You are here

RMS going off on a tangent again

RMS is leading people off on his own path again. He's saying that if people want to keep their freedom they better not follow Torvalds. While it's great that RMS doesn't compromise his principles, the principle that he isn't compromising isn't necessary. RMS constantly tells us that it is the word "Free" which is important. This says to me that he feels that the experience of freedom -- that actual freedom -- is not important. Only the name is important, not the thing. You see, Open Source is the experience of freedom. Free Software is the name of freedom. But people can redirect the name to mean something else, while the experience itself is the real deal. RMS is claiming that there is only One True Path to freedom -- his path. Does anybody believe this is likely to be true?


When does RMS say the word itself is important? I see concrete examples of freedoms GPLv3 provides that GPLv2 does not. The freedom to remove DRM, the freedom to install modified software on your own hardware, etc. These aren't just words, they're experiences. And they're not goals of Linus Torvalds.

Try convincing RMS that he can encourage people to be free without using the word 'free', using "Open Source" for example. If you can't do this, then you should agree with me that 'free' is more important to RMS than freedom.

I don't think there's one true path to freedom, but I certainly see a difference between "open source" and "free software". The Unix community felt a lot like the "open source" community -- a lot of people in a lot of places were reading the code and modifying it and swapping it around, and a few places like Berkeley were putting it into releases. (AT&T didn't count, because it never understood community; it had Lily Tomlin's "We don't care, we don't have to" attitude, so the community generally ignored AT&T where possible.) The Unix community broke down when every commercial company locked it up. They made occasional exceptions (e.g. Sun passed a bunch of specific improvements back to Berkeley; many other vendors also did), but the default was: nobody gets to see our secret, hugely proprietary source code that's 99% the same as everybody else's. While they were fighting about that 1%, Microsoft blew right past the whole Unix market, and the Unix crowd have been also-rans ever since. It took a combination of GPL software (Linux) and GPL software (GNU) to reclaim any hope of leading rather than following Microsoft. I used to put major pieces of code I write or fund into the public domain (e.g. pdtar). For the last 20 years I've been licensing them under the GPL (e.g. gdb, binutils (BFD), GNU Radio, gnash). I'm happy that nobody has the freedom to take versions proprietary. I think Richard Stallman's vision of freedom provides more support for the community to hang together rather than hanging separately.