Essays and Articles
This page lists a series of articles describing the philosophy of the free software movement, which is the motivation for our development of the free software operating system GNU.
A list of the latest published articles is also available.
About Free Software
Free software is a matter of freedom: people should be free to use software in all the ways that are socially useful. Software differs from material objects—such as chairs, sandwiches, and gasoline—in that it can be copied and changed much more easily. These possibilities make software as useful as it is; we believe software users should be able to make use of them.
- What is Free Software?
- Why Software Should Not Have Owners
- Why Software Should Be Free (This is an older and longer essay about the same topic as the previous one)
- Why Free Software Needs Free Documentation
- Selling Free Software is OK!
- Categories of Free and Non-Free Software
- FLOSS and FOSS
- Free Software is More Reliable!
- When Free Software Isn't (Practically) Superior
- Why “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software
- How Free Software and Open Source Relate as Categories of Programs
- Linux, GNU, and Freedom
- Regarding Gnutella
- Why Schools Should Use Exclusively Free Software
- MyDoom and You
- 15 Years of Free Software
- Free Software movement
- Your Freedom Needs Free Software
- Motives For Writing Free Software
- Measures Governments Can Use to Promote Free Software
- Lesson from Uruguay. The FSF learned something from a bill presented in Uruguay.
- Why programs must not limit the freedom to run them — Freedom 0 must not be limited.
- Imperfection is not the same as oppression
- Applying the Free Software Criteria
About the GNU Operating System
- Initial announcement of the GNU Operating System
- The GNU Manifesto
- Brief history of the GNU Project
- The GNU Project, a longer and more complete description of the project and its history.
- What is the Free Software Foundation?
- Why GNU/Linux?
Licensing Free Software
- General information on licensing and copyleft
- A list of free and nonfree licenses, with comments.
- Frequently Asked Questions About the GNU Licenses
- Why You Shouldn't Use the Lesser GPL for Your Next Library
- Why Copyleft?
- Releasing Free Software if You Work at a University
- Copyleft: Pragmatic Idealism
- Censorship envy and licensing
- The X Window System Trap
- The Problems of the Apple License
- The BSD License Problem
- The Netscape Public License Has Serious Problems. An earlier version of this article is also available.
- The Free Software Movement and UDI
- It's not the Gates, it's the bars, an article by Richard Stallman published in BBC News in 2008.
- Is Microsoft the Great Satan? (An older version of this article is also available.)
- The Microsoft Antitrust Trial and Free Software
- On the Microsoft Verdict
- Microsoft's New Monopoly
- Lest CodePlex perplex
- The Problems of the Plan 9 License
- The New Motif License
- Using the GNU FDL
- The GNU GPL and the American Way
- The GNU GPL and the American Dream
- Enforcing the GNU GPL
- On Selling Exceptions to the GNU GPL
- Freedom or Power?
- We Can Put an End to Word Attachments
- Free But Shackled - The Java Trap (Although Sun has relicensed most of its Java platform reference implementation under the GNU General Public License, the issue described in this article still remains important.)
- GPL-compliant version of RTLinux Open Patent License in Works
Laws and Issues
- Giving the Software Field Protection from Patents
- FSF's Position on W3 Consortium “Royalty-Free” Patent Policy rewritten
- How to Protect the Right to Write Software (whether it's free or not).
- In Felten v. RIAA, scientists are asking a court to rule that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) does not prohibit them from publishing their research.
- EFF “Intellectual Property”: MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) DVD Cases Archive
- Patent Reform Is Not Enough
- Saving Europe from Software Patents
- Europe's “unitary patent” could mean unlimited software patents
- Boycott Amazon!
- Amazon Boycott Success!, a letter from Nat Friedman to Richard Stallman.
- Letter from RMS to Tim O'Reilly in regard to a statement by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, on the duration of software patents.
- Amazon's patent on a system for placing a purchase order over the internet, with notes by Richard Stallman.
- Sequential Innovation, Patents, and Imitation is a paper that presents a mathematical model showing how patents can impede progress in fields like software.
- Harm from the Hague.
- Opposing The European Software Patent Directive, a slightly modified version of the article originally published in The Guardian of London, by Richard Stallman and Nick Hill.
- Soft sell. Richard Stallman's comments on the defeat of the EU software patenting directive. Published in The Guardian in 2005.
- Patent absurdity, an article by Richard M. Stallman published in The Guardian in 2005.
- Bill Gates and Other Communists. An article by Richard Stallman published in CNET News.com in 2005.
- The Anatomy of a Trivial Patent, by Richard M. Stallman.
- Fighting Software Patents - Singly and Together
- Software patents — Obstacles to software development
- Software Patents and Literary Patents, by Richard M. Stallman, speaking of patenting artistic techniques, US patent (6,935,954) covers making game characters start to hallucinate when (according to the game) they are being driven insane. That is getting pretty close to the hypothetical examples cited in this article.
- Why there are no GIF files on GNU web pages, While this story is a historical illustration of the danger of software patents, these particular patents are now no longer a concern. For details of our website policies regarding GIFs, see our web web guidelines.
- When a Company Asks For Your Copyright
- Why I Will Not Sign the Public Domain Manifesto
- How the Swedish Pirate Party Platform Backfires on Free Software
- Misinterpreting Copyright is another essay by Richard Stallman about the flaws in popular defenses of copyright law.
