Q: Research shows that the GPLv3 is gaining acceptance. In the mailing lists of the Linux kernel, a hypothetical scenario was described where Linus Torvalds et al. might consider upgrading their kernel's license to the GPLv3. This scenario involved Sun's OpenSolaris (project 'Indiana') and its choice of a license. What would you say is the greatest advantage for a kernel -- any kernel for that matter -- in adopting the GPLv3?
RMS:Kernels (and other programs) don't really matter -- people do. So the issue here is how moving Linux to GPLv3 would affect the users of Linux, including the users of the combined GNU/Linux system.
The most relevant aspect of GPL version 3 is the prohibition on tivoization. Tivoization is the practice of building machines that come with free software preinstalled, and that are designed to shut down if you install a modified version of the free software. In effect, tivoization turns freedom 1 (the freedom to modify the program to make it do what you wish) into a theoretical fiction.
As long as Linux continues to be distributed under GPL version 2, manufacturers will be allowed to tivoize it and thus stop users from changing it and controlling their own computing. This is why Linux needs to move to GPLv3.
|Interview: Richard Stallman|
"The most relevant aspect of GPL version 3 is the prohibition on tivoization."
~ Richard Stallman
Q: Simon Phipps (of Sun Microsystems) has spoken about the GPLv3 on numerous occasions and he even inquired to see what Bob Sutor, Vice President of Open Source and Standards at IBM, thought about it. If Sun decided to embrace the GPLv3 for its software, including OpenSolaris, would you be willing to endorse OpenSolaris?
RMS:OpenSolaris is already free software, and I can endorse it as such. If Sun releases it under GPLv3, that will be even better; however, when choosing between free programs, the main factor is practical.*
* [RMS added this comment later:] Since that interview I've learned that not all of OpenSolaris is free software; it is distributed with many non-free programs. I am not sure that the free parts can even run on their own. I cannot endorse OpenSolaris in its present form as a system to use.
Q: Linus Torvalds once referred to you as "the great philosopher" and he also argued that we should think of him as the engineer. He is clearly very focused on what he does so well. Do you believe that there are dangers that he is not aware of?
RMS:I am sure he is aware of the dangers. The problem is that there are some he doesn't care about. For instance, he seems not to care about the danger to your freedom posed by tivoization.
Q: If you were allowed to have only one piece of software, what would it be, assuming that underlying components like an operating system were already provided?
RMS:There's a confusion in the question, because all the programs I use are part of the GNU/Linux operating system. Even the games I sometimes play are included in the gNewSense distribution which I use.
But if the question is which single user-interactive program is most important to me, that is GNU Emacs. I spend most of my day using Emacs to edit files, to read mail, to send mail, to compile, to search files, and many other things. Of course, GNU Emacs is included in gNewSense, and in most of the GNU/Linux distributions. I developed GNU Emacs initially in 1984-5, specifically for the GNU system.