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Richard Matthew Stallman

Richard Stallman at The University of Pittsburgh 2010
Born March 16, 1953 (1953-03-16) (age 57)
New York City, New York, United States
Nationality United States
Other names rms
Alma mater Harvard University
Occupation President of the Free Software Foundation
Known for Free software movement, GNU, Emacs

Richard Matthew Stallman (born March 16, 1953), often abbreviated "rms",[1] is an American software freedom activist, and computer programmer. In September 1983, he launched the GNU Project[2] to create a free Unix-like operating system, and has been the project's lead architect and organizer. With the launch of the GNU Project, he initiated the free software movement and, in October 1985, set up the Free Software Foundation.

Stallman pioneered the use of copyleft on software and he is the main author of several copyleft licenses including the GNU General Public License, the most widely used free software license.[3] Since the mid-1990s, Stallman has spent most of his time advocating for free software, as well as campaigning against both software patents and what he sees as excessive extension of copyright laws. Stallman has also developed a number of pieces of widely-used software, including the original Emacs,[4] the GNU Compiler Collection,[5] and the GNU Debugger.[6] He co-founded the League for Programming Freedom in 1989.


Early years

Stallman was born to Daniel Stallman and Alice Lippman,[7] in 1953 in New York City. His first experience with computers was while in high school at the IBM New York Scientific Center. He was hired for the summer to write a numerical analysis program in Fortran. He completed the task after a couple of weeks and spent the rest of the summer writing a text editor in APL.[8] Stallman spent the summer after his high-school graduation writing another program, a preprocessor for the PL/I programming language on the IBM System/360.

During this time, Stallman was also a volunteer laboratory assistant in the biology department at Rockefeller University. Although he was already moving toward a career in mathematics or physics, his teaching professor at Rockefeller thought he would have a future as a biologist.[9]

In June 1971, as a first year student at Harvard University, Stallman was known for his strong performance in Math 55,[10] and became a programmer at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. There he became a regular in the "hacker" community, where he was usually known by his initials, "rms" (which was the name of his computer accounts). In the first edition of the Hacker's Dictionary, he wrote, "'Richard Stallman' is just my mundane name; you can call me 'rms'."[1] Stallman graduated from Harvard magna cum laude earning a BA in Physics in 1974.

Stallman then enrolled as a graduate student in physics at MIT, but abandoned his graduate studies while remaining a programmer at the MIT AI Laboratory. At the end of his first year in the graduate program, Stallman suffered a knee injury that ended his participation in international folk dancing.[11][12] Stallman abandoned his pursuit of a doctorate in physics in favor of programming.

While a graduate student at MIT, Stallman published a paper on an AI truth maintenance system called dependency-directed backtracking with Gerald Jay Sussman.[13] This paper was an early work on the problem of intelligent backtracking in constraint satisfaction problems. As of 2003, the technique Stallman and Sussman introduced is still the most general and powerful form of intelligent backtracking.[14] The technique of constraint recording, wherein partial results of a search are recorded for later reuse, was also introduced in this paper.[14]

As a hacker in MIT's AI laboratory, Stallman worked on software projects like TECO, Emacs, and the Lisp Machine Operating System. He would become an ardent critic of restricted computer access in the lab, which at that time was funded primarily by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. When MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) installed a password control system in 1977, Stallman found a way to decrypt the passwords and sent users messages containing their decoded password, with a suggestion to change it to the empty string (that is, no password) instead, to re-enable anonymous access to the systems. Around 20% of the users followed his advice at the time, although passwords ultimately prevailed. Stallman boasted of the success of his campaign for many years afterward.[15]

Decline of MIT's hacker culture

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the hacker culture that Stallman thrived on began to fragment. To prevent software from being used on their competitors' computers, most manufacturers stopped distributing source code and began using copyright and restrictive software licenses to limit or prohibit copying and redistribution. Such proprietary software had existed before, and it became apparent that it would become the norm. This shift in the legal characteristics of software can be regarded as a consequence triggered by the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, as stated by Stallman's MIT fellow Brewster Kahle.[16]

