I have to admit that when I first saw the photo of the following keynote speaker my immediate thought was “Now, that looks like an interesting guy…”
Richard Stallman is an interesting guy. Twenty-five years ago he launched the GNU operating system. GNU is free software: everyone has the freedom to copy it and redistribute it, as well as to make changes either large or small. The GNU/Linux system, basically the GNU operating system with Linux added, is used on tens of millions of computers today.
Since the mid-1990s, Stallman has spent most of his time in political advocacy for free software, and spreading the ethical ideas of the movement, as well as campaigning against both software patents and the extension of copyright laws. Before that, Stallman developed a number of widely used software components of the GNU system, including the original Emacs, the GNU Compiler Collection, the GNU symbolic debugger (gdb), GNU Emacs, and various other programs for the GNU operating system.
Stallman pioneered the concept of copyleft, and is the main author of the GNU General Public License, the most widely used free software license.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of, and philosophy behind, free software, Mr Stephen Fry provides a lovely summary in the video below, which was posted as a happy birthday to GNU. It’s a rather good watch and I think that Mr Stallman’s ideas about freedom of knowledge and information will find a very receptive audience amongst library professionals.
“The tastiest operating system in the world…and it’s all free”. Big ideas. Exciting possibilities.