Richard Stallman
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Richard Matthew Stallman (; born March 16, 1953), also known by his initials, rms, is an American
free software movement The free software movement is a social movement with the goal of obtaining and guaranteeing certain freedoms for software users, namely the freedoms to run the software, to study the software, to modify the software, and to share copies of the s ...
activist and
programmer A computer programmer, sometimes referred to as a software developer, a software engineer, a programmer or a coder, is a person who creates computer software, computer programs — often for larger computer software. A programmer is someone ...

programmer
. He campaigns for software to be distributed in such a manner that its users have the freedom to use, study, distribute, and modify that software. Software that ensures these freedoms is termed
free software Free software or libre software is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute it and any adapted versions. Free software is a matter of liberty, no ...

free software
. Stallman launched the
GNU Project The GNU Project () is a free software, mass collaboration project announced by Richard Stallman on September 27, 1983. Its goal is to give computer users freedom and control in their use of their computers and Computer hardware, computing devi ...
, founded the
Free Software Foundation The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a 501(c)#501(c)(3), 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Richard Stallman on October 4, 1985, to support the free software movement, with the organization's preference for software being distributed ...
(FSF) in October 1985, developed the
GNU Compiler Collection The GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) is an optimizing compiler produced by the GNU Project supporting various programming languages, Computer architecture, hardware architectures and operating systems. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) distribute ...
and
GNU Emacs GNU Emacs is a free software text editor. It was created by GNU Project founder Richard Stallman, based on the Emacs editor developed for Unix operating systems. GNU Emacs has been a central component of the GNU project and a flagship project of ...
, and wrote the
GNU General Public License The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or simply GPL) is a series of widely used free software licenses that guarantee end users the Four Freedoms (Free software), four freedoms to run, study, share, and modify the software. The license was th ...
. Stallman launched the GNU Project in September 1983 to write a
Unix-like A Unix-like (sometimes referred to as UN*X or *nix) operating system is one that behaves in a manner similar to a Unix system, although not necessarily conforming to or being certified to any version of the Single UNIX Specification. A Unix- ...
computer
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), schedule tasks for ef ...

operating system
composed entirely of free software. With this, he also launched the
free software movement The free software movement is a social movement with the goal of obtaining and guaranteeing certain freedoms for software users, namely the freedoms to run the software, to study the software, to modify the software, and to share copies of the s ...
. He has been the GNU project's lead architect and organizer, and developed a number of pieces of widely used GNU software including, among others, the GNU Compiler Collection,
GNU Debugger The GNU Debugger (GDB) is a Software portability, portable debugger that runs on many Unix-like systems and works for many programming languages, including Ada (programming language), Ada, C (programming language), C, C++, Objective-C, Free Pasc ...
, and
GNU Emacs GNU Emacs is a free software text editor. It was created by GNU Project founder Richard Stallman, based on the Emacs editor developed for Unix operating systems. GNU Emacs has been a central component of the GNU project and a flagship project of ...

GNU Emacs
text editor. Stallman pioneered the concept of
copyleft Copyleft is the legal technique of granting certain freedoms over copies of copyrighted works with the requirement that the same rights be preserved in derivative works. In this sense, ''freedoms'' refers to the use of the work for any purpose ...

copyleft
, which uses the principles of copyright law to preserve the right to use, modify, and distribute free software. He is the main author of
free software license A free-software license is a notice that grants the recipient of a piece of software extensive rights to modify and software distribution, redistribute that software. These actions are usually prohibited by copyright law, but the rights-holde ...
s which describe those terms, most notably the GNU General Public License (GPL), the most widely used free software license. In 1989, he co-founded the
League for Programming Freedom League for Programming Freedom (LPF) was founded in 1989 by Richard Stallman to unite free software developers as well as developers of proprietary software to fight against software patents and the extension of the scope of copyright. Their logo ...
. Since the mid-1990s, Stallman has spent most of his time advocating for free software, as well as campaigning against software patents,
digital rights management Digital rights management (DRM) is the management of legal access to digital content. Various tools or technological protection measures (TPM) such as access control technologies can restrict the use of proprietary hardware and copyrighted works. ...
(which he refers to as digital ''restrictions'' management, calling the more common term misleading), and other legal and technical systems which he sees as taking away users' freedoms. This has included software license agreements,
non-disclosure agreement A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a law, legal contract or part of a contract between at least two party (law), parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the parties wish to share with one another for certain p ...
s, activation keys, dongles, copy restriction,
proprietary format A proprietary file format is a file format A file format is a Computer standard, standard way that information is encoded for storage in a computer file. It specifies how bits are used to encode information in a digital storage medium. File ...
s, and
binary Binary may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Binary number A binary number is a number expressed in the base-2 numeral system or binary numeral system, a method of mathematical expression which uses only two symbols: typical ...

binary
executable In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computer, computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes, and development of both computer hardware , ha ...
s without
source code In computing, source code, or simply code, is any collection of code, with or without comment (computer programming), comments, written using a human-readable programming language, usually as plain text. The source code of a Computer program, p ...

source code
. In September 2019, Stallman resigned as president of the FSF and left his visiting scientist role at MIT after making controversial comments about the sex trafficking scandal, including stating that one of the victims was “presenting herself...entirely willing.“ Stallman remained head of the GNU Project, and in 2021 returned to the FSF board of directors.


