BOOK: Free as in Freedom – Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software


You don’t have to agree with Richard Stallman’s politics to like this book. If your in the software development business and your interested in anything more than writing code, then you should read this book. Whatever you think of free software, Stallman was fundamental in changing the industry.

The book was packed with insights into Stallman and the history of free software.

The first is that Stallman is a very weird dude. When you read the book here are two things that jump out at you. First, you probably don’t want to have dinner with Stallman who apparently has a propensity for pull hair out of his own beard and dropping it in his soup at the dinner table. Second, he’s a very smart guy who doesn’t live on the same planet as the rest of us.

He believes (according to the book) that not only patents, but copyrights of all type and even agreeing to sign non-disclosure agreements are mortal sins. There’s no question that Stallman is a cross between a Socialist and an Anarchist (at least from my perspective.) 

For him Free software takes on a different feel than Open software. In fact, he seems to be somewhat famous for his dictatorial approach to software development, though publishing source code is part of his process.

As you read the book, you can’t help but admire his tenacity, he has accomplished a great deal, especially in light of the books descriptions that infer he has alienated most of the other open source luminaries that have had interactions with him.

After reading the book, I still don’t agree with all of Stallman’s politics. I still think that I should have the CHOICE as to whether or not to share my source code or not. I absolutely think I should have the right to charge for a software application that I write (If I choose to do so.)

Comments (6)

  1. Jeff says:

    While I have always found the arguement for free software interesting, how does he propose making a profit?

  2. SBC says:

    Right on Joe!

    "I still think that I should have the CHOICE as to whether or not to share my source code or not. I absolutely think I should have the right to charge for a software application that I write (If I choose to do so.)"

    I wrote something similar (comment at Somasegar’s blog posting) –

    "I don’t think things SHOULD BE free – it is the product-maker/developer’s freedom to decide what should be free and what should not, and that decision is his/her’s alone."

    Also see my recent posting –

  3. Ludootje says:

    Apparently your reading skills are lacking. Read the book again, you’ll notice he doesn’t have a problem *at all* with making money from your software. He just believes in sharing, because it’s a way to innovate, and to give your end users more freedom, choices and possibilities.

    RMS is a legend, his accomplishments are great, of which the GPL is probably the biggest.

    @Jeff: you’re allowed to ask money for your programs.  You just need to supply the source code as well. They call it free software, but free as in freedom, not as in free beer. Also, you can make money by selling services. The free software concept is working out quite well for OSDL, Redhat, Novell,… and it worked out great for JBoss, Ximian and SuSE, since they’ve been bought for a serious amount of money.

    @SBC: seriously, that was the most stupid remark in the entire post. How does he not give you the choice? It’s not like he’s forcing you to relicense your software, right? He’s just advocating it.

  4. Ludootje says:

    Just to make matters clear – I have no problem with you personally, Joe. On the contrary, I just stumbled upon your weblog and like what you’re writing. I just fundamentally disagree with this post.

    BTW, I don’t see what makes him a socialist. He believes in freedom, choices and innovation. What’s so socialistic about that?

  5. JoeStagner says:

    I think your wrong on several points.

    1.) If I am required to include source code with my commercial application then I greatly reduce my abilty to proffit from my work. If human nature afforded us a hight general morality but this is not the case.

    2.) I don’t know what Stallmans formal political affiliation is, but he clearly has socialist beliefs. He believes what I create does NOT belong to me, it belongs to everyone. That’s socialist – it’s NOT choice.

    3.) Stallman does NOT advocate free choice, he only advocates freedom AS DEFINED BY HIM.

    4.) Socialism aside he is clearly an anarchist as his own annectodes prove that he considers himself above the law and has demonstrated that people whos beliefes differ from him are not intitled to privacy and other legael protections.

    5.) I’d even argue that Stallman’s (attempted) dictatorial control of GNU projects reveal his communistic tendancies.

    Don’t get me wrong, his contribution is significant, but he should not be anyone’s hero.

  6. Ludootje says:

    You need a while to accept comments huh?