What is Stallman's speech?


The First National Congress of Free Software in Chile, as one of your exhibitors will know, and the one who received the most attention, was the president of the FSF and founder of the GNU project, Richard Stallman. As I was the only one who had the time to go, I attended the talk, more than common than usual, Stallman is recognized in giving a lecture on "the holy war" between free vs. proprietary software. But well, despite not being so in agreement with his ideals, it is impossible to stop seeing this distinguished character, for that reason I will analyze each of his points step by step, which in themselves are somewhat right, but when taking them in the extreme it is an absolute exaggeration.

Moral and ethic

The talk started with Stallman explaining the meaning of free software like it that respects the freedom of the user, their commitment to social solidarity towards the community (remember the word “social” as it will be very busy in this article…).

Richard discusses in his points something that is not unreasonable if you look at it from a not so extreme angle, the four freedoms necessary for a software to be called "free".

  • The first is that a program must be run and used as one wishes.
  • The second is that the source code of the program has to allow its study and change.
  • The third is to help your neighbor with the free copying and distribution of the program, which is a moral duty.
  • The fourth is to contribute to society.

These freedoms, as Stallman explains, are the priorities for a user to be free, to the point of repeatedly indicating that they should be part of human rights.

In addition to promoting these freedoms, he criticizes proprietary software, calling it "an unethical blow" that damages society, where the person who shares its programs and / or music is called a "pirate." He clarifies that he has been asked repeatedly what he thinks of "pirates", and he responds in his style that "attacking ships is very bad" and that "pirates do not use computers to attack ships." That people in favor of free software "demonize" people who help their fellow man. According to Stallman, he prefers to do a lesser evil if given the opportunity to share proprietary software, since "developers deserve it because they do it themselves, to attack society", but that the best thing is to avoid moral dilemmas by rejecting the proprietary software.


Richard Stallman talks about these malicious programs that exist in proprietary software and of the serious problems that they generate, one of the (obvious) examples is Microsoft Windows, which brings DRM or as he says, “digital handcuffs”. It deals with the most popular backdoors in Windows such as changing programs at will and a program that was installed for the police in the US (surveillance). Arguing this, he says that the security of the system is null (not new ...). Another example he gives is the Iphone (he calls it “ICROME”), due to its restrictions on the installation of applications and the imposition of changes (updates). The last example he gives is that of KINDLE, arguing that it is tied to DRM, monitoring the purchase of books from Amazon and relating a case in which Amazon ordered to delete copies of a book (1984).

Richard also argues that it is impossible to know if all proprietary software is bad, since you cannot study the source code, but if he affirms that “software developers are human, and humans make mistakes, voluntary or not, with proprietary software. you are a prisoner of those mistakes ”. That is why the advantage of free software is that if you don't like the code you can improve it and / or change it at will.

GNU history

I am not going to go into detail on this subject, since I believe that almost all of us know the story, so I will touch on subjects that I found outstanding.

Stallman emphasizes that started the project due to the need for a system that was freeSomehow he felt that it was a “social” problem and that he needed to do something since he felt that if he did not do it, no one else would do it, that it was his duty to help (or stand out?).

Decides that the system should be similar to UNIX for its portability, thinking about the evolution of computers in the future.

He explains why GNU, which according to him, is a joke the acronym (funny for his time?), Which says GNU is not Unix. Also that according to the English dictionary the "g" is silent, so the name would be "Nu" which would be new, which called more the sense of humor in the project as something new.

He tells us that the choice of the kernel for the "new system" was a Mach microkernel, GNU / HURD, but that half of it had yet to be written and it was never necessarily stable for use. This led to a Finnish student in 1991 releasing his own monolithic kernel called "linux", which brings us to the next topic ...

Stallman vs. Torvalds

Here the Linus's differences with Richard, and the tendency that he takes in all his talks, starting gently by saying that the creation of the linux kernel was one more contribution of the project, that at first they had problems with the license (Torvalds released linux with a license that prevented companies from using their kernel, and the FSF supports freedom for anyone), which was later changed to the GPL.

This turns from less to more when Stallman says that it is not fair that all the credit goes to a single person for all the work (it is true), and more than more, he (Linus) only made the kernel (little thing no ?).

He emphasizes that Linus Torvalds never supported the movement or the philosophy of free software, since he prefers a system that works perfectly, Stallman says that Torvalds does not respect his own freedom affirming this and that if it were for a system that works he is willing to use proprietary software . One of these Torvalds currents is Open Source, which Stallman also repudiates for getting rid of the term Free Software, taking it only to Open Source, which takes away freedom from the user.

