Re: Deadly accurate article on the state of GNOME and its relationship to the FSF

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From: Robert Harley (
Date: Mon May 14 2001 - 10:42:02 PDT

Eirikur Hallgrimsson ( wrote:
>He forgets that the FSF, did, in fact, define the term Free
>Software. In 1983. Sticking to their definition does not do them
Actually in the 80's the term clearly meant free as in "free beer" or
"free as air". The "free speech" angle was retrofitted in the 90's.
Extracts from the "GNU Manifesto":
software system which I am writing so that I can give it
away free to everyone who can use it.
if I like a program I must share it [...] Software sellers want to
divide the users [...]
Many programmers are unhappy about the commercialization of system
software. It may enable them to make more money [...] marketing
arrangements now typically used essentially forbid programmers to
treat others as friends. The purchaser of software must choose [...]
They become cynical and think that programming is just a way of making
Once GNU is written, everyone will be able to obtain good system
software free, just like air.
This means much more than just saving everyone the price of a Unix
license. It means that much wasteful duplication of system programming
effort will be avoided.
a user who needs changes in the system will always be free to make them (*)
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.
Some Easily Rebutted Objections to GNU's Goals
  "Nobody will use it if it is free, because that means they can't
   rely on any support."
  "You have to charge for the program to pay for providing the support."
If people would rather pay for GNU plus service than get GNU free
without service, a company to provide just service to people who have
obtained GNU free ought to be profitable.
With Unix, the price of sources puts this out of
consideration for most businesses. With GNU this will be easy.
If it is true that users would rather
spend money and get a product with service, they will also be willing
to buy the service having got the product free.
  "You cannot reach many people without advertising, and you must
   charge for the program to support that."
  "It's no use advertising a program people can get free."
There are various forms of free or very cheap publicity [...]
  "Don't programmers deserve a reward for their creativity?"
  "Shouldn't a programmer be able to ask for a reward for his creativity?"
There is nothing wrong with wanting pay for work, or seeking to
maximize one's income [...]
Extracting money from users of a program by restricting their use [...]
  "Won't programmers starve?"
  "Won't everyone stop programming without a monetary incentive?"
[and so on]
The (*) indicates that "free" as in "freedom" was in there somewhere
but certainly not the main idea.
Later the spin was "updated in minor ways" to "help clarify" some
"common misunderstandings". In other words, the "free speech" angle
was retrofitted. Both attitudes are fine by me, but the way RMS
disingenuously pretends he meant the same thing all along bugs me.
What really irks is comparisons with the free world and genuine
freedom fighters who incur huge personal risk for their fellow man, in
China for instance or the former Soviet Union. Bringing that courage
down to the level of "I'm gonna give away some code" is tasteless by
my way of thinking.

Had to share that,
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