollars?" That the pursuit of money is unquestionably valuable?

No, I'm certainly not. However, that wasn't my point (after rereading my original post, I realized I hadn't made my point clear at all). The point is that money *is* valuable to most people (if it wasn't, it wouldn't *be* money). Given a good enough reason, most people will give up money. In the absence of such a reason, people will choose to have money and the things (comfort, power, etc.) that go with it.

Sidenote: I really gave RMS too much credit in my original post. He may have sacrificed the comfort that comes with money, but not the power.

Anyway, my point is just that an ethical system whose greatest promoter is uncertain of is probably not a good enough reason to convince people to give up their money.

Re:RMS as philosopher (2)

Disco Stu (13103) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099657)

And besides, aren't you advocating throwing away *billions* of dollars on an ethical standard (close private corporate tyrannies) which we are quite *certain* is WRONG!?

*You* may be certain, but RMS isn't. He claims that you can't be certain.

I think you are the one misunderstanding his argument. I think Free (and Open Source) Software is a good thing. I do not want to be tied into proprietary solutions. That certainly could result in throwing away billions of dollars. However, RMS's point was that the utility of using Free Software isn't the issue, and is the point of the Open Souce movement, rather than the Free Software movement. If RMS's view, utility is unimportant. The ethics are all that matter. My point was just that that seems to be a silly stance to take (and most people..especially the people whose descisons matter most... *won't* take it) when you claim that you cannot be certain of the ethics.

RMS as philosopher (2)

Disco Stu (13103) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099659)

...and not a very good one. The thing is, his beliefs...etc, all come down do his philosophy.

Let's see: The Free Software Movement raises issues of freedom, community, principle, and ethics, which the Open Source Movement studiously avoids.

Compared with:

Whether gods exist or not, there is no way to get absolute certainty about ethics.

Oh, yes. I read his little disclaimer at the end. However, are you willing to throw away millions of dollars to adhere to an ethical standard of which you aren't certain? RMS apparently is (or at least on a smaller scale), and I do admire him for that, but I'm not, and most others aren't.

Oh, yeah. And the belief that gods can't be certain about ethics is one of the silliest things I've ever heard. If morals exist outside our heads, then they have to come from somewhere. If, as many religions do, we call the source of those morals "God," then how can "God" be uncertain? I admit I'm fuzzing over the diff between ethics and morals here, but if that same God created the universe and all its laws and inhabitants, then ethics would present no difficulty as well.

RMS is taking a stance that says, "This is the most important because it is right. Sacrifice everything for it," but he then goes on to say, you can't be sure what is right! Not only is he a bad philosopher, but he is incredibly naive about human nature.

Re:Yes...he's a kook... (2)

Blue Lang (13117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099660)

and so are you.

You have no idea how correct you are. I'm one of those insane people who hates the idea of having my every purchase planted into a database in order to 'make my next purchasing decision easier.' I don't own a television. I don't listen to the radio. I throw away mail advertisements unopened. I don't buy plastic if I can avoid it. I recycle. I drive a small, crappy car that gets good gas mileage - when I drive. I pick up other people's garbage.

Yep, that's me, obviously fucking insane because I give a shit about the planet I leave behind. Thanks for reminding me how good it makes me feel to be a raving lunatic.

We can think and decide for ourselves what is good. We don't need a spokesman.

You don't even know you're being oppressed, and that sucks. If you were black and living in 1950, would you say that same thing? Female, in 1890? Do you really not understand that no one is making this 'erosion of freedom' suff up?

No, you're right - the status quo is OK with everyone. Forget the fact that there are millions of people suffering over absolute bullshit, and allow me to apologize for being so selfish.

--
blue

Answers... (2)

Gerv (15179) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099663)

Q: Are there any good case studies of large corporations opening up proprietary in-house source code?

Mozilla [mozilla.org] , surely :-)

RMS said:
any being no matter how powerful can still be wrong

So, if you postulate a God (who would be the most powerful being in the Universe, rather by definition) and then say he's wrong, who is he wrong compared to? Surely such a being would be right by definition, particularly if they were omniscient.

Gerv

An ideologist, not a kook (2)

Camelot (17116) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099664)

I don't agree with many of his views, but as a person who firmly stands up to defend his ideals and who has spent decades trying to change the world, he should be respected. One must realize, though, that he is an extremist, and because of this many people might never see things his way.

