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1 Copyright (C) 1985, 1993 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
3 Permission is granted to anyone to make or distribute verbatim copies
4 of this document, in any medium, provided that the copyright notice and
5 permission notice are preserved, and that the distributor grants the
6 recipient permission for further redistribution as permitted by this
9 Modified versions may not be made.
11 The GNU Manifesto
14 The GNU Manifesto which appears below was written by Richard
15 Stallman at the beginning of the GNU project, to ask for
16 participation and support. For the first few years, it was
17 updated in minor ways to account for developments, but now it
18 seems best to leave it unchanged as most people have seen it.
20 Since that time, we have learned about certain common
21 misunderstandings that different wording could help avoid.
22 Footnotes added in 1993 help clarify these points.
24 For up-to-date information about the available GNU software,
25 please see the latest issue of the GNU's Bulletin. The list is
26 much too long to include here.
28 What's GNU? Gnu's Not Unix!
31 GNU, which stands for Gnu's Not Unix, is the name for the complete
32 Unix-compatible software system which I am writing so that I can give it
33 away free to everyone who can use it.(1) Several other volunteers are
34 helping me. Contributions of time, money, programs and equipment are
35 greatly needed.
37 So far we have an Emacs text editor with Lisp for writing editor
38 commands, a source level debugger, a yacc-compatible parser generator,
39 a linker, and around 35 utilities. A shell (command interpreter) is
40 nearly completed. A new portable optimizing C compiler has compiled
41 itself and may be released this year. An initial kernel exists but
42 many more features are needed to emulate Unix. When the kernel and
43 compiler are finished, it will be possible to distribute a GNU system
44 suitable for program development. We will use TeX as our text
45 formatter, but an nroff is being worked on. We will use the free,
46 portable X window system as well. After this we will add a portable
47 Common Lisp, an Empire game, a spreadsheet, and hundreds of other
48 things, plus on-line documentation. We hope to supply, eventually,
49 everything useful that normally comes with a Unix system, and more.
51 GNU will be able to run Unix programs, but will not be identical to
52 Unix. We will make all improvements that are convenient, based on our
53 experience with other operating systems. In particular, we plan to
54 have longer file names, file version numbers, a crashproof file system,
55 file name completion perhaps, terminal-independent display support, and
56 perhaps eventually a Lisp-based window system through which several
57 Lisp programs and ordinary Unix programs can share a screen. Both C
58 and Lisp will be available as system programming languages. We will
59 try to support UUCP, MIT Chaosnet, and Internet protocols for
62 GNU is aimed initially at machines in the 68000/16000 class with
63 virtual memory, because they are the easiest machines to make it run
64 on. The extra effort to make it run on smaller machines will be left
65 to someone who wants to use it on them.
67 To avoid horrible confusion, please pronounce the `G' in the word
68 `GNU' when it is the name of this project.
70 Why I Must Write GNU
73 I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I
74 must share it with other people who like it. Software sellers want to
75 divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share
76 with others. I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this
77 way. I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a
78 software license agreement. For years I worked within the Artificial
79 Intelligence Lab to resist such tendencies and other inhospitalities,
80 but eventually they had gone too far: I could not remain in an
81 institution where such things are done for me against my will.
83 So that I can continue to use computers without dishonor, I have
84 decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I
85 will be able to get along without any software that is not free. I
86 have resigned from the AI lab to deny MIT any legal excuse to prevent
87 me from giving GNU away.
89 Why GNU Will Be Compatible with Unix
92 Unix is not my ideal system, but it is not too bad. The essential
93 features of Unix seem to be good ones, and I think I can fill in what
94 Unix lacks without spoiling them. And a system compatible with Unix
95 would be convenient for many other people to adopt.
97 How GNU Will Be Available
100 GNU is not in the public domain. Everyone will be permitted to
101 modify and redistribute GNU, but no distributor will be allowed to
102 restrict its further redistribution. That is to say, proprietary
103 modifications will not be allowed. I want to make sure that all
104 versions of GNU remain free.
106 Why Many Other Programmers Want to Help
109 I have found many other programmers who are excited about GNU and
110 want to help.
