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Richard Stallman on the Alex Jones Show

This is a transcript of an interview with Richard Stallman conducted by Alex Jones on January 19, 2012.

Alex Jones

Okay, my friends, we've got a real treat for you—they talk about the top ten people out there in Internet land who've really changed our perspective on so many things, it's Dr. Richard Stallman. He's a software developer and software freedom activist, he graduated from Harvard in '74 with a BA in physics and received many awards, doctorates and professorships for extensive work.

In January of '84 he resigned from MIT to start the GNU or [pronounced] “guh-new” operating system, meant to be entirely free software, and has been the project leader ever since. Dr. Stallman also launched the free software movement.

In October of '85 he started the Free Software Foundation (and thank god, because nothing would work if we were running off of Microsoft still, and I don't know anything about Internet, but I know that), and in 1999 Stallman called for development of a free online encyclopedia with a means of inviting the public to contribute articles so he was the progenitor of Wikipedia.

During his college years he also worked as a staff hacker at the MIT artificial intelligence lab learning operating system development by doing it.

Stallman pioneered the concept of “copyleft” and is the main author of the GNU General Public License, the most widely-used free software license. This is why since the mid-90s Stallman has spent most of his time in political advocacy for free software and spreading the ethical ideas as well as campaigning against both software patents and dangerous extensions of copyright laws. That's why he's probably the best guest we can get on to discuss Russia, China, the US: they're all using copyright, and later admitting they're using it to shut down free speech.

SOPA's just one manifestation of this. And this monster's receding for now but it's guaranteed to come back very soon, in fact in a few weeks. Here's the Associated Press; “Supreme Court Rules Congress Can Re-Copyright Public Domain Works” that have been out for hundreds of years, this is amazing, so here to break down the different horrors of the expansion of copyright—to where you can't even use [some] words now, they're saying—is Professor and Dr. Stallman. Thank you for coming on with us, sir.

Richard Stallman
Hello.
AJ
Hello. Well, let's go over it I mean what do you make of what's happening right now?
RS
Well, I haven't read any details about today's Supreme Court Decision, I haven't seen that yet. But previously other Supreme Court decisions said it was unconstitutional to recopyright anything that was in the public domain. But this is a very pro-business Supreme Court, we can't trust it to protect human rights. They're going to give those human rights to corporations, and protect the rights of corporations, but not the rights of humans in any practical sense.
AJ
Yes, sir. What got you started developing the ideas that have become the free software movement that you kicked off?
RS

I lived in a free software community in the 1970's, although we didn't use that term, when I was working at the artificial intelligence lab at MIT. It was part of a community where we shared the software that we developed, and all the software that we used was the software of the community, and we were happy to share it with anyone that was interested in it, and we hoped that if they improved it they would share it back, and often they did.

But this community died in the early 80's, leaving me face to face with the proprietary software world, which is the way everyone else was using software. And by comparison to the life of freedom I was used to, proprietary software was ugly—morally ugly.

So I balked at that, I said I am not going to accept the life of proprietary software, I would be ashamed of my life if I did that, so I decided to build a new free software community. Since the old one was based on software for obsolete computers, it was necessary to start again from scratch. So I launched that project, and now there are free operating systems, now it's just barely possible to use computers and not be subjugated by software developers of nonfree software.

AJ
But expanding that, with just basic text copyright, take Righthaven, they've been absolutely destroyed in court, they sued a lot of people across the spectrum for even taking a paragraph in a comment board where it was clearly a third party that had even done it, and they were backed by the Associated Press and others, I mean that is really creep to have the Associated Press and others actually suing, you know, quadriplegics and community activist groups helping homeless people because they had one paragraph of their article and clearly were discussing in many cases their own—they were in the news article, they were posting it on their blog about them for humanitarian discussion, couldn't get any more clear [that it's] free speech, and they were being sued.
RS
Well, if they went to court they might win, the defendants might win on the grounds of fair use, the problem is it's hard to tell in advance and it costs you a lot of money to go to court and find out, so those people probably didn't have enough money to stand up for what are possibly their rights, plausibly their rights. But because of the way fair use is defined in copyright law it's not a clear permission. It's a rather vaguely-drawn defense against charges of copyright infringement.
AJ
Yeah, case by case. Shifting gears, overall, specifically on SOPA is it heartening for you to see the big blackouts, to see…
RS

It is. And what this means is, that we can sometimes defeat the copyright lobby when it demands increased power. Of course, we haven't defeated them yet. We are at least coming close to defeating them, and maybe we'll defeat them, but everybody listening to this, you've got to phone your senators today, because they're going to vote next week. So at least even if we don't actually defeat them we'll have mounted a campaign that will have come fairly close.