Many people mistakenly believe that the reason RMS insists on using GNU/Linux is his seek for fame; that he wants people to give him credit for his work. This is clearly false, as may be seen from his interview. The difference between GNU/Linux and Linux is the same one as between saying free as in "free speech" instead of free as in "free beer" - and it is very important distinction. Even though he may not crave for it, he does deserve recognition, because the free software movement probably wouldn't exist without him.

Like I said, some things he says make me just want to shake my head, and others - well, there are infuriating ones, like his take on Napster. It is rather interesting how he manages to dismiss the whole Napster case as seeing "nothing inethical" in it - but like I said, it's just his steadfast ideology.

Re:Yes...he's a kook... (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099667)

Hmmm...after rereading the original post, I couldn't find any mention of doom, or wishing anything of the sort on anyone.

but I agree. I wouldn't wish doom on anyone. The sprite graphics, the low-res textures, the 3D-no-wait-they're-2D maps...I could go on, but you get my point.

Re:ASP's do distribute their products (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099672)

Because the license expressly says that if the software is running on more than one computer at once. It still has to be 'installed' on your machine. THere is still a 'copy' made in memory on your machine. Hence, distribution. ASP's provide things through their own java/web style interfaces.. under which there is no transfer of actual software.

One correction, one puzzling remark (2)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099673)

Great interview! The change from biz-speak droids (like Augustin turned out to be) to speak-your-mind RMS is like a breath of fresh air.

Maybe I should mark the below as offtopic, but...

The problem isn't religious fundamentalism. It's religious fundamentalists. I have (and presumably RMS has) no problem with people who want to handle snakes, or whatever. The problem comes in when they try to force you to do the same. I assume RMS's comment was shorthand for this.

The other item was the end comment about atheism. "No being no matter how powerful can be certain about ethical matters." (emphasis mine and this was paraphrased.

I'm not a "believer". However, even I can see that if you define Entity E as "omniscient" then clearly they must be certain about ethical matters--by definition.

I wouldn't make such a big deal about a logical nicety, except that RMS seems to be basing arguments on this fallacy.
--
Have Exchange users? Want to run Linux? Can't afford OpenMail?

Re:Kook? (2)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099676)

So answer this: why do the other 25% think it is a good idea? Doesn't this come down to a tyranny of the majority, where the larger group coerces the smaller group into adhering to the larger group's ideology? If someone claims it is a natural right to copy information freely, how can you prove otherwise?

Re:Scary thoughts... (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099685)

Our generation (Generation Net or Generation /.) sees software and digital media in a completely different light.

I prefer Generation Why. There's a half-assed paper about it on my site somewhere...

--

You Go Richard!! (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099686)

Let me make my bias clear. I think RMS rocks. Yea, he can be a stubborn, thick-headed asshole, but I think this question defines that side of him the best.

Q: Are there any things that you sort of care about, but not very much?

RMS: Sure, plenty--but I don't argue about those things.


Some other highlights.

I am not affiliated with the Open Source Movement. I founded the Free Software Movement, which has been working to spread freedom and cooperation since 1984, and is concerned not only with practical benefits but with a social and ethical issue: whether to encourage people to cooperate with their neighbors, or prohibit cooperation.

1984 [wahcentral.net] , what can you say...hehe. Funny that one of the things will make make sure we don't have a totalitarian regime in the future, was started the same year that totalitarian regime was supposed to take over.

Does the phrase "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" (I'm thinking of the "GNU/Linux" thing) have any resonance at all with you?

followed by a paragraph long explanation on why you should call it GNU/Linux, hehe. He does have a sense of humor.:)

The DMCA is a perfect example of the harm done when business dominates government and society. One part of the law explicitly says that only commercially significant activities are considered important (to legitimize a program which is often used to bypass technological means of controlling the users)--showing explicit prejudice against educational uses, recreational uses, communitarian uses, military uses, and religious uses.

couldn't have said it better myself, and I've tried (click user info)

So I'm starting to think the guy gets in, but then I realize he's still learning...

I don't play music from files on my computer,
but I've occasionally made tapes of records and given them to my friends.


C'mon d00d, Keep the music flowing! [wahcentral.net] hehe.

We have choices to make now. To insist on absolute certainty before starting to
apply ethics to life decisions is a way of choosing to be amoral.


amen, brother.
--

Re:Pot calling kettle black... (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099697)

I would love to join the ACLU, but not until they stop their bigoted prejudices against people of faith....If she wants to quote the New Testament, they would have her for dinner.
Hogwash! I challenge you to cite a case where the ACLU has proceeded along these lines.

