Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Richard Stallman comparing proprietary software companies with colonial powers

Richard Stallman speaking at a conference on development. He compares proprietary software companies to the colonial powers of the past: Another feature you might remember from the colonial system was that the colonial power would recruit a local elite, a few local people who would - like maybe the nobles or whoever, or one tribe against another or they would create tribes if they weren't tribes (so they can massacre each other decades later) - and so the local elite, they would get certain privileges and in return they would help keep everybody else down. Well you can see that today, some proprietary software companies actively recruit local elites, they set up a software development centre in your country and the people who work there are part of the local elite or they do some favour either for politicians secretly or for the government openly. But it doesn't make any difference which one, either way they're buying influence in the government, converting that governement - from a sovereign state - into their local overseer, of their empire, who's job is to make sure everybody else becomes dependent on the same non-free software. They say the schools: "we will help you by giving you these gratis copies of our non-free software, so that you can turn your students into addicts of our software. Why do I use the term addicts? Because they develop a dependency, on this software. And then after they graduate, you can be sure they're not going to be offered these gratis copies any more. Because it's only the first dose that's gratis. Once you're addicted, then you're supposed to pay. And then, also of course the companies that these graduates work for,... those companies are not going to be offered gratis copies, so what essentially these companies - these software developers - are doing is: they're recruiting the schools into agents to lead people into permanent life-long dependency. These are things that the open-source movement usually doesn't talk about, that's why I don't support open-source. Open source is a way of promoting software that usually is free, but without mentioning these ideals. These are issues of freedom, they're left in the background, open source people usually talk only about practical values, you know, how do you get powerful convenient software and how much will it cost. Well free software probably allows you to save money too if you're not being forced to pay for permission to use it, you can probably save money. But I think that's a secondary issue, even in poor countries freedom is important. We should never start saying: "Oh they're so poor, freedom for them doesn't matter. All they need is some bread and circuses". Which they had here once upon a time. and then they shouldn't even think about being free. I think freedom is important in every country, in every society, whether its rich or poor. Nonetheless, people who support open-source often contribute to extending the free software community. Many of them develop free software, those are useful contributions. I'm not saying that what they do is bad, I'm saying that by itself it is not enough. Because it's weak, you see. When you say: "the goal is to have powerful, reliable, convenient software and get it cheap", then it becomes possible for the representatives of proprietary software to say: "well we claim that we'll deliver you more powerful reliable software, we claim that our total cost of ownership will be cheaper". And I think it's usually bullshit. When Microsoft says this, it's based on distorted facts, but it's weak, but when we say the goal is to live in freedom and to be allowed to cooperate with other people in a community, they can't say they're going to offer us more of that cheaper. Because they don't offer that at all, they're not even competing with us. They're out of the running! Once you decide you want to live in freedom, they're out of the running. So we are trying to help you reach freedom, in a community, they are trying to subjugate you, but they say that they'll get you there faster! And maybe they would.

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