When Brian Reid in 1979 placed "time bombs" in Scribe to restrict unlicensed access to the software, Stallman proclaimed it "a crime against humanity."[17] He clarified, years later, that it is blocking the user's freedom that he believes is a "crime", not the issue of charging for the software.[18]

In 1980, Stallman and some other hackers at the AI Lab were refused access to the source code for the software of the first laser printer, the Xerox 9700. Stallman had modified the software on an older printer (the XGP, Xerographic Printer), so it electronically messaged a user when the person's job was printed, and would message all logged-in users when a printer was jammed. Not being able to add this feature to the Dover printer was a major inconvenience, as the printer was on a different floor from most of the users. This one experience convinced Stallman of people's need to be free to modify the software they use.[19] Richard Greenblatt, a fellow AI Lab hacker, founded Lisp Machines, Inc. (LMI) to market Lisp machines, which he and Tom Knight designed at the lab. Greenblatt rejected outside investment, believing that the proceeds from the construction and sale of a few machines could be profitably reinvested in the growth of the company. In contrast, the other hackers felt that the venture capital-funded approach was better. As no agreement could be reached, hackers from the latter camp founded Symbolics, with the aid of Russ Noftsker, an AI Lab administrator. Symbolics recruited most of the remaining hackers including notable hacker Bill Gosper, who then left the AI Lab. Symbolics forced Greenblatt to also resign by citing MIT policies. While both companies delivered proprietary software, Stallman believed that LMI, unlike Symbolics, had tried to avoid hurting the lab's community. For two years, from 1982 to the end of 1983, Stallman worked by himself to clone the output of the Symbolics programmers, with the aim of preventing them from gaining a monopoly on the lab's computers.[20]

Stallman argues that software users should have the freedom to "share with their neighbor" and to be able to study and make changes to the software that they use. He maintains that attempts by proprietary software vendors to prohibit these acts are "antisocial" and "unethical".[21] The phrase "software wants to be free" is often incorrectly attributed to him, and Stallman argues that this is a misstatement of his philosophy.[22] He argues that freedom is vital for the sake of users and society as a moral value, and not merely for pragmatic reasons such as possibly developing technically superior software.

In February 1984, Stallman quit his job at MIT to work full-time on the GNU project, which he had announced in September 1983.

GNU project

Cover picture for O'Reilly Media's book Free as in Freedom

Stallman announced the plan for the GNU operating system in September 1983 on several ARPANET mailing lists and USENET.[23]

In 1985, Stallman published the GNU Manifesto, which outlined his motivation for creating a free operating system called GNU, which would be compatible with Unix. The name GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix." Soon after, he started a non-profit corporation called the Free Software Foundation to employ free software programmers and provide a legal infrastructure for the free software movement. Stallman is the nonsalaried president of the FSF, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in Massachusetts. Stallman popularized the concept of copyleft, a legal mechanism to protect the modification and redistribution rights for free software. It was first implemented in the GNU Emacs General Public License, and in 1989 the first program-independent GNU General Public License (GPL) was released. By then, much of the GNU system had been completed. Stallman was responsible for contributing many necessary tools, including a text editor (Emacs), compiler (GCC), debugger (gdb), and a build automator (gmake). The notable exception was a kernel. In 1990, members of the GNU project began a kernel called GNU Hurd, which has yet to achieve the maturity level required for widespread usage.

In 1991, Linus Torvalds, a Finnish student, used the GNU development tools to produce the Linux kernel. The existing programs from the GNU project were readily ported to run on the resultant platform; most sources use the name Linux to refer to the general-purpose operating system thus formed. This has been a longstanding naming controversy in the free software community. Stallman argues that not using "GNU" in the name of the operating system unfairly disparages the value of the GNU project and harms the sustainability of the free software movement by breaking the link between the software and the free software philosophy of the GNU project.