This is the first time it's been such a fight. When the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed, the law that censors software that you can use to decode encrypted publications, that you can use to break digital handcuffs; that was passed in the House of Representatives without an explicit vote, it was considered totally uncontroversial, there were just a few of us saying that this is an injustice.

And that's why Digital Restrictions Management or DRM is such a pain nowadays, because of that law that the copyright lobby purchased in 1998, which bans the software capable of breaking the digital handcuffs. So I am against anything that the copyright lobby wants until they start undoing some of the injustices they've already imposed on us.

AJ
Doctor, let me try to quantify that from my layman's perspective and correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what I see as the injustice: they're talking about their rights as they attempt to put a preemptive, non-deliberative, no due process, guilty until proven guilty system…
RS
Guilty until proven innocent, I think you meant.
AJ
Well, I was being sarcastic, I mean you're guilty basically, period. Yeah, guilty until proven guilty, I was being sarcastic…
RS
Oh, OK.
AJ
But I mean you're guilty up front. And they're basically just gobbling up the Internet, gobbling up what people have created, gobbling up everything like they're masters of the Universe, and until they become reasonable, there's no point in discussing anything with them, because they're not giving anyone quarter.
RS

I agree. But furthermore, the more subtle thing that they're doing is that they're trying to focus attention on their problems as if their problems needed to be catered to while distracting away from the problems they have already imposed on us.

I hope we completely defeat SOPA. But don't forget that copyright law in the US already gives them too much power. Of course they're not satisfied, they always want more, that's what the 1% do to the 99%, but even if we stop them from getting more, that's not enough.

We've got to aim for more than just preventing them from making it worse. We've got to undo some of the injustices they have already done to us. We have to put an end to the war on sharing, which is a cruel war that attacks all of us.

Now, when I say sharing, I mean something specific. I mean non-commercial copying and redistribution of published works. Exact copies, that means, not modifications. That's a rather limited freedom, but that's a freedom all must have so that the war on sharing ends and copyright ceases to be tyranny.

Now, that means they've got to stop using digital handcuffs. Lots of products nowadays are designed with digital handcuffs. Every DVD player you can buy has digital handcuffs…

AJ

Let me give people an example. I have a TV studio, I have a TV show, I make films. I buy prosumer and professional equipment, and half of our technical difficulties with digital TVs, monitors, cameras is having the right software keys, everything talking to each other plugged in, it has to authenticate that I'm allowed to run a video through it, it's all spying on me and screwing up my entire operation, my whole life is about complying with this stuff, and I bought it and I'm in here using it to produce TV, and as the 80 inventors of the Internet pointed out, this SOPA would cripple the Internet by putting all these pre-restrictions on things.

RS

Well, yes. The worst thing in SOPA is that it becomes easy to shut down any website where the public is posting things. It just takes an accusation that somebody posted something that was infringing copyright and it becomes almost impossible for that site to keep operating. That's why Wikipedia decided to go black yesterday, because it would be impossible to operate something even vaguely like Wikipedia under the rules of SOPA.

Now, after the show's over I'd like you to tell me more about the precise details of your problems with these TV systems or have your technical person tell me because that's an area I don't know about, and I want to know about the details of that.

AJ
Sure, if you'd like that, Doctor, I actually have two engineers here, and they can explain it to you, but you know we have TV sets behind me on the nightly news and they're digital, and just to run feeds to them to talk to a guest on Skype or to have a blue background behind me, all the TVs you buy that are prosumer or even professional now, it has a gate in it that scans to see if I'm even streaming something over it that's copyright, and then it's endless—to use software, you've got to have the dongle in the machine, and then that screws up…
RS

Well that's 'cause you're using proprietary software. See with software there are just two possibilities—either the users control the program or the program controls the users. What you're seeing is that with proprietary software, the software controls the users.

