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Home » Richard Stallman on Free Software, Free Society (Full Transcript)

Richard Stallman on Free Software, Free Society (Full Transcript)

Richard Stallman

Full text of software freedom activist and computer programmer, Richard Stallman on Free Software, Free Society at TEDxGeneva 2014 conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Free software, free society by Richard Stallman at TEDxGeneva 2014


Free software is the first battle in the liberation of cyberspace. Who controls your computer? Is it you or is it some big company that’s really controlling it?

Well, what is a computer? A computer is a universal machine. It will do any computation you want it to, because you give it a program that says what the computation is that you want. So the computer only knows how to get out an instruction and do it, and get out another instruction and do it. The program has the instructions, it says what to do. So by writing the right program, you can make it do anything. Well, almost anything.

So, who gives the instructions to your computer? You might think it’s obeying your instructions when really it’s obeying somebody else first, and you only as much as that company will let it listen to you.

With software, there are two possibilities: Either the users control the program, or the program controls the users. It’s inevitably one or the other. So in order for the users to control the program, they need the four essential freedoms. And that’s the definition of free software. Free software respects the user’s freedom and community. Now, we often call it “Libre” using the French or Spanish word. Pronounce it as you like, the point is that’s what we mean. We don’t mean it’s gratis, we’re not talking about price. We’re concerned with your freedom, and we sometimes say “Free/Libre” to show that.

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