Work sheet 2

The GNU Project and the GPL

A. The crusade of the Free Software Foundation

The Unix wars (see previous unit) amoung the vendors also made them to disregard the rights of the users. Richard Stallman, a researcher at MIT, could not tolerate these practices and was "faced with a moral dilemma". He quit his job in early 1984 to create a Unix-like OS which is free. The name chosen for the new system was GNU, a recursive acronym for GNU's Not Unix. Listen to Stallman talking about the origin of FSF.

Revolution OS - Birth Of GNU (1/5) (2:28 min)

B. What is Free Software

“Free software” means software that respects users' freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and distribute the changed software. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should understand “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”.

Richard Stallman - What is free software? (2:18 min)

C. Why is Software Freedom important

To run the GNU project Stallman and others created the Free Software Foundation (FSF). They also promote awareness about the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. For that they developed a license called The GNU General Public Licence (GPL) which is essentially a legal document which should accompany a piece of software to protect its freedom. Its second version, which Eben Moglan, a law Professor of MIT, helped to refine further, is the most widely accepted license of Free Software. Listen to this interview given by Stallman.

Why is Free Software important? Richard Stallman (7:29 min)

Last modified: Sunday, 11 January 2015, 3:01 PM