The ACLU has been at the forefront of defending student's expression of religious beliefs; for example, in one recent case a school banned wearing of the Star of David because - and I'm not making this up - they classified it as a gang symbol! The ACLU fought and won for a Jewish student's right to wear the symbol of his faith.

On the other hand, if that Star of David were to be displayed by the school as a religious expression, the ACLU would (quite rightly) object.

Re:RMS as philosopher (2)

technos (73414) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099710)

Morals exist outside of our heads, and apart from any god. They're a form of mental survival guide that has been selected for by evolution time and time again.

Imagine it's 10,000 BC.

You steal something of value from your neighbor. What happens? Your neighbors beats the life out of you. You're dead, no children. (Thou shalt not steal)

You sleep with the neighbors wife? If she doesn't slit your throat while you sleep, the husband will tomorrow night. Again, you're dead, no children. (Thou shalt not commit adultery)

I can keep going, but that proves my point.

Most of the commandments and most lessons of the Bible ('the words of god') are nothing more than the 'code of conduct least likely to get you killed today'. Everything else is either a recruiting hook to get you converted or a penalty to keep you that way.

Some thoughts (2)

zantispam (78764) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099711)

First, I admire RMS for being able to always stick to his guns. Let's admit it: there are those of us here who dislike RMS and do not agree with him. There are those who feel he is too inflexible, and that he is doing us a great disservice by being such a zealot. To these people I say, `Are you able to pursue something that's as important to you as Free Software is to Stallman for twenty years without losing your vigor? Are you still willing to fight as hard today as you were when you began?'.

I am unable to answer either question in the affirmative...yet.

Second: Robin, where are the poster's names? Why was Bruce the only person who received credit for his comments? Does this stem from the Katz-book thing? Can we expect to see only famous people owning their comments?

Did RMS do this?

Third: Though I hate to say it, the more I read about RMS' philosophy and the more I understand, the more I agree. I don't think he's going too far. When one side of an argument goes too far in one direction (UTICA, DMCA, etc), the other side must react in an equally forcefull manner to restore balance. The danger here is going too far after you have won.

Would it have been right for the UN to nuke Iraq after her armies had been destroyed? (Bad analogy, I know, but the only better one I can think of involves Tolkien, and I don't want to go there ;-)

In any event, I'm glad the answers have finally been posted. I look forward to the other interviews that are still pending.

Here's my [redrival.com] copy of DeCSS. Where's yours?

Re:One correction, one puzzling remark (2)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099714)

> I'm not a "believer". However, even I can see
> that if you define Entity E as "omniscient" then
> clearly they must be certain about ethical
> matters--by definitio

very interesting....Well it goes to show, Atheism
is a religion, just like any other. This is simply
a statment of Mr. Stallman's Belief.

His argument about relativism, seems to mimic, for
me, certain things that pop up in the relm of
physics, when you get into relativity and the
"Less well known" (or rather less publicly
understood things).

He seems to be saying "Yes I believe there is an
objective, real, set of moral right and wrong"
but at the same time saying "there is no way that
we can actually measure what it is". It becomes
that same argument as "am I moving, or are you".

Really, I think the reason that "God" is so
popular, the concept of a God makes things simple,
"this is right, that is wrong, God said so".
It makes people feel secure, there is a nice,
absolute standard of morality. People don't like
uncertainty.

(I am not saying that "God" is nothing more than
"good psycology", certainly, as an atheist, that
is my personal belief, but...I have no real hard
evidence to back that belief up with, it can't
be proven one way or the other)

Re:All of slashdot insulted by Roblimo AGAIN? (2)

KahunaBurger (123991) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099719)

First of all, its not offtopic, its a direct reference to something said in the story. Where else would we talk about it?

Also, I totally agree, I read that line and thought, "oh thats real cute. Nothing like a little note that essenstial says 'if you might disagree with this and feel strongly enough to comment on it, you just shouldn't read it.'" Hello? This is a discussion forum. The people who might disagree and even get angry are exactly the people we want to read and post, otherwise, what's the point?

Basically, it seemed like a way to pre-emptively dismiss those people who would differ with the interviewee, and I think is was insulting and tacky.

