Stallman: Free software battling for hearts and minds

Stallman: Free software battling for hearts and minds

Summary: Interview: Richard Stallman on the ethics of free software and fighting the mega-corporations...


...then feel resentment when using proprietary software but look at it in terms of convenience.

"So they'll give up their freedom for convenience. Now I think that's an act of folly. But these people have never posed themselves the question of whether they deserve any kind of freedom in using software."

This preference for convenience was seen recently when the German Foreign Office moved from Linux to Windows XP because of implementation issues. Stallman said this illustrates the weakness of open source as an idea, despite its prevalence in the technology community.

"It can sometimes convince people to switch to software, almost all of which is free, but it doesn't teach them that there's something basically wrong with the proprietary software so whenever they see a practical, convenient, short-term advantage in proprietary software, they might switch to that."

Stallman believes governments should promote free software

Richard Stallman believes governments could do much more to promote the ethics and use of free softwarePhoto: Shutterstock

The view of convenience outranking ethical considerations can only be changed through education and explaining to people how open-source and free software are different "at the deepest possible level - the level of values", Stallman said.

The role of governments

The British government has spoken extensively about a desire to use more open-source software and, since much of this will fall into the free software category, Stallman said this is a practical step in the right direction.

However, he added that more can still be done and governments should do this as part of their mission "to arrange society for the wellbeing and freedom of the citizens".

"This [mission] is something that most states today have forgotten about because they are actually mainly serving the mega-corporations and their empire, and their attitude towards the citizens is, 'Let's do as little as we need to do to keep them in line so we can get away with exploiting them'. Because of this, I don't expect a UK government dominated by either of the major parties to care about anybody's freedom."

Stallman also criticised the UK's Digital Economy Act for proposing to punish people unjustly: "And punish them for what? For sharing with other people, which is good. So this law makes visible the spirit of divide and rule of the corporate empire. This law is an act of betraying the country to serve the corporate empire."

When asked how this situation can change, Stallman said: "Well, Egypt shows us one way it can change."

"I'm not saying it would need to happen - maybe there's an easier way, maybe it doesn't have to be so dramatic - I don't know though. What I'm saying is that's at least one possible way."

Topics: Apps, Software Development

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


1 comment
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • yeah! all we want free software