Richard Stallman: Free software costs the environment less

Green-ITInnovationOpen SourceSoftware

The GNU founder claims that free software should be more sustainable than proprietary – and argues that the UK and EU are missing the ethical issues in software

Free Software Foundation (FSF) president Richard Stallman doesn’t suffer fools. In fact he doesn’t suffer much of anything especially if its proprietary.

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At a recent press conference in Budapest, following a well attended speech on copyright issues, Stallman made it very clear to his Hungarian hosts that no one should ask him if he wants anything as it just makes him annoyed. This direct approach can come over as brusque and arrogant or simply the product of an impassioned mind – depending on your perspective.

Stallman is definitely a passionate character. And not just when it comes to free software – he rejects the term open source which he says has nothing to do with freedom. A glance at his personal website reveals that the man credited with developing the GNU operating system – which paved the way for Linux – is on a mission to combat anything he feels is unjust or limits freedom.

Issues from climate change to ID-cards are firmly on the Stallman radar and probably inspire just as much vitriol as his main focus – the free software movement.

As part of the QA and press conference following his talk Stallman answered questions from EWeek Europe UK and others on issues such as his take on green IT and what impact the recession was having on interest in free software.

What happened to your shoes?
I took them off as my feet have a tendency to feel hot

Is the recession having any bearing on interest in free software?
I don’t know. All I know is that people continue to join the FSF at a high rate – we have more members now than we did a year ago. People have to renew every year so what that means is that we are getting enough renewals that we have more members now. So it isn’t affecting us yet. But how much do I know.

Some commentators claim that the recession is driving more companies to adopt open source or “gratis” software?
Well that is not the same thing. It’s the same software – it’s just not the same idea. So…

But if it forwards your ideas through different means – that is good surely?
I won’t say no to more users, but of course if they only bought the thing to save them money then they have missed the main point, so what we need to do is show them that there are more important things. Another issue is that when programmers are unemployed that gives them a lot of time to write free programs. Whether it is going to help or hinder us overall I can’t say. We’ll see.

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