richard m. stallman Quotes

Richard M. Stallman Quotes

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Quotes

    • ...lots of businesses use computers, only a tiny fraction of them are in the business of developing software. So the result is, in general, free software is very good for businesses, because businesses appreciate the four freedoms, just as individuals do in their leisure time ... support for a proprietary program is typically a monopoly. Only the developer has the source code, so only the developer can make a change, and if a user wants a change, the user has to beg the developer, or even pray to the developer: 'Oh, mighty developer, please make this change for me'. Sometimes the developer says: 'Pay us and we'll listen to your problem'. If the user pays, the developer says: 'Thank you very much. In six months there will be an upgrade, buy the upgrade and you will see if we have fixed your problem, and you will see what new problems we have in store for you'. But with free software anyone that has a copy, can read the source codes, master it and begin offering support, so it's a free market and pretty easy to enter. As a result, all those companies and organizations and agencies that say they really need good support, and say that they think that free market generally provides better things to the buyer, rationally speaking, they should insist on using free software so they can get their support through the free market instead of from a monopoly. Isn't it ironic that the proprietary software developers call us communists? We are the ones who have provided for a free market, where they allow only monopoly. More than that, we are the ones that respect private property, and they don't. Companies like Microsoft and Apple, and so many others, they don't respect your private property, in fact they say that your 'copy' is their property. They say everything is their property, their idea of private property is: everything belongs to them, like the tzars. So, by contrast, your copy of a free program is your property, and you are free to use it in all the ethical ways. But it goes beyond that, because in the free software community we have a decentralized society in which everybody can basically decide what he wants to do, and do it. Whereas with proprietary software it's a command-based system, the executives decide: we want this feature, we do not want that feature, the programmers put it in, and all the users are stuck with it just the same. So, which one is a Soviet-style system? And this leads to another paradox. Usually when there is a choice of products to do a job, we say there is no monopoly. But, when there is a choice between proprietary software products, yes, there is monopoly. Because if the users chooses this proprietary software package, he then falls into this monopoly for support, but if he chooses this proprietary product, he falls into this monopoly for support, so it's a choice between monopolies. And the only way to escape from monopoly is to escape from proprietary software, and that is what the free software movement is all about. We want you to escape and our work is to help you escape. We hope you will escape to the free world. The free world is the new continent in cyberspace that we have built so we can live here in freedom. It's impossible to live in freedom in the old world of cyberspace, where every program has its feudal lord that bullies and mistreats the users. So, to live in freedom we have to build a new continent. Because this is a virtual continent, it has room for everyone, and there are no immigration restrictions. And because there were never indigenous peoples in cyberspace, there is also no issue of taking away their land. So everyone is welcome in the free world, come to the free world, live with us in freedom. The free software movement aims for the liberation of cyberspace and everyone in it.
    • Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won't leave you alone.
    • People get the government their behavior deserves. People deserve better than that.
    • I don't have a problem with someone using their talents to become successful, I just don't think the highest calling is success. Things like freedom and the expansion of knowledge are beyond success, beyond the personal. Personal success is not wrong, but it is limited in importance, and once you have enough of it it is a shame to keep striving for that, instead of for truth, beauty, or justice.
    • I could have made money this way, and perhaps amused myself writing code. But I knew that at the end of my career, I would look back on years of building walls to divide people, and feel I had spent my life making the world a worse place.
    • Fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria.
    • Prior art is as effective as US soldiers in Iraq: They control the ground they stand on, and nothing more. I used to say Vietnam, but, well, you know...
    • People said I should accept the world. Bullshit! I don't accept the world.
    • Value your freedom or you will lose it, teaches history. 'Don't bother us with politics,' respond those who don't want to learn.
    • I have not seen anyone assume that all the citizens of New York are guilty of murder, violence, robbery, perjury, or writing proprietary software.
    • By the way, I hope you all know about the worldwide boycott of Coca Cola company for things like murdering union organizers in Colombia. See the site killercoke.org.
    • Medical marijuana grower and activist Steve McWilliams killed himself last June, rather than face 6 months in prison with no marijuana to relieve his chronic pain. If you are ever in a situation like this, don't kill yourself in private. Make your death itself be a blow against the tyrant. Plead innocent; then kill yourself in the courtroom, with the jury and journalists watching, after defying the judge by shouting, 'I'm a medical marijuana grower. You were going to make those 12 honest citizens your tools for evil, but I will save them from you. May my death be on your conscience for as long as you live.'