Early life

Stallman was born March 16, 1953, in
New York City New York, often called New York City or NYC, is the List of United States cities by population, most populous city in the United States. With a 2020 population of 8,804,190 distributed over , New York City is also the L ...

New York City
, to a family of
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים, , ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a combination of shared features such as language, history, ethnicity, culture and/or ...

Jewish
heritage. He had a troublesome relationship with his parents and did not feel he had a proper home. He was interested in computers at a young age; when Stallman was a pre-teen at a summer camp, he read manuals for the
IBM 7094 The IBM 7090 is a second-generation Transistor computer, transistorized version of the earlier IBM 709 vacuum tube mainframe computer that was designed for "large-scale scientific and technological applications". The 7090 is the fourth member of ...
. From 1967 to 1969, Stallman attended a Columbia University Saturday program for high school students. Stallman was also a volunteer laboratory assistant in the
biology Biology is the scientific study of life. It is a natural science with a broad scope but has several unifying themes that tie it together as a single, coherent field. For instance, all organisms are made up of Cell (biology), cells that proce ...

biology
department at
Rockefeller University The Rockefeller University is a Private university, private Medical research, biomedical Research university, research and graduate-only university in New York City, New York (state), New York. It focuses primarily on the biological and medica ...

Rockefeller University
. Although he was interested in mathematics and
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that depar ...

physics
, his supervising professor at Rockefeller thought he showed promise as a biologist. His first experience with actual computers was at the IBM New York Scientific Center when he was in high school. He was hired for the summer in 1970, following his senior year of high school, to write a numerical analysis program in . He completed the task after a couple of weeks ("I swore that I would never use FORTRAN again because I despised it as a language compared with other languages") and spent the rest of the summer writing a text editor in APL and a
preprocessor In computer science, a preprocessor (or precompiler) is a Computer program, program that processes its input data to produce output that is used as input in another program. The output is said to be a preprocessed form of the input data, which i ...

preprocessor
for the
PL/I PL/I (Programming Language One, pronounced and sometimes written PL/1) is a Procedural programming, procedural, imperative programming, imperative computer programming language developed and published by IBM. It is designed for scientific, eng ...
programming language A programming language is a system of notation for writing computer program, computer programs. Most programming languages are text-based formal languages, but they may also be visual programming language, graphical. They are a kind of computer ...

programming language
on the
IBM System/360 The IBM System/360 (S/360) is a family of mainframe computer systems that was announced by IBM on April 7, 1964, and delivered between 1965 and 1978. It was the first family of computers designed to cover both commercial and scientific applicat ...
.


Harvard University and MIT

As a first-year student at
Harvard University Harvard University is a Private university, private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1636 as Harvard College and named for its first benefactor, the History of the Puritans in North America, Puritan cler ...

Harvard University
in fall 1970, Stallman was known for his strong performance in Math 55. He was happy: "For the first time in my life, I felt I had found a home at Harvard." In 1971, near the end of his first year at Harvard, he became a programmer at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and became a regular in the
hacker A hacker is a person skilled in information technology who uses their technical knowledge to achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle, within a computerized system by non-standard means. Though the term ''hacker'' has become associated in popu ...
community, where he was usually known by his initials, ''RMS'', which he used in his computer accounts. Stallman received a bachelor's degree in physics (''
magna cum laude Latin honors are a system of Latin phrases used in some colleges and universities to indicate the level of distinction with which an academic degree has been earned. The system is primarily used in the United States. It is also used in some Sou ...
'') from Harvard in 1974. Stallman considered staying on at Harvard, but instead decided to enroll as a graduate student at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a Private university, private Land-grant university, land-grant research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Established in 1861, MIT has played a key role in the development of modern t ...
(MIT). He pursued a doctorate in physics for one year, but left that program to focus on his programming at the MIT AI Laboratory. While working (starting in 1975) as a research assistant at MIT under Gerry Sussman, Stallman published a paper (with Sussman) in 1977 on an AI truth maintenance system, called ''dependency-directed backtracking''. This paper was an early work on the problem of intelligent backtracking in
constraint satisfaction problem Constraint satisfaction problems (CSPs) are mathematical questions defined as a set of objects whose State (computer science), state must satisfy a number of Constraint (mathematics), constraints or Limit (mathematics), limitations. CSPs represent ...
s. , the technique Stallman and Sussman introduced is still the most general and powerful form of intelligent backtracking. The technique of constraint recording, wherein partial results of a search are recorded for later reuse, was also introduced in this paper. As a hacker in MIT's AI laboratory, Stallman worked on software projects such as TECO and
Emacs Emacs , originally named EMACS (an acronym for "Editor MACroS"), is a family of text editors that are characterized by their extensibility. The manual for the most widely used variant, GNU Emacs, describes it as "the extensible, customizable, se ...

