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01.14.20

The FSF and GNU Need a Better Savannah to Attract GitHub Refugees

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 12:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Thomas Grzybowski quote
Credit: http://haku.co.uk/

Summary: Thomas Grzybowski’s explanation of why GitHub poses a risk to software freedom and what can be done about it

Yesterday we published a letter to Richard Stallman from Thomas Grzybowski. Stallman responded to it and has just received the follow-up below, which Thomas Grzybowski permitted us to republish here:

Richard,

Technology companies in general are in the business of imposing artificial controls on the creative marketplace, analogous to DeBeers with their diamonds. Thus we have copyright, and patents, and ever more sophisticated forms of control and coercion. GPL licensing is a legal and partial solution to the issues we face, yet entities which strive to profit in the realm of “intellectual property” do not restrict themselves to the domain of Law. Therefore I suggest that the Free Software movement focus additionally, more strongly, upon its roots – the users/developers, and their actual practice on the ground. The on-the-ground nexus of community, programming, and system development is where the enemies of software freedom are now staking their claims: in particular, GitHub.

GitHub is the prime location of one type of corporate control which must be addressed. You probably understand that “GitHub” properly, ideally, should be something provided by the Free Software Foundation. Savannah is a resource moving in the right direction, but now GitHub provides much more real-time interactivity along with certain elements from social media. Looking at GitHub as a type of social media, with its centralized platform, it is easy to see how Microsoft benefits from the users very much like Facebook does from its users: the loss of users’ privacy, with the concomitant collection of usage information gives Microsoft a powerful and insightful position over the development and marketing of Free Software projects. Such an environment is an ongoing injustice to the freedom of development of Free Software.

Another very serious concern about GitHub is that it enables Microsoft a direct avenue for censorship of software development. If you think that this might be far-fetched, you need only see that GitHub has already been forced to reject software from people working from countries that are being sanctioned by the US government. It is not a leap to imagine that this behavior might be only a beginning.

So what to do, specifically? It seems clear to me that the Free Software Foundation, or maybe Gnu Org. should embark on developing and implementing a successful competitor to GitHub, targeted specifically toward growing software freedom. Perhaps it can be based upon Savannah, or built from scratch. This project would be the one most important concrete action I can suggest right now, and I am willing to donate a substantial portion of my own time on such a project.

Thanks again,

Thomas Grzybowski

There might be more about this on the way.

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