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Stallman Crashes Talk, Fights 'War On Sharing' 309

Posted by kdawson
from the no-problem dept.
schliz writes "Free software activist Richard Stallman has called for the end of the 'war on sharing' at the World Computer Congress in Brisbane, Australia. He criticized surveillance, censorship, restrictive data formats, and software-as-a-service in a keynote presentation, and asserted that digital society had to be 'free' in order to be a benefit, and not an attack. Earlier in the conference, Stallman had briefly interrupted a European Patent Office presentation with a placard that said: 'Don't get caught in software patent thickets.' He told journalists that the Patent Office was 'here to campaign in favor of software patents in Australia,' arguing that 'there's no problem that requires a solution with anything like software patents.'"
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Stallman Crashes Talk, Fights 'War On Sharing'

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  • by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:34AM (#33674602)

    I'd prefer Stallman's outspoken extremism vs the quiet extremism that corporations would place us under if no one spoke up.

    • by koterica (981373) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:44AM (#33674734) Journal
      I always prefer the extremists on my side to the extremists on the other side too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I always prefer the extremists on my side to the extremists on the other side too.

        To borrow a turn of phrase, the important thing is that you've found a way to feel superior to both.

      • by mapkinase (958129) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:10AM (#33675054) Homepage Journal

        The notion of "extremism" is based on the notion that majority always represent somewhat "middle", "balanced" or "common-sensical" or "best" or etc. position, while in fact majority always represents just the most marketed, the most advertised, the most imposed position. That is for situations when wide public is involved.

        • This is probably one of the best comments I have ever read on slashdot, thank you for your contribution!

        • Indeed (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          For example, in my mind, a government that locks non-violent human beings in cages for engaging in recreational drug use is incredibly extremist. The reason the majority doesn't see it that way is because they've spent their entire lives knowing nothing but the status quo, and therefore can't imagine it being any different.

        • by hey! (33014) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @01:27PM (#33677634) Homepage Journal

          while in fact majority always represents just the most marketed, the most advertised, the most imposed position.

          [emphasis mine]

          OK, as a first approximation, you are right, but to say "always" is to overstate the case. There is no question that people who invest in propaganda don't do so out of naiveté... they expect a return on their investment. They expect to wield public sentiment like a tool, but it is a treacherous tool.

          I think propaganda works best when it is directs people's attention away from their day to day lives, as opposed to changing their assessment of those lives. You can say, "your life is hell because of the Jews" or "you are insecure because of the homosexual agenda." You can't say, "your life is actually pretty good so far as the world standard of living is concerned," even if that is true. You can't say "it's actually quite easy to get a job; people who don't have jobs are just lazy," unless you are talking to somebody with a secure job.

          If you could simply manufacture the opinions you wanted, then the public would have continued to favor the Iraq war in the run up to the 2008 elections, but the war had gone on so long that people were touched by it in some way, by a family member, friend or colleague who was deployed and maybe didn't come back. Likewise the Democrats are going to pay in 2010 because they can't credibly claim to have improved peoples' lives in the twenty months they've had power. That's common in mid-term elections.

          In such cases, propaganda has a way of turning on its masters.

          Perhaps we should evaluate people's political sanity not on their absolute position on some political axis, but on their open or narrow mindedness. A political position becomes pernicious fantasy, no matter where it is on your favorite philosophical axis, when it willfully ignores the probable outcomes of the actions it advocates.

          For example, other people with me on the left favored single payer health insurance or even a socialized medical system during the recent debates on health insurance reform. While I am philosophically well disposed to these things, I did not favor them at that time. I thought if they were enacted that existing businesses would immediately collapse, and that working public replacements could not be conjured into existence quickly enough to take their place. Now I realize many who prefer socialized medicine or single payer (not the same things at all by the way) might disagree with that assessment. They may even be right. But that's not the point I'm trying to make. I moderated my position based on a critical examination of the likely outcomes of my *ideal* solution. That examination might be faulty, but I did not twist my evaluation of the facts in order to justify my a priori position.

