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Richard Stallman: Response to Dave Winer on Python Licensing

Sep 11, 2000, 15:31 (15 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Richard Stallman)

Editor's Note: This is a response to Dave Winer of Userland concerning Python licensing issues. You can read the original post at UserLand.

By Richard Stallman

David Winer is passionate in his disgust for me and my work; so much so that he does not limit himself to rebuking me for the things I have done. He feels entitled to imagine other things he would disapprove of, and attack me for them too.

In his column on September 8, he notes that he tells Guido van Rossum, "Don't give in to Stallman." From the context, it is clear Winer imagines that I am asking--or rather, demanding--that Python be released under the GPL and only the GPL.

As Guido can confirm, that is not the case. I have been pushing for the license of Python to be compatible with the GPL, so that it can be linked with GPL-covered programs as well as with other programs.

If the Python license is incompatible with the most popular free software license, that creates a major practical problem for the community. Given the importance of this problem, all my efforts in talking with the Python developers have been aimed at solving it, at trying to propose some solution that they will accept. This isn't easy, and I am not going to make it harder by asking them for something else in addition.

Winer's description of my goals is equally inaccurate. I am not opposed to commercial software. When companies contribute to the Free World by developing free commercial software, I say more power to them. I started a free software business myself in 1985, selling tapes of GNU Emacs; I dropped it when the FSF took over selling these tapes.

What I disapprove of is non-free software--never mind whether it is commercial or noncommercial. But even I sometimes choose a license that permits a library to be used in non-free software (see http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-not-lgpl.html).

The idea of the GNU GPL is to establish certain liberties for everyone, and defend them as much as possible from anything that might take them away. We believe in two-way cooperation, and we invite everyone to join, but we do not invite people to exploit us by putting our code into non-free programs.

One thing in Winer's article is accurate: my philosophy is NOT open source. I have been standing firm for the philosophy of the Free Software Movement since 1984. The Open Source Movement, founded in 1998, has a less firm stand. I am not going to join them; I am going to keep standing firm.

But although I do not agree with or speak for the Open Source Movement, I have seen what they say, and I know that Winer misrepresents them when he invokes their name for his opposition to copyleft.

I believe that software users are entitled to certain liberties, to share and change software. I wrote the GNU GPL to defend those liberties. But there are some kinds of liberty I do not agree with. Taking liberty with the truth is not a good thing.

Copyright 2000 Richard Stallman
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted in any medium, provided the copyright notice and this notice are preserved.

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