Stallman's influences on hacker culture include the name POSIX[24] and the Emacs editor. On UNIX systems, GNU Emacs's popularity rivaled that of another editor vi, spawning an editor war. Stallman's take on this was to jokingly canonize himself as "St. IGNUcius" of the Church of Emacs[25][26] and acknowledge that "vi vi vi is the editor of the beast," while "using a free version of vi is not a sin; it is a penance."[27]

Around 1992, developers at Lucid Inc. doing their own work on Emacs clashed with Stallman and ultimately forked the software into what would become XEmacs.[28] Technology journalist Andrew Leonard has characterized what he sees as Stallman's uncompromising stubbornness as common among elite computer programmers:[29]

There's something comforting about Stallman's intransigence. Win or lose, Stallman will never give up. He'll be the stubbornest mule on the farm until the day he dies. Call it fixity of purpose, or just plain cussedness, his single-minded commitment and brutal honesty are refreshing in a world of spin-meisters and multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns.

—Leonard, Andrew,

Free software activism

Richard Stallman giving a speech on "Free Software and your freedom" at the biennale du design of Saint Etienne (2008)
Richard Stallman giving a speech at WSIS-2005
Richard Stallman at the opening ceremony of NIXAL (a LUG) at Netaji Subhash Engineering College, Calcutta, India

Stallman has written many essays on software freedom and since the early 1990s has been an outspoken political campaigner for the free software movement. The speeches he has regularly given are titled The GNU project and the Free Software movement,[30] The Dangers of Software Patents,[31] and Copyright and Community in the age of computer networks.[32] His uncompromising attitude on ethical issues concerning computers and software has caused some people to label him as radical and extremist.[33] In 2006 and 2007, during the eighteen month public consultation for the drafting of version 3 of the GNU General Public License, he added a fourth topic explaining the proposed changes.[34]

Stallman's staunch advocacy for free software inspired "Virtual Richard M. Stallman" (vrms), software that analyzes the packages currently installed on a Debian GNU/Linux system, and report those that are from the non-free tree.[35] Stallman would disagree with parts of Debian's definition of free software.[36]

What is free software?
There are four essential freedoms: 0/code execution, 1/code study and edition...
.. 2/code source distribution, 3/modified code distribution.
If you have all four then the program is free software
If not the developer has power over the user, this is an injustice
If you want freedom while using computers, reject proprietary software.

In 1999, Stallman called for development of a free on-line encyclopedia through the means of inviting the public to contribute articles. See GNUPedia.[37]

In Venezuela, Stallman has delivered public speeches and promoted the adoption of free software in the state's oil company (PDVSA), in municipal government, and in the nation's military. Although generally supportive of Hugo Chávez, Stallman has criticised some policies on television broadcasting, free speech rights, and privacy in meetings with Chávez and in public speeches in Venezuela.[38][39] Stallman is on the Advisory Council of teleSUR, a Latin American television station.[40]

In August 2006 at his meetings with the government of the Indian State of Kerala, he persuaded officials to discard proprietary software, such as Microsoft's, at state-run schools. This has resulted in a landmark decision to switch all school computers in 12,500 high schools from Windows to a free software operating system.[41]

After personal meetings, Stallman has obtained positive statements about the free software movement from the then-President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam,[42] French 2007 presidential candidate Ségolène Royal,[43] and the president of Ecuador Rafael Correa.[44]

Stallman has participated in protests about software patents,[45] DRM,[46][47] and proprietary software.

