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Essays and Articles
This page lists a series of articles describing the philosophy of the free software movement, which is the motivation for our development of the free software operating system GNU.
The most important articles are marked with asterisks, and listed first in each category. The other ones are in reverse chronological order.
About Free Software
Upholding Software Freedom
Licensing Free Software
Legal Issues
Cultural and Social Issues
Terminology and Definitions
Philosophical Humor
About Free Software
Free software is a matter of freedom: people should be free to use software in all the ways that are socially useful. Software differs from material objects—such as chairs, sandwiches, and gasoline—in that it can be copied and changed much more easily. These possibilities make software as useful as it is; we believe software users should be able to make use of them.
Principles
*[1996… ] What is Free Software?
*[2015] Free Software Is Even More Important Now (by RMS)
*[1996] Selling Free Software — This is OK!
[2012] Why programs must not limit the freedom to run them (by RMS) — Freedom 0 must not be limited.
[2007] Your Freedom Needs Free Software (by RMS)
[1994] Why Software Should Not Have Owners (by RMS)
[1991] Why Software Should Be Free (by RMS) — An older and longer essay about the same topic as the previous one.
Practice
*[1999-2011] When Free Software Isn't (Practically) Superior (by Benjamin Mako Hill)
[2015] Applying the Free Software Criteria (by RMS)
[2014] Imperfection is not the same as oppression (by RMS)
[2011] Android and Users' Freedom (by RMS)
[1997-2011] Free Software is More Reliable!
Extension to other areas
*[1996] Why Free Software Needs Free Documentation
[2020] Should Rockets Have Only Free Software? Free Software and Appliances (by RMS)
[2015] Free Hardware and Free Hardware Designs (by RMS)
[2015] What Does It Mean for Your Computer to Be Loyal? (by RMS)
[2012] Network Services Aren't Free or Nonfree; They Raise Other Issues (by RMS)
[2000] Regarding Gnutella
Mixing free and nonfree
[2016] When Free Software Depends on Nonfree (by RMS)
[2013] Is It Ever a Good Thing to Use a Nonfree Program? (by RMS)
[2005] Thank You, Larry McVoy (by RMS)
[1998] The Free Software Movement and UDI (by RMS)
Free software and open source
*[2007-2021] Why “Open Source” Misses the Point of Free Software (by RMS)
[2015] How Free Software and Open Source Relate as Categories of Programs
[2013] FLOSS and FOSS (by RMS)
[2002] Linux, GNU, and Freedom (by RMS)
[2001] Letter from RMS to the Editor of Dr. Dobb's Journal on the distinction between open source and the free software movement.
[1998] “Open Source Software” or “Free Software”? (replaced by Why “Open Source” Misses the Point of Free Software)
Upholding Software Freedom
The GNU Project
The GNU Operating System — History, relationship with Linux, etc.
The free software movement
The official website of the Free Software Foundation
[2004] The Free Software Community After 20 Years (by RMS) — With great but incomplete success, what now?
[1999] 15 Years of Free Software (by RMS)
[1999] Free Software Movement
The need for free software
*[2011-2017] Measures Governments Can Use to Promote Free Software (by RMS)
*[2009-2014] Why Schools Should Use Exclusively Free Software (by RMS)
[2014] Technological Neutrality and Free Software (by RMS)
[2013] Lesson from Uruguay — The FSF learned something from a bill presented in Uruguay.
[2005] Free Software and (e-)Government (by RMS)
[2005] Free Software and Sustainable Development (by RMS) — A short article regarding the use of proprietary software in cultural development.
Guide for action
*[2020] Saying No to unjust computing even once is help (by RMS)
*[2009] Motives For Writing Free Software
[2002-2020] We Can Put an End to Word Attachments (by RMS)
[2019] Install Fests: What to Do about the Deal with the Devil (by RMS)
[2019] What Is the Right Way to Upgrade an Installation of Windows? (by RMS)
[2018] GNU Kind Communications Guidelines (by RMS)
[2017] Why Hackathons Should Insist on Free Software (by RMS)
[2014] Beware of Contradictory “Support” (by RMS)
[2012] Why the Devil's Advocate Doesn't Help Reach the Truth (by RMS)
[2010] The Advantages of Free Software (by RMS)
[2009] How the Swedish Pirate Party Platform Backfires on Free Software (by RMS)
[2009] Lest CodePlex perplex (by RMS)
[2008] Why We Must Fight UCITA
[2008] Avoiding Ruinous Compromises (by RMS)
[2007] Overcoming Social Inertia (by RMS)
[2004] MyDoom and You (by RMS)
[2003] A Response Letter to the Word Attachments (by Kevin Cole)
[2003] A Response to Word Attachments
Licensing Free Software
Licenses — General information on licensing and copyleft
Copyleft
*[2003] Why Copyleft?