-Kahuna Burger

Re:More Stallman (2)

Nastard (124180) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099720)

I want free beer. I deserve free beer. Any company that has the audacity to charge me for beer is evil, and needs to be taken down. Non-free beer imposes on my rights. In fact, I would rather drink free watered down piss than non-free beer.

As an american, it is my right to free beer. This is why I am starting the Free Beer Movement. Help me [harleyquinn.com] take down the evil companies and governments that would charge you for beer.

Yes...he's a kook... (2)

GNUs-Not-Good (130016) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099721)

and so are you. Wishing doom on people who don't share your idealogy is as much as a sign of intolerance as the opressors you seem to be scaring everyone with.

Stallman does not stand for many people and those many like it that way. We can think and decide for ourselves what is good. We don't need a spokesman.

Freedom... (2)

istartedi (132515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099722)

...is the ability to do things. Often we exchange the ability to do one thing, in exchange for the ability to do another.

Now, if a software package works really well, but I can't hack it, I exchange my freedom to hack it for increased productivity. That increased productivity is also freedom. The ability to copy and hack is not the only freedom that matters.

Until someone convinces me otherwise, I'll continue to discount the idea that there is any moral weight to the Free Software movement's arguments concerning freedom.

Now some will say that software is speach. But if software is speach, then GPL'd software is really just politicly correct speach--the party line as it were, since every GPL'd package must contain the GNU rhetoric in the preamble. I certainly don't see anything morally superior to that either.

Re:Kook? (2)

kz45 (175825) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099732)

FREEDOM? what freedom is stallman giving us?

it's my right to start a corporation, make as much money as I want, give away my software for free, or release it under GPL.

stallman wants to gain the public's attention by stealing art, and claiming it's free speech. If our society was based on knowledge, it would be a GREAT idea.

if giving music away for free was such a GREAT idea? why are 75 % of the artists pissed? Because it's violating their RIGHTS! Something stallman sees as OK.

BTW stallman doesn't care about money because he gets large $$$ from the college he works at.

it doesn't matter, though, because arguing with slashdotters is like arguin with a fucking Brick wall.

Re:ASP's do distribute their products (2)

mbaker (176346) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099733)

Providing a remote interface to a locally run piece of software, and distributing the software via a network filesystem, to be run remotely are different beasts.

ASP's do distribute their products (2)

nagora (177841) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099735)

There's also the problem of Application Service Providers, who make a work available for people to use without distributing it,

Actually, ASP's do distribute. If multiple users using a cental fileserver with Word on it are counted for licencing purposes as having had the product distributed to them, what difference does it make if the server is hundreds of miles away? If someone can use a product to do work then that product has been distributed.

I may be foolish but I can't see even the most out-of-touch judge supporting the idea that an item can be used by many people and yet not have been distributed to those people.

TWW

Re:Scary thoughts... (3)

rlk (1089) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099738)

I've had a few run-ins with RMS myself. He's blunt and outspoken by nature, and it's easy to have disagreements with him. However, I'm not particularly ashamed to admit that he's been proven right over time much more often than not, and even if I didn't care for his style I'd be foolish to to ignore that fact.

If you read that interview carefully (and also pay attention to what goes on), you will note that he does not reflexively take the positions that one would expect. For example, when Corel decided to distribute their Linux beta only to people age 18 and up, he jumped in, all right -- squarely on the side of Corel (Corel is not obligated to distribute their Linux to anyone they don't want to, and they weren't restricting downstream distribution). I think he's actually quite careful and measured in what he says. I won't claim that he's diplomatic, just that he thinks carefully about what positions he takes and is very precise in his language.

I won't say that it's "fair" or not to have a low opinion of free software because of personal distaste for RMS, but I think it's very superficial to do so.

Re:Overpopulation a "problem"? (3)

mattc (12417) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099741)

Well, this post is probably a troll, but I'll reply anyway.

There is a finite amount of resources on this planet. If we don't kill ourselves off with pollution first, we will eventually run out of space. This is a simple fact.

Also, most people would like to preserve some wilderness. Whether it be for recreation, aesthetic reasons, ethical reasons, or all of the above... It is hard to preserve natural areas on an overcrowded planet.

In addition, you say "more goods and services" are a good thing, however if this were true rich people would be the happiest people, and I don't find this to be true.

America the Incarcerated (3)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099746)

The War on Drugs has continued for some 20 years, and we see little prospect of peace, despite the fact that it has totally failed and given the US an imprisonment rate almost equal to Russia.
Has Russia's been locking people up like mad since the fall of the USSR? I know that in the early 90's, we had the highest prison population in the world, both in raw numbers and per capita - and that was with only a bit over one million people in jail. We're now at about two million people behind bars.