Protesting against proprietary software in April 2006, Stallman held a "Don't buy from ATI, enemy of your freedom" placard at a speech by an ATI representative in the building where Stallman works, resulting in the police being called.[48] ATI has since merged with AMD Corporation and has taken steps to make their hardware documentation available for use by the free software community.[49]

Stallman has also helped and supported the International Music Score Library Project in getting back online, after it had been taken down on October 19, 2007 following a cease and desist letter from Universal Edition.[50]

Stallman's only computer is a Lemote Yeeloong netbook (using the same company's Loongson processor) which he chose because it can run with 100% free software even at the BIOS level, stating "freedom is my priority. I've campaigned for freedom since 1983, and I am not going to surrender that freedom for the sake of a more convenient computer."[51] Lemote is a joint venture of the Institute of Computing Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, an institution of the State Council of China.


Stallman places great importance on the words and labels people use to talk about the world, including the relationship between software and freedom. He untiringly asks people to say "free software" and "GNU/Linux", and to avoid the terms "intellectual property" and "piracy" (in relation to copyright). His requests that people use certain terms, and his ongoing efforts to convince people of the importance of terminology are a source of regular misunderstanding and friction with parts of the free software and open source communities.

One of his criteria for giving an interview to a journalist is that the journalist agree to use his terminology throughout the article.[52] Sometimes he has even required journalists to read parts of the GNU philosophy before an interview, for "efficiency's sake".[53] He has been known to turn down speaking requests over some terminology issues.[54]

Stallman rejects a common alternative term "open source software" because it does not call to mind what Stallman sees as the value of the software: freedom.[55] Thus it will not inform people of the freedom issues, and will not lead to people valuing and defending their freedom.[56] Two alternatives which Stallman does accept are "software libre" and "unfettered software", but "free software" is the term he asks people to use in English. For similar reasons, he argues for the term "proprietary software" rather than "closed source software", when referring to software that is not free software.

Stallman repeatedly asks that the term "GNU/Linux", which he pronounces "GNU slash Linux", be used to refer to the operating system created by combining the GNU system and the Linux kernel. Stallman refers to this operating system as "a variant of GNU, and the GNU Project is its principal developer."[54] He claims that the connection between the GNU project's philosophy and its software is broken when people refer to the combination as merely "Linux".[57] Starting around 2003, he began also using the term "GNU+Linux", which he pronounces "GNU plus Linux".

Stallman argues that the term "intellectual property" is designed to confuse people, and is used to prevent intelligent discussion on the specifics of copyright, patent, trademark and other laws by lumping together areas of law that are more dissimilar than similar.[58] He also argues that by referring to these laws as "property" laws, the term biases the discussion when thinking about how to treat these issues.

These laws originated separately, evolved differently, cover different activities, have different rules, and raise different public policy issues. Copyright law was designed to promote authorship and art, and covers the details of a work of authorship or art. Patent law was intended to encourage publication of ideas, at the price of finite monopolies over these ideas — a price that may be worth paying in some fields and not in others. Trademark law was not intended to promote any business activity, but simply to enable buyers to know what they are buying.[59]

An example of cautioning others to avoid other terminology while also offering suggestions for possible alternatives, is this sentence of an email by Stallman to a public mailing list:

I think it is ok for authors (please let's not call them "creators", they are not gods) to ask for money for copies of their works (please let's not devalue these works by calling them "content") in order to gain income (the term "compensation" falsely implies it is a matter of making up for some kind of damages).[60]

Personal life

Stallman has devoted the bulk of his life’s energies to political and software activism.[61] Professing to care little for material wealth, he explains that "I've always lived cheaply ... like a student, basically. And I like that, because it means that money is not telling me what to do."[62]

For many years, Stallman maintained no permanent residence outside his office at MIT's CSAIL Lab,[63] sometimes describing himself as a "squatter" on campus.[64] His position as a research affiliate at MIT is unpaid.[65]

In a footnote to an article he wrote in 1999, he says "As an atheist, I don't follow any religious leaders, but I sometimes find I admire something one of them has said."[21] Stallman chooses not to celebrate Christmas, instead celebrating on December 25 a holiday of his own invention, "Grav-mass". The name and date are references to Isaac Newton, whose birthday falls on that day on the old style calendar.[66]

