Richard Stallman quotes

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Richard Stallman

Birthdate: 16. March 1953

Richard Matthew Stallman , often known by his initials, rms, and occasionally upper-case RMS, is an American free software movement activist and programmer. He campaigns for software to be distributed in a manner such that its users receive the freedoms to use, study, distribute, and modify that software. Software that ensures these freedoms is termed free software. Stallman launched the GNU Project, founded the Free Software Foundation, developed the GNU Compiler Collection and GNU Emacs, and wrote the GNU General Public License.

Stallman launched the GNU Project in September 1983 to create a Unix-like computer operating system composed entirely of free software. With this, he also launched the free software movement. He has been the GNU project's lead architect and organizer, and developed a number of pieces of widely used GNU software including, among others, the GNU Compiler Collection, GNU Debugger, and GNU Emacs text editor. In October 1985 he founded the Free Software Foundation . In September 2019, he resigned as president of the FSF and left his "visiting scientist" role at MIT. Stallman remains head of the GNU Project.Stallman pioneered the concept of copyleft, which uses the principles of copyright law to preserve the right to use, modify, and distribute free software, and is the main author of free software licenses which describe those terms, most notably the GNU General Public License , the most widely used free software license.In 1989, he co-founded the League for Programming Freedom. Since the mid-1990s, Stallman has spent most of his time advocating for free software, as well as campaigning against software patents, digital rights management , and other legal and technical systems which he sees as taking away users' freedoms. This has included software license agreements, non-disclosure agreements, activation keys, dongles, copy restriction, proprietary formats, and binary executables without source code. Wikipedia

„The hard part of programming is the same regardless of the language.“

—  Richard Stallman

"You broke the Internet. We're making ourselves a GNU one." (August 2013) https://gnunet.org/internetistschuld (around 02:16)
2010s
Context: Programming is programming. If you get good at programming, it doesn't matter which language you learned it in, because you'll be able to do programming in any language. The hard part of programming is the same regardless of the language. And if you have a talent for that, and you learned it here, you can take it over there. Oh, one thing: if you want to get a picture of a programming at its most powerful, you should learn Lisp or Scheme because they are more elegant and powerful than other languages.

„Freedom means not having a master. And in the area of computing, freedom means not using proprietary software.“

—  Richard Stallman

Free Software and Beyond: Human Rights in the Use of Software", address at Goeteborg, Sweden (16 May 2007)
2000s
Context: To have the choice between proprietary software packages, is being able to choose your master. Freedom means not having a master. And in the area of computing, freedom means not using proprietary software.

„I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it.“

—  Richard Stallman

1980s, GNU Manifesto (1985)
Context: I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others. I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this way. I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license agreement. For years I worked within the Artificial Intelligence Lab to resist such tendencies and other inhospitalities, but eventually they had gone too far: I could not remain in an institution where such things are done for me against my will.
So that I can continue to use computers without dishonor, I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I will be able to get along without any software that is not free. I have resigned from the AI lab to deny MIT any legal excuse to prevent me from giving GNU away.

„I didn't receive the DEC message, but I can't imagine I would have been bothered if I have. I get tons of uninteresting mail, and system announcements about babies born, etc.“

—  Richard Stallman

First reaction to reports of the first commercial "spam" email, sent by DEC salesman, Gary Thuerk (8 May 1978), as quoted in "Reaction to the DEC Spam of 1978" http://www.templetons.com/brad/spamreact.html#msg<!-- also only partially quoted in "Damn Spam", by Michael Specter, in The New Yorker (6 August 2007) http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/08/06/damn-spam -->
1970s
Context: I didn't receive the DEC message, but I can't imagine I would have been bothered if I have. I get tons of uninteresting mail, and system announcements about babies born, etc. At least a demo MIGHT have been interesting. … The amount of harm done by any of the cited "unfair" things the net has been used for is clearly very small. And if they have found any people any jobs, clearly they have done good. If I had a job to offer, I would offer it to my friends first. Is this "evil"? … Would a dating service for people on the net be "frowned upon" by DCA? I hope not. But even if it is, don't let that stop you from notifying me via net mail if you start one.

„Free software permits students to learn how software works.“

—  Richard Stallman

Why Schools Should Exclusively Use Free Software (2003) http://www.gnu.org/education/edu-schools.html
2000s
Context: Free software permits students to learn how software works. Some students, on reaching their teens, want to learn everything there is to know about their computer and its software. They are intensely curious to read the source code of the programs that they use every day. To learn to write good code, students need to read lots of code and write lots of code. They need to read and understand real programs that people really use. Only free software permits this.
Proprietary software rejects their thirst for knowledge: it says, “The knowledge you want is a secret — learning is forbidden!” Free software encourages everyone to learn. The free software community rejects the “priesthood of technology”, which keeps the general public in ignorance of how technology works; we encourage students of any age and situation to read the source code and learn as much as they want to know. Schools that use free software will enable gifted programming students to advance.