112 Many programmers are unhappy about the commercialization of system
113 software. It may enable them to make more money, but it requires them
114 to feel in conflict with other programmers in general rather than feel
115 as comrades. The fundamental act of friendship among programmers is the
116 sharing of programs; marketing arrangements now typically used
117 essentially forbid programmers to treat others as friends. The
118 purchaser of software must choose between friendship and obeying the
119 law. Naturally, many decide that friendship is more important. But
120 those who believe in law often do not feel at ease with either choice.
121 They become cynical and think that programming is just a way of making
124 By working on and using GNU rather than proprietary programs, we can
125 be hospitable to everyone and obey the law. In addition, GNU serves as
126 an example to inspire and a banner to rally others to join us in
127 sharing. This can give us a feeling of harmony which is impossible if
128 we use software that is not free. For about half the programmers I
129 talk to, this is an important happiness that money cannot replace.
131 How You Can Contribute
134 I am asking computer manufacturers for donations of machines and
135 money. I'm asking individuals for donations of programs and work.
137 One consequence you can expect if you donate machines is that GNU
138 will run on them at an early date. The machines should be complete,
139 ready to use systems, approved for use in a residential area, and not
140 in need of sophisticated cooling or power.
142 I have found very many programmers eager to contribute part-time
143 work for GNU. For most projects, such part-time distributed work would
144 be very hard to coordinate; the independently-written parts would not
145 work together. But for the particular task of replacing Unix, this
146 problem is absent. A complete Unix system contains hundreds of utility
147 programs, each of which is documented separately. Most interface
148 specifications are fixed by Unix compatibility. If each contributor
149 can write a compatible replacement for a single Unix utility, and make
150 it work properly in place of the original on a Unix system, then these
151 utilities will work right when put together. Even allowing for Murphy
152 to create a few unexpected problems, assembling these components will
153 be a feasible task. (The kernel will require closer communication and
154 will be worked on by a small, tight group.)
156 If I get donations of money, I may be able to hire a few people full
157 or part time. The salary won't be high by programmers' standards, but
158 I'm looking for people for whom building community spirit is as
159 important as making money. I view this as a way of enabling dedicated
160 people to devote their full energies to working on GNU by sparing them
161 the need to make a living in another way.
163 Why All Computer Users Will Benefit
166 Once GNU is written, everyone will be able to obtain good system
167 software free, just like air.(2)
169 This means much more than just saving everyone the price of a Unix
170 license. It means that much wasteful duplication of system programming
171 effort will be avoided. This effort can go instead into advancing the
172 state of the art.
174 Complete system sources will be available to everyone. As a result,
175 a user who needs changes in the system will always be free to make them
176 himself, or hire any available programmer or company to make them for
177 him. Users will no longer be at the mercy of one programmer or company
178 which owns the sources and is in sole position to make changes.
180 Schools will be able to provide a much more educational environment
181 by encouraging all students to study and improve the system code.
182 Harvard's computer lab used to have the policy that no program could be
183 installed on the system if its sources were not on public display, and
184 upheld it by actually refusing to install certain programs. I was very
185 much inspired by this.
187 Finally, the overhead of considering who owns the system software
188 and what one is or is not entitled to do with it will be lifted.
190 Arrangements to make people pay for using a program, including
191 licensing of copies, always incur a tremendous cost to society through
192 the cumbersome mechanisms necessary to figure out how much (that is,
193 which programs) a person must pay for. And only a police state can
194 force everyone to obey them. Consider a space station where air must
195 be manufactured at great cost: charging each breather per liter of air
196 may be fair, but wearing the metered gas mask all day and all night is
197 intolerable even if everyone can afford to pay the air bill. And the
198 TV cameras everywhere to see if you ever take the mask off are
199 outrageous. It's better to support the air plant with a head tax and
200 chuck the masks.
202 Copying all or parts of a program is as natural to a programmer as
203 breathing, and as productive. It ought to be as free.
205 Some Easily Rebutted Objections to GNU's Goals
208 "Nobody will use it if it is free, because that means they can't
209 rely on any support."