When asked about his influences, he replied that he admires Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Ralph Nader, and Dennis Kucinich, and commented as well: "I admire Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, even though I criticize some of the things that they did."[67] Stallman is a Green Party supporter,[1] and a supporter of the National Initiative proposal.[68]

Stallman recommends not owning a mobile phone,[69] as he believes the tracking of cell phones creates harmful privacy issues.[70] Also, Stallman avoids use of a key card to enter the building where his office is.[71] Such a system would track doors entered and times. For personal reasons, he does not actively browse the web from his computer; rather, he uses wget and reads the fetched pages from his e-mail mailbox.[72]

In a lecture in Manchester, England on May 1, 2008, Stallman advocated paper voting over machine voting, insisting that there was a much better chance of being able to do a "recount" dutifully if there was a paper copy of the ballots.[citation needed]

Stallman enjoys a wide range of musical styles from the works of Conlon Nancarrow[73] to folk;[74] the Free Software Song takes the form of alternative words for the Bulgarian folk dance Sadi Moma. More recently he wrote a take-off on the Cuban folk song Guantanamera, about a prisoner in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and recorded it in Cuba with Cuban musicians.[75] He also enjoys music by Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and Weird Al Yankovic.[76]

Stallman is a fan of science fiction, including works by the author Greg Egan.[77] He occasionally goes to science fiction conventions[27] and wrote the Free Software Song while awaiting his turn to sing at a convention. He has written two science fiction stories, The Right to Read and Jinnetic Engineering.

Along with his native English, Stallman is also fluent enough in French and Spanish to deliver his two-hour speeches in those languages, and claims a "somewhat flawed" command of Indonesian.[78]


Stallman has received the following recognition for his work:

Selected publications

Stallman has written and been the subject of several books:

Papers appearing in technical and academic journals
  • Stallman, Richard M; Sussman, Gerald J (November 1975). Heuristic Techniques in Computer-Aided Circuit Analysis. CAS-22 (11). IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems. 
  • Stallman, Richard M; Sussman, Gerald J (1977). Forward Reasoning and Dependency-Directed Backtracking In a System for Computer-Aided Circuit analysis. Artificial Intelligence 9. pp. 135–196. 
  • Richard Stallman, Reevaluating Copyright: The Public Must Prevail, Oregon Law Review 75(1) 1996.
Essays compilation
  • Williams, Sam (2002). Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. ISBN 0-596-00287-4. 

Stallman has four topics that he has spoken on often:

See also


  1. ^ a b c Stallman, Richard (N.D.). "Richard Stallman's 1983 biography". Richard Stallman's homepage. (Published in the first edition of "The Hacker's Dictionary"). Retrieved 20 November 2008. "
    "'Richard Stallman' is just my mundane name; you can call me 'rms'""
  2. ^ Stallman, Richard (1983-09-27). "Initial GNU announcement". Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  3. ^ Wheeler, David A. (2002-05-06/2008-10-03). "Make Your Open Source Software GPL-Compatible. Or Else.". (See the list in section 2). Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  4. ^ Bernard S. Greenberg. "Multics Emacs: The History, Design and Implementation". ; "GNU Emacs FAQ". ; Jamie Zawinski. "Emacs Timeline". 
  5. ^ "GCC Contributors". 
  6. ^ "Richard Stallman lecture at the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden (1986-10-30)". Retrieved 2006-09-21. "Then after GNU Emacs was reasonably stable, which took all in all about a year and a half, I started getting back to other parts of the system. I developed a debugger which I called GDB which is a symbolic debugger for C code, which recently entered distribution. Now this debugger is to a large extent in the spirit of DBX, which is a debugger that comes with Berkeley Unix." 
  7. ^ "Richard Stallman's mother, Alice Lippman, still remembers the moment she realized her son had a special gift." Chapter 3, Free as in Freedom
  8. ^ Stallman, Richard M. "RMS Berättar". Retrieved September 22, 2009. 
  9. ^ Williams, Sampoydne (2002). Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00287-4.  Chapter 3. Available under the GFDL in both the initial O'Reilly edition (accessed on 27 October 2006) and the updated FAIFzilla edition . Retrieved 27 October 2006.
  10. ^ Williams, Sam (2002). Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. O'Reilly. p. 41. ISBN 0596002874. 
  11. ^ Williams, Sam (2002-03-15). "The Emacs Commune". Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software. O’Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00287-4. Retrieved 2006-11-26.  "Near the end of that first year at MIT, however, disaster struck. A knee injury forced Stallman to drop out of the troupe."
  12. ^ Williams, Sam (2002-03-15). "Impeach God". Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software. O’Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00287-4. Retrieved 2006-11-26.  "During the middle of his sophomore year at Harvard, Stallman had joined up with a dance troupe that specialized in folk dances. What began as a simple attempt to meet women and expand his social horizons soon expanded into yet another passion alongside hacking."
  13. ^ Stallman, Richard M; Sussman, Gerald J (1977). "Forward Reasoning and Dependency-Directed Backtracking In a System for Computer-Aided Circuit analysis". Artificial Intelligence 9. pp. 135–196. 
  14. ^ a b Russell, Stuart; Norvig, Peter (2003). Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. p. 157. 
  15. ^ Levy,S: Hackers, page 417. Penguin USA, 1984
  16. ^ Robert X. Cringely's interview with Brewster Kahle, around the 46th minute
  17. ^ Williams, Sam (2002). Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00287-4.  Chapter 6. Available under the GFDL in both the initial O'Reilly edition (accessed on 27 October 2006) and the updated FAIFzilla edition . Retrieved 27 October 2006.
  18. ^ "Richard Stallman, Live and Unplugged". "Q: You once said "the prospect of charging money for software was a crime against humanity." Do you still believe this? A: Well, I was not distinguishing the two meanings of free." 
  19. ^ Williams, Sam (2002). Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00287-4.  Chapter 1. Available under the GFDL in both the initial O'Reilly edition (accessed on 27 October 2006) and the updated FAIFzilla edition . Retrieved 27 October 2006.
  20. ^ Levy,S: Hackers. Penguin USA, 1984
  21. ^ a b Various (1999). "Stallman chapter". Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 1-56592-582-3. Retrieved 2006-12-09. 
  22. ^ The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin by Peter H. Salus. Retrieved 18 February 2005.
  23. ^ "new UNIX implementation". Retrieved 2010-03-12. 
  24. ^ "POSIX 1003.1 FAQ Version 1.12". 2006-02-02. Retrieved 2006-07-16. 
  25. ^ "Richard Stallman: GNU/Linux and a free society" article by Takver Sunday October 10, 2004 at 08:06 AM on Melbourne Indymedia web site.
  26. ^ "St IGNUcius web page at". Retrieved 2010-03-12. 
  27. ^ a b Williams, Sam (2002-03-15). Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman"s Crusade for Free Software. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00287-4. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  28. ^ "The Lemacs/FSFmacs Schism". Archived from the original on 2009-12-12. Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  29. ^ Leonard, Andrew. "Code free or die". Retrieved September 21, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Transcript of Richard Stallman on the Free Software movement, Zagreb; 2006-03-09". FSFE. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  31. ^ "IFSO: Richard Stallman: The Dangers of Software Patents; 2004-05-24 (transcript)". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  32. ^ "Copyright and Globalization in the Age of Computer Networks — GNU Project — Free Software Foundation (FSF)". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  33. ^ The Problem With St. Ignucius
