Stallman to rebut Microsoft's Mundie

Free Software Foundation campaigner hits back at the 'lies and misdirection' of Microsoft's senior vice president
Written by Charles Babcock, Contributor

Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and lead creator of the GNU family of free software tools, will rebut Craig Mundie, senior vice president at Microsoft, before the Stern School of Business at New York University today.

Earlier this month, Mundie chose the Stern School as a forum for advocating the intellectual property of commercial companies and disparaging free and open source code. Stallman said on Friday that he knew members of the NYU faculty and had been a speaker before classes in the past. "Someone suggested that I be invited to respond," Stallman said, and he accepted.

In his talk on 3 May, Mundie asserted that the recent string of dot-com company failures illustrated the fallacy of developing software as intellectual property and then giving it away, as advocates of free and open source software tend to do. Commercial companies can't be based on an ethic that requires them to give their intellectual property away, and developers or firms that do so undermine legitimate commercial companies, he said.

Stallman's talk today, like Mundie's original statements, are likely to be provocative. "It's not like their Web sites didn't work," Stallman said in reference to the dot-com company failures. The Web sites of many Internet start-ups were based on the Apache Web server, the Berkeley Internet Name Domain Server, Sendmail and other forms of free and open source code. "The lies and misdirection in his statements are implicit," he said.

"Referring to intellectual property is just a catch-all for trademarks, patents, copyrights . . . It leads to unclear thinking. He shouldn't be lumping everything together under intellectual property," Stallman said. "It's like confusing oceans and rivers - he's talking about different things."

Stallman originated the General Public Licence that entitles anyone to use the GNU tools and software - provided they share any modifications, additions or combinations of code that incorporates the original GNU code. Stallman is responsible for GNU Emacs, a complex programming editor for making changes to source code, and the GNU C compiler.

Stallman's rebellion against AT&T in 1984, when the company brought its Unix operating system back in-house and started charging for licenses, is often referred to as the start of the free software and open source code programming movements. Stallman resigned from his job at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the time, and started programming day and night to create a set of C development tools with which to generate free software, independent of AT&T licensing. GNU stands for Gnu's Not Unix.

The open source code Linux operating system frequently runs with a shell or command interface called BASH, the Bourne Again Shell, that was originated by Free Software Foundation developer Brian Fox.

Find out how the open-source movement is revolutionising the high-tech world at ZDNet UK's Linux Lounge.

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