I have to agree with RMS about the possibility of a "War on Copying" - in fact I used that very phrase just a few days ago in another discussion. And I'd anticipate that strong anti-copying laws would be even less effective that the anti-drug laws that are violated by about thirty million Americans per year.

balancing capitalism and (pure) communism (3)

imac.usr (58845) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099749)

I'm not much of a software developer (mostly homemade things that mostly work), but it's where I'm planning to take my career next -- tech support just doesn't hold the same level of interest it once did, which wasn't much to begin with. Now, I would like to earn money from my code to pay for things like a nice car, more and faster computers, the next Rush album, and other happiness toys. But I'd also like to write useful programs that the world at large can utilize in new and interesting ways. If I were to write the next Photoshop, I would probably try to sell it and make money from it. If I were to write the next ATi driver, OTOH, I would probably be inclined to give it away as free software or open source, depending on what license I wind up preferring.

I suspect most developers feel this way; not everybody is an 8-hour-a-day code monkey, just in it for the paycheck, but at the same time, you gotta eat and pay for the DSL line and the AirPort Base Station serving it to your machines. (Er, in some cases.)

RMS is content with remaining on the frontline of the free software fight, and I can't help but admire his ability to remain committed to what many consider a pointless fight (I can't even commit to what I'm going to have for lunch -- pisses off the people in line behind me daily). Other companies (Microsoft, NVIDIA, Sorenson, etc.) prefer the money-making at the expense of personal freedom and satisfaction, i.e. being able to look through the code for a neat hack and saying, "oh, so that's how it's done!" I plan to try and walk a line somewhere in between. I gave to the EFF and complained to my state's leaders about UCITA (MD passed it anyway, bastards), but I could no more get rid of my Macs and their proprietary software than I could quit my job supporting them and live off the land. Anybody else feel they're in a similar position?

Say what you will (3)

kniedzw (65484) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099750)

RMS may not be the most ... diplomatic ... individual alive today, and his viewpoints are far from popular. His diatribes may indeed drive the mainstream users and corporations away from the FSF and away from Open Source as a movement, both as users and contributors.

...but he does fight for what he believes in, unabashedly and boldfacedly. In doing so, he's winning a few friends and more enemies, but he's also pushing for political and social change for what he perceives as the greater good.

I don't agree with everything that Stallman says, and I don't believe that he's taking the most reasonable path to his goal (or even pushing for moderate change), but in being inflexable and combative, he's pushing for freedoms and benefits which benefit us all, ultimately. ...or at least the proletariat, as it were.

I think that RMS is extreme and abrasive, but I'm damn glad he's there, fighting for what he believes in. If he weren't doing it, then I might have to. ...or one of you. Pragmatism shouldn't always take a back seat to principles.

Re:Some thoughts (3)

zantispam (78764) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099752)

Thanks for the reply. :-)

I thought it kind of odd that the replys were set up that way. I mean, of course I could go back to the original interview and look over the posts easily enough (in fact, I remembered almost all of the questions and could peg about three people to their comments without looking), but I digress...

I consider the differing format an experiment that maybe didn't work out as well as had been hoped for.

May I make a suggestion? Provide a link with each question to the original comment in the original story. That way, I can see who made the comment and what kind of discussion it sparked.

I can also give credit where credit's due :-)

Thanks

Here's my [redrival.com] copy of DeCSS. Where's yours?

FSF and Open Source (3)

gonerill (139660) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099756)

Stallman's answer to this question Q: Are there any good case studies of large corporations opening up proprietary in-house source code? deserves to be read carefully. If what he says is roughly right, we're watching a very interesting change right now. What's happening is that a movement based on particular principled ends (of the kind that Stallman advocates) is getting repackaged and sold to companies as a new and effective means, ie a better way to turn a profit. It's interesting that RMS is now typically criticized for being past his time, etc. There's a predictable pattern to many social movements of this sort: they begin with prophetic characters like Stallman who have a radical agenda, and then gradually become co-opted and assimilated to existing institutions like corporations and the market. A key moment in this shift is when people stop arguing for an innovation like Open Software on principle and start arguing for it in terms of self-interest. Like Gresham's law, the bad arguments drive out the good, and pretty soon what seemed like an additional benefit of a principled idea becomes the main reason for supporting it. It'll be interesting to see in 15-20 years whether anyone argues for Open Software from a principled position, as Stallman does. My money says it'll become integrated into how corporations and markets work, and justified as a more effective way to make money. I get the feeling that many Open Source advocates (like Eric Raymond) aren't aware that this is happening.

