October 27, 2000

Richard M. Stallman on GPL as 'Open Source'

Author: JT Smith

Editor's note: I contacted RMS and asked him to comment on the licensing story we posted Thursday. That night, I received an email from him. It is published here, unedited. -- TG"It is misleading to describe the GNU GPL as 'open source licensing',
because it was not developed by the Open Source Movement. I wrote it
as part of the Free Software Movement.

"The Free Software Movement was founded in 1984 to promote the freedom
to share and change software. The GNU/Linux operating system, in
which the kernel Linux is typically used, is also mainly the work of
the Free Software Movement. We stand for principles of freedom,
cooperation, ethics, and community.

"The Open Source Movement was founded in 1998 to advocate similar
practices but in a less firm and less deep way. They explicitly say
that they do not see the issue as a matter of principle, just one of
practical convenience, and this is the main difference between the two
movements. In addition, they aim primarily for the support of
business, while we aim primarily to convince individuals to insist on
their freedom. For more explanation, see the page
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-for-freedom.html.

"The Open Source Movement gets a lot of publicity nowadays, with the
result that people often think they have absorbed or replaced the Free
Software Movement. Media articles labeling our work as 'open source'
often feed this confusion; every week I get mail from someone
addressing me mistakenly as a fellow 'open source developer'. There
must be thousands of people who support the Open Source Movement
because they think I do.

"The open source people have a right to promote their views, but we
would like our work to promote our views. The Open Source Movement
does include the GNU GPL in its list of recommended licenses, but
please describe it as a 'free software license', so that people will
not get the wrong idea of where it comes from and what its purpose is.

"This is not just a side issue -- the purpose of the Free Software
Movement is crucial to understanding what is wrong with the criticism
of the GPL in the article. Someone in the Open Source Movement might
respond quite differently to this issue because he would have
different basic goals." --RMS

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