Copyright versus Community in the Age of Computer Networks

I’ve been in New Zealand for a couple of weeks, and in the North Island it was raining most of the time. Now I know why they call gumboots “Wellingtons”. And then I saw somebody who was making chairs and tables out of ponga wood, and he called it fern-iture. Then we took the ferry to get here, and as soon as we got off, people started mocking and insulting us; but there were no hard feelings, they just wanted to make us really feel Picton.

The reason people usually invite me to give speeches is because of my work on free software. This is not a talk about free software; this talk answers the question whether the ideas of free software extend to other kinds of works. But in order for that to make sense, I’d better tell you briefly what free software means.

Free software is a matter of freedom, not price, so think of “free speech”, not “free beer”. Free software is software that respects the user’s freedom, and there are four specific freedoms that the user deserves always to have.

Freedom 0 is the freedom to run the program as you wish.
Freedom 1 is the freedom to study the source code of the program and change it to make the program do what you wish.
Freedom 2 is the freedom to help your neighbour; that is, the freedom to redistribute copies of the program, exact copies when you wish.
And Freedom 3 is the freedom to contribute to your community. That’s the freedom to publish your modified versions when you wish.

— source | Richard Stallman

Nullius in verba


Free Software is About Software Ownership

“Free software” is a confusing name/term. The “free” here means freedom. So it is freedom software. But to exercise freedom you need something more. What is that? You have to own the software. Therefore, free software is about ownership of software.

All software is free software for its owners

Take any software. Who owns that software? User, seller, developer, lawyer or whoever it is, if they have the ownership of some software, then that software is a free software for him/her/them. Majority of software/programs used nowadays are owned by software companies. So we can say majority of software/programs are free software for those companies.

Private software

These companies can sell software, modify software, share, or ‘open’ their software. They can have or exercise full rights over it. Others — including users — have limited ownership; only things which are allowed by the owner/company. In other words, these software programs are privately-owned software. So let’s call them private software.

Problems with private software

There are lots of issues with private software. As a user, you can only run the software if you’ve paid the license fee. You cannot use it in a different way from what they they allowed (for example, a 10-user licensed software cannot be used by 11 users). You cannot give it to a friend. You cannot modify anything in there. You cannot know what the software does behind the scenes. The list goes on.

Public software

Because of all these issues, in 1983 a person named Richard Stallman began a movement. Its aim was to give full control, full rights and full ownership of software to the person who uses it. That was the Free Software Movement. At that time it was an Utopian idea. Nobody cared for it. But because of his and his group’s persistence and commitment they could made it a reality. So software got public ownership. That is Free software. Let us call it public software.

Impact of public software

What will happen if the public gains ownership of software? Then, no private person can control software.

– Cannot sell copies of software.
– Companies can charge a price for software (maximum) only one time.

In effect, companies will lose control and profit. Will they accept that?

No way. Anything that that is publicly owned will cause reduction in profits of companies. Look around and learn about the idea of public education, public health care, public housing, public utilities etc. So, they will find ways to destroy the idea of public ownership. If anything publicly owned is still existing, they will make it corrupt and finally dismantle it, because people don’t understand their value when they exist and they are always distracted.

They know that if you attack anything directly, that will always strengthen that. Understand please, they have 10,000 years of history in ruling humankind. So to attack public software they’ve created decoys. Then they attribute some ideas of public software to those decoys and they’ve slanted the game.

For all these games there’s no need for any secret conspiracy or anything like that. The system is self-sustaining. So it will work automatically. Whatever we do in this system, it only strengthen the system unless we’re consciously and purposefully doing something against it. Still, that also not 100% effective.

So instead of dealing with public software, i.e. Free software, they are playing with decoys. There are lots them now. Open Source (OSS), FOSS etc. are among the notable examples.

What do OSS and FOSS do?

They imitate the Free Software Movement. They turned the idea of public ownership of software upside down by ignoring the user or removing the user from the picture. They marked users as dumb and passive actors. (They appear only when talking about their dumbness, which means “user friendliness”.[joke]) Now, who is in the picture? It’s the software providers. Who are they? Programmers and mostly companies.

They hide companies as next twist. They put the spotlight on a poor, intelligent, isolated, expert programmer who is trying to save the world from some “xyz”. With these two twists they completely changed the narrative.

