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Response to Fox News Article

by Richard Stallman Contributions Published on Jul 12, 2010 03:57 PM
Jim Prendergast's recent article mistakenly called me a "leader in the open source community". While I appreciate the praise that might be read into that expression, it is not the case: I do not advocate "open source" and never did. I founded the Free Software Movement in 1984. "Free", here refers to freedom, not price; specifically the freedom to redistribute and change the software you use. With free software, the users control the software; with non-free software, the developer has control of the software and its users.

To win freedom, we developed the GNU operating system, which in the GNU+Linux combination is now used on tens of millions of computers. While Microsoft calls GNU/Linux dirty names like "unamerican" and "communist", other presumably capitalist corporations such as IBM and Apple both use and contribute to GNU.

The article misstated my views when it said I am "against intellectual property". That term has no meaning except a confused mishmash of copyright law, patent law, and trademark law, and using the term leads people to simplistic, extreme, confused views. To be either for or against "intellectual property" is equally foolish. We can encourage careful thinking by rejecting that simplitic slogan.

In US law, copyright is a deal between the public and authors: the public sold the freedom to republish, which only publishers could do anyway, and gained more progress. Progress is valuable, but freedoms that we want to use are even more valuable. Nowadays, that includes the freedom to share copies on the internet. To make copyright law a good deal for the public, we should scale it back. If this means some companies and a handful of superstars make less than their wildest dreams, Prendergast may be shocked, but Adam Smith would not have been.

Richard Stallman
Free Software Foundation

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