Free Software, Free Society

Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman

Richard M. Stallman

Free Software, Free Society

This book collects the writing of hacker Richard Stallman in a manner that will make its subtlety and power clear. The essays span a wide range, from copyright to the history of the free software movement. They include many arguments not well known, and among these, an especially insightful account of the changed circumstances that render copyright in the digital world suspect. They will serve as a resource for those who seek to understand the thought of this most powerful man--powerful in his ideas, his passion, and his integrity, even if powerless in every other way. They will inspire other who would take these ideas, and build upon them.

When our world finally comes to understand the power and danger of code—when it finally sees that code, like laws, or like government, must be transparent to be free—then we will look back at this uncompromising and
persistent programmer and recognize the vision he has fought to make real: the vision of a world where freedom and knowledge survives the compiler. And we will come to see that no man, through his deeds or words, has done as much to make possible the freedom that this next society could have.

We have not earned that freedom yet. We may well fail in securing it. But whether we succeed or fail, in these essays is a picture of what that freedom could be. And in the life that produced these words and works, there is inspiration for anyone who would, like Stallman, fight to create this freedom.

The second edition of Free Software, Free Society holds updated versions of most of the essays from the first edition, as well as many new essays published since the first edition. The essays about software patents are now in one section and those about copyright in another, to set an example of not grouping together these two laws, whose workings and effects on software are totally different. Another section presents the GNU licenses, with a new introduction written with Brett Smith giving their history and the motives for each of them. One of the essays explains why software projects should upgrade to version 3 of the GNU General Public License. There is now a section on issues of terminology, since the way we describe an issue affects how people think about it. The last two sections describe some of the traps free software developers and users face—new ways to lose your freedom, and how to avoid them. We have also added an index, to complement the appendix on software.

Submitted by JLP on May 1, 2012, 4:13 p.m.
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