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Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays Of Richard M. Stallman

by Richard Stallman, Ed. By Joshua Gay, Contrib. By Lawrence Lessig

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About Book

From Library Journal
Stallman is known internationally as the creator of the GNU operating system and cofounder of the Free Software Foundation. In this collection, he provides an accessible guide to the philosophy that inspired his cause. Stallman also takes a critical look at how businesses abuse copyright law and patents as they apply to computer software applications. He explains how these actions damage our society and encroach on our freedoms. Part 1, "The GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation," offers a historical perspective, as well as an introduction, to the philosophy of free software (i.e., free as in "free speech, not free beer"). Part 2, "Copyrights, Copylefts and Patents," explores the legal aspects of free software, laying out the mission of the free software movement and discussing its long-term goals. Part 3, "Creating a Free Society," focuses on the importance of free software in our society and presents helpful examples. Part 4 comprises licenses that developers will find useful in making the programs they create accessible to the widest possible audience, as free software that can be redistributed and changed legally under the terms presented. The text gives more insight into Stallman's thought processes than does Sam Williams's biography, Free As in Freedom, a complementary work that relies more on interviews with Stallman and his associates. This important collection by a software visionary is recommended for larger public and academic libraries. Joe J. Accardi, Harper Coll. Lib., Palatine, IL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Harvard Magazine, Sept-Oct 2002
...this collection presents some of his fervent thoughts about the intersection of ethics, copyright law and computer science.

Harvard Magazine, Sept-Oct 2002
"...this collection presents some of his fervent thoughts about the intersection of ethics, copyright law and computer science."

Book Description
The intersection of ethics, law, business and computer software is the subject of these essays and speeches by MacArthur Foundation Grant winner, Richard M. Stallman. This collection includes historical writings such as The GNU Manifesto, which defined and launched the activist Free Software Movement, along with new writings on hot topics in copyright, patent law, and the controversial issue of "trusted computing." Stallman takes a critical look at common abuses of copyright law and patents when applied to computer software programs, and how these abuses damage our entire society and remove our existing freedoms. He also discusses the social aspects of software and how free software can create community and social justice.

Given the current turmoil in copyright and patent laws, including the DMCA and proposed CBDTPA, these essays are more relevant than ever. Stallman tackles head-on the essential issues driving the current changes in copyright law. He argues that for creativity to flourish, software must be free of inappropriate and overly-broad legal constraints. Over the past twenty years his arguments and actions have changed the course of software history; this new book is sure to impact the future of software and legal policies in the years to come.

Lawrence Lessig, the author of two well-known books on similar topics, writes the introduction. He is a noted legal expert on copyright law and a Stanford Law School professor.

From the Inside Flap
"Richard Stallman is the prophet of the free software movement. He understood the dangers of software patents years ago. Now that this has become a crucial issue in the world, buy this book and read what he said."

Tim Berners-Lee - inventor of the World Wide Web.

"Richard Stallman is the philosopher king of software. He single-handedly ignited what has become a world-wide movement to create software that is Free, with a capital F. He has toiled for years at a project that many once considered a fool's errand, and now widely see as inevitable'."

Simson L. Garfinkel - computer science author and columnist.

"By his hugely successful efforts to establish the idea of 'free software' Stallman has made a massive contribution to the human condition. His contribution combines elements that have technical, social, political, and economic consequences."

Gerald Jay Sussman - Matsushita Professor of Electrical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"'Free as in free speech, not as in free beer.' RMS is the leading philosopher of software. You may dislike some of his attitudes, but you cannot avoid his ideas. This slim volume will make those ideas readily accessible to those who are confused by the buzzwords of rampant commercialism. This book needs to be widely circulated and widely read."

Peter H. Salus - computer science writer, book reviewer, and UNIX historian.

Richard is the leading force of the free software movement. This book is very important to spread the key concepts of free software world-wide, so everyone can understand it. Free software gives people freedom to use their creativity."

Masayuki Ida - Professor, Graduate School of International Management, Aoyama Gakuin University.

About the Author
Richard M. Stallman is internationally recognized as the creator of the Free Software movement - a progressive worldwide movement to make software code freely available so as to improve its development and accessibility. He has received a host of computer science honors ranging from a 1990 MacArthur "Genius Grant" to his election into the American National Academy of Engineering in 2002.

In 1984 Stallman resigned from his job as a researcher at MIT's AI Lab in protest of its increasingly restrictive copyright policy. He countered by+starting the GNU Project, a revolutionary concept at that time, and by writing the General Public License. GNU with the LINUX kernel is the first freely distributable operating system available with source code and protected by the GPL.

Excerpted from Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman by Richard M. Stallman. Copyright © 2002. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Editor's Note - By Joshua Gay

The waning days of the 20th century seemed like an Orwellian nightmare: laws preventing publication of scientific research on software; laws preventing sharing software; an overabundance of software patents preventing development; and end-user license agreements that strip the user of all freedoms---including ownership, privacy, sharing, and understanding how their software works. This collection of essays and speeches by Richard M. Stallman addresses many of these issues. Above all, Stallman discusses the philosophy underlying the free software movement. This movement combats the oppression of federal laws and evil end-user license agreements in hopes of spreading the idea of software freedom.

With the force of hundreds of thousands of developers working to create GNU software and the GNU/Linux operating system, free software has secured a spot on the servers that control the Internet, and---as it moves into the desktop computer market---is a threat to Microsoft and other proprietary software companies.

These essays cater to a wide audience; you do not need a computer science background to understand the philosophy and ideas herein. However, there is a ``Note on Software,'' to help the less technically inclined reader become familiar with some common computer science jargon and concepts, as well as footnotes throughout.

Many of these essays have been updated and revised from their originally published version. Each essay carries permission to redistribute verbatim copies.

The ordering of the essays is fairly arbitrary, in that there is no required order to read the essays in, for they were written independently of each other over a period of 18 years. The first section, ``The GNU Project and Free Software,'' is intended to familiarize you with the history and philosophy of free software and the GNU project. Furthermore, it provides a road map for developers, educators, and business people to pragmatically incorporate free software into society, business, and life.

The second section, ``Copyright, Copyleft, and Patents,'' discusses the philosophical and political groundings of the copyright and patent system and how it has changed over the past couple of hundred years. Also, it discusses how the current laws and regulations for patents and copyrights are not in the best interest of the consumer and end user of software, music, movies, and other media. Instead, this section discusses how laws are geared towards helping business and government crush your freedoms.

The third section, ``Freedom, Society, and Software'' continues the discussion of freedom and rights, and how they are being threatened by proprietary software, copyright law, globalization, ``trusted computing,'' and other socially harmful rules, regulations, and policies. One way that industry and government are attempting to persuade people to give up certain rights and freedoms is by using terminology that implies that sharing information, ideas, and software is bad; therefore, we have included an essay explaining certain words that are confusing and should probably be avoided.

The fourth section, ``The Licenses,'' contains the GNU General Public License, the GNU Lesser General Public License, and the GNU Free Documentation License; the cornerstones of the GNU project.



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