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The original (and still the best) FreeSoftware license.

See the following about RichardStallman for more on why it's important.

Transcluded from RichardStallman

Quora Answer : Why is Richard Stallman more important than Elon Musk?

Dec 15

Richard Stallman is the man who saw, long before most people, the danger that a world eaten by software would be to our rights and freedoms.

If everything you can do in a wired technological society is constrained by software. And software is a black-box controlled by self-interested corporations, who are backed up by draconian intellectual property laws. Then your freedom has effectively gone. You can act only in so far as the software lets you. And the software is hard-coded tyranny.

Most people are just starting to wake up, now, in the 2020s, to the risks of handing control over too much of their lives to big tech. They see what Facebook knows about them. They look across at what China is doing with social credit. And they shudder. But have no idea what to do about it.

But Stallman could see those problems coming in the early 1980s, and was already trying to organize resistance to them, and to redirect the future in a better, healthier and free-er direction.

Stallman wasn't just thinking about programmers. He has stories from the 80s and 90s warning how, say, DRM would make lending books to friends, impossible. (Which is exactly what happened with e-books. People don't lend books to their friends, and the second hand book market is effectively non-existent).

Stallman was thinking about all the ways that those who control the software control our lives, from long, long before it was fashionable.

And he tried his hardest to change the future away from that.

He had a plan :

Politically aware programmers, with a sense of moral purpose, would write software that was deliberately free, whose source-code was open for anyone to read, study, learn from and change, so that users wouldn't be controlled by it. Users would know what their software was doing. And if they didn't like it, could change it to something they did like. Software enabled tyranny would be avoided because ownership of and control of software would be out there in public. Not controlled by corporations or governments.

It was a bold and visionary plan. In many ways before its time. Too few people understood it.

(And it didn't help, that in the 90s, Eric Raymond and Tim O'Reilly came along to sabotage it by claiming that free-software was really just about good business sense and hacker culture, man. And not about morality and the struggle for freedom, at all.)

Of course Stallman comes across as having bee in his bonnet. And most people, unfortunately, ignore him. That's because he's the genuine article. A bona-fide moral visionary. One of the few of our times.

Elon Musk is a bit of an arse. Yes, he's doing good work helping to shift the world to electric cars. That's a "good thing (tm)" and I won't take that away from him. He's also, kind of a "visionary" for putting his money where his mouth is, and doing his bit to push space exploration and Mars colonization. Although I think it's too early for that and he isn't going to succeed. (It's also a "vision" that's remarkably 1950s retro. But sure, give Musk some credit for that.)

But Stallman's GPL should be up there with the Magna Carta and the American Constitution, as another major milestone in legal history and the struggle to protect and guarantee human freedom. It's the only interesting and possibly viable response to the dangers we currently face from a future of ubiquitous computing and networking.

The are only two alternatives in our future. Either our devices are open, and we control them and get them to do what we want because we can program them. Or our devices are closed and controlled by other people, and those other people control us through our devices. (And good luck "opting out" of using devices and ubiquitous social media services if you want to stay a functioning member of society.)

Stallman pretty much saw this 40 years ago. And has been fighting to bring us the first alternative ever since. He's spent his life talking about the dangers, talking about the solutions, and encouraging programmers to join the moral and political movement in favour of defending human freedom from technological tyranny.

That makes him one of the most important political and moral leaders of our times. And possibly of any times in human history.

See also :

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Will the Free Software Foundation become irrelevant if Clang makes GCC obsolete?

Quora Answer : What is going to be the future of FOSS and GPL considering most open source frameworks today are adopting commercial friendly licenses?

Apr 27, 2018

I hope people still continue to value and use the GPL.

But, yes, I can imagine that "BSD-style" licenses are proliferating, especially in free software projects supported by large corporations.

That is going to come back and bite us in future.

It's not the most serious issue though.

Patents have become newly problematic again. (See the Oracle lawsuit against Google / Android which is threatening to make anyone developing for Android liable to pay royalties to Oracle)

Even more problematic is the rise in devices which use software but aren't general purpose computers. Here there's huge amounts of software which users can't see and can't change. These simply don't allow users to choose to use free software, and as a secondary effect, discourage anyone thinking much about the freedom of the software that goes into them.

It's ironic that many such devices are based on free-software. With a few proprietary elements thrown in. And there's little the free-software community can do about it.

So, I'm kind of worried by the shift from GPL to BSD. I recommend that everyone talks about this, and tries as far as possible to resist it. Remember though that generally software you receive under a BSD-style license, you can actually re-release under the GPL.

I recommend that more people do this. Take BSD-licensed code, add something to it, and re-release under the GPL. Change the name to help disambiguate it, and to give those who value freedom the chance to identify and support it.