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SJ Mercury: Open Source, GPL and Allchin: Stallman Responds

Feb 23, 2001, 07:53 (37 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Richard Stallman)

"Microsoft describes the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) as an "open source" license, and says it is against the American Way. To understand the GPL and evaluate this accusation, you must first be aware that the GPL was not designed for open source."

"The Open Source Movement, which was launched in 1998, appeals to narrowly practical goals and values, such as powerful, reliable software and improved technology. Many developers in that movement use the GNU GPL, and they are welcome to use it. But the ideas and logic of the GPL cannot be found in the Open Source Movement. They stem from the deeper goals and values of the Free Software Movement."

"The Free Software Movement, was founded in 1984, but its inspiration comes from the ideals of 1776: freedom, community, and voluntary cooperation. The "free" in "free software" refers to freedom, not price; specifically, that all computer users should have the freedom to study, change, and redistribute the software that they use...."

"Microsoft says that we are against "intellectual property rights." I have no opinion "intellectual property rights," and if you are thoughtful you will have none either. That term is a catch-all, covering copyrights, patents, trademarks, and other disparate legal systems; they are so different, in the laws and in their effects, that any statement about all of them at once is almost surely foolish. To think intelligently about copyrights, patents or trademarks, you must think about them separately. My views about copyrights are too complex to fit in this article, but one general principle applies: they cannot justify denying the public important freedoms. As Abraham Lincoln put it, "Whenever there is a conflict between human rights and property rights, human rights must prevail."

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