          It's tricky to evaluate the political sanity of a figure like Stallman. He is very, very bright,and bright people have a way of finding credible sounding rationalizations for really ill considered opinions. That said, I think that Stallman's positions on the viability of free software sound a lot more credible today than they did twenty years ago. True, free software projects haven't produced viable competition in a number of important niches; but after two decades of experience with free software success, it isn't so hard to believe that a free software ecosystem could meet all the software needs of an individual or enterprise.

      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:16AM (#33675148) Homepage

        Well, I think that all extremists should be killed to ensure that the debate remains moderate! Oh, wait ...

        It's also worth mentioning that if you immediately dismiss all extremists, you limit the debate to those ideas which the powers that be have deemed "mainstream" and acceptable. Extremists are the ones that change what is considered mainstream.

      • by CODiNE (27417) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:45AM (#33675536) Homepage

        So THAT'S why moderate muslims don't denounce the crazies. I get it now thanks.

        • Who says they don't? Only stat I've heard on that was that 95% of muslims denounce AlQuaeda (the other 5% being the crazies). I've heard this sentiment a lot and it makes me sad. What is different between the parent's statement and this one:

          "Did Glenn Beck rape and murder a young girl in 1990? We're not saying he's guilty, but he won't deny it!"
        • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @04:34PM (#33679940)

          So THAT'S why moderate muslims don't denounce the crazies. I get it now thanks.

          Are you serious?

          Thousands of muslims leaders [muhajabah.com] and millions of regular muslims [floppingaces.net] have denounced the terrorists.

          Hell, even the leader of the axis of evil, Ayatollah Khamenei, publicly condemned the 9-11 attacks. [bbc.co.uk]

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dkleinsc (563838)

          Many of them do. Many of those that do are still demonized by Fox News - for instance, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said in describing his community center in Lower Manhattan that “We want to push back against the extremists", has worked with local Jewish leaders, and has been consistently advocating for peace between Islamic nations and the West throughout his career. It didn't help his cause.

      • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:03AM (#33675752) Journal
        I don't know... I have many arguments to oppose to extremists (on my side or against my side) but I don't like to call RMS an extremist because his views and positions are coherent, rational and come with arguments. He is uncompromising, that's sure, but does that make one an extremist ?

        Uncompromising, sure. Idealist, hell yes, but extremist ? How so ? Does he advocate violence ? Does he say we must break laws ? Come one... I like RMS in that he doesn't care about what is reasonable, what is consensual, he cares about his point and defends it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DrgnDancer (137700)

          His uncompromising attitude on issues which cannot be resolved without compromise make him an extremist. There is no possible way we'll ever live in a world of pure free software in Stallman's lifetime. He can never win. Any reasonable outside observer can see this. The work he wants to do is the work of decades or even centuries spent readjusting attitudes and gaining mindshare. He could move things in that direction if he were willing to take small bites, make compromises here and there to advance th

    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@nOSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:46AM (#33674760)
      I don't think anyone has any issues with Stallman sharing his own work voluntarily - I think some people draw the line at stunts like this where he calls for universal adherence to his third and fourth 'freedoms' (to distribute the software; and to modify and distribute modified copies of the code).

      Your post assumes that only the black and white extremes exist - nothing could be further from the truth, luckily. There is a whole world in between the two.
      • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:39AM (#33675464) Homepage

        What some people would like to characterize here as "extremism" is merely a slightly older form of the status quo.

        If RMS could be declared an "extremist" at all in this situation is merely a reflection that most people are entirely ignorant and apathetic on this subject.

        This is one argument where RMS is not an extremist at all.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:39AM (#33674666) Homepage

    Amazingly enough, the article describing Stallman's well-reasoned arguments for the need for free software, free sharing of information, and non-proprietary formats is helpfully on a page written in ASP.

  • Go Stallman (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hellraizer (1689320)
    Nice work ... there should me more people like him :)
  • by Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:39AM (#33674690)

    Look at these people, like Richard Stallman, who want our economy to die! We must have software patents! And an ACTA equivalent, and a DMCA equivalent, and secret police, and blah blah blah.

  • Well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:42AM (#33674708)

    Censorship, DRM, and surveillance are all very dangerous and annoying things that only hurt the average person. It's hardly going to affect the pirates and will likely only affect 'normal' people, robbing them of some of their rights in the process. These corporations must be stopped, that much is clear.

