Posted Dec 9, 2012 1:10 UTC (Sun) by man_ls
In reply to: Stallman: Ubuntu Spyware: What to Do?
Parent article: Stallman: Ubuntu Spyware: What to Do?
There are plenty of people who watch what is around them and draw short-lived conclusions that apply just to the specific situation. There are a few who try to reason from general principles so their arguments apply to any situation. Stallman is one of the latter; his four freedoms apply just as well to a world of PDP-11's as to the current generation of smartphones.
People nowadays complain that their smartphones are outdated and vendors don't upgrade them, just as 10 years ago they complained that their consoles didn't let them run independent (or unlicensed) games; and 50 years ago that IBM was ripping them off with their outrageous charges for software (that others were ready to provide quite cheaper). All symptoms of a deeper malady which is the lack of freedom, as correctly identified by Stallman about thirty years ago.
Many people are happy to live in walled gardens; the mainframes of yesterday, the iPhones of today. Stallman is shocked about it every time afresh. Reasonably clueful users can deal with problems that the unwashed masses suffer in silence; Stallman is willing to give everyone a safe computing experience.
You are correct that it is mostly developers who take advantage of these ideas; it is only logical that those who know how to write code would benefit from the freedom to modify a program's code. But let me remind you that millions of people can change the OS on their smartphones thanks to the GPLed Linux kernel, between others. There are also separate movements such as Creative Commons and Open Access which are based on the same principles and that reach a much wider and diverse segment of the population.
There are many holes in Richard's original reasonings, the biggest one being cryptographic jails (aka Tivoization), but to be fair it didn't exist back in the 1980s. The problems caused by the lack of this particular freedom (the "freedom to run modified versions", we might call it, which Stallman took for granted) are far reaching. And yet Stallman and the FSF have adapted to the situation, while others (prominently Torvalds and other kernel developers) have stuck with the old license -- and ideas.
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