„In 1971 when I joined the staff of the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab, all of us who helped develop the operating system software, we called ourselves hackers.“

—  Richard Stallman

MEME 2.04, an interview with David S. Bennahum (1996) http://memex.org/meme2-04.html
1990s
Context: In 1971 when I joined the staff of the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab, all of us who helped develop the operating system software, we called ourselves hackers. We were not breaking any laws, at least not in doing the hacking we were paid to do. We were developing software and we were having fun. Hacking refers to the spirit of fun in which we were developing software. The hacker ethic refers to the feelings of right and wrong, to the ethical ideas this community of people had — that knowledge should be shared with other people who can benefit from it, and that important resources should be utilized rather than wasted. Back in those days computers were quite scarce, and one thing about our computer was it would execute about a third-of-a-million instructions every second, and it would do so whether there was any need to do so or not. If no one used these instructions, they would be wasted. So to have an administrator say, "well you people can use a computer and all the rest of you can't," means that if none of those officially authorized people wanted to use the machine that second, it would go to waste. For many hours every morning it would mostly go to waste. So we decided that was a shame. Anyone should be able to use it who could make use of it, rather than just throwing it away. In general we did not tolerate bureaucratic obstructionism. We felt, "this computer is here, it was bought by the public, it is here to advance human knowledge and do whatever is constructive and useful." So we felt it was better to let anyone at all use it — to learn about programming, or do any other kind of work other than commercial activity.

„GNU is not in the public domain. Everyone will be permitted to modify and redistribute GNU, but no distributor will be allowed to restrict its further redistribution.“

—  Richard Stallman

1980s, GNU Manifesto (1985)
Context: GNU is not in the public domain. Everyone will be permitted to modify and redistribute GNU, but no distributor will be allowed to restrict its further redistribution. That is to say, proprietary modifications will not be allowed. I want to make sure that all versions of GNU remain free.

„For personal reasons, I do not browse the web from my computer.“

—  Richard Stallman

OpenBSD mailing list (15 December 2007) http://lwn.net/Articles/262570/
2000s
Context: For personal reasons, I do not browse the web from my computer. (I also have no net connection much of the time.) To look at page I send mail to a daemon which runs wget and mails the page back to me. It is very efficient use of my time, but it is slow in real time.

„Without absolute certainty, what do we do? We do the best we can. Injustice is happening now; suffering is happening now. We have choices to make now.“

—  Richard Stallman

2000s, Thus Spake Stallman (2000)
Context: Religious people often say that religion offers absolute certainty about right and wrong; "god tells them" what it is. Even supposing that the aforementioned gods exist, and that the believers really know what the gods think, that still does not provide certainty, because any being no matter how powerful can still be wrong. Whether gods exist or not, there is no way to get absolute certainty about ethics. Without absolute certainty, what do we do? We do the best we can. Injustice is happening now; suffering is happening now. We have choices to make now. To insist on absolute certainty before starting to apply ethics to life decisions is a way of choosing to be amoral.

„Well, Geoff forwarded me a copy of the DEC message, and I eat my words. I sure would have minded it!“

—  Richard Stallman

Reaction to the first spam, after receiving a copy of it (9 May 1978) as quoted in "Reaction to the DEC Spam of 1978"
1970s
Context: Well, Geoff forwarded me a copy of the DEC message, and I eat my words. I sure would have minded it! Nobody should be allowed to send a message with a header that long, no matter what it is about.

„Value your freedom or you will lose it, teaches history.“

—  Richard Stallman

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/linŭ-gnu-freedom.html "Linŭ, GNU, and freedom" in LinŭWorld (May 2002) http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/linŭ-gnu-freedom.html
2000s
Context: Value your freedom or you will lose it, teaches history. "Don't bother us with politics," respond those who don't want to learn.

„We are not against the Open Source movement, but we don't want to be lumped in with them. We acknowledge that they have contributed to our community, but we created this community, and we want people to know this.“

—  Richard Stallman

1990s, Why "Free Software" is better than "Open Source" (1998)
Context: We are not against the Open Source movement, but we don't want to be lumped in with them. We acknowledge that they have contributed to our community, but we created this community, and we want people to know this. We want people to associate our achievements with our values and our philosophy, not with theirs. We want to be heard, not obscured behind a group with different views. To prevent people from thinking we are part of them, we take pains to avoid using the word "open" to describe free software, or its contrary, "closed", in talking about non-free software.