Re:You might be able to use the DMCA, anyway... (3)

Eric Gibson (166760) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099757)

They allow copyright owners to restrict the mere running of a program--but only if some sort of hard-to-bypass license manager or access control enforces the restrictions. The freedom of free software means that even if we did put such artificial restriction into a program, the user could easily bypass them--and that's a good thing! But it means that new legal power is not available for use for copyleft.

It's all in the interpretation of the DMCA. In fact there are provisions already in place within the very sections that prohibit "circumventing a technological measure", that take into account 'fair use' when refferring to a users freedom...

For example: `Sec. 1201. Circumvention of copyright protection systems

`(a) VIOLATIONS REGARDING CIRCUMVENTION OF TECHNOLOGICAL MEASURES- (1)(A) No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title. The prohibition contained in the preceding sentence shall take effect at the end of the 2-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this chapter.


Lower there are provisions to allow the copying of these works for nonprofit archival, preservation, and educational purposes; etc in sections C.

In fact in section (f) which you don't really hear about that often because people are yelling about how evil the DMCA is, it says:

`(f) REVERSE ENGINEERING- (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a)(1)(A), a person who has lawfully obtained the right to use a copy of a computer program may circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a particular portion of that program for the sole purpose of identifying and analyzing those elements of the program that are necessary to achieve interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, and that have not previously been readily available to the person engaging in the circumvention, to the extent any such acts of identification and analysis do not constitute infringement under this title.

The DMCA seems like a reasonable and fair document if you actually read it, it *already* takes into account most of the things people mercilessly bash it for not having. It seems like from what I've read users still have the right to crack software they have lawfully purchased and I see nothing wrong with having to pay for a product. I'm not really sure if giving someone a copy of software is fair use though, if you let someone borrow a book you no longer have the book, software can be reproduced indefinately with exact copies.

Anyway here are the offending sections. [loc.gov]

Scary thoughts... (3)

TraceProgram (171114) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099758)

"we can expect to see the record companies purchase new laws...". This whole thing (open source vs. sell-your-soul source) is looking to become the next revolution. Personally I can't wait, we need something to shake things up. Society needs a fundamental shift in its view of things. Only a true revolution can bring that about. It goes along with what Stallman is saying about morals as well. They are defined by the society in which they are constructed (whoa I think that was circular logic there). Our generation (Generation Net or Generation /.) sees software and digital media in a completely different light. Open source seems, IMHO, to be a positive step in the right direction. It's just gonna be scary, for some people, accepting that as the new way of looking at things. That whole fear of the unknown thing.

You might be able to use the DMCA, anyway... (4)

Hizonner (38491) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099762)

RMS sez:
They allow copyright owners to restrict the mere running of a program--but only if some sort of hard-to-bypass license manager or access control enforces the restrictions. The freedom of free software means that even if we did put such artificial restriction into a program, the user could easily bypass them--and that's a good thing! But it means that new legal power is not available for use for copyleft.

I think this is a misreading of the DMCA. The protection measure does not need to be "hard to bypass". People think that it does because the DMCA talks about measures that "effectively protect" rights of copyright holders... but if you look at the text more closely, you'll discover that "effectively protects" is redefined to mean nothing that any rational person would recognize.

A measure "effectively protects" something if, in the course of its normal operation, the measure enforces some kind of policy. It doesn't matter how trivial it is to bypass the measure... it's still effective by this definition.

I think (IANAL) that you could very probably enforce the DMCA against anybody who tried to bypass (say) a makefile hack that e-mailed any modified source to the FSF whenever it was compiled. It's that broad.

Re:Oh dear (4)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099764)

> Furthermore, the attacks on the "War on Drugs"
> and conservative politicians in general were
> completely unnecessary in this forum.

I disagree.... slashdot is a discussion forum, not
a purely technical one (not even a mostly
technical one). Discussion of politics and social
issues are definitly relavent...especially in an
interview.

> The same drug policies have continued for eight
> years under Clinton's administration -- does
> that make them ok? The high rate of imprisonment
> in this country continues under a Democratic
> administration, yet the implication is that it's
> the fault of Republicans.