  34. ^ "GPLv3 - GNU General Public License, version 3". FSFE. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  35. ^ "The Virtual Richard M. Stallman package". Debian. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  36. ^ "Debian Bug report logs - #221807: "vrms and RMS disagree sometimes...". 
  37. ^ Richard Stallman. "The Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource". Retrieved 2006-10-15. 
  38. ^ Stallman, Richard. "Encounter with President Chavez (2004-12-01 to 2004-12-06)". Richard Stallman Travel and Free Software Activities Journal.
  39. ^ "Chavez threatens dignitaries". 
  40. ^ "Chavez TV beams into South America".,3604,1535981,00.html. 
  41. ^ "Kerala logs Microsoft out". The Financial Express. Retrieved 2010-03-12. 
  42. ^ "Richard Stallman Meets the President of India". 
  43. ^ "Meeting between Ségolène Royal and Richard Stallman". 
  44. ^ "Success for free software in Latin America!". 
  45. ^ "Protest in Brussels against software patents". 
  46. ^ "Protest outside and inside MPAA meeting on DRM". 
  47. ^ "Protest in France against DRM". 
  48. ^ "Protest against ATI nearly led to the arrest of RMS". Free Software Foundation page. 
  49. ^ "AMD will deliver open graphics drivers". 
  50. ^ Temporary main page of the IMSLP, accessed on May 2, 2008
  51. ^ "the setup is a bunch of nerdy interviews: What do people use to get the job done?". 2010-01-23. Retrieved 2010-03-12. 
  52. ^ Leader of the Free World, Wired Magazine, Issue 11.11, November 2003.
  53. ^ Interview with Josh Mehlman, Australian Personal Computer. Retrieved 18 February 2005.
  54. ^ a b Linux, GNU, Freedom by Richard M. Stallman. Retrieved 18 February 2005.
  55. ^ Why "Free Software" is better than "Open Source". Retrieved 18 February 2005.
  56. ^ Why Software Should Be Free. April 24, 1992.
  57. ^ What's in a name? by Richard Stallman. Retrieved 18 February 2005.
  58. ^ "Transcript of Richard Stallman speaking on GPLv3 in Torino". 18 March 2006. "Everyone who uses the term "intellectual property" is either confused himself or trying to confuse you." 
  59. ^ Did You Say "Intellectual Property"? It's a Seductive Mirage by Richard M. Stallman. Retrieved 18 February 2005.
  60. ^ "Email "IP Justice Comment on Top Policy Issues for Athens"". Retrieved 2010-03-12. 
  61. ^ Stallman, Richard. "My Personal Ad". Retrieved 2006-11-26. "My 23-year-old child, the Free Software Movement, occupies most of my life, leaving no room for more children, but I still have room to love a sweetheart." 
  62. ^ Stallman, Richard (2001-05-29). "Transcript of Richard M. Stallman’s speech". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  63. ^ Jones, K.C.. "A Rare Glimpse into Richard Stallman's World". InformationWeek. 
  64. ^ Lerner, Reuven M (1990-07-18). "Stallman wins $240,000 in MacArthur award". The Tech. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  65. ^ "Stallman shares Takeda award of nearly $1M". MIT. 2001-10-17. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  66. ^ "Celebrate Grav-mass". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  67. ^ "FSF India: A Q & A session with Richard M. Stallman". Free Software Foundation of India. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  68. ^ "Richard Stallman's Personal Page". "Long Term Action Items: Support the National Initiative for Democracy" 
  69. ^ "Transcript of Richard Stallman at the 3rd international GPLv3 conference; 22nd June 2006". 
  70. ^ "A Rare Glimpse Into Richard Stallman's World". 
  71. ^ "The Shaggy God". 
  72. ^ Stallman, Richard (2007-12-15). "Real men don't attack straw men". OpenBSD 'misc' Mailing List. Retrieved 2009-03-24. "For personal reasons, I do not browse the web from my computer" 
  73. ^ "Bruce Sterling interview". 
  74. ^ "Humorous bio". 
  75. ^ Stallman, Richard M. "Guantanamero". Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  76. ^ "Richard Stallman Playlist". 
  77. ^
  78. ^ "WGIG nominees — Richard Stallman". Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  79. ^ "Grace Murry Hopper award citation". 
  80. ^ "Richard Stallman Wins Microsoft's Money". 
  81. ^ "RESOLUCIÓN CS N° 204/04". Retrieved 2010-03-12. 
  82. ^ "Laurea in Ingegneria Informatica a Richard Stallman.". 
  83. ^ "YouTube — RMS Given Honorary Degree at Lakehead". 
  84. ^ "Agora Online — Honorary Degree Recipients". 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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 Matthew Stallman (RMS; born 16 March 1953) is the founder of the Free Software movement, the GNU project, the Free Software Foundation, and the League for Programming Freedom. He also invented the concept of copyleft to protect the ideals of this movement, and enshrined this concept in the widely-used GPL (General Public License) for software.



