Bonum Certa Men Certa

History of FSF and Free Software Matters

By figosdev

History of Greece

Summary: Remarks on Richard Stallman, whose signature now emphasises that he founded the FSF and probably belongs back in its board

List of important Pro-Stallman, Pro-Free Software points to maintain at this time:

1. Everything that has happened up to this point is history -- in the sense that history should be preserved and retold, that it contains invaluable lessons for the present and future. We can’t let history be rewritten -- and we should learn and teach more about the history of Free software.

(Note, I find it disgusting the way Open Source has year after year tried to paint his contributions as something relevant to the past only -- as a way of shoving him out of a metaphorical door, and advocate doing precisely the opposite.)

2. Stallman built all of this. Sure he had lots of help -- Every large endeavour is about more than one person. Physics is about more than Einstein. But Einstein changed physics with the theory of relativity and Stallman changed computing with Free software. Apart from simply having integrity, the importance of recognising this as well as point 1, is that it preserves very important lessons about Software Freedom. You can’t preserve history and let credit-stealers speak over the people who deserve the real thanks. Because they will only mislead people.

3. Calling the operating system GNU -- I tell people (whether they are unsympathic or not) that when people call it GNU, this is a good sign they care about your freedom. When they call the OS “Linux” this is not a good sign -- I’ve personally found this holds true as often as not, it’s a good rule.

4. Supporting the FSF is important for several reasons, including holding them to the mission of Free software, keeping up the ratio of Stallman supporters involved, maintaining the Free Software Directory and other valuable infrastructure, as well as their legal team and maintenance of Free software licenses. Some people think it would be better to replace the FSF outright; these are some of the reasons that it would be better to keep the FSF going.

5. RYF is a valuable programme that should continue as well.

6. Copyleft is the reason that many important Free software projects succeed. Open Source aggressively pushes permissive licensing, even for projects that are important which will suffer from such licensing. The FSF recommends a copyleft license such as the GPL (generally speaking, the GPL) for any source over 300 lines.

7. We should defend Free software advocates, particularly Stallman, from any untrue and unfair statements to smear him.

8. Although it is important to preserve Stallman’s legacy, he still has contributions to make and we should make certain he has a vehicle (a metaphorical home, online and in terms of an organisation) for those contributions at all times. A real, literal home is also important of course, but a home in the sense that the FSF was a home is something we should continue to provide. Whatever community standards we keep, they should not exclude RMS.

9. It may take time, but Bruce Perens was able to return to the OSI board after leaving, and we should be certain to get Stallman reinstated to the FSF board at an ideal time in the not-too-distant future. It is one thing to step down as President -- the board is greatly diminished without him and he should have never left the board without great protest and great effort to retain his seat regardless of circumstances. His resignation from the board should not have even been accepted. (I’m not the only person to say this.)

10. There are other points that will prove equally important, but this is a good place to start. Although the importance of Stallman’s work deserves acknowledgement and many of us admire him greatly, none of this is solely about paying tribute, or solely about admiration or respect. In addition to being about respect, these are importantly all points relevant and key to future strategies regarding Free software. We need to build the future on a solid foundation, and Stallman’s work and advocacy is the most solid foundation we could build the future on. So it is not just important to Stallman and to fairness -- it is equally important to everything we do regarding Free software.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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