"In the fall of 2000, Sam Williams, author of "Free as in
Freedom," sent me an e-mail asking me if he could discuss an
ethical question about Richard Stallman. I had to smile. I didn't
know Williams personally, other than as a journalistic colleague
who covered the free-software/open-source software beat, but I
could easily imagine what the trouble was. Stallman was being
prickly, and a prickly Stallman is no fun.
"Williams was in a jam. He had completed some preliminary work
on a book about Stallman, including two lengthy in-person
interviews. But the publisher of the book was balking at some of
Stallman's requirements. Stallman wanted the book to be freely
reproducible, just like the software that Stallman fights for with
every breath. Stallman was threatening to withdraw his cooperation,
and Williams was unsure whether he could morally use the material
he had already gathered.
"I couldn't give Williams any useful advice, other than to
confirm what he already knew, which is that in the world of
top-notch computer programmers, where stubborness is almost an
entrance requirement, Stallman reigns supreme. He will not bend and
he will not break, and if you want to dash your head against his
rock, you must be willing to accept the brain damage that will
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