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International Leader of the Free Software Movement Calls for Change


Hartford, Conn. – During a presentation sponsored by the Humanitarian FOSS Project, the Trinity College Computer Science Department, and the Trinity College Science Center; Richard Stallman, the leader of the Humanitarian Foss Project for building free open source software, said Proprietary (non-free) software is unethical and striping the freedom of computer users.
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Richard Stallman Says Proprietary Software Takes Freedom from Computer Users
Hartford, Conn. – During a presentation sponsored by the Humanitarian FOSS Project, the Trinity College Computer Science Department, and the Trinity College Science Center; Richard Stallman, the leader of the Humanitarian Foss Project for building free open source software, said Proprietary (non-free) software is unethical and striping the freedom of computer users.

“Non-free software keeps users divided and helpless,” he told an audience at McCook Auditorium on the Trinity campus on Tuesday night.  “It is not a positive contribution to society.”

Stallman leads FOSS, Building Free Open Source Software for Society

Stallman argues that users should have the right to share software, and should have access to programming code to re-develop and improve software.

“Companies have control of the user’s computer and they never give it up,” he said.  “Users are completely under the power of the software developer.”

Stallman says that software is defective by design, and with restricted access to code, there is no way to change it, essentially, sacrificing freedom to a company’s desire.  He argues that if software were free, the only restriction that it would need to prevent “malicious features” was licensing that prevented programmers from making the software restrictive in any way.

“We become a prisoner of [Proprietary] software,” he said.  “[With free software], users are free, and nobody has power over everybody else.”

Stallman earned a B.A. in physics, graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1974. He has since been awarded six honorary doctorates and two honorary professorships from institutions around the world. In 1983, Stallman wanted freedom with his computer, but it was impossible given that computers could not run without an operating system and operating systems were all restricted.  So he set out to design his own. 

Stallman came up with a free operating system kernel called GNU, or what millions now recognize as Linux.  Stallman says the GNU/Linux system was a big first step in the free software movement.  And though “Linux” is no longer entirely free software, part of Stallman’s goal has become a reality.

“When you talk about free software, you are talking about our ideals of freedom,” he said.  “It is important [to fight for this].”

Stallman says good programmers love what they do.

Stallman believes that schools need to support the free software movement, not only by promoting the philosophy, but by using free software.  He says it benefits both the school systems and the students.  His reasons: free software would save schools money on software, a student would be less dependant on Proprietary software, students would have the opportunity to learn how to read and write great code, and it would help students be better citizens and exercise the spirit of good will.

“If a student has a problem, there is someone to ask so they learn how to do it,” he said. “Schools have a social responsibility to educate students to be conscientious.”

So if software is free, what are the incentives for software developers?
Stallman says the motivations of the programmers include political idealism, a chance to develop a professional reputation, a chance to be admired for something they enjoy doing, an opportunity to show gratitude for free software that had been shared with them, as well as financial incentives.

Stallman, who intertwined humor throughout his presentation, ended his talk by dressing like a saint and giving an oratory on the beliefs of the religion of the free software movement and extending an invitation to those in the audience join.

To learn more about the FOSS Project or Richard Stallman, please visit http://hfoss.org, or www.fsf.org.