Emacs
for the
Incompatible Timesharing System Incompatible Timesharing System (ITS) is a time-sharing operating system developed principally by the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, with help from Project MAC. The name is the jocular complement of the MIT Compatible Time-Sharing System ...
(ITS), as well as the
Lisp machine Lisp machines are general-purpose computers designed to efficiently run Lisp as their main software and programming language, usually via hardware support. They are an example of a high-level language computer architecture, and in a sense, t ...

Lisp machine
operating system (the CONS of 1974–1976 and the CADR of 1977–1979—this latter unit was commercialized by
Symbolics Symbolics was a computer manufacturer Symbolics, Inc., and a privately held company that acquired the assets of the former company and continues to sell and maintain the Open Genera Lisp (programming language), Lisp system and the Macsyma com ...
and Lisp Machines, Inc. (LMI) starting around 1980). He would become an ardent critic of restricted computer access in the lab, which at that time was funded primarily by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (
DARPA The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military. Originally known as the Adv ...

DARPA
). When MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) installed a password control system in 1977, Stallman found a way to decrypt the passwords and sent users messages containing their decoded password, with a suggestion to change it to the empty string (that is, no password) instead, to re-enable anonymous access to the systems. Around 20 percent of the users followed his advice at the time, although passwords ultimately prevailed. Stallman boasted of the success of his campaign for many years afterward.


Events leading to GNU

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the
hacker culture The hacker culture is a subculture of individuals who enjoy—often in collective effort—the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming the limitations of software systems or electronic hardware (mostly digital electronics), to a ...

hacker culture
that Stallman thrived on began to fragment. To prevent software from being used on their competitors' computers, most manufacturers stopped distributing
source code In computing, source code, or simply code, is any collection of code, with or without comment (computer programming), comments, written using a human-readable programming language, usually as plain text. The source code of a Computer program, p ...

source code
and began using copyright and restrictive software licenses to limit or prohibit copying and redistribution. Such
proprietary software Proprietary software is computer software, software that is deemed within the free and open-source software to be non-free because its creator, publisher, or other rightsholder or rightsholder partner exercises a legal monopoly afforded by modern ...
had existed before, and it became apparent that it would become the norm. This shift in the legal characteristics of software was a consequence triggered by the US
Copyright Act of 1976 The Copyright Act of 1976 is a United States copyright law and remains the primary basis of copyright law in the United States, as amended by several later enacted copyright provisions. The Act spells out the basic rights of copyright holders, cod ...
. When Brian Reid in 1979 placed time bombs in the
Scribe A scribe is a person who serves as a professional copyist, especially one who made copies of manuscripts before the invention of Printing press, automatic printing. The profession of the scribe, previously widespread across cultures, lost mos ...
markup language and word processing system to restrict unlicensed access to the software, Stallman proclaimed it "a crime against humanity". During an interview in 2008, he clarified that it is blocking the user's freedom that he believes is a crime, not the issue of charging for software. Stallman's texinfo is a GPL replacement, loosely based on Scribe; the original version was finished in 1986. In 1980, Stallman and some other hackers at the AI Lab were refused access to the source code for the software of a newly installed
laser printer Laser printing is an electrostatic digital printing process. It produces high-quality text and graphics (and moderate-quality photographs) by repeatedly passing a laser beam back and forth over a Electric charge, negatively-charged cylinder call ...

laser printer
, the Xerox 9700. Stallman had modified the software for the Lab's previous laser printer (the XGP, Xerographic Printer), so it electronically messaged a user when the person's job was printed, and would message all logged-in users waiting for print jobs if the printer was jammed. Not being able to add these features to the new printer was a major inconvenience, as the printer was on a different floor from most of the users. This experience convinced Stallman of people's need to be able to freely modify the software they use. Richard Greenblatt, a fellow AI Lab hacker, founded Lisp Machines, Inc. (LMI) to market
Lisp machine Lisp machines are general-purpose computers designed to efficiently run Lisp as their main software and programming language, usually via hardware support. They are an example of a high-level language computer architecture, and in a sense, t ...

