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Richard Stallman (Computer Scientist)

While corporations dominate society and write the laws, each advance in technology is an opening for them to further restrict its users.
Richard Stallman society
It's stupidity. It's worse than stupidity: it's a marketing hype campaign.
Richard Stallman stupidity
I am a pessimist by nature. Many people can only keep on fighting when they expect to win. I'm not like that, I always expect to lose. I fight anyway, and sometimes I win.
Richard Stallman time
You know, if you were *really* going to starve, you'd be justified in writing proprietary software.
Richard Stallman writing
The GNU GPL was not designed to be "open source".
Richard Stallman design
Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won't leave you alone.
Richard Stallman politics
People get the government their behavior deserves. People deserve better than that.
Richard Stallman men
Odious ideas are not entitled to hide from criticism behind the human shield of their believers' feelings.
Richard Stallman man
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.
Richard Stallman truth
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.
Richard Stallman life
Fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria.
Richard Stallman war
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...
Richard Stallman art
People said I should accept the world. Bullshit! I don't accept the world.
Richard Stallman 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.
Richard Stallman politics
I have not seen anyone assume that all the citizens of New York are guilty of murder, violence, robbery, perjury, or writing proprietary software.
Richard Stallman writing
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 .
Richard Stallman hope
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."
Richard Stallman death
Giving theAward to the Free Software Foundation is a bit like giving theAward to the .
Richard Stallman war
He [somebody at Carnegie Mellon University] had betrayed us. But he didn't just do it to us. Chances are he did it to you too. [Pointing at member of audience.] And I think, mostly likely, he did it to you too. [Pointing at another member of audience.][Laughter] And he probably did it to you as well. [Pointing to third member of audience.] 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.
Richard Stallman art
…when I do this, some people think that it's because I want my ego to be fed, right? Of course, I'm not saying -- I'm not asking you to call it "Stallmanix," right? [Laughter]
Richard Stallman people
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.
Richard Stallman art
I was getting 8 to 10 orders [for tapes of Emacs] a month. And, if necessary, I could have lived on just that, because 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 the expensive lifestyle habits of typical Americans. Because if you do that, then 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.
Richard Stallman life
Thanks to , we now know that an open Internet with protocols anyone can implement is ; it was set up by that famous communist agent, the .
Richard Stallman men
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.
Richard Stallman hope
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman freedom
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.
Richard Stallman men
Hundreds of thousands of babies are born every day. While the whole phenomenon is menacing, one of them by itself is not newsworthy. Nor is it a difficult achievement--even some fish can do it. (Now, if you were a seahorse, it would be more interesting, since it would be the male that gave birth.) ...These birth announcements also spread the myth that having a baby is something to be proud of, which fuels natalist pressure, which leads to pollution, extinction of wildlife, poverty, and ultimately mass starvation.
Richard Stallman life
Essay at
Richard Stallman
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.
Richard Stallman writing
[this document has a footnote mentioning that the word "free" was not used as carefully in this 1985 Manifesto as it should have been]
Richard Stallman men
To avoid horrible confusion, please pronounce the G in the word GNU when it is the name of this project.
Richard Stallman confusion
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.
Richard Stallman will
Once GNU is written, everyone will be able to obtain good system software free, just like air.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman art
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?
Richard Stallman success
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman people
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.
Richard Stallman life
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.
Richard Stallman 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?
Richard Stallman art
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.
Richard Stallman books
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman success
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman love
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman work
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman freedom
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman philosophy
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
'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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.
Richard Stallman war
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".
Richard Stallman war
These quotes are from theinterview , the questions asked in the interview were asked by slashdot users in response to the article . The quotes were taken from his replies to various questions.
Richard Stallman quotes
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.
Richard Stallman science
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.
Richard Stallman life
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.
Richard Stallman war
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.'
Richard Stallman art
I see nothing unethical in the job it does. Why shouldn't you send a copy of some music to a friend?
Richard Stallman music
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.
Richard Stallman fear
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.
Richard Stallman life
It is funny, but I’m disappointed that it accentuates the shallow.