„Hundreds of thousands of babies are born every day. While the whole phenomenon is menacing, one of them by itself is not newsworthy.“

—  Richard Stallman

His reaction to a baby announcement on a SFBA social mailing list (21 February 1993), as quoted in "RMS -vs- Doctor, on the evils of Natalism" at Art.net http://www.art.net/Studios/Hackers/Hopkins/Don/text/rms-vs-doctor.html
1990s
Context: Hundreds of thousands of babies are born every day. While the whole phenomenon is menacing, one of them by itself is not newsworthy. Nor is it a difficult achievement — even some fish can do it. (Now, if you were a seahorse, it would be more interesting, since it would be the male that gave birth.)... These birth announcements also spread the myth that having a baby is something to be proud of, which fuels natalist pressure, which leads to pollution, extinction of wildlife, poverty, and ultimately mass starvation.

„Isn't it ironic that the proprietary software developers call us communists? We are the ones who have provided for a free market, where they allow only monopoly.“

—  Richard Stallman

“Free Software in Ethics and Practice” talk at CMC MSU, Moscow, Russia, (3 March 2008) Text http://phobos.cs.msu.su/FTP/Stallman/rms-cmc.txt · ogg file http://sbos.in/RMS_Lection.ogg · YouTube http://youtube.com/watch?v=GrJpXJY4Oow
2000s
Context: Isn't it ironic that the proprietary software developers call us communists? We are the ones who have provided for a free market, where they allow only monopoly. … if the users chooses this proprietary software package, he then falls into this monopoly for support … the only way to escape from monopoly is to escape from proprietary software, and that is what the free software movement is all about. We want you to escape and our work is to help you escape. We hope you will escape to the free world. The free world is the new continent in cyberspace that we have built so we can live here in freedom. It's impossible to live in freedom in the old world of cyberspace, where every program has its feudal lord that bullies and mistreats the users. So, to live in freedom we have to build a new continent. Because this is a virtual continent, it has room for everyone, and there are no immigration restrictions. And because there were never indigenous peoples in cyberspace, there is also no issue of taking away their land. So everyone is welcome in the free world, come to the free world, live with us in freedom. The free software movement aims for the liberation of cyberspace and everyone in it.

„One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control.“

—  Richard Stallman

"Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder Richard Stallman", in The Guardian (29 September 2008)
2000s
Context: One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control. It's just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else's web server, you're defenceless. You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that software.

„I always expect to lose. I fight anyway, and sometimes I win.“

—  Richard Stallman

"Interview: Richard Stallman" on Kernel (4 January 2005) http://archive.is/20120711223115/kerneltrap.org/node/4484
2000s
Context: I am a pessimist by nature. Many people can only keep on fighting when they expect to win. I'm not like that, I always expect to lose. I fight anyway, and sometimes I win.
I'm not the main leader in this particular battle. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is fighting. Public Knowledge is fighting. People need to get involved politically. At this point people should go to the EFF website and the Public Knowledge website, and continue doing so over the coming weeks to see how they can get involved in this coming campaign. It's going to take a lot of people spending probably at least twenty minutes. If you care enough about your freedom to spend twenty minutes on it, if you can tear yourself away from whatever little job it is you're doing this week, and next week, and so on. Spend a little time fighting for your freedom, and we can win.

„Standing up to an evil system is exhilarating, and now I have a taste for it.“

—  Richard Stallman

2000s, Thus Spake Stallman (2000)
Context: If in my lifetime the problem of non-free software is solved, I could perhaps relax and write software again. But I might instead try to help deal with the world's larger problems. Standing up to an evil system is exhilarating, and now I have a taste for it.

„The War on Drugs has continued for some 20 years, and we see little prospect of peace, despite the fact that it has totally failed and given the US an imprisonment rate almost equal to Russia.“

—  Richard Stallman

2000s, Thus Spake Stallman (2000)
Context: The War on Drugs has continued for some 20 years, and we see little prospect of peace, despite the fact that it has totally failed and given the US an imprisonment rate almost equal to Russia. I fear that the War on Copying could go on for decades as well. To end it, we will need to rethink the copyright system, based on the Constitution's view that it is meant to benefit the public, not the copyright owners. Today, one of the benefits the public wants is the use of computers to share copies.

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