Lisp machine
s, which he and Tom Knight designed at the lab. Greenblatt rejected outside investment, believing that the proceeds from the construction and sale of a few machines could be profitably reinvested in the growth of the company. In contrast, the other hackers felt that the
venture capital Venture capital (often abbreviated as VC) is a form of private equity financing that is provided by venture capital firms or funds to start-up company, startups, early-stage, and emerging companies that have been deemed to have high growth poten ...
-funded approach was better. As no agreement could be reached, hackers from the latter camp founded
Symbolics Symbolics was a computer manufacturer Symbolics, Inc., and a privately held company that acquired the assets of the former company and continues to sell and maintain the Open Genera Lisp (programming language), Lisp system and the Macsyma com ...
, with the aid of Russ Noftsker, an AI Lab administrator. Symbolics recruited most of the remaining hackers including notable hacker
Bill Gosper Ralph William Gosper Jr. (born April 26, 1943), known as Bill Gosper, is an American mathematician and programmer. Along with Richard Greenblatt (programmer), Richard Greenblatt, he may be considered to have founded the Hacker (programmer subcul ...
, who then left the AI Lab. Symbolics also forced Greenblatt to resign by citing MIT policies. While both companies delivered proprietary software, Stallman believed that LMI, unlike Symbolics, had tried to avoid hurting the lab's community. For two years, from 1982 to the end of 1983, Stallman worked by himself to clone the output of the Symbolics programmers, with the aim of preventing them from gaining a monopoly on the lab's computers. Stallman argues that software users should have the freedom to share with their neighbors and be able to study and make changes to the software that they use. He maintains that attempts by proprietary software vendors to prohibit these acts are antisocial and unethical. The phrase "software wants to be free" is often incorrectly attributed to him, and Stallman argues that this is a misstatement of his philosophy. He argues that freedom is vital for the sake of users and society as a moral ''value'', and not merely for pragmatic reasons such as possibly developing technically superior software. Eric S. Raymond, one of the creators of the
open-source movement The open-source-software movement is a movement that supports the use of open-source licenses for some or all software Software is a set of computer programs and associated software documentation, documentation and data (computing), data ...
, argues that moral arguments, rather than pragmatic ones, alienate potential allies and hurt the end goal of removing code secrecy. In February 1984, Stallman quit his job at MIT to work full-time on the GNU project, which he had announced in September 1983. Since then, he had remained affiliated with MIT as an unpaid "visiting scientist" in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Until "around 1998", he maintained an office at the Institute that doubled as his legal residence.


GNU project

Stallman announced the plan for the
GNU operating system GNU () is an extensive collection of free software (383 packages as of January 2022), which can be used as an operating system or can be used in parts with other operating systems. The use of the completed GNU tools led to the family of operat ...
in September 1983 on several
ARPANET The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was the first wide-area packet-switched network with distributed control and one of the first networks to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite. Both technologies became the technical fo ...
mailing lists and
USENET Usenet () is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. It was developed from the general-purpose UUCP, Unix-to-Unix Copy (UUCP) dial-up network architecture. Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis (computing), Jim Ellis conceived th ...
. He started the project on his own and describes: "As an operating system developer, I had the right skills for this job. So even though I could not take success for granted, I realized that I was elected to do the job. I chose to make the system compatible with Unix so that it would be portable, and so that Unix users could easily switch to it." In 1985, Stallman published the
GNU Manifesto __NOTOC__ The ''GNU Manifesto'' is a direct action, call-to-action by Richard Stallman encouraging participation and support of the GNU Project's goal in developing the GNU free software, free computer operating system. The GNU Manifesto was pub ...
, which outlined his motivation for creating a free operating system called GNU, which would be compatible with
Unix Unix (; trademarked as UNIX) is a family of Computer multitasking, multitasking, multiuser computer operating systems that derive from the original AT&T Corporation, AT&T Unix, whose development started in 1969 at the Bell Labs research center ...

Unix
. The name GNU is a
recursive acronym A recursive acronym is an acronym that recursion, refers to itself, and appears most frequently in computer programming. The term was first used in print in 1979 in Douglas Hofstadter's book ''Gödel, Escher, Bach, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eterna ...
for "GNU's Not Unix". Soon after, he started a nonprofit corporation called the Free Software Foundation to employ free software programmers and provide a legal infrastructure for the free software movement. Stallman was the nonsalaried president of the FSF, which is a
501(c)(3) A 501(c)(3) organization is a United States corporation, Trust (business), trust, unincorporated association or other type of organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the United States Code. It is one of t ...
nonprofit organization founded in
Massachusetts Massachusetts (Massachusett language, Massachusett: ''Muhsachuweesut assachusett writing systems, məhswatʃəwiːsət'' English: , ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous U.S. state, state in the New England ...

Massachusetts
. Stallman popularized the concept of ''copyleft'', a legal mechanism to protect the modification and redistribution rights for free software. It was first implemented in the GNU Emacs General Public License, and in 1989 the first program-independent GNU General Public License (GPL) was released. By then, much of the GNU system had been completed. Stallman was responsible for contributing many necessary tools, including a
text editor A text editor is a type of computer program A computer program is a sequence or set of instructions in a programming language for a computer to Execution (computing), execute. Computer programs are one component of software, which also inclu ...

text editor
(
GNU Emacs GNU Emacs is a free software text editor. It was created by GNU Project founder Richard Stallman, based on the Emacs editor developed for Unix operating systems. GNU Emacs has been a central component of the GNU project and a flagship project of ...
),
compiler In computing, a compiler is a computer program that Translator (computing), translates computer code written in one programming language (the ''source'' language) into another language (the ''target'' language). The name "compiler" is primarily ...