Then again, they introduced another twist. That is changing the objective. Instead of user’s ownership they use “Opening” of source code. Does software closed in some container? What you mean by open? What a stupid idea. Source code is always open. Problem is whether you have rights or not. They are just fooling all the people, who should get full ownership of software in the first place.

By hiding the user they removed the politics of ownership and rights of users. By hiding the companies as the main actors, they concealed the profit motives and vested interests of companies. By hiding the objective of free software, they reduced it to nothing. Now there is nothing left in free software. What a perfect decoy!

From 1998 onwards they not only started but exacerbated this. Since companies are backing them they have had huge funds, they could literally buy all media, pundits and of course the developers. Now all these developers are doing Gig 2.0, which means unpaid voluntary work for companies, dreaming that their code is saving the planet (which actually is destroyed it by the same masters themselves). Media is flooded with their narcissistic “success” stories. These high-end organised works may have completely destroyed the Free Software Movement within its founder’s lifetime.

First-generation Free software activists retired. Second-generation Free software activists are in the OSS/FOSS trap. Third-generation Free software activists actually don’t know what Free software is. These people think that the OSS/FOSS things are the movement. The bad things these companies are doing stomped/stepped on the movement, too. They fired the founder from his own organisation. But there is a complete silence from these kids. They are busy writing gratis code for the masters. This is the situation now.

Wake up, Free software friends

This is nothing new. Think about the Great Depression. People suffered a lot. They politically organised and forced the person in charge to implement their demands. The New Deal era began. Then what happened to it? Gradually it got destroyed, causing another great depression in 2008. So, if we loosen our attention a little bit, they will turn things upside down in their own favor. Same thing has happened to the Free Software Movement, too.

Software freedom is like democracy. Initially it was just ‘there’, albeit only for white land-owning men. There were other people and they protested to get representation. With a long struggle — one by one — new groups got chances in democracy.

Like the above, nowadays software is only free for the private owners. We cannot let this current status quo continue. We have to fight to get the ownership and rights. We have to end this rebranding of Free software by OSS/FOSS kind of ‘corporate pimps’. So let’s work for a strong software freedom movement that empowers users as well as developers.

Long live the GPL.

Note: This is part of the software freedom series. To see all posts please go to FSM category.

Written by: Jagadees.S

Nullius in verba

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Your Code Will be Counted in a One Dollar-One Vote World

Around 300 years back human society moved or transitioned into a new order. It’s nowadays called democracy. Therein, elected representatives shall rule the country instead of kings. Seems like a good idea. But there is one problem. To elect a leader you have to cast a vote. Only land-owning white men got right to vote. After a long struggle all the people got the right to vote. We got democracy.

But somebody said this democracy is a system by which to protect the minority from the majority. That’s good, right? You’d think so. But who are the “minority” and who are the “majority”? Usually they lie to you. So you may get the wrong image in your mind. The real minority is the rich people… and the real majority is the poor people.

What will happen if all the people get a right to vote? The poor will win. Have you ever seen that anywhere in the world? Sometimes, somewhere, for a short period of time. Then things will turn upside down.

How do they do that?

There are lots of ways for this thing to happen. Here I am looking at one particular tactic which is interesting to me. That is “One dollar-one vote.”

As per democracy, the rule is “one person-one vote.” That will not give the ‘desired’ results (for the rich). So they use their ‘money power’ to buy democracy. That tactic is called “one dollar-one vote.” There are rules that stop the amount of money spent on elections. But with Citizens United all control is gone and corporates are given First Amendment protections. (But Stallman will not get it.)

In the 2016 US election, the richest 0.01% of Americans – 24,949 very wealthy people – gave a record-breaking 40 percent of all campaign contributions. Corporates gave $3.4 billion dollars in contributions. Whoever got most of the money got a more successful campaign, silenced all opponents, and won the election. So the dollar is counted in elections. One dollar, one vote.

Censoring free speech with code

People should get freedom of speech. But in the Free software movement, since 1998, you get some people showing this “one dollar-one vote” mindset. Here, they’re kind of saying, “one line of code, one word.” Meaning — if you write one line of code for a future corporate takeover, then you can say one word. The more LOCs you have, the more you can talk. “Show me your code” — what a barbarian Citizens United thought it is. It is nothing but pure censorship. Shame on you. In modern societies people must have/get rights of speech.