    • Giving the Linus Torvalds Award to the Free Software Foundation is a bit like giving the Han Solo Award to the Rebel Alliance.
    • He had betrayed us. But he didn't just do it to us. Chances are he did it to you too. And I think, mostly likely, he did it to you too. And he probably did it to you as well. He probably did it to most of the people here in this room -- except a few maybe who weren't born yet in 1980. Because he had promised to refuse to cooperate with just about the entire population of the Planet Earth. He had signed a non-disclosure agreement.
    • When I do this, some people think that it's because I want my ego to be fed, right? Of course, I'm not asking you to call it 'Stallmanix'!
    • When I released GNU Emacs and people started using it, they started sending me improvements in the mail. So I would get a message with a bug fix, and a message with a new feature, and another bug fix, and another new feature, and another... and another... until they were pouring in on me so fast that just taking advantage of all of the help people were giving me was a big job. Microsoft doesn't have this problem.
    • I've always lived cheaply. I live like a student, basically. And I like that because it means that money is not telling me what to do. I can do what I think is important for me to do. It freed me to do what seemed worth doing. So make a real effort to avoid getting sucked into all of the expensive lifestyle habits of typical Americans ... because, if you do that, then the people with the money will dictate what you do with your life. You won't be able to do what's really important to you.
    • Thanks to Mr. Gates, we now know that an open Internet with protocols anyone can implement is communism; it was set up by that famous communist agent, the US Department of Defense.
    • Would a dating service on the net be 'frowned upon' . . . ? I hope not. But even if it is, don't let that stop you from notifying me via net mail if you start one.
    • To have the choice between proprietary software packages, is being able to choose your master. Freedom means not having a master. And in the area of computing, freedom means not using proprietary software.
    • We need to teach people to refuse to install non-free plug-ins; we need to teach people to care more about their long-term interest of freedom than their immediate desire to view a particular site.
    • I didn't receive the DEC message, but I can't imagine I would have been bothered if I have. I get tons of uninteresting mail, and system announcements about babies born, etc. At least a demo MIGHT have been interesting.
    • GNU, which stands for Gnu's Not Unix, is the name for the complete Unix-compatible software system which I am writing so that I can give it away free to everyone who can use it.
    • To avoid horrible confusion, please pronounce the G in the word GNU when it is the name of this project.
    • I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others. I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this way. I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license agreement. For years I worked within the Artificial Intelligence Lab to resist such tendencies and other inhospitalities, but eventually they had gone too far: I could not remain in an institution where such things are done for me against my will. So that I can continue to use computers without dishonor, I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I will be able to get along without any software that is not free. I have resigned from the AI lab to deny MIT any legal excuse to prevent me from giving GNU away.
    • GNU is not in the public domain. Everyone will be permitted to modify and redistribute GNU, but no distributor will be allowed to restrict its further redistribution. That is to say, proprietary modifications will not be allowed. I want to make sure that all versions of GNU remain free.
    • Once GNU is written, everyone will be able to obtain good system software free, just like air.
    • Arrangements to make people pay for using a program, including licensing of copies, always incur a tremendous cost to society through the cumbersome mechanisms necessary to figure out how much (that is, which programs) a person must pay for. And only a police state can force everyone to obey them. Consider a space station where air must be manufactured at great cost: charging each breather per liter of air may be fair, but wearing the metered gas mask all day and all night is intolerable even if everyone can afford to pay the air bill. And the TV cameras everywhere to see if you ever take the mask off are outrageous. It's better to support the air plant with a head tax and chuck the masks. Copying all or parts of a program is as natural to a programmer as breathing, and as productive. It ought to be as free.
    • It may be true that one can reach more microcomputer users with advertising. If this is really so, a business which advertises the service of copying and mailing GNU for a fee ought to be successful enough to pay for its advertising and more. This way, only the users who benefit from the advertising pay for it. On the other hand, if many people get GNU from their friends, and such companies don't succeed, this will show that advertising was not really necessary to spread GNU. Why is it that free market advocates don't want to let the free market decide this?
    • If anything deserves a reward, it is social contribution. Creativity can be a social contribution, but only in so far as society is free to use the results. If programmers deserve to be rewarded for creating innovative programs, by the same token they deserve to be punished if they restrict the use of these programs.
