Richard Stallman: In Defense of Red Hat

By Richard Stallman

The Toronto Star article criticized Red Hat for omitting the GNU
Project from a list of milestones in “open source” software. I must
defend Red Hat for this; it would be improper to include GNU in
such a list, because that would be associating us with the wrong
movement. We have done our work as part of the Free Software
Movement, it reflects the idealism of that movement, and we want
users to know this. So we ask people not to label us or the GNU
operating system with the term “open source”.

By contrast, the inclusion of Unix in the list is both
anachronistic and incorrect. Unix was developed many years before
the Open Source Movement was started (in 1998), and it never met
that movement’s definition of open source software. The source code
of Unix was available only under a nondisclosure agreement, which
for most people was available only for a prohibitive fee. And
redistribution of the source to the public was not allowed at

Red Hat did right not to add the GNU Project to *this* list. But
it would be right and proper for their history page to present
another list, describing milestones in the development of the
GNU/Linux operating system. GNU and the Free Software Movement
should figure prominently in that list.

I would like to correct a couple of other minor errors in the
article. I am afraid of water only when it pours onto or covers my
head, and I love a hot soothing bath. (I fear, though, that I might
lounge in the tub for more time than I can afford to spare.) Also,
though most women have tended to have little romantic interest in
me, there is occasionally an exception.

Finally, I take full responsibility for the technical decision
to develop the GNU kernel based on Mach, a decision which seems to
have been responsible for the slowness of the development. I
thought using Mach would speed the work by saving us a large part
of the job, but I was wrong.

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