compiler
( GCC),
debugger A debugger or debugging tool is a computer program used to software testing, test and debugging, debug other programs (the "target" program). The main use of a debugger is to run the target program under controlled conditions that permit the pr ...

debugger
(
GNU Debugger The GNU Debugger (GDB) is a Software portability, portable debugger that runs on many Unix-like systems and works for many programming languages, including Ada (programming language), Ada, C (programming language), C, C++, Objective-C, Free Pasc ...
), and a build automator ( GNU make). The notable omission was a
kernel Kernel may refer to: Computing * Kernel (operating system), the central component of most operating systems * Kernel (image processing), a matrix used for image convolution * Compute kernel, in GPGPU programming * Kernel method, in machine learnin ...
. In 1990, members of the GNU project began using Carnegie Mellon's Mach
microkernel In computer science Computer science is the study of computation, automation, and information. Computer science spans theoretical disciplines (such as algorithms, theory of computation, information theory, and automation) to Applied sci ...
in a project called
GNU Hurd GNU Hurd is a collection of microkernel servers written as part of GNU, for the GNU Mach microkernel. It has been under development since 1990 by the GNU Project of the Free Software Foundation, designed as a replacement for the Unix kernel, and ...
, which has yet to achieve the maturity level required for full POSIX compliance. In 1991, Linus Torvalds, a Finns, Finnish student, used the GNU's development tools to produce the free monolithic kernel, monolithic Linux kernel. The existing programs from the GNU project were readily ported to run on the resultant platform. Most sources use the name ''Linux'' to refer to the general-purpose operating system thus formed, while Stallman and the FSF call it ''GNU/Linux''. This has been a longstanding GNU/Linux naming controversy, naming controversy in the free software community. Stallman argues that not using GNU in the name of the operating system unfairly disparages the value of the GNU project and harms the sustainability of the free software movement by breaking the link between the software and the free software philosophy of the GNU project. Stallman's influences on hacker culture include the name POSIX and the
Emacs Emacs , originally named EMACS (an acronym for "Editor MACroS"), is a family of text editors that are characterized by their extensibility. The manual for the most widely used variant, GNU Emacs, describes it as "the extensible, customizable, se ...

Emacs
editor. On
Unix Unix (; trademarked as UNIX) is a family of Computer multitasking, multitasking, multiuser computer operating systems that derive from the original AT&T Corporation, AT&T Unix, whose development started in 1969 at the Bell Labs research center ...

Unix
systems, GNU Emacs's popularity rivaled that of another editor vi, spawning an editor war. Stallman's take on this was to Canonization, canonize himself as St. IGNUcius of the Church of Emacs and acknowledge that "vi vi vi is the Number of the beast, editor of the beast", while "using a free version of vi is not a sin; it is a penance". In 1992, developers at Lucid Inc. doing their own work on Emacs clashed with Stallman and ultimately fork (software engineering), forked the software into what would become XEmacs. The technology journalist Andrew Leonard has characterized what he sees as Stallman's uncompromising stubbornness as common among elite computer programmers: In 2018, Stallman instituted "Kind Communication Guidelines" for the GNU project to help its mailing list discussions remain constructive while avoiding explicitly promoting diversity. In October 2019, a public statement signed by 33 maintainers of the GNU project asserted that Stallman's behaviour had "undermined a core value of the GNU project: the empowerment of all computer users" and called for "GNU maintainers to collectively decide about the organization of the project". The statement was published soon after Stallman resigned as president of the FSF and left his "visiting scientist" role at MIT in September 2019. In spite of that, Stallman remained head of the GNU project.