Which, in my mind, goes to show that there is very
little, if any, real difference between the
Republicans and the Democrats. Lately, I have been
refering to them, collecitvly, as the
"Republicrat Party", which is split into 2
factions, which hate eachother for no real reason.

As for the war on drugs, I have to agree with the
people who have said it is a "religous war". It is
the only context in which it makes sense. Any
practical view of it shows that it is an utter
failure. It has not reduced use, or supply in
any real way. In fact, current day drug
prohibition, is a failure in ALL of the same ways
as Alcohol prohibition of the 1920's.
In fact, in an interview, the head of the DEA
advocated bringing back alcohol prohibition, and
stated that he believed it could be done within
"the next 10 years".

However, I digress. yes, there are social problems
here in america. Our legislative problems just
amplify them. You can't legislate away a social
problem, yet time and again, our society tries
to do just that. (the war on drugs is just 1 set
of examples)

-Steve

Re:Some thoughts (5)

Roblimo (357) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099765)

"Why was Bruce the only person who received credit for his comments? Does this stem from the Katz-book thing? Can we expect to see only famous people owning their comments?"

It was the way RMS formatted his replies, taking one question at a time in informal dialogue fashion instead of replying to multi-part questions in one big lump. I left Bruce's name in because Richard did, and because they're both high-profile people in this particular area.

Besides, I get bored using the same format for every interview and thought doing it a little differently -- just once -- would break things up.

The choice had nothing to do with the Hellmouth book thing (which I had *nothing* to do with, BTW). I didn't even think about it while I was formatting this interview.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. :)

- Robin

Pot calling kettle black... (5)

killbill (10058) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099766)

RMS complaining that one of the evils of the world that should be fought is religious fundamentalisim? Heee Heee...

RMS is the strongest religous fundamentalist I have ever had the pleasure of hearing speak, and anyone who does not see the dogma in his open source philosophies has not thought them through(IMHO).

I have plenty of respect for RMS, though I don't agree with much of what he has to say. I have plenty of respect for C.S. Lewis also. They are both religious fundamentalists, with different belief systems.

I would love to join the ACLU, but not until they stop their bigoted prejudices against people of faith. If a validictorian senior wanted to quote Nietzce in her speech, the ACLU would be defending her to the death. If she wants to quote the New Testament, they would have her for dinner. I believe she should have the right to quote either.

Anyway, Christian Dogma, or Open Source Dogma, I don't see much difference in methods, and I think both should be afforded the same constitutional protections.

As a side note, when RMS spoke in Cincinnati, he spoke at the beginning of his speach spoke of how women are unfairly repressed both professionally and by the institution of marriage. Half way through the speach, when he was handing out M&M's to the audience, when he got to an attractive woman he made her eat them out of his hand if she wanted them, while everyone else got to grab them from the bag. The whole thing made me feel very uncomfortable, I can't imagine how she felt.

This kind of behaviour would get you fired under existing sexual harrasment guidelines in any US company. Apparently, his personal behavior is currently at a lower standard the US legislated laws. RMS is welcome to do whatever he wants in his public speaches, but I am just as allowed to call him on it in public forums.

These are just my opinions based on first hand experience. Feel free to post your own opinions based on YOUR first hand experience. I am not looking for a flame war, believe it or not.

Bill

Kook? (5)

Blue Lang (13117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099767)

In some post long ago, someone called RMS a 'kook' for standing up for freedom. I replied that maybe he is crazy, and maybe I am too, and that if standing up for freedom means being crazy, then that's fine.

I hope those of you who seriously detract from Stallman's ideals do so only out of some bitter need to put other people down, or for pure trolling fun - you MUST understand that if you don't stand up for yourselves, or support the people who stand up for you, you will lose. You will lose everything from the right to pick what brand of peanut butter you eat to the right to call Stallman a whacko.

If commercials on television don't revulse you, if you can't see the social conditioning inherent in modern advertising, if the idea that someone might tatoo themselves with the NIKE symbol does not make you ill and sad, then you're already lost.

--
blue

This guy is nuts.. (5)

Nickbot (15172) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099768)

This Stallman guys is off his rocker! What's next, a big building full of books that people can borrow for FREE?!? That would instantly make all publishers go out of business!

