The 4 Software Freedoms according to Richard Stallman

Richard Stallman the founder of free software movement in his lecture at the University of British Columbia explains the 4 aspects of freedom when using a free software. Unfortunately we missed this event due to our client deadlines, well thank goodness for the YouTube and also this event was live blogged by my good friend @hummingbird604 here

According to him, a program is free software if you the user have the 4 essential freedoms

0. Freedom to run the program as you wish.
1. Freedom to study the source code of the program and then change it so the program does what you wish.
2. Freedom to help your neighbour. That’s the freedom to redistribute the exact copies of the software when you wish.
3. Freedom to contribute to your community. That’s the freedom to distribute copies or modified versions when you wish.

If the program gets you all these 4 essential freedoms, then it is free software.

7 thoughts on “The 4 Software Freedoms according to Richard Stallman”

  1. His discussion was rather substantive, and quite interesting. Unfortunately, his personality quirks made it difficult to actually discuss his concepts openly; he tolerates neither dissent nor openness of thought. I went to the first of the three Vancouver lectures, and posted a fairly long piece about the experience. I’d be interested in your thoughts:

  2. @Jeremy – he is a quite interesting guy, although after making this post I was told quickly by some of my twitter contacts that Free Software and Open Source software aren’t necessarily the same. Apparently free software is more of a social movement, vs. Open Source software is method of developing, distributing, and supporting a software.

    To me all of those 4 characteristics apply to most of the open source software that I have encountered, although I have a feeling many commercial open source developers tend to keep their distance from Richard Stallman so they won’t come out as “anti-capitalist” or “anti-business”.

    Being a diversity advocate I personally don’t think every software should be free. It is up to the creators to decide that.

  3. Stallman said that he is not anti-business, but he is against a totalitarian model of business (paraphrasing). I understand his points, but in the end, I agree with you and see room – and necessity – for proprietary systems as well.

    When I was writing a piece on a hybrid IP model for software (Stallman would blow a gasket since I put patent and copyright and a few other goodies all together in a multi-phase protection-and-release model), I compared the camps. I was erroneous in that I lumped FOSS all together as one, though I’m not convinced either that they are as separate as rms makes them out to be – but I criticized both the FOSS movements and the pro-proprietary camp for their zealous belief that “There can be only one.” Proprietary needs the innovation, the rebellion, the software-cowboy hacker creativity of Free Software and Open-Source software developers; and there would be no information revolution without the market penetration that only quasi-monopolistic proprietary systems can promulgate.

    Steve Bougerolle had some interesting and provocative comments on my post as well. He tends to lean quite close to rms’s stance, and is opposed to the IP umbrella, the paradigms it espouses, and the strategic compromises I advocated (which sent Stallman into a temper tantrum). I agree that the IP umbrella is flawed, and the very principals underlying the IP areas (primarily patent and copyright) are dangerously close to being houses of cards (at least in their current rhetorical implementations). I also think that there is a great deal of merit to the overarching IP paradigm. Though “intellectual property” may be too polemic and misleading, there are many threads uniting the concepts of patent, copyright, trademark, trade secrecy, licensing, etc., that could probably be better served with a re-invented implementation. Certainly software needs a new implementation, which was the impetus for my paper on the hybrid.

    I’m going to add a link too; I hope it drives some of the people reading my entry to read this thread too.

    How would one implement a multi-blog discussion technology? Aggregate the related posts on each blog, and echo the comments between them? That could be kinda cool. But you’re the social technology wiz…

  4. Rastin,

    I’ll be speaking at eLiberatica in Bucharest in May, where Stallman will also be speaking, talking about OSS in education.

    Need to get together (my treat this time) and chat about the Premier Go project, because that will be one of my topics …


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