    • There is nothing wrong with wanting pay for work, or seeking to maximize one's income, as long as one does not use means that are destructive. But the means customary in the field of software today are based on destruction.
    • Extracting money from users of a program by restricting their use of it is destructive because the restrictions reduce the amount and the ways that the program can be used. This reduces the amount of wealth that humanity derives from the program. When there is a deliberate choice to restrict, the harmful consequences are deliberate destruction. The reason a good citizen does not use such destructive means to become wealthier is that, if everyone did so, we would all become poorer from the mutual destructiveness. This is Kantian ethics; or, the Golden Rule. Since I do not like the consequences that result if everyone hoards information, I am required to consider it wrong for one to do so. Specifically, the desire to be rewarded for one's creativity does not justify depriving the world in general of all or part of that creativity.
    • Restricting copying is not the only basis for business in software. It is the most common basis because it brings in the most money. If it were prohibited, or rejected by the customer, software business would move to other bases of organization which are now used less often. There are always numerous ways to organize any kind of business.
    • Control over the use of one's ideas really constitutes control over other people's lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more difficult.
    • The patent system was established to encourage inventors to disclose the details of their inventions. Its purpose was to help society rather than to help inventors. At the time, the life span of 17 years for a patent was short compared with the rate of advance of the state of the art. Since patents are an issue only among manufacturers, for whom the cost and effort of a license agreement are small compared with setting up production, the patents often do not do much harm. They do not obstruct most individuals who use patented products.
    • The idea of copyright did not exist in ancient times, when authors frequently copied other authors at length in works of non-fiction. This practice was useful, and is the only way many authors' works have survived even in part. The copyright system was created expressly for the purpose of encouraging authorship. In the domain for which it was invented--books, which could be copied economically only on a printing press--it did little harm, and did not obstruct most of the individuals who read the books.
    • All intellectual property rights are just licenses granted by society because it was thought, rightly or wrongly, that society as a whole would benefit by granting them. But in any particular situation, we have to ask: are we really better off granting such license? What kind of act are we licensing a person to do?
    • The case of programs today is very different from that of books a hundred years ago. The fact that the easiest way to copy a program is from one neighbor to another, the fact that a program has both source code and object code which are distinct, and the fact that a program is used rather than read and enjoyed, combine to create a situation in which a person who enforces a copyright is harming society as a whole both materially and spiritually; in which a person should not do so regardless of whether the law enables him to.
    • The paradigm of competition is a race: by rewarding the winner, we encourage everyone to run faster. When capitalism really works this way, it does a good job; but its defenders are wrong in assuming it always works this way. If the runners forget why the reward is offered and become intent on winning, no matter how, they may find other strategies--such as, attacking other runners. If the runners get into a fist fight, they will all finish late. Proprietary and secret software is the moral equivalent of runners in a fist fight.
    • People with new ideas could distribute programs as freeware, asking for donations from satisfied users, or selling hand-holding services. I have met people who are already working this way successfully.
    • We have already greatly reduced the amount of work that the whole society must do for its actual productivity, but only a little of this has translated itself into leisure for workers because much nonproductive activity is required to accompany productive activity. The main causes of this are bureaucracy and isometric struggles against competition. Free software will greatly reduce these drains in the area of software production. We must do this, in order for technical gains in productivity to translate into less work for us.
    • Every decision a person makes stems from the person's values and goals. People can have many different goals and values; fame, profit, love, survival, fun, and freedom, are just some of the goals that a good person might have. When the goal is to help others as well as oneself, we call that idealism. My work on free software is motivated by an idealistic goal: spreading freedom and cooperation. I want to encourage free software to spread, replacing proprietary software that forbids cooperation, and thus make our society better.
    • I figure that since proprietary software developers use copyright to stop us from sharing, we cooperators can use copyright to give other cooperators an advantage of their own: they can use our code.
    • If you want to accomplish something in the world, idealism is not enough--you need to choose a method that works to achieve the goal. In other words, you need to be 'pragmatic.
    • The programmers who write improvements to GCC (or Emacs, or Bash, or Linux, or any GPL-covered program) are often employed by companies or universities. When the programmer wants to return his improvements to the community, and see his code in the next release, the boss may say, 'Hold on there--your code belongs to us! We don't want to share it; we have decided to turn your improved version into a proprietary software product.' Here the GNU GPL comes to the rescue. The programmer shows the boss that this proprietary software product would be copyright infringement, and the boss realizes that he has only two choices: release the new code as free software, or not at all. Almost always he lets the programmer do as he intended all along, and the code goes into the next release.