211 "You have to charge for the program to pay for providing the
214 If people would rather pay for GNU plus service than get GNU free
215 without service, a company to provide just service to people who have
216 obtained GNU free ought to be profitable.(3)
218 We must distinguish between support in the form of real programming
219 work and mere handholding. The former is something one cannot rely on
220 from a software vendor. If your problem is not shared by enough
221 people, the vendor will tell you to get lost.
223 If your business needs to be able to rely on support, the only way
224 is to have all the necessary sources and tools. Then you can hire any
225 available person to fix your problem; you are not at the mercy of any
226 individual. With Unix, the price of sources puts this out of
227 consideration for most businesses. With GNU this will be easy. It is
228 still possible for there to be no available competent person, but this
229 problem cannot be blamed on distribution arrangements. GNU does not
230 eliminate all the world's problems, only some of them.
232 Meanwhile, the users who know nothing about computers need
233 handholding: doing things for them which they could easily do
234 themselves but don't know how.
236 Such services could be provided by companies that sell just
237 hand-holding and repair service. If it is true that users would rather
238 spend money and get a product with service, they will also be willing
239 to buy the service having got the product free. The service companies
240 will compete in quality and price; users will not be tied to any
241 particular one. Meanwhile, those of us who don't need the service
242 should be able to use the program without paying for the service.
244 "You cannot reach many people without advertising, and you must
245 charge for the program to support that."
247 "It's no use advertising a program people can get free."
249 There are various forms of free or very cheap publicity that can be
250 used to inform numbers of computer users about something like GNU. But
251 it may be true that one can reach more microcomputer users with
252 advertising. If this is really so, a business which advertises the
253 service of copying and mailing GNU for a fee ought to be successful
254 enough to pay for its advertising and more. This way, only the users
255 who benefit from the advertising pay for it.
257 On the other hand, if many people get GNU from their friends, and
258 such companies don't succeed, this will show that advertising was not
259 really necessary to spread GNU. Why is it that free market advocates
260 don't want to let the free market decide this?(4)
262 "My company needs a proprietary operating system to get a
263 competitive edge."
265 GNU will remove operating system software from the realm of
266 competition. You will not be able to get an edge in this area, but
267 neither will your competitors be able to get an edge over you. You and
268 they will compete in other areas, while benefiting mutually in this
269 one. If your business is selling an operating system, you will not
270 like GNU, but that's tough on you. If your business is something else,
271 GNU can save you from being pushed into the expensive business of
272 selling operating systems.
274 I would like to see GNU development supported by gifts from many
275 manufacturers and users, reducing the cost to each.(5)
277 "Don't programmers deserve a reward for their creativity?"
279 If anything deserves a reward, it is social contribution.
280 Creativity can be a social contribution, but only in so far as society
281 is free to use the results. If programmers deserve to be rewarded for
282 creating innovative programs, by the same token they deserve to be
283 punished if they restrict the use of these programs.
285 "Shouldn't a programmer be able to ask for a reward for his
288 There is nothing wrong with wanting pay for work, or seeking to
289 maximize one's income, as long as one does not use means that are
290 destructive. But the means customary in the field of software today
291 are based on destruction.
293 Extracting money from users of a program by restricting their use of
294 it is destructive because the restrictions reduce the amount and the
295 ways that the program can be used. This reduces the amount of wealth
296 that humanity derives from the program. When there is a deliberate
297 choice to restrict, the harmful consequences are deliberate destruction.
299 The reason a good citizen does not use such destructive means to
300 become wealthier is that, if everyone did so, we would all become
301 poorer from the mutual destructiveness. This is Kantian ethics; or,
302 the Golden Rule. Since I do not like the consequences that result if
303 everyone hoards information, I am required to consider it wrong for one
304 to do so. Specifically, the desire to be rewarded for one's creativity
305 does not justify depriving the world in general of all or part of that
308 "Won't programmers starve?"
310 I could answer that nobody is forced to be a programmer. Most of us
311 cannot manage to get any money for standing on the street and making
312 faces. But we are not, as a result, condemned to spend our lives
313 standing on the street making faces, and starving. We do something
316 But that is the wrong answer because it accepts the questioner's
317 implicit assumption: that without ownership of software, programmers
318 cannot possibly be paid a cent. Supposedly it is all or nothing.
