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<title> It's
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<title>It's not the Gates, it's the bars
- RMS</title> GNU Project - Free Software Foundation</title>
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<h2> It's not the Gates, it's the bars</h2>

<p>by <a href="http://www.stallman.org/"><strong>Richard
Stallman</strong></a><br />
Founder, Free Software Foundation
</p>

<blockquote>
<p><em>(This article was <a
href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7487060.stm">published by
BBC News in 2008</a>.)</em></p>
</blockquote>

  <p>To pay so much attention to Bill Gates' retirement is
  missing the point. What really matters is not Gates, nor
  Microsoft, but the unethical system of restrictions that
  Microsoft—like many other software companies—imposes on its
  customers.</p>

  <p>That statement may surprise you, since most people interested in
  computers have strong feelings about Microsoft. Businessmen and their
  tame politicians admire its success in building an empire over so many
  computer users.  Many outside the computer field credit Microsoft for
  advances which it only took advantage of, such as making computers
  cheap and fast, and convenient graphical user interfaces.</p>

  <p>Gates' philanthropy for health care for poor countries has won
  some people's good opinion. The LA Times reported that his
  foundation spends five to 10% of its money annually and invests
  the rest, sometimes in companies it suggests cause environmental
  degradation and illness in the same poor countries.
  (2010 update: The Gates Foundation is supporting a project with
  agribusiness giant Cargill on a <a
  href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2010/sep/29/gates-foundation-gm-monsanto">project
  that could involve pushing genetically modified crops in Africa</a>.)</p>

  <p>Many computerists specially hate Gates and Microsoft. They have
  plenty of reasons.  Microsoft persistently engages in anti-competitive
  behaviour, and has been convicted three times. (Bush, who let
  Microsoft off the hook for the second US conviction, was invited to
  Microsoft headquarters to solicit funds for the 2000 election.  In the
  UK, Microsoft established a major office in Gordon Brown's
  constituency.  Both lawful, both potentially corrupting.)</p>

  <p>Many users hate the “Microsoft tax”, the retail
  contracts that make you pay for Windows on your computer even if you
  won't use it. (In some countries you can get a refund, but the effort
  required is daunting.)  There's also the Digital Restrictions
  Management: software features designed to “stop” you from
  accessing your files freely.  (Increased restriction of users seems to
  be the main advance of Vista.)</p>

  <p>Then there are the gratuitous incompatibilities and obstacles to
  interoperation with other software. (This is why the EU required
  Microsoft to publish interface specifications.)  This year Microsoft
  packed standards committees with its supporters to procure ISO
  approval of its unwieldy, unimplementable and patented “open
  standard” for documents. (The EU is now investigating this.)</p>

  <p>These actions are intolerable, of course, but they are not
  isolated events. They are systematic symptoms of a deeper wrong
  which most people don't recognize: proprietary software.</p>

  <p>Microsoft's software is distributed under licenses that keep
  users divided and helpless. The users are divided because they
  are forbidden to share copies with anyone else. The users are
  helpless because they don't have the source code that programmers
  can read and change.</p>

  <p>If you're a programmer and you want to change the software, for
  yourself or for someone else, you can't.  If you're a business and you
  want to pay a programmer to make the software suit your needs better,
  you can't. If you copy it to share with your friend, which is simple
  good-neighbourliness, they call you a “pirate”.
  Microsoft would have us believe that helping your neighbour is the
  moral equivalent of attacking a ship.</p>

  <p>The most important thing that Microsoft has done is to promote this
  unjust social system.  Gates is personally identified with it, due to
  his infamous open letter which rebuked microcomputer users for sharing
  copies of his software. It said, in effect, “If you don't let me
  keep you divided and helpless, I won't write the software and you
  won't have any.  Surrender to me, or you're lost!”</p>

  <p>But Gates didn't invent proprietary software, and thousands of
  other companies do the same thing. It's wrong—no matter who does
  it. Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, and the rest, offer you software that
  gives them power over you. A change in executives or companies is not
  important. What we need to change is this system.</p>

  <p>That's what the free software movement is all
  about. “Free” refers to freedom: we write and publish
  software that users are free to share and modify.  We do this
  systematically, for freedom's sake; some of us paid, many as
  volunteers. We already have complete free operating systems, including
  GNU/Linux. Our aim is to deliver a complete range of useful free
  software, so that no computer user will be tempted to cede her freedom
  to get software.</p>

  <p>In 1984, when I started the free software movement, I was hardly
  aware of Gates' letter. But I'd heard similar demands from others,
  and I had a response: “If your software would keep us divided
  and helpless, please don't write it. We are better off without
  it. We will find other ways to use our computers, and preserve our
  freedom.”</p>

  <p>In 1992, when the GNU operating system was completed by the
  kernel, Linux, you had to be a wizard to run it. Today GNU/Linux
  is user-friendly: in parts of Spain and India, it's standard in
  schools. Tens of millions use it, around the world. You can use
  it too.</p>

  <p>Gates may be gone, but the walls and bars of proprietary software
  he helped create remain—for now.  Dismantling them is up to
  us.</p>

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<p>Copyright © 2008 <a href="http://www.stallman.org/">Richard Stallman</a></p>

<p>Richard Stallman Richard Stallman</p>

<p>This page is the founder of the Free Software Foundation. You
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<p>Updated:

<p class="unprintable">Updated:
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$Date: 2014/04/12 13:58:53 $
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