Third Party Ideas

These articles give other people's philosophical opinions in support of free software, or related issues, and don't speak for the GNU Project—but we more or less agree with them.

Many of the Organizations that Work for Freedom in Computer Development and Electronic Communications also have philosophical opinions in support of free software, or related issues.

Extending the Free Software Idea to Other Areas

  • *[2004] Free Knowledge requires Free Software and Free File Formats (by Jimmy Wales) — This paper also explains why Wikipedia needs to be free software.
  • [2010] Sim.One hardware project — This project of SimpleMachines has created free (as in freedom) computer design specifications.
  • [2007] Why Audio Format matters (by Karl Fogel)
  • [2001-2004] Piecepack — A set of boardgame pieces which everyone is free to use in creating or playing various types of games.
  • [1997] Applying Copyleft To Non-Software Information (by Michael Stutz)
  • [1994] The Free Music Philosophy (by Ram Samudrala)
  • [1974] Tom Swift Lives! (by Lee Felsenstein) — The author designed a simple, easily repairable computer terminal. With this “Tom Swift Terminal,” he tried to counteract the growing control over users that computer hardware manufacturers were gaining in the '70s. This practical goal is in line with the goals of free software, but the philosophy behind it (developed in Ivan Illich's Tools for Conviviality, Harper and Row, 1973) only has a very partial convergence with the free software idea.

Upholding Software Freedom

Licensing Free Software

Legal Issues


  • [1999-2013] The Free Protocols Foundation — An independent public forum (archived), dedicated to the support of patent-free protocols.
  • [2004] Software patents under the magnifying glass (by Ernst Juergen) — In this article, the author uses arguments based on lambda calculus to show why software cannot be patented.
  • [2004] New Developments in Patent Practice: Assessing the Risks and Cost of Portfolio Licensing and Hold-ups (by Daniel B. Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation) — Transcript of a panel presentation given on Wednesday, November 10, 2004, at a conference organized by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) in Brussels, Belgium.

    Note:  The GNU Project disagrees with the article's assumption that nonfree programs are morally legitimate competitors.

  • [2001-2004] Patents Are an Economic Absurdity (by Faré)

    Note:  This article adopts as a premise the popular view that free trade is desirable. We don't always agree—beyond a certain point; free trade gives businesses too much power, allowing them to intimidate democracy. But that is a different matter.

  • [2001] Patent Reform Now! (by Don Marti) — A call on free software supporters to nominate Richard M. Stallman to the US Patent and Trademark Office's Patent Public Advisory Committee.

The propaganda term “Intellectual Property”

The GNU Project rejects the term “intellectual property” for spreading confusion; we urge everyone to reject it entirely.

  • [2003] Creation Myths: Does innovation require intellectual property rights? (by Douglas Clement) — Some economists argue that copyright and patents fail to promote the progress that they supposedly exist to promote.

    Note:  This article takes a narrowly economic view of its subject, measuring social alternatives only by what goods are available for what price, assuming that you the citizen are a mere consumer and place no value on your freedom in itself. It also uses the misleading term “intellectual property,” which is misleading because it lumps copyrights and patents together. The article also lumps them together, which it can get away with because it ignores the (different) social issues that copyrights and patents raise.

    Despite those flaws, it is significant. If one can judge copyright to be harmful even on narrow economic terms, disregarding the ethical wrong of stopping people from sharing, it can only be even more harmful when we consider the ethics as well.

  • [2001] Intellectual Property: The Attack on Public Space in Cyberspace (by Howard Besser) — This article describes how various industries are using their leverage with copyright to make fewer locations on the Internet less and less public.
  • [2001] Against Intellectual Property (by Stephan Kinsella)
  • [1995] The Libertarian Case Against Intellectual Property Rights (by Roderick T. Long)

    Note:  The Free Software Movement does not endorse Libertarianism, and we do not agree entirely with that article. But it is useful for refuting one specific argument that is made in favor of proprietary software.

  • [1994] A primer on the ethics of “Intellectual property” (by Ram Samudrala)

Response to SCO's attacks

  • [2003] Groklaw sends a Dear Darl letter (by Egan Orion) — A group from the free software and open source community has put together a response to SCO CEO Darl McBride's Open Letter to the Open Source Community.
  • [2003] “Hey SCO, Sue Me”: What's Next? (by Taran Rampersad) — In the last available public communication about the SCO Sue Me Petition, its author (John Everitt) urged people to help the FSF in any way possible. He was expecting only several responses, but instead he had thousands of participants.

Cultural and Social Issues


Digital society

Accessing culture

  • [2003] The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain (by James Boyle)
  • [2000-2003] Gallery of CSS Descramblers (by D.S. Touretzky) — Examples demonstrating how outrageous and absurd the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is.
  • [2002] Coding is a Crime (by Shannon Cochran) — A commentary on the indictment of Jon Johansen on felony charges for helping write DeCSS.
  • [2002] — This site was devoted to providing information about the European Copyright Directive and similar legislation. It concentrated on the two principal problems of the EUCD, which make it easier for copyright holders to censor webpages on ISPs and give legal protection to copy-protection measures.
  • [1998] Information liberation (by Brian Martin), published by Freedom Press

    Note:  We urge people to avoid using the term intellectual property, and to instead speak about copyrights, patents, and/or trademarks.

  • [1998] Read Them and Weep (by Simson Garfinkel) — This article talks about the pending bills that would give information owners sweeping new powers, and restrict the activities of users.

Funding cultural works

  • [1993] The Problem With Music (by Steve Albini) — Record companies argue for more copyright power by saying they are the support of musicians. This article shows how they really treat musicians.

Digital restrictions management and treacherous computing

  • [2022] You, the Problem TPM2 Solves (by Chao-Kuei Hung)
  • [2006] How Vista Lets Microsoft Lock Users In (by Cory Doctorow)

    Note:  We think it is a mistake to use the enemy's favorable-sounding propaganda terms such as “trusted computing” to describe a malicious plan.

  • [2006] Hardware Central editorial (by Eric Grevstad) — Among other things, it discusses Microsoft's “Trusted Computing.”

    Note:  We disagree with one aspect of this article's conclusion: it's not legitimate for Microsoft to help Disney and the RIAA impose Digital Restrictions Management on you, any more than it is legitimate for Disney and the RIAA to try it. The full power of computing should be available to you, not just to the owners of information.

Surveillance, censorship, lock-in, etc.

Philosophical Humor