The Free software movement is a user’s rights movement

It is a political movement started by Richard Stallman in 1983 to free all computer users from the chains of software. It does not care how you’ve developed the software. It cares only about whether the user owns the software or not. That is the main question. Of course it creates problems and causes damage to corporate greed.

Its survival depends on how much free speech (about its politics) can happen. And it is clear that those who are trying to suppress that free speech have vested interests like Citizens United.

That is wrong. Ignore them. So people without code, please speak up for the movement loudly.

Written by: Jagadees.S

Nullius in verba

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The Free Software Movement Should Come Out From the Box

Majority of the software freedom activists are software developers. When Richard Stallman began this movement back in 1983 there were no working free software systems. So the movement was in dire need for software developers — to build the system. Developers who were getting motivated by Stallman joined the movement and developed tens of thousands of Free software programs. They continued with the movement. So most of the people in the movement were developers.

Not a developers’ movement

These developers focused more on the engineering side of Free software programs. Actually, the movement was really political. It’s about users’ rights. But most of the developers still never get it, especially the newly-joined ones (after 1998). To them, users’ rights are secondary, or they may not be aware of those rights at all. They see Free software as a charity — something to be gifted from/by them.

Because of that, those ‘diluted’ propitiatory groups — groups such as OSS, FOSS etc (1) with lots of money from corporates — could re-brand, hijack and even forced the founder of the movement to resign without the real beneficiaries knowing what was happening. (2)

Users are in the dark

The real beneficiaries of a Free software program are its users. There are millions of people on this planet using Free software daily. But they don’t know anything about software freedom and why they got this software for free. They are not aware of their rights. It’s just like slaves in the old world’s slavery.

So those who are really committed to software freedom must change their perspective. From now onwards we have to think from a user’s rights perspective and mobilise users of Free software. They should know what rights they ought to get.

Avoid traps that distract

When some crime happens various people will shout, “we need stronger laws so that nobody will repeat the crime.” Then politicians spend lots of energy and time to make changes in laws and systems. But the same crimes will be repeated after some time.

Why is this happening? This is because we are not analysing these issues deeply. Superficial changes may look good, but such an exercise is useless.

1. No new laws are required

The recent events in the Free software community make people think that there is something wrong with the community. That is correct. But it not because of inadequacies in the laws of software freedom. The laws of software freedom are already there. So no need for new laws or regulations. We don’t have to consider the developers at all. If there is a demand for GPLed software, you will get many developers to work on it. GPL is ultimate. No need of amendments.

We want everybody to follow the GPL licence. Of course it’s an ideal case. So, just have a think and make some adjustments for specific cases. But never spend more time and focus on finding exceptions. Any exception we add is an anti-Free software clause. So exceptions should be verbal.

2. Transforming users into developers will not help

Let’s say there is something wrong with a door. You have to fix it. For that you don’t have to buy all the pertinent tools and learn carpentry. All you have to do is just call a carpenter. He will fix it.

It is the human way of doing things. We are extremely social animals. We divide work to get maximum efficiency. Other animals do things by themselves with instincts. Because doing your carpentry work by yourself is costly and risky you may not try going for that. Everybody knows that.

But programing is a ‘cheap’ activity. It does not cost you much. Also, it’s an interesting kind of work; it’s fun too. So people may get exited about seeing their first “Hello World” program displayed on a screen. But actually it’s a rabbit hole.

Let’s say you are an accountant. You go to work for 8 hours, you can use the rest of the time as you like. Then you get a copy of an accounting Free software program with minimal features. Since it is a Free software program you will be having its source code and all the rights. Then, in your free time you start to learn programing, start fixing bugs, then adding features etc. You spend a huge amount of time on it. Soon you will become an expert programmer. You may get lots of appreciation. You will become “famous”.

Now, one day some company sees potential in this software and wants to buy it. You may even get more exited. Such and such big company is having discussions with you, and finally they give a huge amount of money. You and the team accept that. All are happy.

Do you think it is right? Most of the people out there think that it’s right. For your contribution you got enough money. To live, software developers need money.

Privatisation of Free software

Tens of thousands of people are working in Free software development as volunteers. All new software developments are built on top of older knowledge base or software. So how can your team sell your software to a propitiatory software company? Looks like capitalism has found free labour.