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:43AM (#33674720)
    when jesus overturned the money-changer's tables. Jesus? is that you? [stallman.org]
  • by TheEyes (1686556) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:45AM (#33674756)

    Even worse than software patents, there is a new UN resolution going around [npr.org] that would give world governments more control over the internet. This is even worse, IMO, than software patents, which "only" threaten to drive software innovation to a virtual standstill: allowing governments to control the flow of information on the Internet could well destroy it, and the newfound freedom of expression and access to information we are currently taking for granted.

    There are so many new threats to freedom on so many new fronts it's hard to even define what they all are, let alone what can be done about them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      What are you hiding? If you're not a dirty criminal, what have you got to lose? The government is nice enough to provide all kinds of other things for you, and can be trusted. Stop acting like a conspiracy theorist.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GameboyRMH (1153867)

      I think the Internet's fate is sealed, in it's current form. It was always under the control of a single government, so it's only a matter of time. We need to go to darknets or replace the infrastructure with something community-run - probably a bit of both.

      I wrote about this before:

      http://search.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1634334&cid=32019410 [slashdot.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      If that's this morning's Morning Edition report on "cyber" security (may that buzzword burn in hell), we need to change the framing of the information security debate in eastern Europe and the Middle East, because those countries view information and ideology, not technology, as the weapons. They want to stop countries from expressing philosophical opinions, which is useless for anything except for suppressing dissidents!

    • by hedwards (940851)
      What concerns me about that is that they're going at it the wrong way. Much of what governments legitimately require is already available to them. The main thing they need is some agreement about how to investigate and prosecute cross border crimes.

      Spammers, Phishers and similar scum routinely go through multiple countries for a reason, and it's not just a matter of the net not being designed to go directly at all times either.
  • GNU/Stallman (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dandart (1274360) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:52AM (#33674830)
    Shouting, running, making a fool out of himself. I think if only he would do the sort of things he does without calling a ruckus, then people might take him more seriously.

    I admire the sort of things he's doing, but the way he does them is troublesome. He shouldn't for example be blocking access to an Apple store despite their terribly non-free products. Nobody likes an asshole and would tend to ignore it. Now, if he were to stand outside, offering leaflets on why Apple is wrong, but disguising it as something like "Bad Computer Practises", or "Why Software Freedom is Important" instead of "Apple is crap! Don't buy from them!" which no one will pay attention to, I think he'd get a lot further.

    Good luck, rms.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by martas (1439879)
      "The bitch of it is that you probably did the right thing. But you did it in the wrong way. In the inconvenient way. Now you have to pay the penalty for that. I know it stinks, but that's the way it is."
      President Susanna Luchenko to Sheridan, Rising Star, Babylon 5
    • Re:GNU/Stallman (Score:5, Insightful)

      by melikamp (631205) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:08AM (#33675028) Homepage Journal

      Shouting, running, making a fool out of himself. I think if only he would do the sort of things he does without calling a ruckus, then people might take him more seriously.

      May be he doesn't care about being taken seriously. May be he just wants people to be serious about defending their own right to free expression. And I am sorry for people who are turned away from his lucid arguments because they think that non-violent protests against economic oppression and political censorship are "extremism": can people be any more docile?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        May be he doesn't care about being taken seriously. May be he just wants people to be serious about defending their own right to free expression

        The problem is, by projecting the image of himself that he does - a bearded fanatic with glowing eyes frothing at the mouth - he does a great disservice to the cause he tries to represent, because it gets associated with him, and all personal negative connotations necessarily carry over.

        PR is good and necessary for any cause, but it should be done by people good at it.

    • by MORB (793798)

      Shouting, running, making a fool out of himself.

