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Comments on Roderick Long's Article

by Richard Stallman

Roderick Long's article can be found at this address.

The ideas of the free software movement are compatible with social-democratic (US liberal) views and with laissez-faire (US libertarian) views.

Free software is a matter of freedom. From our point of view, precisely which legal mechanism* is used to deny software users their freedom is just an implementation detail. Whether it is done with copyright, with contracts, or in some other way, it is wrong to deny the public the freedoms necessary to form a community and cooperate. This is why it is inaccurate to understand the Free Software Movement as specifically a matter of opposition to copyright on software. It is both more and less than that.

However, you will often hear people of right-wing ideological persuasion argue in vague way that some general moral principle of property rights compels us to cede our freedom to a system of copyright, regardless of how this affects our way of life. The right-wing Libertarian counterargument, coming as it does from a group that regards property rights as the highest moral principle, is useful as a refutation. It shows that even if you adore property rights for physical objects, you are not compelled to accept copyright.

* = Or technical mechanism, such as withholding the source code, or tivoization.

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