Stallman: If you want freedom don't follow Linus Torvalds

The founder of the Free Software Foundation asks readers whether they will fight for freedom or be too lazy to resist.

Last July 5th, Microsoft published the following statement: "While there have been some claims that Microsoft's distribution of certificates for Novell support services, under our interoperability collaboration with Novell, constitutes acceptance of the GPLv3 license, we do not believe that such claims have a valid legal basis under contract, intellectual property, or any other law." Are they preparing for battle?

Stallman: Microsoft is trying to deny that their contract with Novell means what it says. This shows that our efforts in GPLv3 to make their contract backfire against Microsoft are working. I believe Novell disagrees with Microsoft about this point, and says that the deal does apply to software under GPL version 3.

Their use of the term "intellectual property" is part of the propaganda. It is meant to discourage you from focusing on the specific law, patent law, which they have tried to use to prohibit free software. For instance, they don't want Brazilians to think, "If Microsoft wants to use software patents to obtain a government-imposed monopoly over operating system software, why should Brazil give them the chance to do so? Brazil should not authorize software patents."

Do you think that the free software community could win this war against Microsoft?

Stallman: Nobody knows who will win this fight, because the outcome depends on you and the readers. Will you fight for freedom? Will you reject Windows and MacOS and other non-free software, and switch to GNU/Linux? Or will you be too lazy to resist?

Some analysts are saying this kind of agreement between Microsoft and Novell is positive for consumers and can also popularize free software. That's because consumers will have more support from vendors in terms of interoperability and could run their applications in a better way. Do you agree with these arguments?

Stallman: That's like the argument that smoking tobacco is good for your health because it will help you lose weight. I don't know whether their claim about popularity is true in a narrow sense, but I'm sure it misses the point. It doesn't matter how popular GNU/Linux gets, if it fails to give you freedom. Microsoft's aim, in the deal with Novell, was to make people scared to run GNU/Linux without paying Microsoft for permission. That is why we designed GPLv3 to make it backfire.

As for interoperability, all we need to achieve full interoperability is for proprietary software developers to stop obstructing it.

With free software, the users are in control. Most of the time, users want interoperability, and when the software is free, they get what they want. With non-free software, the developer controls the users. The developer permits interoperability when that suits the developer; what the users want is beside the point.

Microsoft has frequently imposed non-interoperability; now, for example, it promotes the patented bogus "standard" OOXML instead of supporting Open Document Format. Microsoft believes it is so powerful that it can design an incompatible format, create obstacles to its implementation by others, and pressure most users to switch to it. Do you think users are really as foolish as Microsoft predicts?

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Peter Moon

Computerworld
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