Now, what's proprietary software? That's any software for which the users don't have the freedom to run it as they wish, study and change the source code, and redistribute it either with or without changes. So…

AJ
Sure, just to be clear, doctor…
RS
…control. But with Windows or MacOS or Skype the software controls the users. That's why I will not use any of that.
AJ
Well, it is the machine surveying us, preemptively turning us into slaves. A lot of our operation is run on Linux systems, I'm not a tech guy…
RS
Uh-uh, they're not Linux systems, they're GNU systems, and you're talking about my work there.
AJ

You're right, you are the progenitor of that with GNU that other things grew out of. So GNU systems, we do have a lot of those, one of our IT people just absolutely loves your work and has tried to build a lot of things around here like that.

But separately, when I've got a pretty big operation—it's not that big, like 34 people—sometimes we've gotta hurry, we've gotta buy software to run TV shows, we've got to get equipment, I'm talking about solid state stuff that won't work as well. All I'm saying is that it screws everything up.

RS
Hardware can be malicious too. And the encryption of video between a computer and a monitor is an example of a malicious hardware feature that has been put into essentially all modern PCs by a conspiracy of corporations…
AJ
Yeah!
RS

…including hardware companies and media companies, so you can see it! They buy laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to forbid people to escape from these things, and then they can design our technology to abuse us however they wish.

So what you can see is that proprietary software—even when there's hardware that's malicious, the software has to make use of the malicious features, so the proprietary software's involved also. And when software's proprietary, it is likely to have malicious features in it to spy, to restrict, and there's even back doors that accept remote commands to do things.

AJ

That's what I was about to get to, sir. We're talking to Richard Stallman, free software inventor, creator, guru, Obi-Wan Kenobi type, so much of what we live with today that is the only alternative to what the big corporate borg are oppressing us with, did come out of his ideas.

But expanding on this, doc, that's what I'm saying. I've tried to get the freer systems and I'm saying in many cases it does not exist. I don't have the money to hire an army of people that are trained in free software to be able to even attempt it, and what you said is true. There's all these trojan horses built into everything, and I'm even paying for it, and it's junk no matter how expensive because the whole thing is tied down with these handcuffs, and it just absolutely stifles innovation as you said thirty years ago.