    • The GNU GPL is not Mr. Nice Guy. It says 'no' to some of the things that people sometimes want to do. There are users who say that this is a bad thing--that the GPL 'excludes' some proprietary software developers who 'need to be brought into the free software community.' But we are not excluding them from our community; they are choosing not to enter. Their decision to make software proprietary is a decision to stay out of our community. Being in our community means joining in cooperation with us; we cannot 'bring them into our community' if they don't want to join. What we can do is offer them an inducement to join. The GNU GPL is designed to make an inducement from our existing software: 'If you will make your software free, you can use this code.' Of course, it won't win 'em all, but it wins some of the time.
    • If you focus your mind on the freedom and community that you can build by staying firm, you will find the strength to do it. 'Stand for something, or you will fall for nothing.' And if cynics ridicule freedom, ridicule community...if 'hard nosed realists' say that profit is the only ideal...just ignore them, and use copyleft all the same.
    • While free software by any other name would give you the same freedom, it makes a big difference which name we use: different words convey different ideas.
    • In 1998, some of the people in the free software community began using the term 'open source software' instead of 'free software' to describe what they do. The term 'open source' quickly became associated with a different approach, a different philosophy, different values, and even a different criterion for which licenses are acceptable. The Free Software movement and the Open Source movement are today separate movements with different views and goals, although we can and do work together on some practical projects. The fundamental difference between the two movements is in their values, their ways of looking at the world. For the Open Source movement, the issue of whether software should be open source is a practical question, not an ethical one. As one person put it, 'Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement.' For the Open Source movement, non-free software is a suboptimal solution. For the Free Software movement, non-free software is a social problem and free software is the solution.
    • Radical groups in the 1960s developed a reputation for factionalism: organizations split because of disagreements on details of strategy, and then treated each other as enemies. Or at least, such is the image people have of them, whether or not it was true. The relationship between the Free Software movement and the Open Source movement is just the opposite of that picture. We disagree on the basic principles, but agree more or less on the practical recommendations. So we can and do work together on many specific projects. 'We don't think of the Open Source movement as an enemy. The enemy is proprietary software.
    • We are not against the Open Source movement, but we don't want to be lumped in with them. We acknowledge that they have contributed to our community, but we created this community, and we want people to know this. We want people to associate our achievements with our values and our philosophy, not with theirs. We want to be heard, not obscured behind a group with different views. To prevent people from thinking we are part of them, we take pains to avoid using the word 'open' to describe free software, or its contrary, 'closed', in talking about non-free software.
    • The term 'free software' has an ambiguity problem: an unintended meaning, 'Software you can get for zero price,' fits the term just as well as the intended meaning, 'software which gives the user certain freedoms.' We address this problem by publishing a more precise definition of free software, but this is not a perfect solution; it cannot completely eliminate the problem. An unambiguously correct term would be better, if it didn't have other problems.
    • The official definition of 'open source software,' as published by the Open Source Initiative, is very close to our definition of free software; however, it is a little looser in some respects, and they have accepted a few licenses that we consider unacceptably restrictive of the users.
    • The explanation for 'free software' is simple--a person who has grasped the idea of 'free speech, not free beer' will not get it wrong again.
    • 'The main argument for the term 'open source software' is that 'free software' makes some people uneasy. That's true: talking about freedom, about ethical issues, about responsibilities as well as convenience, is asking people to think about things they might rather ignore. This can trigger discomfort, and some people may reject the idea for that. It does not follow that society would be better off if we stop talking about these things.
    • Today many people are switching to free software for purely practical reasons. That is good, as far as it goes, but that isn't all we need to do! Attracting users to free software is not the whole job, just the first step.
    • At present, we have plenty of 'keep quiet', but not enough freedom talk. Most people involved with free software say little about freedom--usually because they seek to be 'more acceptable to business.' Software distributors especially show this pattern. Some GNU/Linux operating system distributions add proprietary packages to the basic free system, and they invite users to consider this an advantage, rather than a step backwards from freedom.
    • To stop using the word 'free' now would be a mistake; we need more, not less, talk about freedom. If those using the term 'open source' draw more users into our community, that is a contribution, but the rest of us will have to work even harder to bring the issue of freedom to those users' attention. We have to say, 'It's free software and it gives you freedom!'--more and louder than ever before.