Activism

Stallman has written many essays on software freedom, and has been an outspoken political campaigner for the free software movement since the early 1990s. The speeches he has regularly given are titled ''The GNU Project and the Free Software Movement'', ''The Dangers of Software Patents'', and ''Copyright and Community in the Age of Computer Networks''. In 2006 and 2007, during the eighteen month public consultation for the drafting of version 3 of the GNU General Public License, he added a fourth topic explaining the proposed changes. Stallman's staunch advocacy for free software inspired the creation of the Virtual Richard M. Stallman (vrms), software that analyzes the packages currently installed on a Debian GNU/Linux system, and reports those that are from the non-free tree. Stallman disagrees with parts of Debian's definition of free software. In 1999, Stallman called for development of a free online encyclopedia through the means of inviting the public to contribute articles. The resulting GNUPedia was eventually retired in favour of the emerging Wikipedia, which had similar aims and was enjoying greater success. Stallman was on the Advisory Council of Latin American television station teleSUR from its launch but resigned in February 2011, criticizing pro-Gaddafi propaganda during the Arab Spring. In August 2006, at his meetings with the government of the Indian State of Kerala, he persuaded officials to discard proprietary software, such as Microsoft's, at state-run schools. This has resulted in a landmark decision to switch all school computers in 12,500 high schools from Microsoft Windows, Windows to a free software operating system. After personal meetings, Stallman obtained positive statements about the free software movement from the then-president of India, , French 2007 presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, and the president of Ecuador Rafael Correa. Stallman has participated in protests about software patents,
digital rights management Digital rights management (DRM) is the management of legal access to digital content. Various tools or technological protection measures (TPM) such as access control technologies can restrict the use of proprietary hardware and copyrighted works. ...
, and
proprietary software Proprietary software is computer software, software that is deemed within the free and open-source software to be non-free because its creator, publisher, or other rightsholder or rightsholder partner exercises a legal monopoly afforded by modern ...
. Protesting against proprietary software in April 2006, Stallman held a "Don't buy from ATI Technologies, ATI, enemy of your freedom" placard at a speech by an ATI representative in the building where Stallman worked, resulting in the police being called. AMD has since acquired ATI and has taken steps to make their hardware documentation available for use by the free software community. Stallman has characterized Steve Jobs as having a "malign influence" on computing because of Jobs' leadership in guiding Apple to produce closed platforms. In 1993, while Jobs was at NeXT, Jobs asked Stallman if he could distribute a modified GCC in two parts, one part under GPL and the other part, an Objective-C preprocessor under a proprietary license. Stallman initially thought this would be legal, but since he also thought it would be "very undesirable for free software", he asked a lawyer for advice. The response he got was that judges would consider such schemes to be "subterfuges" and would be very harsh toward them, and a judge would ask whether it was "really" one program, rather than how the parts were labeled. Therefore, Stallman sent a message back to Jobs which said they believed Jobs' plan was not allowed by the GPL, which resulted in NeXT releasing the Objective-C front end under GPL. For a period of time, Stallman used a notebook from the One Laptop per Child program. Stallman's computer is a refurbished ThinkPad T series, ThinkPad T400s with Libreboot, a free BIOS replacement, and Trisquel GNU/Linux. Before the ThinkPad T400s, Stallman used a Thinkpad X60 with Libreboot and Trisquel GNU/Linux. And before the X60, Stallman used the Lemote Yeeloong netbook (using the same company's Loongson processor) which he chose because, like the X60 and the T400s, it could run with free software at the BIOS level, stating "freedom is my priority. I've campaigned for freedom since 1983, and I am not going to surrender that freedom for the sake of a more convenient computer." Stallman's Lemote was stolen from him in 2012 while in Argentina. Before Trisquel, Stallman has used the gNewSense operating system.


Copyright reduction

Stallman has regularly given a talk entitled "Copyright vs. Community" where he reviews the state of digital rights management (DRM) and names many of the products and corporations which he boycotts. His approach to DRM is best summed up by the FSF Defective by Design campaign. In the talks, he makes proposals for a "reduced copyright" and suggests a 10-year limit on copyright. He suggests that, instead of restrictions on sharing, authors be supported using a tax, with revenues distributed among them based on cubic roots of their popularity to ensure that "fairly successful non-stars" receive a greater share than they do now (compare with private copying levy which is associated with proponents of strong copyright), or a convenient anonymous micropayment system for people to support authors directly. He indicates that no form of non-commercial sharing of copies should be considered a copyright violation. He has advocated civil disobedience in a comment on Ley Sinde. Stallman has also helped and supported the International Music Score Library Project in getting back online, after it had been taken down on October 19, 2007, following a cease and desist letter from Universal Edition. Stallman mentions the dangers some e-books bring compared to paper books, with the example of the Amazon Kindle e-reader that prevents the copying of e-books and allows Amazon to order automatic deletion of a book. He says that such e-books present a big step backward with respect to paper books by being less easy to use, copy, lend to others or sell, also mentioning that Amazon e-books cannot be bought anonymously. His short story "The Right to Read" provides a picture of a dystopian future if the right to share books is impeded. He objects to many of the terms within typical end-user license agreements that accompany e-books. Stallman discourages the use of several storage technologies such as DVD or Blu-ray Disc, Blu-ray video discs because the content of such media is encrypted. He considers manufacturers' use of encryption on non-secret data (User operation prohibition, to force the user to view certain promotional material) as a conspiracy. He recognized the Sony BMG copy protection rootkit scandal to be a criminal act by Sony. Stallman supports a general boycott of Sony for its Sony Computer Entertainment America v. George Hotz, legal actions against George Hotz. Stallman has suggested that the United States government may encourage the use of software as a service because this would allow them to access users' data without needing a search warrant. He denies being an anarchist despite his wariness of some legislation and the fact that he has "advocated strongly for user privacy and his own view of software freedom".