*[1998] Copyleft: Pragmatic Idealism (by RMS)
[2009-2017] On Selling Exceptions to the GNU GPL (by RMS)
[2014] When a Company Asks For Your Copyright
[2005] Censorship envy and licensing (by David “Novalis” Turner, on fsf.org)
[2004] English translation of the famous decision of the District Court of Munich regarding the enforceability and validity of the GPL (by the translators of the Oxford Internet Institute, on oii.ox.ac.uk)
[2002] Releasing Free Software if You Work at a University (by RMS)
[2001] The GNU GPL and the American Way (by RMS)
[2001] The GNU GPL and the American Dream (by Bradley M. Kuhn)
[2001] Freedom or Power? (by Bradley M. Kuhn and RMS)
[2001] GPL-compliant version of RTLinux Open Patent License in Works
[2001] Enforcing the GNU GPL (by Eben Moglen)
[1999] Using the GNU FDL (by RMS)
Non-copyleft
[2003] FSF's Opinion of the Apple Public Source License (APSL) 2.0
[2000] The Problems of the (Earlier) Plan 9 License (by RMS)
[1998] On the Netscape Public License (by RMS) [older version]
[1998] Netscape and Free Software — An old article that clarifies some misunderstandings about an announcement by Netscape.
[1997] The Motif License (by RMS)
Licensing traps
*[2009-2019] JavaScript Trap (by RMS) — You may be running nonfree programs on your computer every day without realizing it—through your web browser.
[2004-2015] Free But Shackled - The Java Trap (by RMS) — Although Sun has relicensed most of its Java platform reference implementation under the GNU General Public License, the issue described in this article still remains important.
[1998-2009] The X Window System Trap (by RMS)
[2006] The Curious Incident of Sun in the Night-Time (by RMS)
Legal issues
Patents
*[2012] Giving the Software Field Protection from Patents (by RMS)
[2011] Europe's “unitary patent” could mean unlimited software patents (by RMS)
[2000-2007] EFF “Intellectual Property”: MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) DVD Cases Archive
[2006] The Anatomy of a Trivial Patent (by RMS)
[2005] Microsoft's New Monopoly (by RMS)
[2005] Soft sell (by RMS, on theguardian.com) — Comments on the defeat of the EU software patenting directive.
[2005] Bill Gates and Other Communists (by RMS)
[2005] Software Patents and Literary Patents (by RMS) — Speaking of patenting artistic techniques, US patent (6,935,954) covers making game characters start to hallucinate when (according to the game) they are being driven insane. That is getting pretty close to the hypothetical examples cited in this article.
[2004] Fighting Software Patents—Singly and Together (by RMS)
[2005] Patent absurdity (by RMS, on theguardian.com)
[2003] FSF's Position on W3 Consortium “Royalty-Free” Patent Policy (rewritten)
[2003] Opposing The European Software Patent Directive (by RMS and Nick Hill)
[2001] Princeton Scientists Sue Over Squelched Research (press release on eff.org) — In Felten v. RIAA, scientists ask a court to rule that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) does not prohibit them from publishing their research.
[2001] Harm from the Hague (by RMS)
[2000] Sequential Innovation, Patents, and Imitation (by James Bessen and Eric Maskin, on researchoninnovation.org​, archived) — This paper presents a mathematical model showing how patents can impede progress in fields like software.
[1999] Letter from RMS to Tim O'Reilly in regard to a statement by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, on the duration of software patents.
[1999] Amazon Boycott Success! (a letter from Nat Friedman to RMS)
[1999] (Formerly) Boycott Amazon!
[1999] Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network — Amazon patent with notes by RMS
[1997] Why There Are No GIF Files on GNU Web Pages — While this story is a historical illustration of the danger of software patents, these particular patents are now no longer a concern. For details of our website policies regarding GIFs, see our web guidelines.
[1996] Saving Europe from Software Patents
[1996] Help Protect the Rights to Write Both Nonfree and Free Software
[1996] Patent Reform Is Not Enough
Copyright
*[2002] Misinterpreting Copyright—A Series of Errors (by RMS) — About the flaws in popular defenses of copyright law.
*[1996] Reevaluating Copyright: The Public Must Prevail (by RMS)
[2010] Why I Will Not Sign the Public Domain Manifesto (by RMS)
[2008] Freedom—or Copyright? (by RMS) [older version]
[2002] FSF's Brief Amicus Curiae in the Eldred v. Ashcroft Supreme Court case (by Eben Moglen)
[2001] Science must “push copyright aside” (by RMS, first published in Nature WebDebates in 2001) — This article explains how copyright is impeding progress in scientific research. You may also be interested in The Public Library of Science, which is dedicated to making scientific research freely available to all on the Internet.