      I thought Steve Ballmer had patended that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jDeepbeep (913892)
        I think Ballmer only has the patent on using a chair as a projectile whilst making a point. Making a fool of oneself has too much prior art behind it.
    • Re:GNU/Stallman (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jDeepbeep (913892) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:29AM (#33675330)
      In other words, if he would just keep his mouth shut, not make anyone uncomfortable, and not live out his philosophy, he would be acceptable to you. Get back to us when you've done even _an eighth_ of what RMS has done for software freedoms that all of us benefit directly from.
  • stallman rocks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jeek Elemental (976426) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:53AM (#33674834)

    He secured his place in history a long time ago and is STILL at it, and most impressive, still relevant.

  • the printing press (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [erauqssemitelcric]> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:56AM (#33674880) Homepage Journal

    bought about the creation of the middle class, modern democracy, and the death of the feudal system and the aristocracy

    it took awhile. the feudal system and the aristocracy in their time were just no brainer common sense, and the idea of challenging them was either something to be laughed at or you must be crazy to believe they could ever end or to doubt their validity

    the internet means the death of the entire concept of intellectual property

    it will take awhile. in our time some people just take the idea of intellectual property as just no brainer common sense, and the idea of challenging it is either something to be laughed at or you must be crazy to believe it could ever end or to doubt its validity

    in today's age, stallman is but a distant voice in the wilderness, but he's actually 100% correct, just way ahead of his time, too far ahead, to gain any traction

    the simple truth is that intellectual property is a completely flawed concept. it made sense before the internet when media had to be physically printed and physically distributed. much as the feudal system made sense when only a few could afford book knowledge

    all that intellectual property has going for it now is legal and cultural inertia. it is of course completely philosophically untenable when media can be shared at zero cost at great distances with millions instantaneously. it will take time, but intellectual property is going down the tubes. the intartubes

    let us work hard to hasten its demise

    • Devil's Advocate (Score:3, Interesting)

      by archer, the (887288)

      Company X spends $1B developing a new idea, be it a physical widget or an algorithm. Said company sells widgets or software licenses at $A to recoup the invested money (first) and then to make a profit. Company Y sees the widget or software and can cheaply reverse engineer it, skipping 70% of the development costs. Company Y can sell their product at 0.4*$A and still make profit. Company X only gets $0.2B revenue for the item, and is out $0.8B.

      How would we prevent this situation without IP? If the above hap

      • How much time, effort and money does it take to design the iPod, and set up the facilities to manufacture it in large quanities? How much time, effort and money does it take to replicate the design and set up the facilities to manufacture it in large quantities?

        Not surprisingly, the answers to both questions are very similar -- it takes a lot of time, effort and money even if you are simply copying somebody else's product. By the time a second company can produce "iPots", Apple would have had ample time to

      • You are ignoring several things that usually happen. First off, Company X, being first to market, will likely enjoy better sales even if their product cost more because of name recognition. Being first to market can be a huge boost for any product, and can do an effective job holding off cheap clones. Second, if Company X keeps innovating with their product and doesn't just keep selling said widget as the same product, they will always have an advantage because everyone is constantly playing catch up. W

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:52AM (#33675624) Homepage Journal

      bought about the creation of the middle class, modern democracy, and the death of the feudal system and the aristocracy

      Completely incorrect and bass-ackwards. Wikipedia on the printing press [wikipedia.org]: "The rapid economic and socio-cultural development of late medieval society in Europe created favorable intellectual and technological conditions for Gutenberg's invention", not the other way around as you state. Gutenberg invented the press in 1439, nearly three hundred years before the industrial revolution. [wikipedia.org]

      Too bad your misunderstanding of history detracts so badly from the better points in your comment.

      • hey, genius (Score:3, Insightful)

        if you can't afford a book, you can't afford to learn. and you can't afford a book if the only ones around are scribbled by monks. and so, a dummy, who can't read and knows nothing, you go work the fields, like your serf parents before you

        fact: the printing press created the middle class as we know it today. the existence of a large middle class supports the notion of a democracy being an effect political possibility

        the cities have always had craftsmen and tradesmen, since before roman and even egyptian tim

  • Good for him. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrthoughtful (466814) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:58AM (#33674900) Journal

    I recall when I went through a rather lengthy discussion with the UK government about software patents, and the state of the law. It became very clear that regarding patent law, the UK government and the UK patent office is very heavily influenced by advisors who are, almost to a man, commercial patent lawyers. The remaining industry spokesmen are from big business.