Till now capitalists have considered natural resources, slave labourers etc as free gifts of nature. Now they have a new item in that list. That is Free software developed by apolitical programmers. It is privatisation of Free software. It is unethical. It is wrong. But it is profitable for propitiatory software companies.

Why is this happening? Because the Free software activists don’t have strong political beliefs in what they are doing. They are alienated. They don’t see the real importance of their work. If you are not careful, then the programming, the fetish about your own software etc makes you apolitical and alienated.

I can get tens of thousands of software developers, but hardly can I get even a few dozens of Free software activists with strong Free software politics. So we should not spend time and energy to teach people programming. Its not the job of Free software activists.

Similarly, users need not fix or develop the software by themselves. They can hire a developer to fix it for them and for the whole world.

Politics is the most important thing

Whereas politics of the Free software movement is most important, it’s “boring” as per popular culture. That itself is the evidence that it is important. So we all have to spend more time and effort on that part. Even after 35 years many people and media attribute to Stallman a movement which is opposite to his. What a shameful situation. It is our failure. That happens because of lacking political teachings. That forced him to resign — because of a stupid smear campaign.

This should not have happened. We have to work hard to make the political side of Free software more mainstream.

The real political movement

You may have seen lots of protests by the environmentalists in front of fossil fuel companies. You may have seen healthcare activists protesting against drug companies and hospital lobbyists. They are not building their own ethical energy companies or ethical drug companies or teaching people how to make drugs. They are politically acting for the system to change. That is the human way to do things.

Similarly, our problem is also political. Politically it has to be fixed. The Free software programs developed till now are a demonstration of that. Stallman was showing that it is possible to develop software for the community. Now we need the real political movement. Think about a situation like hundreds of people protesting in front of a propitiatory software company and demanding Free software. We have to achieve that. Sure, it is a ambitious plan. But it is possible. Even users knowing about their rights would itself be a revolutionary thing. So let’s work for a strong Free software users community.

Note: I am not against users learning programming. There may be lot of Free software users who became good programmers. But I see only very few people in this world being attacked for talking about politics of software!

Written by: Jagadees.S

Nullius in verba

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Linux is junk, but GPL is for ever

Once in a while people used to say that the lovely programs they used becomes obsolete. Then talk about its nostalgia.

What will be the status of linux kernel after 100 years? Lets say 50 years? Will it be there supporting the new technologies of that time? I don’t think so.

Linux like all other technologies may not able to adapt to those new environments.

Where as GPL is eternal. As far as there is software, the rules of GPL will be valid.

I am not discrediting the huge work of linux community creating and supporting the first working GPL supported kernel.

I am a C++ programmer by myself. But the short sighted, selfish, egoistic, stupid way programmer in free software community thinking about their work forcing me to write these words.

So don’t be fetish about software you write. Spread awareness about politics of software freedom.

Note: GPL means Gnu General Public License. Because of this license thousands of developers joined to develop linux kernel for Gnu project. Linux kernel was compiled by gcc compiler which is part of the bigger Gnu project. Young Linux Torvalds got motivated by the gcc compiler’s GPL license and he also released his code under GPL.

Written by: Jagadees.S

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Use and throw culture based on lies can’t be coming from Free Software philosophy

In any society there will always lot of heavy works to be done. Sometimes it may not be visible and sometime its happen as a sudden disaster.

For example 9/11 was a sudden disaster. 2,977 people got killed immediately. The twin towers fell down. Huge amount of debris and dust piled up. Nobody knows whether there any living person in that debris. Also the place has to be cleanup.

That was an emergency. Lot of ordinary patriotic Americans united there and started rescue operation and cleanup. They worked very hard. And foundation stone for a new tower was laid. Bush thanked everyone. All called them as true heroes. Bush went to Iraq and after few months everything became normal.

But what happened to these rescue workers? Anybody asked? Any media talk shows? Nothing. Its American ethics. Use and throw.

But there a hidden danger. The dust from the debris was poisonous. More than 20k workers got affected by that. All got lung diseases and cancers. These never became a burning issue. America ignored these patriotic citizens. Government ignored them.

