(Go: homepage of Ciarán O'Riordan
or: see Software freedom transcripts on fsfe.org)

Transcript: Richard Stallman - Tagus Park

This is a partial transcript of a talk given by Richard Stallman. An audio recording of the full talk is available at: http://bin.ansol.org/eventos/2003/Stallman/vorbis/taguspark.ogg

[taguspark.ogg 1:15:02]

The development of Linux was an important contribution to our community because that was the step that carried us across the finish line. Before that we had a collection of components that you could use on some other operating system - but you had to have another operating system first and of course that was never free. After Linux was added, there was a complete system, you could install it in a bare PC, you could actually get a modern computer and run it with free software. So the goal we had set out for explicitly in 1983 had been reached. But the mistake of calling the entire system "Linux" was a terrible blow to the free software movement because it broke the connection from our software to our philosophy.

Before that time, people who used some pieces of GNU on another system, knew that they were using pieces of GNU, they thought of themselves as GNU users, and so when they read the articles that describe our philosophy, the same philosophy I'm telling you about today, they would think about it carefully.

This didn't mean that they would always agree, but thinking about it seriously meant there was a good chance they would agree and if they did agree, they would then feel motivated to help develop more GNU. So the software spread the philosophy and the philosophy helped extend the software.

But when people started using, basically the entire GNU system, but thinking of it as "Linux" they were no longer lead to our philosophy, instead they were lead to the philosophy associated with the name Linux, which is the a-moral / a-political philosophy of Linus Torvalds. Linus Torvalds doesn't agree with most of what I've told you today. He doesn't believe that ethically speaking, users should have freedom to share and change software. In fact he develops non-free software in his job and says so to thousands of people. Now, he has a right to his views, but we think that our work should be associated with the views that motivated us to do it. The user should know that the system they're using is the result of many years sustained campaign for freedom. To have fun is a perfectly good motive to develop free software, to learn is a good motive, those were Linus Torvalds' motives, he says. And there is nothing to criticise in those motives, but those motives alone would never have gotten people to make the sustained effort that we made with the target of a completely free operating system. That required political idealism as well.

Nowadays, most of the users are not aware of this because they are never told this. And the result is the most ironic thing, they talk about the system as if it were merely an economic question, or an alternative to windows, and they say things like, when they do see our philosophy, they say "why should this matter to me, I'm a Linux user."

Now, if they knew that they were using the GNU/Linux system, they might see why it should matter to them, because they'd know they're GNU users. And it gets even worse, sometimes they say that this focus on freedom is a mistake because it interferes with the success of Linux. If only they knew. So, those people are not only mistaken about what Linux is, but they're confused about what success is too. They think that success means mere popularity. More users, for some body of software. Where did they get that idea? They probably carried it over without examination from the proprietary software world. Proprietary software developers measure their success by the number of users for a logical reason: they figure every user has to pay them so more users means more money. It's evil but it's rational. But when applied to Free Software, it's not rational. Why after all should we be emotionally attached to the number of users, of a particular kernel. That kernel works, it's free software, it's reliable, a lot of us use it. It does it's job, it's fine if more people use it, but that's not the overall purpose of things. That's not what's really important. Of course, some of them think that Linux means the entire GNU/Linux system so they want more people to use the system but why should we be emotionally attached to the number of users of one particular free operating system. It does it's job, it's good if more people use it, you could forgive me perhaps for being emotionally attached to it since I started it but even I realise that the popularity of the system is not what's important overall what's important is - freedom. Freedom to cooperate and treat each other decently.

Sometimes when people who think of themselves as "Linux users" see our philosophy they say "this is so idealistic, it must be impractical". If only they knew that the system they love is the practical fruit of this philosophy. They could still disagree with if they want, but they would have trouble calling it impractical, because in truth, there's nothing as practical as idealism. If you're trying to do a very big job, and you don't have billions of dollars, you must have idealism because only that will keep you going in the right direction until you get there. There is nothing more important for our community, then to remember the importance of freedom and that freedom is the reason for all this. If we forget the goal, we won't end up there. We'll drift away and end up somewhere else and we can already see that happening.

There's a tendency for various distributors of the GNU/Linux system to put non-free programs into it and say that it's an improvement. But there's nothing more important than remembering the goal of freedom. And this is why I ask people to please, stop calling the system "Linux", Linux is the name of one component - the kernel, the system as a whole is GNU/Linux, or GNU+Linux.

Sometimes people give me what they think is helpful and wise advice: that I shouldn't ask for this, they say "it doesn't look good to ask for credit", and that's true, so they say I should stop saying this, and when people call the system Linux, I should smile to myself and take pride in a job well done. This would be wise advice if the assumption were true, the assumption that the job is done. We made a great beginning, but we have come nowhere near finishing the job - consider - we developed a free operating system that's used by 10's of millions of people, but there are hundreds of millions of computers. Only a few percent are using the GNU/Linux system, so we've made a great start, but we have a long way to go and we've developed in our community two free operating systems, to free graphical desktops, two free office suites, and a number of applications but there are many more applications we need to reach the situation where you can do anything you want to do with a computer, you can do with Free Software because that would be the ultimate goal.

The first goal had to be a free operating system, because the operating system is the first thing you need in order to use a computer at all, it won't run without an operating system. But the ultimate goal is that everyone who wants to do things with a computer would be able to do it with free software people should never feel that they must choose between doing a necessary job on a computer and keeping their freedom so we have a lot more work to do. The job is not done.

And now we have something that we've never had before, we have enemies.

[taguspark.ogg 1:25:47]

(Go: homepage of Ciarán O'Riordan)

Valid XHTML 1.1! Powered by GNU Made with Emacs Become a
  Fellow of FSF Europe

I made these buttons, except the first one. Please copy, improve, and redistribute them!

Copyright 2005 Ciaran O'Riordan. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.