Richard Stallman funny
No person, no idea, and no religion deserves to be illegal to insult, not even the Church of Emacs
Richard Stallman religion
Laws that oppress people have no moral authority
Richard Stallman people
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.
Richard Stallman men
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.
Richard Stallman world
Even I, the only man in the world who can get angry from looking at a picture of a penguin, find this bad news.
Richard Stallman world
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.
Richard Stallman war
Snow is so beautiful, it doesn't have to be useful.
Richard Stallman beautiful
People sometimes ask me if it is a sin in the Church ofto use . Using a free version of vi is not a sin; it is a penance. So happy hacking.
Richard Stallman time
You can use any editor you want, but remember that vi vi vi is the text editor of the beast.
Richard Stallman you
It doesn't take special talents to reproduce--even plants can do it. On the other hand, contributing to a program like Emacs takes real skill. That is really something to be proud of. It helps more people, too.
Richard Stallman people
Programming is not a science. Programming is a craft.
Richard Stallman science
My favorite programming languages are Lisp and C. However, since around 1992 I have worked mainly on free software activism, which means I am too busy to do much programming. Around 2008 I stopped doing programming projects.
Richard Stallman war
The most powerful programming language is Lisp. If you don't know Lisp (or its variant, Scheme), you don't know what it means for a programming language to be powerful and elegant. Once you learn Lisp, you will understand what is lacking in most other languages. When you start a Lisp system, it enters a read-eval-print loop. Most other languages have nothing comparable to read, nothing comparable to eval, and nothing comparable to print. What gaping deficiencies!
Richard Stallman art
People could no longer learn hacking the way I did, by starting to work on a real operating system, making real improvements. In fact, in the 1980s I often came across newly graduated computer science majors who had never seen a real program in their lives. They had only seen toy exercises, school exercises, because every real program was a trade secret. They never had the experience of writing features for users to really use, and fixing the bugs that real users came across. The things you need to know to do real work.
Richard Stallman writing
I have met bright students in computer science who have never seen the source code of a large program. They may be good at writing small programs, but they can't begin to learn the different skills of writing large ones if they can't see how others have done it.
Richard Stallman writing
It is hard to write a simple definition of something as varied as hacking, but I think what these activities have in common is playfulness, cleverness, and exploration. Thus, hacking means exploring the limits of what is possible, in a spirit of playful cleverness. Activities that display playful cleverness have "hack value".
Richard Stallman spirit
What they had in common was mainly love of excellence and programming. They wanted to make their programs that they used be as good as they could. They also wanted to make them do neat things. They wanted to be able to do something in a more exciting way than anyone believed possible and show "Look how wonderful this is. I bet you didn't believe this could be done."
Richard Stallman love
A hacker is someone who enjoys playful cleverness—not necessarily with computers. The programmers in the old MIT free software community of the 60s and 70s referred to themselves as hackers. Around 1980, journalists who discovered the hacker community mistakenly took the term to mean “security breaker.”
Richard Stallman war
The use of “hacker” to mean “security breaker” is a confusion on the part of the mass media. We hackers refuse to recognize that meaning, and continue using the word to mean someone who loves to program, someone who enjoys playful cleverness, or the combination of the two.
Richard Stallman love
I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren't voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing.
Richard Stallman children
There is little evidence to justify the widespread assumption that willing participation in pedophilia hurts children. Granted, children may not dare say no to an older relative, or may not realize they could say no; in that case, even if they do not overtly object, the relationship may still feel imposed to them. That's not willing participation, it's imposed participation, a different issue.
Richard Stallman art
I've read that male dolphins try to have sex with humans, and female apes solicit sex from humans. What is wrong with giving them what they want, if that's what turns you on, or even just to gratify them?
Richard Stallman sex
[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.
Richard Stallman purpose
For personal reasons, I do not browse the web from my computer. (I also have no net connection much of the time.) To look at page I send mail to a daemon 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.
Richard Stallman time
The Adobe flash plug-in is non-free software, and people should not install it, or suggest installing it, or even tell people it exists.
Richard Stallman war

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