  • ...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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
    • In a talk on Software Patents; Frankfurt am Main, Germany, (26 September 2004)
  • People said I should accept the world. Bullshit! I don't accept the world.
    • Keynote address at the New York Linux Bazaar
  • I have not seen anyone assume that all the citizens of New York are guilty of murder, violence, robbery, perjury, or writing proprietary software.
  • 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 Fleet.
    • Upon receiving the Linus Torvalds Award at Linuxworld, 1999.
  • 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.
    • Part of Free software: Freedom and cooperation, a speech Stallman has often delivered, for example at New York University, 2001-05-29.
  • 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"!
    • Answer given in a question-and-answer session after Free software: Freedom and cooperation.
  • 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.
    • The Free Software Movement and the GNU/Linux Operating System, given at LinuxTag, July 2000
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Part of his response to the world's first spam email. [4]
  • 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.
    • His reaction to a baby announcement on a SFBA social mailing list. [5]

The GNU Manifesto

Essay at

  • 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.
[this document has a footnote mentioning that the word "free" was not used as carefully in this 1985 Manifesto as it should have been]
  • 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.

Copyleft: Pragmatic Idealism

Essay at

  • 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.

Why "Free Software" is better than "Open Source"

Essay at

  • 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".

Slashdot interview (1 May 2000)

These quotes are from the Slashdot interview "Thus Spake Stallman", the questions asked in the interview were asked by slashdot users in response to the article "Talk Things Over With Richard M. Stallman". The quotes were taken from his replies to various questions.

  • 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Snow is so beautiful, it doesn't have to be useful.
    • (Just before) Parliament Hill Speech, Ottawa, Canada, June 2nd, 2009


  • You can use any editor you want, but remember that vi vi vi is the text editor of the beast.
    • HOPE 2006 Speech
  • 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.

On mobile phones

  • [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.
    • At the talk at Moscow State University 2008-03-03, from 13:05 to 14:09 in the audio recording[6].

On web browsing

  • 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.
    • On the OpenBSD mailing list, 2007-12-15 [7]

On non-free software

  • 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.
    • On the OpenBSD mailing list, 2007-12-14 [8]

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(Redirected to Author:Richard Stallman article)

From Wikisource

Richard Stallman
See biography, quotes, indexes. Richard Stallman is a the founder of the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation


  • Free Software and Beyond: Human Rights in the Use of Software and Other Published Works (2007-05-16)

Simple English

Richard Stallman (born March 16, 1953) is the founder of the free software movement, the GNU project, and the Free Software Foundation. He is also a famous hacker. He created GNU Emacs, the GNU C Compiler, and the GNU Debugger. He is the author of the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or GPL), the most used free software license, which pioneered the concept of the copyleft.

File:Richard Matthew
An image of Richard Stallman taken from the cover of the O'Reilly book Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software by Sam Williams (2002).

Since the mid-1990s, he has spent most of his time as a political campaigner, talking about free software and campaigning against software idea patents and expansions of copyright law. The time that he still spends on programming is spent on GNU Emacs. He is currently supported by various fellowships and maintains a modest standard of living.

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