RS
Mmn-hmmn. Although it does worse than stifle innovation. You see, innovation is the sacred cow of people who claim that they need to be allowed to restrict us. They say if they can restrict us they'll do more innovation. But innovation can be good or bad. Democracy was once an innovation. Tyranny was once an innovation. So innovation can serve us.
AJ
Bioweapons were once an innovation.
RS
Innovation will only serve us if we have control over what innovations we'll accept and what innovations we'll reject. So I do not accept innovation as sufficiently important to justify taking away our freedom. Yes, I'd like innovation all else being equal assuming we have freedom. But when somebody argues, “give up your freedom so we can have more innovation,” that is literally a trojan horse.
AJ
Well that's well said, but my point is, they are—I mean, everybody knows Microsoft stuff works horribly because it's all got back doors, spy systems, and it's just total crap. Because, excuse my French there, because they're obsessed and control freaks; Bill Gates!
RS
Yup. But it's not just Microsoft. I've got to point out that Apple is even worse…
AJ
Oh yeah.
RS
And Amazon is horrible. The Amazon “Swindle” and eBook reader has known spy features, of course it has digital handcuffs, and it has a back door for deleting books. Did you know that Amazon remotely deleted thousands of books in 2009?
AJ
Yeah, 1984!
RS
Right. Someone wrote they used up a year's supply of irony demonstrating the Orwellian nature of their product, which they call the Kindle because it's designed to burn our books. But they demonstrated it by deleting Orwell's book.
AJ
Oh, that's another point. They've got this Kazaa thing [Note—Youtube's content fingerprinting system was actually licensed from AudibleMagic in 2007] where I've had rights to music, I've uploaded it, but because it's in some registrar, suddenly it shuts down the audio on my videos that millions of people are watching, and even though I have letters sending them to Youtube that I have license here, it doesn't matter because the computer recognizes and did that, and they now admit they could erase my voice off of these major systems in a matter of hours with the same technology—I mean, you talk about dangerous having all the books digital, they could just hit a button…
RS
That's why I won't use such systems, I will never use anything like the Amazon Kindle for my books, because I want to have books that I can read without any proprietary technology, I want to buy them without identifying myself, and I'm not willing to sign a contract to get them. If I buy a paper book, I can do it with cash in a book store, I don't sign a contract, and my eyes without any aid at all, or at most perhaps some lenses, can see the letters. I'm not required to get some secret technology just to see what the letters in the book are.
AJ
Wow.
RS
So I will never use those eBooks under any circumstances, and I hope that the rest of you will join me. If you want to read more about this, look at http://stallman.org/articles/ebooks.pdf, and at the bottom of that there's a link to a place you can sign up to participate in our campaign against tyrannical eBooks systems.
AJ
I had read some of your writings on this, but the way you put it, we can really see it being put into function. I mean, this is a tyranny, they've designed the current web system as a tyranny, consciously, as you said, the big corporations, and the sick part is when we pay the licenses and buy the equipment, we're paying for their own trojan horse for them to engage in beyond Orwellian behavior.
RS
Well, I wouldn't say beyond Orwellian, after all Oceania did things even worse than destroying books, they just murdered people, but the point is we have to reject these systems, and that's the basic idea of the free software movement—I won't accept the systems that are designed to take away my freedom.
AJ
OK, Doctor, I'm going to try to get you in touch right now with one of the engineers to give you any of that information you want, and I'll say bye to you during the break, perhaps you could even come back for a couple more minutes on the other side and tell us more about solutions, but, just intriguing to hear you on with us and all the points that you bring up, it absolutely makes sterling sense.

[Break.]

Alex Jones

Well, Richard Stallman, Dr. Richard Stallman, free software creator of the GNU system that everything is pretty much based on today, Linux, you name it, is our guest for five more minutes. He's going to be gone for a while, but hopefully coming up in a few months, we'll be able to get him on for a full hour because everything he talks about just totally clicks; because I'm not an IT person, but I live 12–14 hours per day around it, we're an Internet operation pretty much, we're on commercial radio as well and XM, but I live it and I've experienced what he's talking about and all the points he makes ties right in to what I'm just organically seeing as a lay person here, but I was bringing up some intriguing stuff to him during the break.

We have the articles we had the Time-Warner executives send us the internal documents after we surmised it, an example of these trojan horses. The TiVo systems, the Time-Warner cable systems and others.

When they censored the Jesse Ventura TV show, it aired once, congress went crazy on the FEMA camps, ordered them not to air it again, that later came out in congress, it was a big scandal, suddenly off of DVRs nationwide, cable systems you name it, it disappeared. We confirmed it through one Time-Warner office that they were ordered to put the command in. They'd never seen that before.

But the point is, you pay for cable, you have a DVR, you record on it and then they go in and erase. And I know you want to see the proof of that, we'll get it to you, Doctor, but if true, what do you make of that?

Richard Stallman
It's just another example of how nonfree software is a restriction on the users, and it's an injustice. So if you look around at any nonfree software you've heard of, you know, various products that have nonfree software in them, every one of them should not be that way.
AJ
Yeah, it's very very sad that this is all going on, we're paying for our own prison. In just 3 or 4 minutes, because I know you've got to go, Doctor, what are some other solutions or things we can start doing to weaken the power of the corporate borg?
RS

Well, all across the various areas of life we can see corporations taking control of our government and using that power to hurt most people. Of course, there's the financial crisis, and all the Americans are facing foreclosures. A lot of these foreclosures are fraudulent, the banks are committing fraud when they foreclose, and right now we're pushing Obama not to let them off the hook, which is what he wants them to do. There are a few states where the Attorneys-General are trying to pursue the banksters for their fraudulent foreclosures, and there are protests run by Move On, today, I'm going to go to one of them this afternoon, but that's just one example.

