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GNUStep: An Apology for Announcing Donation of Proprietary Software to the Project

Dec 21, 2001, 07:07 (113 Talkback[s])

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By Adam Fedor, Chief Maintainer of the GNUstep Project

The GNUstep project would like to apologize for announcing that we had been given, as a donation, a license for a proprietary program. We made a mistake in announcing this, but the first mistake was in asking for a donation of that kind. The GNU Project gladly accepts donations of computers, money, and other services, and gladly thanks the donors for them. But we can't accept a copy of a proprietary program, because we criticize proprietary software on ethical grounds and we have to live by our ethical principles. And we can't advertise a proprietary program no matter how grateful we feel towards its developer.

How did we make the mistake of asking for a donation of that kind? We were so absorbed in looking for ways to improve GNUstep that we forgot the larger goal and principles of the GNU Project. We forgot that "donating a license" for a non-free program is just making a special exception to a general policy of restricting all the users. We're supposed to be working on changing this restrictive situation for everyone, not obtaining a special exception for ourselves. We're supposed to be taking the proprietary software off our machines, not putting more of it on.

Announcing this problematical donation was a further mistake, because it had the effect of advertising the proprietary program. Our principles say we should only help publicize a software package if it's the sort of package that we're trying to encourage--that is, a free software package.

This just goes to show how people working on a technical project need to recall the larger context--the long-term goals and ethical principles--and not get lost in the details of the specific technical problems to be solved today.

We hope you can learn from this mistake. Please consider the benefits of free software that respects your freedom. And if you find a non-free program that you really would like to use, don't try to get a copy. Write a free replacement for it instead!

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