Software Freedom: An Introduction

by Robert J. Chassell

A Note from the Managing Editor of GNU Press

We are very excited at GNU Press about Bob Chassell's new book. We hope to publish it as part of the "Philosophy of Software Freedom" series. These books are designed to be more thoughtful works, examining Software Freedom from various angles at a much deeper level than is normally encountered in the press.

In order to help prepare this early draft for publication, Bob has placed it on the web for feedback and ideas. In order to better use volunteers' time, I would like to explain what specific type of feedback is needed at this early stage of editing.

Try reading the manuscript while pretending to be a sceptical Windows-only person who has never before heard of anything like these ideas. Then try to poke holes in Bob's arguments. Where is it not convincing enough? What counter-arguments can you come up with? This will be a helpful mindset while editing.

Thanks to everyone for all their help!
Lisa M. Goldstein
Managing Editor, GNU Press

A Letter from the Author, Robert J. Chassell

I've written the beginnings of a book called Software Freedom: An Introduction. I argue that for safety, quality, and opportunity, we need software freedom: the freedom to copy, study, modify, redistribute, and use software.

Please help review the draft, make comments, and ask me many questions

A draft of the book is available on Savannah in CVS.

The Project Homepage on is:

The Project Operations page is:

The project's introductory CVS page is:

The CVS page itself contains Texinfo, Info, HTML, DVI, and PostScript files. It is:

In brief, my thesis is that many contemporary laws and habits weaken us, even though they attract strong support. Their perceived benefits are short term. Their long term effects bring danger. The consequences are startling. For long term survival, we must change ongoing practices and ways of thinking within our societies.

Over the past half century, technology has advanced. We can now copy and distribute large programs easily and cheaply. We could not do this in the past. This change in technology changes our society.

With software freedom, more people will be able to discover, develop, and apply advances. We will survive and prosper; those who fall back will lose. In addition, more people will have the motivation and resources to make software reliable, efficient, and secure. We will enjoy high quality software. And finally, with freedom, more people will learn to understand, change, and make use of this new world that technology has brought. We all will gain opportunity.

While I was writing this draft, I discovered that patents, copyrights, and other attempts at restriction are more dangerous than I thought. My conclusion is that we need to make deep changes to our laws and practices.

This new focus came about unexpectedly. I had not planned on it. Before I started, I thought I had a good grip on the topic. However, while writing I found that, I was not satisfied with my conclusions or content. I tried different approaches. Finally, I gained a new understanding.

The book has become more a "statesman's guide" than I had intended. That is to say, it has become a book that attempts to persuade people to change basic laws and practices. For example, I say that copyright should not be abolished, since it can serve to protect free software, but its term should be reduced, perhaps to 14 years, as at the founding of the US.

I am looking forward both to comments and to questions: while the rather dense and tight text of the current draft satisfies me, I suspect that others will want more. I hope to respond in detail comments and questions, and thereby fill out the book.

Also, of course, while I think I have organized things well, I have read so many of my own drafts that I am not sure what is there and what is not there, or in what order. I think this draft is OK, but am not sure.

Thank you.

Robert J. Chassell
Free Software Foundation - GNU Project

My personal home pages: