Yahoo! and Open Source … and Richard Stallman?

I nearly fainted and then turned bright red when I got this email:

Hello –

I’m assisting Richard M Stallman of the GNU project. He has asked me to find the email address of the author of
https://amandakerik.wordpress.com/2007/06/25/yahoo-open-source-censorship-an-actual-response/
.
Because there was no address posted on the blog itself, I looked on the web and found this address (my email address here) in an Ubuntu forum post. Are you the author of the blog?

If you are not the author, I apologize for taking your time.

Regards,
Michael Hannon

Ok, perhaps a bit of background… I know who Richard Stallman is, I read a very interesting ebook about him and I’ve admired him ever since. (it’s odd that I didn’t blog about that, but I must have been busy) The very, very short version? He started the GNU project. That’s huge!

I did a bit of checking, and this looks legit, so it should be interesting to see where this goes!

I replied with the very short:

Hi Michael, yep, I’m the author of that post. What are you looking for?
Amanda

To which I got a quick reply of:

Hi –

Thanks!

I was just asked to find your address; I think RMS wants to know more about what happened when your post was deleted. He’ll probably be in touch in the next few days.

Regards,
Michael Hannon

I… well, at the risk of sounding like a teenager… I think this is sooo fucking cool!

[Edit] Ok, update time:

This is the email I got from RMS (Richard M. Stallman):

I saw your blog about the censored Yahoo post, and I get the
impression that you appreciate the freedom aspect of free software.
Would you perhaps like to support the free software movement publicly?

Well, as my friends know, I tend to get ticked off at limits, so duh I’m a supporter of free and open source software.

I replied with:

Quite true, what did you have in mind? Most of the people I talk to on a regular basis (both online and locally) have been persuaded to switch to various open source programs; usually Firefox and GNU/Linux.
I’m wondering about the scope / scale of what you have in mind,
Amanda

The message I got back was an auto-reply (I’ll include it if anyone’s interested), then:

The easiest thing that you could do, that would help us substantially,
is simply to say “free software”. Often our movement is hidden and
forgotten behind the very different idea of “open source”.

See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html
for more explanation of the difference.

It’s useful occasionally to add a little text to clarify that it’s
free as in freedom, not gratis. For instance, to say “free
(freedom-respecting) software”, “free/libre software”, etc. You might
do this for the first mention of “free software” in any article or
message.

If you want to help more, you could do things such as join the FSF,
start a GNU/Linux User Group, start a Free Software Activist Group,
organize anti-DRM protests for DefectiveByDesign.org, become a free
software movement speaker, etc.

Up until this point I had read about the free software / open source debate, but didn’t really grasp the difference. I had assumed that they had a huge amount of overlap (they do, right now), and it was a purple / indigo kind of debate.

After reading the linked article, I see the difference, and I’ll more than willingly go on record to state I’m in favour of free (freedom respecting) software.

Here’s the difference: It’s possible to create an open source version of a limiting technology (activex, drm, etc), but it’s against what free (freedom respecting) software is focused on.

The similarities between the two camps are too numerous to list at the moment, but the underlying values are different. Open source is, as RMS says in his article, purely practical. There are no values, no right or wrong, in open source. The focus is to get software that works. Right, wrong or sideways, if it works, anyone can look at the source, contribute to it, etc it’s open source.

Free (freedom respecting) software ventures into the “is this a good idea” or “is this limiting” areas – to some it’s essentially “is this being written for the right reasons”.

I believe in the radical (apparently) idea that each person is responsible for his / her actions, and that putting limits that are illegal to break only stops the people who have good intentions from doing it – and just succeeds in taking away their rights. People who are determined to do what they want, will do it.

This is why DRM on music is very short sighted – it only limits those who don’t have the interest to get around it, which admittedly is a lot of people. It doesn’t stop the official target – people that want to go around DRM will. But then we get into the next question: is DRM really for the people who “steal” music?

I see us being marched towards a Microsoft version of music – you don’t ever get to buy it, you rent it. You “license” it. You get to “rent” a song for each type of media player you want to play it on, which always has a “renewal” date – when you pay again to be able to play the same music as before. You don’t pay? You lose the music.

Am I the only person who sees something wrong with this? (They’re already doing it by the way, it’s just not systematic right now.)

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One Response to “Yahoo! and Open Source … and Richard Stallman?”

  1. mizjupiter Says:

    Alright! This could be highly interesting in a multitude of ways. Way to go!

    *grins* Thanks


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