    • The Open Source Definition is clear enough, and it is quite clear that the typical non-free program does not qualify. So you would think that 'Open Source company' would mean one whose products are free software (or close to it), right? Alas, many companies are trying to give it a different meaning.
    • Over the years, many companies have contributed to free software development. Some of these companies primarily developed non-free software, but the two activities were separate; thus, we could ignore their non-free products, and work with them on free software projects. Then we could honestly thank them afterward for their free software contributions, without talking about the rest of what they did. We cannot do the same with these new companies, because they won't let us. These companies actively invite the public to lump all their activities together; they want us to regard their non-free software as favorably as we would regard a real contribution, although it is not one. They present themselves as 'open source companies,' hoping that we will get a warm fuzzy feeling about them, and that we will be fuzzy-minded in applying it. This manipulative practice would be no less harmful if it were done using the term 'free software.' But companies do not seem to use the term 'free software' that way; perhaps its association with idealism makes it seem unsuitable. The term 'open source' opened the door for this.
    • Spreading the idea of freedom is a big job--it needs your help. That's why we stick to the term 'free software' in the GNU Project, so we can help do that job. If you feel that freedom and community are important for their own sake--not just for the convenience they bring--please join us in using the term 'free software'.
    • 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 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.
    • 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.'
    • I see nothing unethical in the job it does. Why shouldn't you send a copy of some music to a friend?
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • It is funny, but I'm disappointed that it accentuates the shallow.
    • No person, no idea, and no religion deserves to be illegal to insult, not even the Church of Emacs.
    • Laws that opress people have no moral authority
    • When the US adopted a requirement for US citizens to prove their citizenship in order to get a job, I vowed I would never do so. I will never again be an employee in the US.
    • I'm the last survivor of a dead culture, and I don't really belong in the world anymore. And in some ways I feel I ought to be dead.
    • Even I, the only man in the world who can get angry from looking at a picture of a penguin, find this bad news.
    • Paying isn't wrong, and being paid isn't wrong. Trampling other people's freedom and community is wrong, so the free software movement aims to put an end to it, at least in the area of software.
    • People sometimes ask me if it is a sin in the Church of Emacs to use vi. Using a free version of vi is not a sin; it is a penance. So happy hacking.
    • You can use any editor you want, but remember that vi vi vi is the text editor of the beast.
    • [a mobile phone rings] If you have a portable surveillance and tracking device, please turn it off. They have already tracked you in here, they already know you are listening to me; so, there is no need for you to keep it on. And by the way, these portable tracking devices emit signals for tracking purposes even when they are apparently switched off; the only way to stop them is to take out all the batteries. And if they want to listen, they don't have to do it through your portable surveillance device, I expect recordings will be posted they can listen to those, and they are even welcome to come and attend. So there is absolutely no reason why your portable tracking and surveillance device has to be on.
    • For personal reasons, I do not browse the web from my computer. (I also have not net connection much of the time.) To look at page I send mail to a demon which runs wget and mails the page back to me. It is very efficient use of my time, but it is slow in real time.
    • Based on years of conversations, I am convinced that part of the cause of the problem is the tendency to call the system Linux rather than GNU, and describe it as open source rather than free software.
    • Instead of worrying about what somebody else is going to do, which is not under your control, the important thing is, what are you going to decide about what is under your control?
    • < Les cons peuvent etre vaincus mais ils n'admettent jamais l'etre. >
    • Playfully doing something difficult, whether useful or not, that is hacking.
    • Protecting essential freedoms is always a matter of restricting the actions that would deny them.
    • We promote free software as an ethical and social issue. Computer users should always have the freedom to share and change the software they use. It's wrong to try to stop someone.
    • Writing non-free software is not an ethically legitimate activity, so if people who do this run into trouble, that's good! All businesses based on non-free software ought to fail, and the sooner the better.
    • Although the basic GNU/Linux system is free software, most of the GNU/Linux versions now available include a small amount of non-free software--just enough to spoil them as a way to attain freedom. But Linspire is in a class by itself; large and important parts of this system are non-free. No other GNU/Linux distribution has backslided so far away from freedom. Switching from MS Windows to Linspire does not bring you to freedom, it just gets you a different master.
    • richard m. stallman

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