Freedom in Public Agencies

Stallman highlights the social work that the welfare state must take in relation to software. Give examples where Free Software has been adopted, Venezuela and Ecuador. The latter is the one that stands out the most for being a global promoter, to the point of ban proprietary software from government agencies (dictatorship?), which Richard absolutely approves of.

In part of the business of developers and job creation related to Free Software, he says that it is the government's job to promote the computing culture with free software, since this will create development and support companies, which would promote the economy and the free market. Promoting this in education is key, since there are only economic reasons for minor good, since public schools do not have as many resources even in the most developed country.

After this, he attacks Microsoft for the fact of "giving away" Windows licenses to public schools, since they use them to impose their system by creating dependency on students. To the point of comparing these licenses with "drug blisters."

In conclusion, despite the fact that many of the points that Stallman addresses in each of his talks are too repetitive (I have been to two talks and the topic is practically the same), there is a lot of reason in his arguments, the bad thing is take it to the extreme of being a fundamentalist, likening this to a "holy war." In several passages after saying things "to the extreme" he tried to relax the atmosphere with a joke, so I can say that if Richard Stallman had not been a programmer he would have been a comedian, he does it very well.

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  1.   Victor Pereira said

    Interesting anyway I still think he's a Taliban ...

  2.   n3m0 said

    good review

  3.   128kprs said

    It is always the same "Heaven and Hell", "God and the Devil" ... and in the middle we running from one side to the other.

    This balance thing is killing us.

    Very good article +10


  4.   Pedro said

    Stallman is very controversial, in my view he has contributed a lot to the industry thanks to those ideals, but that particular perception of seeing the world I do not consider appropriate, do some of you have everything on your computer in free software? very, very few.

    Free software and the owner must continue to exist, long life for both.

  5.   psep said

    Despite what Andres says, which is totally valid, I differ in the freedom that Stallman expresses to the freedom that I personally believe, everyone is free to choose whatever they want, whether it is free or private software. Now impose it? that's another thing, with regard to humor, I thought it was excellent, I wanted to rescue it. Nor can it be denied that the topics discussed are the same, and in several passages if he himself said that there was the way of good and the way of evil (with the Bush joke included…). People like Stallman add more flavor to the world so I do not oppose at all or criticize their way of thinking, everyone is free to follow who they please.

  6.   psep said

    and the surprise prize ?? XD

    1.    f sources said

      @psep: I have to talk about it with you oh yes, send me your address internally: P

  7.   Andrés said

    I attended his talk and found it centered and entertaining. I did not hear of bonfires or holy wars. Nor did I find her so extreme or so Taliban.
    He asked people not to confuse between Torvalds' personal ideas and the principles of the FSF. He asked people not to disparage the FSF's work with the GNU-Linux project.
    It reminded people of what the FSF defines as SL.
    Their criticisms were based on real, verifiable cases and examples that are public knowledge.
    He praised the state of Ecuador for having designed a policy and a planned control system for the computer system of the public apparatus. Something called modernization of the state. In other countries disorder reigns and there are not even interrelated databases. In addition, the US forces its companies to submit to the embargo on socialist countries, so these actions have nothing to do with dictatorships.

    Just add that what I saw was a nice person, simple intelligent and with a fine humor.

  8.   Andrew said

    Psep: Well, I don't see how you and Mr. Stalman differ then, since what this man insisted on a lot is precisely the freedom of the user. This he repeated many times in the talk and I suppose he highlighted it because it was the most important thing in his message ... That evil or perverse thing was not the subject of his talk.

  9.   psep said

    Andrés: There is a more basic freedom than those named by Stallman, the freedom to choose the Software that best suits you, open source suits me, the proprietary one there, free software here. Everyone is free to do what they want, but it is not freedom to try to impose a thought, for example, to prohibit proprietary software, you violate the freedom of the market and consequently of the consumers of this ...