320 The real reason programmers will not starve is that it will still be
321 possible for them to get paid for programming; just not paid as much as
324 Restricting copying is not the only basis for business in software.
325 It is the most common basis because it brings in the most money. If it
326 were prohibited, or rejected by the customer, software business would
327 move to other bases of organization which are now used less often.
328 There are always numerous ways to organize any kind of business.
330 Probably programming will not be as lucrative on the new basis as it
331 is now. But that is not an argument against the change. It is not
332 considered an injustice that sales clerks make the salaries that they
333 now do. If programmers made the same, that would not be an injustice
334 either. (In practice they would still make considerably more than
337 "Don't people have a right to control how their creativity is
340 "Control over the use of one's ideas" really constitutes control over
341 other people's lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more
344 People who have studied the issue of intellectual property rights
345 carefully (such as lawyers) say that there is no intrinsic right to
346 intellectual property. The kinds of supposed intellectual property
347 rights that the government recognizes were created by specific acts of
348 legislation for specific purposes.
350 For example, the patent system was established to encourage
351 inventors to disclose the details of their inventions. Its purpose was
352 to help society rather than to help inventors. At the time, the life
353 span of 17 years for a patent was short compared with the rate of
354 advance of the state of the art. Since patents are an issue only among
355 manufacturers, for whom the cost and effort of a license agreement are
356 small compared with setting up production, the patents often do not do
357 much harm. They do not obstruct most individuals who use patented
360 The idea of copyright did not exist in ancient times, when authors
361 frequently copied other authors at length in works of non-fiction. This
362 practice was useful, and is the only way many authors' works have
363 survived even in part. The copyright system was created expressly for
364 the purpose of encouraging authorship. In the domain for which it was
365 invented--books, which could be copied economically only on a printing
366 press--it did little harm, and did not obstruct most of the individuals
367 who read the books.
369 All intellectual property rights are just licenses granted by society
370 because it was thought, rightly or wrongly, that society as a whole
371 would benefit by granting them. But in any particular situation, we
372 have to ask: are we really better off granting such license? What kind
373 of act are we licensing a person to do?
375 The case of programs today is very different from that of books a
376 hundred years ago. The fact that the easiest way to copy a program is
377 from one neighbor to another, the fact that a program has both source
378 code and object code which are distinct, and the fact that a program is
379 used rather than read and enjoyed, combine to create a situation in
380 which a person who enforces a copyright is harming society as a whole
381 both materially and spiritually; in which a person should not do so
382 regardless of whether the law enables him to.
384 "Competition makes things get done better."
386 The paradigm of competition is a race: by rewarding the winner, we
387 encourage everyone to run faster. When capitalism really works this
388 way, it does a good job; but its defenders are wrong in assuming it
389 always works this way. If the runners forget why the reward is offered
390 and become intent on winning, no matter how, they may find other
391 strategies--such as, attacking other runners. If the runners get into
392 a fist fight, they will all finish late.
394 Proprietary and secret software is the moral equivalent of runners
395 in a fist fight. Sad to say, the only referee we've got does not seem
396 to object to fights; he just regulates them ("For every ten yards you
397 run, you can fire one shot"). He really ought to break them up, and
398 penalize runners for even trying to fight.
400 "Won't everyone stop programming without a monetary incentive?"
402 Actually, many people will program with absolutely no monetary
403 incentive. Programming has an irresistible fascination for some
404 people, usually the people who are best at it. There is no shortage of
405 professional musicians who keep at it even though they have no hope of
406 making a living that way.
408 But really this question, though commonly asked, is not appropriate
409 to the situation. Pay for programmers will not disappear, only become
410 less. So the right question is, will anyone program with a reduced
411 monetary incentive? My experience shows that they will.
413 For more than ten years, many of the world's best programmers worked
414 at the Artificial Intelligence Lab for far less money than they could
415 have had anywhere else. They got many kinds of non-monetary rewards:
416 fame and appreciation, for example. And creativity is also fun, a
417 reward in itself.
419 Then most of them left when offered a chance to do the same
420 interesting work for a lot of money.
422 What the facts show is that people will program for reasons other
423 than riches; but if given a chance to make a lot of money as well, they
424 will come to expect and demand it. Low-paying organizations do poorly
425 in competition with high-paying ones, but they do not have to do badly
426 if the high-paying ones are banned.
