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

By Adam Fedor, Chief
Maintainer of the GNUstep

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

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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