[2001] Examples of Excellent Copyright Policies (on humaninfo.org, archived)
[1999] Original complaint in Eldred v. Reno (on harvard.edu) — A lawsuit to overturn a law that extends copyright by 20 extra years.
[1996] Comments on Roderick Long's Article (by RMS)
The propaganda term “Intellectual Property
*[2004] Did You Say “Intellectual Property”? It's a Seductive Mirage (by RMS)
[2015] The Curious History of Komongistan (Busting the term “intellectual property”) (by RMS)
[2006] Don't Let “Intellectual Property” Twist Your Ethos (by RMS)
[2003] Reject IP Enforcement Directive — Comments on the rejection of this directive by the International Civil Liberties Coalition.
[2003] Review: Boldrin and Levine, “The Case Against Intellectual Property” (by RMS)
Response to SCO's attacks
[2003-2004] FSF's Position regarding SCO's attacks on Free Software
[2003] SCO, GNU, and Linux (by RMS) — How SCO's lawsuit against IBM pertains to the work of the GNU project.
Cultural and Social Issues
Digital society
*[2012] Stallman's Law
*[2009] Is Digital Inclusion A Good Thing? How Can We Make Sure It Is? (by RMS)
[2007] Computing “progress”: good and bad (by RMS)
[2003] World Summit on the Information Society (by RMS)
Digital restrictions management
*[2006] Opposing Digital Rights Mismanagement (by RMS) — Answers to a few common questions about DRM.
*[2002] Can You Trust Your Computer? (by RMS) — About the so-called “trusted computing” initiatives.
[2013] Nonfree DRM'd Games on GNU/Linux: Good or Bad? (by RMS)
[2012] Correcting My Mistake about French Law (by RMS)
Network Services
*[2010-2020] Who does that server really serve? (by RMS)
[2020] Posting Videos (by RMS)
[2015] What's Wrong with YouTube
[2014] The Bug Nobody is Allowed to Understand (by RMS)
[2011] A wise user judges each Internet usage scenario carefully (by RMS)
[2011] Keep control of your computing, so it doesn't control you! (by RMS)
Accessing culture
*[1996-2016] The Right to Read: A Dystopian Short Story (by RMS)
[2012] Ebooks must increase our freedom, not decrease it (by RMS)
[2011] The Danger of E-Books (by RMS)
[2010] Digital economy bill: One clown giveth and the other clown taketh away (by RMS, on theguardian.com)
[2000] Ebooks: Freedom Or Copyright (by RMS)
[2000] The Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource (by RMS)
[1999] U.S. Congress Threatens to Establish a New Kind of Monopoly — An attempt of the Congress to create a private monopoly over repeating publicly known information.
[1999] Stop H.R. 3028 - Protect the Net - Stop the Trademark Monopolists (by Marc Rotenberg)
Funding cultural works
[2013] Funding Art vs Funding Software (by RMS)
[1992] The Right Way to Tax DAT (by RMS)
Surveillance, censorship, lock-in, etc.
*[2013… ] Proprietary Software Is Often Malware — Clearly established cases of proprietary software that does nasty things to the users.
*[2015-2019] How Much Surveillance Can Democracy Withstand? (by RMS)
[2021] The WWWorst App Store (by Alexandre Oliva)
[2018] Anonymous Payment by Phone (by RMS)
[2018] A radical proposal to keep your personal data safe (by RMS, on theguardian.com)
[2018] Surveillance Testimony (by RMS)
[2012] Ubuntu Spyware: What to Do? (by RMS)
[2009] Is Microsoft the Great Satan? [older version]
[2008] The Problem Is Software Controlled By Its Developer (by RMS)
[2008] It's not the Gates, it's the bars (by RMS)
[2002] The Wassenaar Arrangement — Encryption software volunteers needed in countries without export control.
[2002] FSF's Statement in Response to Proposed Revised Final Judgment in Microsoft v. United States
[2000] On the Microsoft Verdict
[1999] The Microsoft Antitrust Trial and Free Software
[1996] Protect Postal Privacy (by Kathleen Ellis) — A campaign to resist the proposed rule by the United States Postal Service to collect private information from customers.
[1996] Freedoms of Speech, Press, and Association — How to protect these freedoms on the Internet.
[1996] Censoring My Software (by RMS)
Terminology and Definitions
*[1996… ] Words to Avoid (or Use with Care) Because They Are Loaded or Confusing
[1999… ] Translations of the term “free software” into various languages.
[1996-2019] Categories of Free and Nonfree Software
[2013] Why Call It The Swindle? (by RMS)
[2002] Public Awareness of Copyright, WIPO, June 2002 (by RMS) — How WIPO recognizes that their system is designed to restrict the public, and how they propose to modify terminology so that people won't notice.
Philosophical humor
Laugh along with GNU (Philosophy) — We don't have to be serious all the time.
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Updated: $Date: 2022/01/01 17:25:38 $