Boston Linux & UNIX was originally founded in 1994 as part of The Boston Computer Society. We meet on the third Wednesday of each month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Building E51.

Software Freedom and the GPL

Date and Time

Wednesday, January 16, 2002 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm


MIT Building 1-190


Bradley M. Kuhn , The Free Software Foundation - bkuhn fsf org


Bradley Kuhn talks about software freedom, copyleft, and the history and future of the Free Software Movement.


(Brad's synopsys)

In this talk, I introduce the issues of software freedom, copyleft, and the history and future of the Free Software Movement to an audience that is generally familiar with computer software. (The talk is geared towards computer users, but developers will not be bored.) I discuss in detail the most popular copyleft license, the GNU General Public License (GPL), and introduce its advantages for users, programmers, and businesses.

In contrast to the talks given by the free software supporters who founded the community (such as Richard Stallman), this talk comes from the perspective of someone who came of age in the Free Software Movement after the early work was complete. Thus, this talk addresses the “GNU generation” – those of us who learned of free software only after GNU/Linux systems were beginning to become popular.

In particular, I address the stark contrast of two existing worlds in the software industry: the developers of proprietary software and the developers of free software. As someone who has lived in both of these worlds, I speak with some authority about the terrible challenges and drawbacks faced in the proprietary software realm, and how the free software community has overcome them by giving the same freedom to all users, whether they program often, occasionally, or not at all. I explain how one specific copyleft software license, the GNU GPL, has worked to ensure freedom while creating a thriving user, developer and business community.

Finally, I discuss the great challenges that we, the Free Software Movement, face in the years ahead. Too often, people assume that since the job of writing a core operating system is done (namely, GNU/Linux and emerging GNU/HURD systems) that there is nothing left for the Free Software Movement to do. I dispell this misconception by giving real-world examples where we face challenges today. I also identify dangerous trends that indicate challenges that we may face in the future.

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We also thank MIT for the use of their facilities.

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