Even Michael Moore took few of them to Guantanamo because the prisoners there are getting better health care than the American patriots. But they could not enter there. So he took them to Cuban hospitals. See that part in his documentary Sicko, the woman was crying and saying its an insult to get medicine in few cents. (Similar thing happened few weeks back when Bernie Sanders took few American patients to Canada.) Still these poor innocent people are fighting for life.

FSF is corrupt, Fix it

Similar thing happened to Stallman. Actually in an ironic way. This community is created by Stallman only. By 1980s beginning software sharing community was ceased to exist. Then 1983 Stallman himself gave birth to a new community with all legal protection. Because before there were no legal framework for sharing software. Stallman used copyleft idea and GPL to create such a community. There were no help and there were no support. Last 35 years he worked for that.

Now some new bosses think that he dont look good. He is boring, repeating same thing all these 35 years. Lets get rid off him. You idiots, actually this is his house. You people piggybacked there.

Still you can have a say if Stallman did anything wrong about free software. But there is nothing he did wrong. Still again I may support you if you with some guts initiate a trial against him on your own behalf. But you did nothing. Instead what you a shameless creature did? Hiding bind an upset woman reacting to smear campaign and lies. This is unacceptable and unethical.

And this happens in a time when the top propitiatory software development companies branding themselves as OEM Source Software companies (Open Source), rewriting history and attacking freedom of users. So attack on Stallman cannot be considered as just his own personal issues.

FSF, the most important thing an organization need is it integrity to its cause. So FSF correct your actions. Apologize to Stallman and get him back. We want a united FSF under Stallman.

Written by: Jagadees.S

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Free software is not an ethical issue, its a user right issue

In 1983 Richard Stallman began the battle of software freedom. Nobody was with him at that time. He alone fought for it. This happened when he faced an injustice while using the Xerox printer software. So he decided that he will work for creating softwares that give justice to its users.

So he started developing a system which does that. He called it Gnu. Also he created laws to protect that system. It is called GPL license. Lot of software developer joined his movement and finally we got complete working Gnu system. But the battle never ends there. Fight for freedom is a never ending task. Because those who want to chain us will always tries to find some way to annihilate our freedom. So the battle goes on and we see that now also.

Ethics of free software

Anything happens in our life or society can be seen through lens of ethics. So software also has that. But that ethics is comes from the perspective of developer. Stallman says he dont want develop software that chains its users. That is a strong ethical point. But it comes from developer. Some egoistic developers and companies sees this as a charity from software developers or companies.

User’s right is above developer’s ethics

Software developer or company is just a worker. We cannot rely on them for our rights. We have our rights. So I think its user right issue. For example, I want to use some software. but I can say that (1) I should get the right to run the software, (2) I should get the right to see the source code, (3) I should get the right to share the software and source code, (4) I should get the right to modify and share the modified version. If I am not getting these rights I dont want your software. I will ask somebody else to write softwares with those rights for me. Thats all. Simple.

But it can become ethical issues for someone when he or she takes decisions on it. For example, a school management can think like should we impose software that cannot be shared in school. Or somebody asks you can copy of the program. Usually we tell kids to share things. But its a rare case compared to huge individual use of software.

Trap of the ethics

Right and ethics are different issues. Ethics is vague. But rights are specific and clear. Ethics changes with person’s world view. In the above section I mentioned developers who think they are doing charity to society. So people have their own ethics bubble.

If you treat free software as ethical issue, then all ethical issues of capitalism will haunt you some time. Thats why this lady is arguing with Stallman about animal right issue. She want to merge free software and animal right. Lot of free software people thinks like that and unnecessarily jump into the trap of planted ethics. Capitalism creates millions of ethical issue, eg polluting the environment, selling poor woman’s body, you cannot solve all with one stroke by your organization.

Corporate media always push those ethical issues which will be useful for the ruling class. So if you prisoned yourself in that you may think that 50% of the free software should be developed by women. Good idea. If its like that then its good. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you are free software developer develop free software. Thats all. Your job is creating free software and issues related software. Others will take care of other issues. Its good if you can join other progressive movements. But its not mandatory. But don’t let them dictate your movement. Don’t try to be superstar. Its only in fiction. Don’t make free software movement as a fiction.

If your protest is hurting other progressive protests then remember that its a trap designed by the ruling class. Don’t fall into that. Be careful.