Terminologies

Stallman places great importance on the words and labels people use to talk about the world, including the relationship between software and freedom. He asks people to say ''free software'' and ''GNU/Linux'', and to avoid the terms ''intellectual property'' and ''Copyright infringement of software, piracy'' (in relation to copying not approved by the publisher). One of his criteria for giving an interview to a journalist is that the journalist agrees to use his terminology throughout the article. Stallman argues that the term ''intellectual property'' is designed to confuse people, and is used to prevent intelligent discussion on the specifics of copyright, patent, trademark, and other areas of law by lumping together things that are more dissimilar than similar. He also argues that by referring to these laws as property laws, the term biases the discussion when thinking about how to treat these issues, writing:


Open source and Free software

His requests that people use certain terms, and his ongoing efforts to convince people of the importance of terminology, are a source of regular misunderstanding and friction with parts of the free software and open-source community, open-source communities. After initially accepting the concept, Stallman rejects a common alternative terms for free software, alternative term, ''open-source software'', because it does not call to mind what Stallman sees as the value of the software: freedom (political), freedom. He wrote, "Free software is a political movement; open source is a development model." Thus, he believes that the use of the term will not inform people of the freedom issues, and will not lead to people valuing and defending their freedom. Two alternatives which Stallman does accept are ''software libre'' and ''unfettered software'', but ''free software'' is the term he asks people to use in English. For similar reasons, he argues for the term ''
proprietary software Proprietary software is computer software, software that is deemed within the free and open-source software to be non-free because its creator, publisher, or other rightsholder or rightsholder partner exercises a legal monopoly afforded by modern ...
'' or ''non-free software'' rather than ''closed-source software'', when referring to software that is not free software.


Linux and GNU

Stallman asks that the term ''GNU/Linux'', which he pronounces , be used to refer to the operating system created by combining the GNU system and the kernel Linux. Stallman refers to this operating system as "a variant of GNU, and the GNU Project is its principal developer". He claims that the connection between the GNU project's philosophy and its software is broken when people refer to the combination as merely Linux. Starting around 2003, he began also using the term ''GNU+Linux'', which he pronounces , to prevent others from pronouncing the phrase ''GNU/Linux'' as , which would erroneously imply that the kernel Linux is maintained by the GNU project. The creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds, has publicly stated that he objects to modification of the name, and that the rename "is their [the Free software foundation, FSF] confusion not ours".


Surveillance resistance

Stallman professes admiration for Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. He has spoken against government and corporate surveillance on many occasions. He refers to mobile phones as "portable surveillance and Mobile phone tracking, tracking devices", refusing to own a cell phone due to the lack of phones running entirely on free software. He also avoids using a key card to enter his office building since key card systems track each location and time that someone enters the building using a card. He usually does not browse the web directly from his personal computer. Instead, he uses GNU Womb's grab-url-from-mail utility, an email-based proxy which downloads the web page content and then emails it to the user. More recently, he stated that he accesses all web sites via Tor (anonymity network), Tor, except for Wikipedia (which generally disallows editing from Tor unless users have Wikipedia:IP block exemption, an IP block exemption).


Personal life

Stallman resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge,
Massachusetts Massachusetts (Massachusett language, Massachusett: ''Muhsachuweesut assachusett writing systems, məhswatʃəwiːsət'' English: , ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous U.S. state, state in the New England ...

Massachusetts
. He speaks English, French, Spanish and some Indonesian. He has said that he is "an atheist of
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים, , ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a combination of shared features such as language, history, ethnicity, culture and/or ...

Jewish
ancestry" and often wears a button that reads "Impeach God". Stallman has written a collection of filk music and parody songs. He has said he does not want to have children. He denies having Asperger syndrome, Asperger's, but has sometimes speculated whether he could have a "shadow" version of it.


Controversies

In September 2006, Stallman wrote, “I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren't voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing.” In September 2018, Stallman again attracted controversy when he wrote on his website, “However, it is normal for adults to be physically attracted to adolescents,” in a defense of convicted sex offender Cody Wilson. In August and September 2019, it was learned that had made donations to MIT, and in the wake of this, MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito resigned. An internal MIT CSAIL listserv mailing list thread was started to protest the coverup of MIT's connections to Epstein. In the thread, discussion had turned to deceased MIT professor Marvin Minsky, who was named by Virginia Giuffre as one of the people that Epstein had directed her to have sex with. Giuffre, a minor at the time, had been caught in Epstein's underage sex trafficking ring. In response to a comment where one reply stated that Minsky "is accused of assaulting one of Epstein's victims", Stallman questioned whether the word "assault" was applicable in that case, arguing that "the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to conceal that from most of his associates". When challenged by other members of the mailing list, he added "It is morally absurd to define 'rape' in a way that depends on minor details such as Age of consent by country, which country it was in or whether the victim was Age of consent, 18 years old or 17". Stallman remained critical of Epstein and his role, stating "We know that Giuffre was being coerced into sex – by Epstein. She was being harmed." Stallman's comments along with a compilation of accusations against him were published via Medium (website), Medium by Selam Gano, who outlined MIT alumnae claims of sexual harassment and contributions to a hostile environment by Stallman. ''Vice (magazine), Vice'' published a copy of the email chain on September 13, 2019, drawing attention to Stallman's comments. Stallman's writings from 2013 and earlier related to underage sex and child pornography laws resurfaced, increasing the controversy. Tied to his comments regarding Minsky, this led to several calling for Stallman's resignation. On September 14, Stallman acknowledged that since the time of his past writings, he had learned that there were problems with underage sex, writing on his blog: "Through personal conversations in recent years, I've learned to understand how sex with a child can harm wikt:per#Pronoun, per psychologically. This changed my mind about the matter: I think adults should not do that." On September 16, Stallman announced his resignation from both MIT and FSF, "due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations". In a post on his website, Stallman asserted that his posts to the email lists were not to defend Epstein, stating "Nothing could be further from the truth. I've called him a 'serial rapist,' and said he deserved to be imprisoned. But many people now believe I defended him—and other inaccurate claims—and feel a real hurt because of what they believe I said. I'm sorry for that hurt. I wish I could have prevented the misunderstanding."


