FSF: The GNU General Public License Protects Software Freedoms (RMS provides sound bite on Mundie)
May 05, 2001, 07:47 (43 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Free Software Foundation)
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Boston, Massachusetts, USA - May 4, 2001 -
Richard M. Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation, and
Professor Eben Moglen, general counsel for the Free Software
Foundation, today issued statements addressing points raised in
yesterday's remarks by Craig Mundie of Microsoft. Stallman and
Moglen focused on the importance of freedom for software users and
programmers, how the GPL protects those freedoms, and Microsoft's
attempt to cast such freedoms in an unfavorable light.
Stallman, author of the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL),
stated: "Microsoft describes the GNU GPL as an 'open source'
license. To understand the GNU GPL, you must first be aware that
the GPL was not designed for open source. The ideas and logic of
the GPL stem from the deeper goals and values of the Free Software
Stallman explained further: "The Free Software Movement was
founded in 1984, but its inspiration comes from the ideals of 1776:
freedom, community, and voluntary cooperation. This is what leads
to free enterprise, to free speech, and to free software." Stallman
started GNU, a project to create a free software operating system,
along with the Free Software Movement. He wrote the first GPL-style
licenses for the GNU project, and released the first version of the
GPL itself in 1989. The current version of the GPL was released in
1991, and today is used by thousands of software projects.
Moglen noted that Microsoft's confusion about the GPL's origins
is not surprising. He said that "taking advice on what the GPL
means from Microsoft is like taking Stalin's word on the meaning of
the US Constitution. They don't understand and they're not trying
to understand: they're simply trying to scare people out of dealing
with a competitor they can't buy, can't intimidate, and can't
Stallman also addressed the propagating nature of the GPL,
saying: "Whoever wishes to copy parts of our software into his
program must let us use parts of that program in our programs.
Nobody is forced to join our club, but those who wish to
participate must offer us the same cooperation they receive from
us. That makes the system fair."
"Microsoft surely would like to have the benefit of our code
without the responsibilities. But it has another, more specific
purpose in attacking the GNU GPL. Microsoft is known generally for
imitation rather than innovation. Its purpose is strategic--not to
improve computing for its users, but to close off alternatives for
"Hence their campaign to persuade us to abandon the license that
protects our community, the license that won't let them say,
'What's yours is mine, and what's mine is mine.' They want us to
let them take whatever they want, without ever giving anything
back. They want us to abandon our defenses," concluded
Finally, Moglen added that Microsoft is threatened by the power
of free software: "Microsoft, which used to say all the time that
the software business was ruthlessly competitive, is now matched
against a competitor whose model of production and distribution is
so much better that Microsoft stands no chance of prevailing in the
Stallman's essay about Microsoft's attacks on the GPL is
available online at http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/gpl-american-way.html.
Other comments by Stallman on Microsoft are available online at
One of Moglen's essays on the Free Software Movement is available
online at http://moglen.law.columbia.edu/publications/anarchism.html.
About Richard M. Stallman:
Richard Stallman is the founder of the GNU project, launched in
1984 to develop the free operating system GNU (an acronym for
"GNU's Not Unix"), and thereby give computer users the freedom that
most of them have lost. GNU is free software: everyone is free to
copy it and redistribute it, as well as to make changes either
large or small.
Today, Linux-based variants of the GNU system, based on the
kernel Linux developed by Linus Torvalds, are in widespread use.
There are estimated to be over 17 million users of GNU/Linux
systems today. These systems are often mistakenly called just
"Linux"; calling them "GNU/Linux" corrects this confusion.
Stallman received the Grace Hopper Award from the Association
for Computing Machinery for 1991 for his development of the first
Emacs editor in the 1970s. In 1990 he was awarded a MacArthur
Foundation fellowship, and in 1996 an honorary doctorate from the
Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. In 1998 he received the
Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer award along with Linus
Torvalds; in 1999 he received the Yuri Rubinski memorial award.
About Eben Moglen:
Eben Moglen holds a PhD. in history and a J.D. from Yale
University. Moglen is currently a professor of law and legal
history at Columbia University Law School, and serves as general
counsel for the Free Software Foundation.
About the Free Software Foundation:
The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to
promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and
redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development
and use of free (as in freedom) software---particularly the GNU
operating system (used widely today in its GNU/Linux variant)---
and free documentation. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of
the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software.
Their web site, located at http://www.gnu.org, is an important source
of information about GNU/Linux. They are headquartered in Boston,
- SiliconValley.com: Microsoft's Attack on Open Source: Linus Torvalds Replies
(May 05, 2001)
- Community Column: An Open Letter to Craig Mundie(May 04, 2001)
- WideOpenNews: Alan Cox: This is How Free Software Works [a response to Craig Mundie](May 04, 2001)
- SiliconValley.com/Reuters: Microsoft declares war on ``free software'' model(May 04, 2001)
- Financial Times: Microsoft to open more Windows source code(May 04, 2001)
- Community Column: Why is Microsoft afraid of the GPL?(May 04, 2001)
- Microsoft: Prepared Text of Remarks by Craig Mundie, MS Sr. VP:
The Commercial Software Model
(May 03, 2001)
- NYTimes: Speech Offers Microsoft View of Software Sharing Industry(May 03, 2001)
- Eric S. Raymond: Beware the Microsoft shell game(May 02, 2001)