  10.   psep said

    @psep: I have to talk about it with you oh yes, send me your address internally: P

    And what would it be for? XD

  11.   Andrés said

    Psep: That of the free market he also mentioned in his talk and he also agreed that it was your right to be able to choose the services and the provider that you wanted. According to him, the SL breaks monopolies in favor of user freedom.
    Returning to the example of Ecuador (which seems to be a controversial point, but the summary published here is very incomplete) Stallman said that it was an ideal model where the use of SL was privileged for the State's computer platform (not the market, but the State ) and where proprietary software was allowed to be used but with clear technical justifications. And he said he agreed with that. And he considered it to be a good measure since State institutions did not have a duty towards themselves like companies, but rather had duties towards citizens in addition to the duty to safeguard national sovereignty.
    In the end, these concepts are nothing new. I don't see the disruptive. What I could consider as original is the fact that Stallman establishes user freedoms as political and inalienable in nature (hence his comment that they should be part of human rights) and not as it is now conditional on user licenses. established by each company.

    I do not want to sound like a gratuitous polemicist, but I think that many opinions or criticisms would be cleared if the talks of this Mr. Stallman were more fully transcribed. If I may criticize this article, I think the summary is not only incomplete, but even a bit biased. I understand that the video of the conference given in Chile is available on the GNUChile site.

  12.   psep said

    Andrés, mmm how many RMS talks have you been to ??? Everyone has their point of view, but what I say here is not new, the same is said everywhere, it is a matter of googling a bit about Stallman, I personally share a lot of his ideas, but I also differ on several, That is why I gave my point of view, and as you said well, there is the video and there is also the audio of the talk, everyone who listens / sees it and draws their conclusions. With this they are three talks from RMS.

  13.   recluzo said

    Your narrative is very fresh and you wrote a good article.
    Keep it up Psep.

  14.   cow said

    Stallman's extremism is necessary. Does it harm the general interest? I think not, rather it benefits him. If a development is good, it is better to share it, so that others have the opportunity to do it even better.

    Unfortunately, this world is almost always driven by private interests, the general interest does not matter, everything is competitiveness and ambition. If a company wants to use licenses that allow closing the code, let them do it, do they have impediments? Is the FSF an inquisitorial system with mechanisms to control this type of license?

    Of course, it is very convenient to close the code of a development to economically squeeze its users. And if elements that compromise your privacy can be sneaked in for the benefit of the company, even more comfortable.

    As this circus in which we live is set up, the approach of most IT companies is: we are going to develop something that is passable, that meets a minimum of the expectations of our clients and that allows us to maintain or increase profits.

    The pity is that it does not only happen in computing. Also in health, housing, finances, food. Most of the world's population lives in subhuman conditions or dies because of this philosophy of life. While others live at full speed or we live with a certain comfort, precisely at the cost of the suffering of the majority. We are ashamed!

    Going back to computing, I think the best thing, for the good of all, would be to use the GPL model. It is possible that in the short or medium term it would become a jam (the changes were never comfortable), but in the long term it would be the best, especially if proprietary licenses and monopolies disappeared (which will not happen). Let's say we had the opportunity to take a step back to see which way to go and get a run. The problem is that there is a very solid wall laid before us and it is almost impossible to overcome it: the economic interests of big capital.

    Well gentlemen, you know, share or practice usury, this is the question ...

  15.   RudaMale said

    "The latter is the one that stands out the most for being a world promoter, to the point of banning proprietary software in government agencies (dictatorship?), Which Richard absolutely approves."

    I think you confuse dictatorship with a purely administrative measure of an institution like the state. A dictatorial measure would be to force citizens, in their private sphere, to use free software. If you want to see the defenders of free software as intolerant dictators you are going to see them, you only need to clarify your political concepts a little to realize that it is not like that; but hey, each one with their prejudices.

    Cheers to Stallman :)

  16.   sadiman said

    History is full of important characters who were initially branded as crazy, terrorists, heretics.
    (Columbus, Galileo, Da Vinci, Bolivar, etc, etc, etc)
    For me Stallman is a visionary like Hugo Chavez.

    History will be your judge.

  17.   jp neira said

    Andrés: There is a more basic freedom than those named by Stallman, the freedom to choose the Software that best suits you, open source suits me, the proprietary one there, free software here. Everyone is free to do what they want, but it is not freedom to try to impose a thought, for example, to prohibit proprietary software, you violate the freedom of the market and consequently of the consumers of this ...

    Psep: It is true that there is freedom of choice, but it ends when you have to choose between something good and something that is not. And I suppose many of us agree that proprietary software is not good in many ways.

    Things that are wrong must be finished, not glorified.
    At least that's my position.

    PS: Excellent writing I congratulate you.

  18.   O4 said

    i think microsoft prefers a hacked windows to an installed linux