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Written by: Jagadees.S

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No justification for Stallman’s resignation

Richard Stallman, the founder of Free Software Movement, resigned. Did he do something wrong? No. He had some wrong beliefs that he openly told to a semi private email list. Thats a good thing. He openly said things. So others get opportunity to correct him. Right? No. It created a land slide. Finally he was forced to resign from the same institution he founded in 1984 to protect software user’s rights. Then his own project members rejected them. I could not find any genuine reason for all these.

All these happened because he said something about a news article appeared on a news portal. Actually he was analyzing the words used in news article. Ok let it be a bad thing. So you decided it was wrong and asked for his resignation. You have to make a press release about things. Every is fine. I will accept it.

But this was not happened. In the same email discussion somebody wrote that that person was worried about the mail get leaking to press. That happened. Email reached outside. Online lynch mob began. Facebook events organized for protest against him. There was a smear campaign event in officially started. Lot of media telling all kinds of lies about Stallman. Then Stallman’s comment came that he was forced to resign from FSF president position.

This is wrong. I cannot accept it. But FSF did that. By accepting the resignation what FSF tell the world that they approves all smear campaign and lies spread in the society. In another words you can say that FSF secretly conspired with others for these smear campaign to fire Stallman. That usually happen in power structures.

Stallman is not a popular figure. He is only known to people in free software movement and and few other tech people. Sex trafficker CIA agent, his connection to MIT, one computer scientist’s resignation, all the in media give completely wrong information about Stallman. And a lot of lies about Stallman also spreading. People are even putting Stallman’s name for what other people did. They are painting Stallman with what ever paints they like. Complete lies. Some even comes back saying apologies too. But that does not help since the damage is actually done. Complete character assassination based on lies are happening. There is reason for all these. Stallman’s idea actually reduces profit of companies. Means it shrinks economy where all are crying for, what Greta Thunberg mentioned, “eternal economic growth”.

At this context rejecting Stallman’s resignation was the only decision FSF should have been taken. Lets FSF apologize to Stallman and take him back to his position. Lets have a united FSF for defending user’s freedom.


Written by: Jagadees.S

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Open source is just OEM source software

Open source software is just fake name used for a trojen horse to destroy Free Software Movement, which is defending the right of users. It is nothing but a new name for the old concept of OEM.

OEM means Original Equipment Manufacturer. It is a company that produces parts and equipment that may be marketed by another manufacturer. But there are different mode of operations. We have to focus on one particular way of OEM.

For example, US government spent huge amount of money in telecommunications and electronics. Once the technology was ready the iIdiot company took required knowledge and designed a new product. They then gave all these details to a Chinese company called Foxconn which employs child labour. Because children have delicate fingers useful for assembling components. (Around their office there are nets placed to avoid frustrated employee suicide. I dont know how they avoid other forms of suicide So the fancy gadget you hold in your may has blood all over.) They will manufacturer the equipment. But put sticker of original company. Then it will be shipped to all over the world.

This is the classic OEM definition. Now whats really happens here? The first company shares all the details of the product to the second company. Means first company is OPEN to second company. The second company may have signed some NDA kind of agreement.

What about consumers? Nothing. This relationship is transparent to consumers. Nothing changes at their side.

This is the whole Open Source Software in reality. It is old wine (OEM) in a new bottle (open source). Software developers or companies can cut a deal with another software developer or company to be an OEM. After that they can get all source code. They will get all the rights that free software gives.

What user will get? They can get the service of the software if they pay to get a license to run the software (Freedom 0 of free software). They are just uses without any rights. May be they can see the source code in some cases. (at least should get a feel of open!) But what an ordinary user get just reading the source code.

So the OEM software aka Open Source Software is a Free Software that works only for other software developers or companies. Users are thrown out from the rights provided by the Free Software.

Its beneficiaries are programmers or companies. Not the users. Thats why companies are so passionate about it. They get free volunteers for developing softwares. Then late they can make the software propitiatory. It will increase their profits and expand market in the economy. Free software is completely opposite to it.

It is a Trojan horse to destroy Free Softwares by inverting the meaning and scope of Free Software. After the forced resignation of Richard Stallman they are working aggressively to achieve their goals.

Users of Free Software, do you let it happen? Get united and build a software users right movement.


Written by: Jagadees.S

Nullius in verba

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