428 "We need the programmers desperately. If they demand that we stop
429 helping our neighbors, we have to obey."
431 You're never so desperate that you have to obey this sort of demand.
432 Remember: millions for defense, but not a cent for tribute!
434 "Programmers need to make a living somehow."
436 In the short run, this is true. However, there are plenty of ways
437 that programmers could make a living without selling the right to use a
438 program. This way is customary now because it brings programmers and
439 businessmen the most money, not because it is the only way to make a
440 living. It is easy to find other ways if you want to find them. Here
441 are a number of examples.
443 A manufacturer introducing a new computer will pay for the porting of
444 operating systems onto the new hardware.
446 The sale of teaching, hand-holding and maintenance services could
447 also employ programmers.
449 People with new ideas could distribute programs as freeware, asking
450 for donations from satisfied users, or selling hand-holding services.
451 I have met people who are already working this way successfully.
453 Users with related needs can form users' groups, and pay dues. A
454 group would contract with programming companies to write programs that
455 the group's members would like to use.
457 All sorts of development can be funded with a Software Tax:
459 Suppose everyone who buys a computer has to pay x percent of the
460 price as a software tax. The government gives this to an agency
461 like the NSF to spend on software development.
463 But if the computer buyer makes a donation to software development
464 himself, he can take a credit against the tax. He can donate to
465 the project of his own choosing--often, chosen because he hopes to
466 use the results when it is done. He can take a credit for any
467 amount of donation up to the total tax he had to pay.
469 The total tax rate could be decided by a vote of the payers of the
470 tax, weighted according to the amount they will be taxed on.
472 The consequences:
474 * The computer-using community supports software development.
476 * This community decides what level of support is needed.
478 * Users who care which projects their share is spent on can
479 choose this for themselves.
481 In the long run, making programs free is a step toward the
482 post-scarcity world, where nobody will have to work very hard just to
483 make a living. People will be free to devote themselves to activities
484 that are fun, such as programming, after spending the necessary ten
485 hours a week on required tasks such as legislation, family counseling,
486 robot repair and asteroid prospecting. There will be no need to be
487 able to make a living from programming.
489 We have already greatly reduced the amount of work that the whole
490 society must do for its actual productivity, but only a little of this
491 has translated itself into leisure for workers because much
492 nonproductive activity is required to accompany productive activity.
493 The main causes of this are bureaucracy and isometric struggles against
494 competition. Free software will greatly reduce these drains in the
495 area of software production. We must do this, in order for technical
496 gains in productivity to translate into less work for us.
498 ---------- Footnotes ----------
500 (1) The wording here was careless. The intention was that nobody
501 would have to pay for *permission* to use the GNU system. But the
502 words don't make this clear, and people often interpret them as saying
503 that copies of GNU should always be distributed at little or no charge.
504 That was never the intent; later on, the manifesto mentions the
505 possibility of companies providing the service of distribution for a
506 profit. Subsequently I have learned to distinguish carefully between
507 "free" in the sense of freedom and "free" in the sense of price. Free
508 software is software that users have the freedom to distribute and
509 change. Some users may obtain copies at no charge, while others pay to
510 obtain copies--and if the funds help support improving the software, so
511 much the better. The important thing is that everyone who has a copy
512 has the freedom to cooperate with others in using it.
514 (2) This is another place I failed to distinguish carefully between
515 the two different meanings of "free". The statement as it stands is
516 not false--you can get copies of GNU software at no charge, from your
517 friends or over the net. But it does suggest the wrong idea.
519 (3) Several such companies now exist.
521 (4) The Free Software Foundation raises most of its funds from a
522 distribution service, although it is a charity rather than a company.
523 If *no one* chooses to obtain copies by ordering from the FSF, it
524 will be unable to do its work. But this does not mean that proprietary
525 restrictions are justified to force every user to pay. If a small
526 fraction of all the users order copies from the FSF, that is sufficient
527 to keep the FSF afloat. So we ask users to choose to support us in
528 this way. Have you done your part?
530 (5) A group of computer companies recently pooled funds to support
531 maintenance of the GNU C Compiler.