And what other crazy ideas does he have? I'm sure that if he had his way, scientists would actually _share_ things they discover with other scientists! Don't you know that that would lead to?!? Lifesaving medical advances and the technology to reach the stars! Do you want to live in a world like that?

Base Philosophies (5)

schporto (20516) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099769)

The last set of questions about morals was a very good one. I believe this points directly to RMS' beliefs and why so many agree/disagree with him. I think (I may be wrong) that RMS has a very strong definition in his own mind of what right and wrong are and these beliefs revolve around a "do good unto others" belief. I believe others (Eric Raymond perhaps) have their own views on this along the lines of "do no harm unto others". Mind you "harm" and "good" are definitions dependant on each individual. The points seem to be the same but lead to markedly different approaches to life. I believe these are age old philosophical points. While, in relative terms, using these arguments in software is new, the points raised are old. I don't think these arguments will ever be settled. And I think a student of philosophy would do a great deal of good to contibute to this discussion. I am not a philosopher, but I can recognize the need for one in here.

Oh dear (5)

DonkPunch (30957) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099771)

In all seriousness, I had no idea that RMS was so ideologically aligned with the far-left in this country.

I agree completely that there is no shame in supporting the efforts of the ACLU to preserve the freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights. However, the Second Amendment is one of those freedoms and the ACLU chooses to ignore or "interpret" it in a such a way that it becomes meaningless. Therefore, painting the ACLU as the Grand Defenders of the Bill of Rights omits a pretty important detail.

Furthermore, the attacks on the "War on Drugs" and conservative politicians in general were completely unnecessary in this forum. The same drug policies have continued for eight years under Clinton's administration -- does that make them ok? The high rate of imprisonment in this country continues under a Democratic administration, yet the implication is that it's the fault of Republicans.

Perhaps Stallman should come down from his throne and spend a few months actually working in law enforcement. Perhaps he should see the kind of cruelty and callousness exhibited by elements of our society. Perhaps then he wouldn't be so quick to complain about high rates of imprisonment in the U.S.

Yes, there is something wrong in America, but it is not a legislative problem as much as it is a social one. Parts of our collective culture have given up the Golden Rule. It's not a religious issue (I happen to be an atheist, too), it's a common-sense rule for a society to function.

I respect the work of Stallman. I use and will probably continue to use the GPL. After reading this, though, I see the point of those who criticize him as a stereotypical ivory-tower liberal academic. He simply doesn't see the big picture with regard to social issues.

Thank you for the GPL, Mr. Stallman, but I can't in good conscience align myself with your view of the world.

Re:Overpopulation a "problem"? (5)

pq (42856) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099772)

So "overpopulation" is a good thing and should be encouraged. The more people we have on the planet, the better.

Huh??? Maybe you would like to spend a couple of years living in a village in Bangladesh, or in a slum in Bombay? (I think not.)
I guess I'm not used to seeing blatant trolls starting at +2...

I almost completely agree with everything RMS says (5)

EricLivingston (162103) | more than 14 years ago | (#1099774)

Not so sure about the lack of relativism: if I prefer one kind of tea over someone else I don't think either of us is "wrong" in any meaningful sense - it truly is relative. I believe the same holds for less trivial examples of differing opinion.

I also believe strongly in the underlying battle for fundamental civil freedoms and rights behind GNU, and certainly see the distinction between that and Open Source.

Unfortunately, while I rage against the machine (and donate generously to the ACLU and the Libertarian party), I also see it as an inevitably losing battle - I'm becoming more convinced by the day that humans (at least Americans) simply don't truly want freedom - they want to be bounded and "safe". Folks say they want freedom of speech until some KKK member says something they don't like - then it's all about how we need new laws limiting hate speech and whatever else they don't want to hear. Folks like property rights until their neighbor parks some trashed pickup in their front yard - then it's all about how we need new laws restricting what people can do with their property.

It's really not about big business, though I wish it was. It's really about fear people have that somebody else will get a better deal than them, and how to stop that from happening. You could blame the record companies for the rash of new lawsuits and restrictions on freedom, but frankly they can do that because most people just don't care. Freedom is just not an important issue for most people, those of us for whom it is a big issue tend to stand out on some lunatic fringe.

The Open Source movement, while emasculated from a moral/ethical/rights point of view, is at least crafting a message that is getting heard by more folks because it caters to their greed rather than a hope that they will care about freedom and what a lack of it might mean to them in the future. But, it's certainly not the same message that RMS is trying to convey - which ultimately is a far more important message.

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