    It doesn't take a huge amount of understanding or research to see that SME innovation has more or less been destroyed by the existing patent processes. Entry into big success is done through innovation still - but not so much via the patent route. I would contend that companies like Facebook was successful, NOT because of whatever patents they may have held, (or bought), but because they were able to identify a market demand and react to it faster or more successfully than existing big industry was able.

  • I just don't think he can effectively get his message across to Corporate/IT decision makers/leaders. Nor is the average computer user able to really recieve it. What do they "benefit" from his ideals.

    For example, this quote in reference to 'Software as a Service'

    "You absolutely can't study it, and you absolutely can't change it, and you're even further away from having control over your computing."

    Corporations, don't particularly care about studying, and the idea of not having control over their computin

    • by bouldin (828821) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:42AM (#33675492)

      I would tell the corporate world that free software is good for the economy, and good for their business.

      There are plenty of vendors out there who have built products on top of Linux, Apache, etc.

      If Linux, Apache, etc. were not available for free, these vendors either would not have been able to launch their products, or would have paid huge licensing fees for crap like the Microsoft web server, driving up their prices.

      If it weren't for these kinds of public software projects, everything would be more expensive, from consumer electronics to enterprise appliances.

  • by Damon Tog (245418) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:01AM (#33674950)

    Copying other people's stuff and giving it away isn't "sharing."

    If you want to share, create your own work and give it away for free.

    In the past (and present) this is precisely what Richard Stallman did with GNU. He wanted software to be free. Instead of bootlegging copies of Windows (or MS-DOS) he created his OWN stuff and gave it away for free. Now Linux is a force to be reckoned with. If he had simply pirated other peoples' work, this innovation would have never happened.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      If you give me an apple and I give half to a different friend, it's still sharing. If I have something and give it to you it's sharing no matter where or how I got the item.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by djmurdoch (306849)

      I assume you're describing copying without permission, i.e. copyright infringement. Copying and giving away with permission is definitely sharing.

      But I'm curious about who you think is suggesting that people should infringe copyright?

      Or are you talking about Stallman's anti-software-patent position? Newly imposing software patents is the "theft"; it takes stuff that should be in the public domain, and gives the patent holder a monopoly on it.

    • by SheeEttin (899897) <sheeettin@nospAm.gmail.com> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @02:38PM (#33678478) Homepage

      Copying other people's stuff and giving it away isn't "sharing." If you want to share, create your own work and give it away for free.

      Let's say you have a car. You lend it to your friend.
      Is that sharing? Yes.
      Now let's say you have the ability to magically duplicate your car, and you give your friend a duplicate so when he needs it, you're not without a car.
      Is that sharing? Yes, but in a different way.

      So, you are still sharing something you have. Remember those "you wouldn't steal a car" ads? They were right, I wouldn't. But if I could get an exact copy such that the owner was not deprived of his car, I sure as hell would! Who wouldn't want a nice car for free?!

      And before someone says that you'd kill the auto industry by not giving them their money for cars... open-source hasn't killed closed (yet). And then there's these guys [theoscarproject.org].

  • And the problem? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Steauengeglase (512315) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:09AM (#33675042)

    Given the number of corporate shills who show up at F/OSS conventions peddling things like, "'you people' need to get over software patents" or "sometimes you just can't just hand the source over to the client, its just good for business" or "I'm not calling you people communist -or even traitors, but you have to wonder about someone who doesn't genuinely care about the shareholder's position", I have no problem with Stallman shitting in their yard. Good for him.

  • Crashes? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by swm (171547) * <swmcd@world.std.com> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @10:23AM (#33675254) Homepage

    The headline says "crashes".
    The article says "interrupted", but gives no details.
    The article has two pictures (#18 and #19).
    #19 looks like Stallman posing after the event for the benefit of the camera.
    #18 is probably the interruption.
    All you can see from the picture is that Stallman (and friend) stood at the front of a conference room holding poster-board signs.
    It looks like Stallman has a sheaf of papers in his hand, so maybe he said something.

  • Was I the only one who hoped that his katana [xkcd.com] would be involved?

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