Of course, the banks created the downturn by purchasing deregulation in Congress. And then if we look at, for instance, agribusiness which has basically crushed family farming in the US and now gets tremendous subsidies to these corporations, subsidies which were originally meant to help family farmers, and that made sense. But nowadays, it's just subsidies to big business. And then you look at the private prison industry, which is a great reason […]

They use the prisoners, they have the prisoners work, but it's the company that gets the money. The prisoner gets paid like 50 cents a day, which is even better for them than hiring somebody in Mexico or China. And so, that's a reason to imprison more Americans because they're effectively slave labor.

And then we will get the oil companies, and they push for burning up our planet. You may have followed the fight to block the Keystone XL planet roaster pipeline, and that's not dead either.

So what is it these things have in common? What they have is, corporations have power so we need to clean up politics. We need to get corporate money out of politics.

And I got a book yesterday, let me read the exact title, it's “Corporations Are Not People” by Jeffrey Clements, and this proposes a constitutional amendment to say “no, when the constitution gives rights to people or persons it's not talking about corporations.”

AJ

Well, the power to give corporations rights so they can then stomp on our rights, it's very very frightening, and for those who don't know, you couldn't even have corporations in this country the way they are until about the last 130 years or so, before that they had limited duration to build a bridge or to do some type of program. And I understand a little company having a corporation so you can have different people involved together, but the idea of giving it more rights than the humans, and then having these crooks that run it.

I mean, take Mitt Romney: he's got most his money in the Cayman Islands, and he's running around lecturing everybody, and he's paying almost no taxes.

RS
Well, he said that corporations are people and someone pointed out that if that's true, then he's a serial killer.
AJ
Ha-ha, yeah I saw that!
RS

I don't want to abolish corporations either, but we must abolish the political power of business. In this country, it's taken for granted that powerful business has a veto over everything. And that means it's taken for granted that we've lost our democracy. No one should think about that without feeling disgusted and saying this must be changed.

Get that book, because he explains how it's not an accident that the Supreme Court gave corporations unlimited power to pay for political ads. It's the culmination of a 40-year or 35-year perhaps campaign for giving human rights to corporations.

AJ
It is very very dangerous, and now those corporations are destroying our sovereignty, our local control. Dr. Stallman, thank you so much for spending time with us and again give us your website and any other websites you think are important for people to look at.
RS
For free software, look at the Free Software Foundation site, that is http://fsf.org, and you can join, if you wish. For my other political causes, look at http://stallman.org. And if you want to join our fight against digital handcuffs (DRM), go to http://defectivebydesign.org. And for the danger of eBooks and how they take away our freedom, look at http://stallman.org/articles/ebooks.pdf.
AJ
Alright, doc, thanks for the time, but in the final statement, just reiterating you think it's really exciting that there's such an awakening to the power grabbing of the copyright industry and the fact that Hollywood and others just think they control the known Universe, and this has certainly gotten their attention, what do you expect them to do now? How will…
RS

They'll find another way. You see, whether we defeat SOPA or not, even if we defeat it, it'll be clear that we defeated it because the measures they wanted to take were going to cause tremendous damage to everything around them. But if they propose something else that'll give them more power, but won't hurt other companies, they might still get away with it.

So what that means is we still have a long way to go in building up our opposition to the point where we can start to undo some of the injustices they have already put into copyright law.

AJ
So it was just so ham-fisted and so brazen bull in a china cabinet, they were unable to get it, but they will come back. And it does show, I mean, remember five years ago, when McCain said “let's pass a bill where no judge, no jury, no proof we just kill your computer if we think you did something copyright,” I mean, this is overthrowing our entire Magna Charta, our entire constitution. I mean, it's tyrannical on it's face, Doc.
RS
Absolutely. But that's what big business is like. Big business just wants power and has no respect for anything.
AJ
Wow. Well, I look forward to speaking with you again, thank you so much, Doctor.
RS
Happy hacking! Thanks for giving me the chance.
AJ
Yeah, thanks for being with us.

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