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      1 <!-- pubdate: 20090227 -->
      2 <!-- author: V. Sasi Kumar -->
      4 # Liberating cyberspace - Interview with Richard M. Stallman, founder, Free Software Foundation, FRONTLINE
      6 Richard Mathew Stallman needs no introduction to the reading public in
      7 India. He has visited India several times during the last eight years
      8 or so, and has given lectures in many parts of the country. He started
      9 the GNU1 project in September 1983 to create software that gives users
     10 the freedom to use, share, modify and redistribute. Though he was
     11 alone in this task at the beginning, today there are tens of thousands
     12 of programmers world-wide helping to create such software. The GNU
     13 project has inspired a large number of projects for creating Free
     14 Software, and has led to the development of a wide variety of ap-
     15 plications from text editors to office suites, browsers, email
     16 clients, audio and video editors and even 3D animation tools. And this
     17 is beginning to challenge large companies that create proprietary
     18 software. GNU/Linux, formed from the kernel (core) Linux developed
     19 initially by Linus Torvalds and tools like compilers, editors,
     20 etc. developed under the GNU project, is the most popular Free
     21 Operating System and this is being increasingly adopted by
     22 governmental and other agencies in many developed and developing
     23 countries. In India, Free Software has been mandated for government
     24 purposes by the Government of Kerala in its ICT policy, and has become
     25 part of the syllabus of state schools. Several organisations in the
     26 country use Free Software, including LIC and Tamil Nadu’s ELCOT.
     28 Stallman also developed the GNU General Public Licence (GPL), under
     29 which most Free Software is published, the Free Documentation Licence
     30 for software documentation and the Lesser GPL for certain types of
     31 software. In 1984, he left his job in the Artificial Intelligence Lab
     32 of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology fearing that the
     33 Institute may demand the copyright for his work. In 1985, he started
     34 the Free Software Foundation in Boston, USA, to promote Free
     35 Software. Today, it has its sister organisations in In- dia, Europe
     36 and Latin America. The philosophy of Free Software has led to
     37 movements to free various kinds of information from the severe
     38 restrictions imposed by copyright laws. These include Wikipedia
     39 (<http://wikipedia.org>), Creative Commons
     40 (<http://www.creativecommons.org>) and the Open Access movement in
     41 scientific publication (<http://soros.org/openaccess>). The new
     42 culture of co-operative production of goods of value, though the goods
     43 are vir- tual, is leading people to explore the possibility of an
     44 economy where production will increasingly become ‘peer-to-peer’ and
     45 could take over completely from the capitalist mode of production
     46 eventually.
     48 Stallman was in India recently to participate in the International
     49 Free Software Free Society conference at Thiruvananthapuram in
     50 December 2008. This interview was done through email after his return.
     52 **Question**: Twenty five years after you launched the GNU project,
     53 how do you see the progress it has made? What do you feel about its
     54 achievements and failures?
     56 **Stallman**: The GNU Project has succeeded – we developed the free
     57 GNU operating system and made it work well enough for millions to
     58 use. Of course, not every specific programming project that we
     59 undertook was a success, but the overall project succeeded. It
     60 succeeded so well that it has inspired thousands of other projects to
     61 develop and release free software, which is why a GNU/Linux system
     62 distro today usually contains thousands of application programs.
     64 However, the GNU Project was just the beginning of the free software
     65 movement’s mission. Our mission is the liberation of cyberspace. That
     66 won’t be finished until proprietary software disappears and all
     67 computer users are free. [Read More (archived)][artcl].
     69 [artcl]: https://web.archive.org/web/20110308110501/http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2604/stories/20090227260408500.htm