pedro lopez casuso on 2 Mar 2001 05:15:40 -0000

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[nettime-lat] RV: [media-news] Free Software & The Amercian Way

he aqui un nuevo articulo del
polemico y revolucionario richard stallman
disuclpen los que no leen ingles
pero es un buen material para
practicar la lectura en este idioma...


De: George Antunes <>
Asunto: [media-news] Free Software & The Amercian Way
Fecha: juev., 1 marz 2001 01:19 pm$1135

Stallman: The GNU GPL and the American Way
by Richard Stallman.
Scripting News


Microsoft describes the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) as an "open
source" license, and says it is against the American Way. To understand the
GNU GPL, and recognize how it embodies the American Way, you must first be
aware that the GPL was not designed for open source.

The Open Source Movement, which was launched in 1998, aims to develop
powerful, reliable software and improved technology, by inviting the public
to collaborate in software development. Many developers in that movement
use the GNU GPL, and they are welcome to use it. But the ideas and logic of
the GPL cannot be found in the Open Source Movement. They stem from the
deeper goals and values of the Free Software Movement.

The Free Software Movement was founded in 1984, but its inspiration comes
from the ideals of 1776: freedom, community, and voluntary cooperation.
This is what leads to free enterprise, to free speech, and to free software.

As in "free enterprise" and "free speech", the "free" in "free software"
refers to freedom, not price; specifically, it means that you have the
freedom to study, change, and redistribute the software you use. These
freedoms permit citizens to help themselves and help each other, and thus
participate in a community. This contrasts with the more common proprietary
software, which keeps users helpless and divided: the inner workings are
secret, and you are prohibited from sharing the program with your neighbor.
Powerful, reliable software and improved technology are useful byproducts
of freedom, but the freedom to have a community is important in its own

We could not establish a community of freedom in the land of proprietary
software where each program had its lord. We had to build a new land in
cyberspace--the free software GNU operating system, which we started
writing in 1984. In 1991, when GNU was almost finished, the kernel Linux
written by Linus Torvalds filled the last gap; soon the free GNU/Linux
system was available. Today millions of users use GNU/Linux and enjoy the
benefits of freedom and community.

I designed the GNU GPL to uphold and defend the freedoms that define free
software--to use the words of 1776, it establishes them as inalienable
rights for programs released under the GPL. It ensures that you have the
freedom to study, change, and redistribute the program, by saying that
nobody is authorized to take these freedoms away from you by redistributing
the program.

For the sake of cooperation, we encourage others to modify and extend the
programs that we publish. For the sake of freedom, we set the condition
that these modified versions of our programs must respect your freedom just
like the original version. We encourage two-way cooperation by rejecting
parasites: whoever wishes to copy parts of our software into his program
must let us use parts of that program in our programs. Nobody is forced to
join our club, but those who wish to participate must offer us the same
cooperation they receive from us. That makes the system fair.

Millions of users, tens of thousands of developers, and companies as large
as IBM, Intel, and Sun, have chosen to participate on this basis. But some
companies want the advantages without the responsibilities.

 From time to time, companies have said to us, "We would make an improved
version of this program if you allow us to release it without freedom." We
say, "No thanks--your improvements might be useful if they were free, but
if we can't use them in freedom, they are no good at all." Then they appeal
to our egos, saying that our code will have "more users" inside their
proprietary programs. We respond that we value our community's freedom more
than an irrelevant form of popularity.

Microsoft surely would like to have the benefit of our code without the
responsibilities. But it has another, more specific purpose in attacking
the GNU GPL. Microsoft is known generally for imitation rather than
innovation. When Microsoft does something new, its purpose is
strategic--not to improve computing for its users, but to close off
alternatives for them.

Microsoft uses an anticompetitive strategy called "embrace and extend".
This means they start with the technology others are using, add a minor
wrinkle which is secret so that nobody else can imitate it, then use that
secret wrinkle so that only Microsoft software can communicate with other
Microsoft software. In some cases, this makes it hard for you to use a
non-Microsoft program when others you work with use a Microsoft program. In
other cases, this makes it hard for you to use a non-Microsoft program for
job A if you use a Microsoft program for job B. Either way, "embrace and
extend" magnifies the effect of Microsoft's market power.

No license can stop Microsoft from practicing "embrace and extend" if they
are determined to do so at all costs. If they write their own program from
scratch, and use none of our code, the license on our code does not affect
them. But a total rewrite is costly and hard, and even Microsoft can't do
it all the time. Hence their campaign to persuade us to abandon the license
that protects our community, the license that won't let them say, "What's
yours is mine, and what's mine is mine." They want us to let them take
whatever they want, without ever giving anything back. They want us to
abandon our defenses.

But defenselessness is not the American Way. In the land of the brave and
the free, we defend our freedom with the GNU GPL.

Addendum: Microsoft says that the GPL is against "intellectual property
rights." I have no opinion on "intellectual property rights," because the
term is too broad to have a sensible opinion about. It is a catch-all,
covering copyrights, patents, trademarks, and other disparate areas of law;
areas so different, in the laws and in their effects, that any statement
about all of them at once is surely simplistic. To think intelligently
about copyrights, patents or trademarks, you must think about them
separately. The first step is declining to lump them together as
"intellectual property".

My views about copyright take an hour to expound, but one general principle
applies: it cannot justify denying the public important freedoms. As
Abraham Lincoln put it, "Whenever there is a conflict between human rights
and property rights, human rights must prevail." Property rights are meant
to advance human well-being, not as an excuse to disregard it.

Copyright 2001 Richard Stallman
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted in
any medium without royalty provide the copyright notice and this notice are

George Antunes                 Voice: 713-743-3923
Political Science Dept        Fax:   713-743-3927
University of Houston          Internet:
Houston, TX 77204             or

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