Return to FSF

In March 2021, at LibrePlanet, LibrePlanet2021, Stallman announced his return to the FSF board of directors. Shortly thereafter, an open letter was published on GitHub asking for Stallman's removal, along with the entire FSF board of directors, with the support of prominent open-source organizations including GNOME project, GNOME and Mozilla. The letter includes a list of accusations against Stallman. In response, an open letter asking for the FSF to retain Stallman was also published, arguing that Stallman's statements were mischaracterized, misunderstood and that they need to be interpreted in context. The FSF board in April 12 made a statement re-affirming its decision to bring back Richard Stallman. Following this, Stallman issued a statement explaining his poor social skills and apologizing. Multiple organizations criticized, defunded and/or cut ties with the FSF, including: Red Hat, the Free Software Foundation Europe, the Software Freedom Conservancy, Software Freedom Conservacy, SUSE, the Open Source Initiative, OSI, the The Document Foundation, Document Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF, and the The Tor Project, Tor Project. Debian declined to issue a statement after a community voting on the issue. However, the FSF claims this had relatively little financial impact, as it has stated that direct financial support from corporations accounted for less than 3% of its revenue in the most recent fiscal year.


Honors and awards

* 1986: Honorary lifetime membership of the Chalmers University of Technology Computer Society * 1990: Exceptional merit award MacArthur Fellowship ("genius grant") * 1990: The Association for Computing Machinery's Grace Murray Hopper Award "For pioneering work in the development of the extensible editor EMACS (Editing Macros)" * 1996: Honorary doctorate from Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology * 1998: Electronic Frontier Foundation's EFF Pioneer Award, Pioneer Award * 1999: Yuri Rubinsky Memorial Award * 2001: Takeda Awards, The Takeda Techno-Entrepreneurship Award for Social/Economic Well-Being () * 2001: Honorary doctorate, from the University of Glasgow * 2002: US National Academy of Engineering membership "for starting the GNU project, which produced influential, non-proprietary software tools, and for founding the free software movement" * 2003: Honorary doctorate, from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel * 2004: Honorary doctorate, from the Universidad Nacional de Salta * 2004: Honorary professorship, from the National University of Engineering, Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería del Perú * 2007: Honorary professorship, from the Universidad Inca Garcilaso de la Vega * 2007: First Premio Internacional Extremadura al Conocimiento Libre * 2007: Honorary doctorate, from the Universidad de Los Angeles de Chimbote * 2007: Honorary doctorate, from the University of Pavia * 2008: Honorary doctorate from the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, in Peru * 2009: Honorary doctorate, from Lakehead University * 2011: Honorary doctorate, from National University of Córdoba * 2012: Honorary professorship, from the César Vallejo University, Universidad César Vallejo de Trujillo, in Peru * 2012: Honorary doctorate, from the Universidad Latinoamericana Cima de Tacna, in Peru * 2012: Honorary doctorate, from the , in Peru * 2014: Honorary doctorate, from Concordia University, in Montréal * 2015: ACM Software System Award "For the development and leadership of GCC" * 2016: Honorary doctorate, from Pierre and Marie Curie University * 2016: Social Medicine award, from GNU Solidario


Selected publications

; Manuals: * * * ; Selected essays: *


See also

* 9882 Stallman * ''Free as in Freedom'', a biography by Sam Williams * Free Software Street * History of free and open-source software * Lisp Machine Lisp * ''Revolution OS'' * vrms *
Free Software Foundation The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a 501(c)#501(c)(3), 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Richard Stallman on October 4, 1985, to support the free software movement, with the organization's preference for software being distributed ...


References


External links

*
In Support of Richard Stallman
a website which advocates for Stallman. * * * *
Essays on the ''Philosophy of the GNU Project''
almost all written by Stallman {{DEFAULTSORT:Stallman, Richard Matthew 1953 births Activists from New York City Jewish American atheists American bloggers American computer programmers Anti-natalists Articles containing video clips Artificial intelligence researchers Copyright activists Education activists Emacs Filkers Free software people Free software programmers GNU people Grace Murray Hopper Award laureates Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences alumni Internet activists Jewish American scientists Linux people Lisp (programming language) people Living people MacArthur Fellows Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Science alumni Members of the Free Software Foundation board of directors Members of the United States National Academy of Engineering Privacy activists Programming language designers