There’s open source, then there’s the folks who think Linus Torvalds is a flaming neo-con. Count Richard Stallman amongst that group. Reading the current issue of Wired, I noted this letter to the editor:

Bruce Sterlings article “Freedom’s Dark Side” (View Wired 11.09) makes a mountain out of a molehill. Arkan commits mass murder, and Bosnians retaliate by redistributing his wife’s song. Instead of being horrified by this, we ought to commend the Bosnians for their restraint.

We should also remember that if you buy the typical commercial CD, neither the lead nor the backup musicians will ever see a penny of your money. Internet music sharing should be legal for the sake of music lovers and music. And published software should be free software, so users can freely cooperate and control their own computers.

Richard Stallman
President, Free Software Foundation
Cambridge, Massachusetts

First, as Bruce Sterling notes in his piece, “In 1989, European civil society tore the guts out of Communism. When the Europeans won the Cold War, they got a bonus the US never did: zillions of eager former Commies. For these New Europe types, open source is a great, glittering step up from the vile product they’re used to: broken-open source software, as in pirated CDs sold off blankets at flea markets.”

Second Stallman views commercial software as a social problem. From his own writings, “As one person put it, ‘Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement.’ For the Open Source movement, non-free software is a suboptimal solution. For the Free Software movement, non-free software is a social problem and free software is the solution.”

Now it appears that music (and eventually all digital goods) are covered under his agenda. The masses own the means of production – from each nothing, to each their appetites fulfilled. There is nothing inherently wrong with free (or open source) software. If people are willing to work for free to produce content they intend to give away for free that is a choice of free will. When the producers of goods require payments for their efforts that is, in addition to being exceedingly rational, entirely appropriate. Markets and consumers will judge whether the product is worth the asking price.

Stealing the product, regardless of the extreme moral relativism employed by Stallman, is wrong. And he’s not just talking about teenagers downloading copyrighted materials on Kazaa, he wants the remove the rights of the content producers as well. Your output as an artist (or programmer) belongs to EVERYONE. Replace the word EVERYONE with STATE and what do you get?


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One Response

  1. Francis W. Porretto October 19, 2003