- FSF's Brief Amicus Curiae in the Eldred v. Ashcroft Supreme Court case
- Science must “push copyright aside”, another work of Richard Stallman that appeared in the Nature Webdebates in 2001, explains how copyright is impeding progress in scientific research. You may also be interested in The Public Library of Science, which is dedicated to making scientific research freely available to all on the Internet.
- Reevaluating Copyright: The Public must prevail
- Eldred v. Reno is about a lawsuit to overturn a law that extends copyright by 20 extra years.
- Freedom-Or Copyright?, by Richard Stallman (an older version of this essay remains online as well.)
- An English translation of the famous decision of the District Court of Munich regarding the enforceability and validity of the GPL. The translation was done by the Oxford Internet Institute.
Digital Restrictions Management
- Correcting My Mistake about French Law
- The problem is software controlled by its developer, by Richard M. Stallman.
- Computing “progress”: good and bad, by Richard M. Stallman.
- Opposing Digital Rights Mismanagement, by Richard M. Stallman, answers a few common questions about DRM.
- Ebooks: Freedom Or Copyright a slightly modified version of the article, originally published in Technology Review in 2000, by Richard Stallman
- Ebooks must increase our freedom, not decrease it
- Can you trust your computer?, a work by Richard Stallman about the so-called “trusted computing” initiatives.
- The Right to Read: A Dystopian Short Story by Richard Stallman.
The propaganda term “Intellectual Property”
- The Curious History of Komongistan (Busting the term “intellectual property”)
- Don't Let “Intellectual Property” Twist Your Ethos, by Richard Stallman.
- Comments from Richard Stallman on the ICLC's rejection of the IP Enforcement Directive
- Richard Stallman has written a review of Boldrin and Levine's “The case against intellectual property.”
- Did You Say “Intellectual Property”? It's a Seductive Mirage. An essay on the true meaning of the phrase “Intellectual Property”, by Richard M. Stallman.
- Network Services Aren't Free or Nonfree; They Raise Other Issues an article by Richard Stallman.
- Who does that server really serve? by Richard Stallman published in Boston Review.
Cultural and Social Issues
- Technological Neutrality and Free Software by Richard Stallman
- How Much Surveillance Can Democracy Withstand? by Richard Stallman
- Nonfree DRM'd Games on GNU/Linux: Good or Bad? by Richard Stallman.
- Digital economy bill: One clown giveth and the other clown taketh away, by Richard Stallman.
- Is Digital Inclusion A Good Thing? How Can We Make Sure It Is? By Richard Stallman.
- World Summit on the Information Society
- Encryption software volunteers needed in countries without export control.
- How to Protect the Freedoms of Speech, Press, and Association on the Internet.
- Protect Postal Privacy, a campaign to resist the proposed rule by the United States Postal Service to collect private information from customers.
- Why We Must Fight UCITA
- Free Software and (e-)Government — an article from The Guardian, by Richard Stallman (originally published under the title “Second Sight”).
- Free Software and Sustainable Development — A short article by Richard Stallman regarding the use of proprietary software in cultural development.
- Keep control of your computing, so it doesn't control you!
- A wise user judges each Internet usage scenario carefully
- The Danger of E-Books
- Is It Ever a Good Thing to Use a Nonfree Program? By Richard Stallman.
- Clearly established cases of proprietary software that does nasty things to the users.
- The advantages of free software.
- The Bug Nobody is Allowed to Understand, By Richard Stallman.
- The Curious Incident of Sun in the Night-Time, by Richard M. Stallman.
- SCO, GNU, and Linux, by Richard Stallman, discusses how SCO's lawsuit against IBM pertains to the work of the GNU project. Please see the FSF SCO Response Page for more details on this subject.
- FSF's Statement in Response to Proposed Revised Final Judgment in Microsoft vs. United States, submitted to the US Department of Justice under the Tunney Act.
- U.S. Congress Threatens to Establish a New Kind of Monopoly, an attempt of the Congress to create a private monopoly over repeating publicly known information.
- The Right Way to Tax DAT
- Censoring My Software, by Richard Stallman.
- Funding Art vs Funding Software, by Richard Stallman.
- Android and Users' Freedom
- Ubuntu Spyware: What to Do?
- What's Wrong with YouTube
- Netscape and Free Software, an old article that clarifies some misunderstandings about an announcement by Netscape.
- Comments on Roderick Long's Article.
Terminology and Definitions
- Free Hardware and Free Hardware Designs
- Confusing Words which You Might Want to Avoid
- Public Awareness of Copyright, WIPO, June 2002. On how WIPO recognizes that their system is designed to restrict the public, and how they propose to modify terminology so that people won't notice.
- Why “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software
- “Open Source Software” or “Free Software”? (This is an older essay about the same topic as the previous one.)
- Richard Stallman wrote letter to the editor of Dr. Dobb's Journal in June 2001 which further explains the distinction between the Free Software and Open Source movements.
- Categories of Free and Non-Free Software
- What Does It Mean for Your Computer to Be Loyal?
- Translations of the term “free software” into various languages.
- Why call it the Swindle
Upholding Software Freedom
- The Free Software Community After 20 Years, With great but incomplete success, what now?
- Thank You, Larry McVoy, by Richard M. Stallman.
- Overcoming Social Inertia, by Richard M. Stallman.
- Avoiding Ruinous Compromises
- Free Software Is Even More Important Now
- Philosophy Humor. We don't have to be serious all the time.