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From: brian@sdcc3.UUCP (Brian Kantor)
Newsgroups: net.micro
Subject: The GNU Manifesto
Message-ID: <2767@sdcc3.UUCP>
Date: Thu, 21-Mar-85 20:37:13 EST
Article-I.D.: sdcc3.2767
Posted: Thu Mar 21 20:37:13 1985
Date-Received: Sat, 23-Mar-85 04:12:47 EST
Organization: UCSD wombat breeding society
Lines: 542

[Reprinted from Dr. Dobbs Journal March 1985. Permission statement below.]

(I'm posting this because I agree with a lot of the things mentioned in it,
and because I think it should get a wide distribution among those whose
daily life it concerns.  Richard Stallman's credentials are impressive,
including among other things the development of the EMACS editor and a
great deal of pioneering work with Lisp and Lisp machines.)

                     The GNU Manifesto
                      Richard Stallman

GNU, which stands for GNU's Not Unix, is the  name  for  the
complete  Unix-compatible  software system that I am writing
so that I can give it away free to everyone who can use  it.
Many  other  programmers  are  helping me.  Contributions of
time, money, programs, and equipment are greatly needed.

     So far we have a portable C and Pascal  compiler  which
compiles  for  Vax and 68000, an Emacs-like text editor with
Lisp for writing editor commands, a  yacc-compatible  parser
generator, a linker, and around 35 utilities.  A shell (com-
mand interpreter) is nearly completed.  When the kernel  and
a  debugger  are written, by the end of 1985 I hope, it will
be possible to distribute a GNU system suitable for  program
development.   After  this  we will add a text formatter, an
Empire game, a spreadsheet, and hundreds  of  other  things,
plus  on-line documentation.  We hope to supply, eventually,
everything useful that normally comes with  a  Unix  system,
and more.

     GNU will be able to run Unix programs, but will not  be
identical with Unix.  We will make all improvements that are
convenient, based on our  experience  with  other  operating
systems.   In  particular, we plan to have longer filenames,
file version numbers, a  crashproof  file  system,  filename
completion,  perhaps,  and  eventually,  a Lisp-based window
system through which several Lisp programs and ordinary Unix
programs can share a screen.

     Both C and Lisp will be available as system programming
languages.   We  will try to support UUCP, MIT Chaosnet, and
Internet protocols for communication.

     GNU is aimed initially at machines in  the  68000/16000
class,  with  virtual  memory,  because they are the easiest
machines to make it run on.  The extra effort to make it run
on  less powerful machines will be left to someone who wants
to use it on them.

Why I Must Write GNU

If I like a program, I must share it with other  people  who
like it.  Software sellers want to divide the users and con-
quer them, making each user agree not to share with  others.
I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure or software
license agreement.  For years I worked within the Artificial
Intelligence Lab to resist such tendencies.  My efforts were
wasted.  I cannot remain in an institution where such things
are done for me against my will.

     So that I can continue to use computer without  violat-
ing  my  principles I have decided to put together a body of
free software sufficient to enable me to get  along  without
any  software that is not free.  I have resigned from the AI
lab to deny MIT any legal excuse for preventing me from giv-
ing GNU away.

Why GNU Will Be Compatible with Unix

Unix is not my ideal system, but it is  not  too  bad.   The
essential features of Unix seem to be good ones, and I think
I can fill in what Unix lacks without spoiling them.  Furth-
ermore a system compatible with Unix would be convenient for
many other people to adopt.

How GNU Will Be Available

GNU is not in the public domain.  Everyone will be permitted
to  modify  and redistribute GNU, but no distributor will be
allowed to restrict its further redistribution.  That is  to
say,  proprietary modifications will not be allowed.  I want
to make sure that all versions of GNU remain free.

Why Many Other Programmers Want to Help

I have found many other programmers who  are  excited  about
GNU  and  want  to help.  Many programmers are unhappy about
the commercialization of system  software.   It  may  enable
them to make more money, but it requires that they feel like
competitors with other programmers  rather  than  like  com-
rades.  The fundamental act of programmers is the sharing of
programs;  marketing arrangements  now  in  use  essentially
forbid  programmers  to  treat  others as friends.  The pur-
chaser of software must choose between friendship and  obey-
ing the law.  Naturally, many decide that friendship is more
important.  But those who believe in law often do  not  feel
at  ease  with either choice.  They become cynical and think
that programming is just a way of making money.

     By working on and using  GNU  rather  than  proprietary
programs, we can be hospitable to everyone and obey the law.
In addition, GNU serves as  an  example  to  inspire  and  a
banner to rally others to join us in sharing.  This can give
us a feeling of harmony,  which  is  impossible  if  we  use
software that is not free.  For about half the programmers I
talk to, this is an important happiness  that  money  cannot

How You Can Contribute

I am asking computer manufacturers for donations of machines
and money.  I'm asking individuals for donations of programs
and work.

     One computer manufacturer has already offered  to  pro-
vide  a  machine.  We can use more.  One consequence you can
expect if you donate machines is that GNU  will run on  them
at  an early date.  The machine should be able to operate in
a residential area, and not require sophisticated cooling or

     I have found very many programmers eager to  contribute
part-time  work  to  GNU.  For most projects, such part-time
distributed work would  be  very  hard  to  coordinate;  the
parts,  written independently, would not work together.  But
for the particular task of replacing Unix, this  problem  is
absent.  A complete Unix system contains hundreds of utility
programs, each of  which  is  documented  separately.   Most
interface  specifications  are  fixed by Unix compatibility.
If each contributor can write a compatible replacement for a
single  Unix  utility, and make it work properly in place of
the original on a Unix system,  then  these  utilities  will
work  right when put together.  Even if Murphy creates a few
unexpected problems, assembling these components will  be  a
feasible  task.   (The kernel will require closer communica-
tion and will be worked on by a small, tight group.)

     If I get donations of money, I may be able  to  hire  a
few  people  full or part-time.  The salary won't be high by
programmer's standards, but I'm looking for people for  whom
building  community  spirit is as important as making money.
I view this as a way of enabling dedicated people to  devote
their  full  energies  to working on GNU by sparing them the
need to make a living in another way.

Why All Computer Users Will Benefit

Once GNU is written, everyone will be able  to  obtain  good
system  software  free, just like air.  This means much more
than just saving everyone the price of a Unix  license.   It
means  that  much wasteful duplication of system programming
will be avoided.  This effort can go instead into  advancing
the state of the art.

     Complete system sources will be available to  everyone.
As  a  result,  a  user who needs changes in the system will
always be free to make them himself, or hire  any  available
programmer  or  company to make them for him.  Users will no
longer be at the mercy of one  programmer  or  company  that
owns the sources and is in a sole position to make changes.

     Schools will be able to provide a superior  educational
environment by encouraging all students to study and improve
the system code.  Harvard's computer lab used  to  have  the
policy  that  no program could be installed on the system if
its sources were not on public display,  and  upheld  it  by
actually  refusing  to install certain programs.  I was very

much inspired by this.

     Finally, the overhead of considering who owns the  sys-
tem  software  and what one is or is not entitled to do with
it will be lifted.  Arrangements  to  make  people  pay  for
using  a  program,  including  licensing  of  copies, always
impose a tremendous cost on society through  the  cumbersome
mechanisms  necessary to figure out how much (that is, which
programs) a person must pay for.  Furthermore, only a police
state can force everyone to obey.  Consider the analogy of a
space station where air must be manufactured at great  cost:
charging  each  breather per liter of air might be fair, but
wearing the metered oxygen mask all day and all night  would
be  intolerable  even  if  everyone  could afford to pay the
bill.  And the TV cameras everywhere to see if you ever took
it  off  would be outrageous.  It would be better to support
the air plant with a head tax and chuck the masks.   Copying
all  or  parts of a program is as natural to a programmer as
breathing, and as productive.  It ought to be as free.

Some easily rebutted objections to GNU's goals

``Nobody will use it if it is free, because that means  they
can't  rely on any support.  You have to charge for the pro-
gram to pay for providing the support.''   If  people  would
rather  pay  for  GNU plus service than get GNU free without
service, a company to provide just  service  to  people  who
have obtained GNU free ought to be profitable.

     We must distinguish between support in the form of real
programming  and  mere handholding.  The former is something
that one cannot rely on from a  software  vendor.   If  your
problem is not shared by enough people, the vendor will tell
you to get lost.  If your business needs to be able to  rely
on  support,  the only way to have all the necessary sources
and tools.  Then you can hire any available  person  to  fix
your problem and you will not be at the mercy of any indivi-
dual.  With Unix, the price of sources puts this out of con-
sideration for most businesses.  With GNU this will be easy.
It is still possible that there will be  no  available  com-
petent  person, but this problem cannot be blamed on distri-
bution arrangements.  GNU does not eliminate all the world's
problems, only some of them.

     Meanwhile, the users who know nothing  about  computers
need  handholding, i.e., they need for others to do for them
the things which they could easily do themselves, but  don't
know  how  to.  Such services could be provided by companies
that sell just handholding and repair  service.   If  it  is
true  that  users would rather spend money and get a product
with services, they will also be willing to buy the service,
having  got  the  product  free.  The service companies will
compete in quality and price; users will not be tied to  any

particular  one.   Meanwhile, those of us who don't need the
service should be able to use the program without paying for
the service.

     ``You cannot reach many people without advertising, and
you  must  charge  charge  for  the program to support that.
It's no use advertising a program  people  can  get  free.''
There are various forms of free or very cheap publicity that
can be used to inform numbers of computer users about  some-
thing  like GNU.  But it may be true that one can reach more
microcomputer users with advertising.  If this is really so,
a business which advertises the service of copying and mail-
ing GNU for a fee ought to be successful enough to  pay  for
its  advertising  and  more.   This  way, only the users who
benefit from the advertising pay for it.  On the other hand,
if  many  people  get  GNU from their friends, and such com-
panies don't succeed, this will show  that  advertising  was
not  really  necessary  to  spread GNU.  Why is it that free
market advocates don't want to let the  free  market  decide

     ``My company needs a proprietary  operating  system  to
get a competitive edge.''  GNU will remove operating systems
from the realm of competition.  You will not be able to  get
an  edge  in this area, but neither will your competitors be
able to get an edge over you.  You and they will compete  in
other areas, while benefiting mutually in this one.  If your
business is selling an operating system, you will  not  like
GNU,  but  that's tough on you.  GNU can save you from being
pushed into the expensive business of selling operating sys-
tems.   I  would  like  to  see GNU development supported by
gifts from many manufacturers and users, reducing  the  cost
to each.

     ``Don't  programmers  deserve  a   reward   for   their
creativity?''   If  anything deserves a reward, it is social
contribution.  Creativity can be a social contribution,  but
only insofar as society is free to use the results.  If pro-
grammers deserve to be rewarded for creating innovative pro-
grams, by the same token they deserve to be punished if they
restrict the use of these programs.

     ``Shouldn't a programmer be able to ask  for  a  reward
for  his  creativity?''  There is nothing wrong with wanting
pay for work, or seeking to maximize one's income,  as  long
as  one  does  not  use means that are destructive.  But the
means customarily used in the area of  software  development
today are based on destruction.  Extracting money from users
of a program by restricting their use of it  is  destructive
because the restrictions reduce the amount that and the ways
in which the program can be used.  This reduces  the  amount
of  wealth  that  humanity  derives  from the program.  When
there is  a  deliberate  choice  to  restrict,  the  harmful

consequences  are deliberate destruction.  The reason a good
citizen does  not  use  such  destructive  means  to  become
wealthier  is  because,  if  everyone  did  so, we would all
become poorer from the mutual destructiveness.  This is Kan-
tian  ethics,  or, the Golden Rule.  Since I do not like the
consequences that result if everyone hoards  information,  I
am  required  to  consider it wrong for one person to do so.
Specifically, the desire to be rewarded for one's creativity
does  not  justify  depriving the world in general of all or
part of that creativity.

     ``Won't programmers  starve?''   I  could  answer  that
nobody  is  forced  to  be  a programmer.  Most of us cannot
manage to get any money for standing on the street and  mak-
ing  faces.  But we are not, as a result, condemned to spend
our lives standing on the street and starving.  We do  some-
thing  else.   But  that  is  the  wrong  answer, because it
accepts the questioner's implicit  assumption  that  without
ownership of software, programmers cannot possibly be paid a
cent.  Supposedly it is all or  nothing.   The  real  reason
programmers will not starve is because it will still be pos-
sible for them to get paid for programming; just not as much
as now.

     Restricting copying is not the only means for making  a
profit in software development.  It is the most common means
because it brings in the most money.  If it were prohibited,
or rejected by the customer, software business would move to
other methods of profitmaking that are now used less  often.
Probably programming would not be as lucrative as it is now.
But that is not an argument against the change.  It  is  not
considered  an injustice that sales clerks make the salaries
that they now do.  If programmers made the same, that  would
not  be an injustice either.  (In practice, they would still
make considerably more than that.)

     ``Don't people  have  a  right  to  control  how  their
creativity  is  used?''  Control over the use of one's ideas
really constitutes control over other people's lives; and it
is  usually used to make their lives more difficult.  People
who have carefully studied the issue  of  intellectual  pro-
perty  rights (such as lawyers) say that there is no intrin-
sic right to intellectual property.  The kinds  of  supposed
intellectual  property rights that the government recognizes
were created by specific acts of  legislation  for  specific
purposes.  For example, the patent system was established to
encourage inventors to disclose the details of their  inven-
tions.   Its purpose was to help society rather than to help
inventors.  At the time, the life span of  17  years  for  a
patent  was  short  compared with the rate of advance of the
state of the art.  Since patents are  an  issue  only  among
manufacturers,  for  whom  the  cost and effort of a license
agreement are small compared with setting up production, the

patents  often  do  not  do much harm.  They do not obstruct
most individuals who use patented products.

     The idea of copyright did not exist in  ancient  times,
when  authors  frequently copied lengthy extracts from other
authors in works of non-fiction.  This practice was  useful,
and  is  the only way many authors' works have survived even
in part.  The copyright system was created expressly for the
purpose  of encouraging authorship.  In the domain for which
it was invented - books, which could be copied  economically
only  on  a printing press - it did little harm, and did not
obstruct most of the individuals who read the books.

     All intellectual  property  rights  are  just  licenses
granted  by  society  because  it  was  thought,  rightly or
wrongly, that society as a whole would benefit  by  granting
them.   But in any particular situation, we have to ask: Are
we really better off granting such license?   What  kind  of
act  are  we licensing a person to do?  The case of programs
today is very different from that of books a  hundred  years
ago.   The  fact  that  the easiest way to copy a program is
from one neighbor to another, the fact that  a  program  has
both  source  and  object  code, which are distinct, and the
fact that a program is used rather than  read  and  enjoyed,
combine to create a situation in which a person who enforces
copyright is harming society as a whole both materially  and
spiritually;  in  which a person should not do so regardless
of whether the law enables him to or not.

     ``Won't everyone stop programming  without  a  monetary
incentive?''  Actually,  many people will program with abso-
lutely no monetary incentive.  Programming has an irresisti-
ble  fascination for some people, usually the people who are
best at it.  There is no shortage of professional  musicians
who  keep  at  it even thought they have no hope of making a
living that way.  But really this question, though  commonly
asked,  is  not  appropriate to the situation.  Pay for pro-
grammers will not disappear, only become less.  So the right
question  is:  Will  anyone  program with a reduced monetary
incentive?  My experience shows that they will.

     For more than ten years, many of the world's best  pro-
grammers  worked  at the Artificial Intelligence Lab for far
less money than they could have had anywhere else.  They got
many  kinds  of non-monetary rewards: fame and appreciation,
for example.  And  creativity  is  also  fun,  a  reward  in
itself.   Then most of them left when offered a chance to do
the same interesting work for a  lot  of  money.   What  the
facts  show  is  that  people will program for reasons other
than riches; but if given a chance to make a lot of money as
well,  they  will  come to expect and demand it.  Low-paying
organizations do  poorly  in  competition  with  high-paying
ones,  but  they  do not have to do badly if the high-paying

ones are gone.

     ``We need the programmers desperately.  If they  demand
that  we  stop  helping  our  neighbors,  we have to obey.''
You're never so desperate that you have to obey this sort of
demand.   Remember,  millions  for defense, but not one cent
for tribute.

     ``Programmers need to make a living  somehow.''   There
are  plenty  of  ways by which programmers can make a living
without selling the right to use  a  program.   Here  are  a
number of examples:

     + A manufacturer introducing a new  computer  will  pay
     for  the  porting  of  operating  systems  onto the new

     + The sale of teaching,  handholding,  and  maintenance
     services could also employ programmers.

     + People with new ideas could  distribute  programs  as
     freeware, asking for donations from satisfied users.  I
     am told that several people are  already  working  this
     way successfully.

     + Users with related needs can form user's groups,  and
     pay dues.  A group would contract with programming com-
     panies to write programs that the group's members would
     like to use.

All sorts of development can be funded with a software tax:

     + Suppose that everyone who buys a computer has to  pay
     x  percent of the price as a software tax.  The govern-
     ment gives this to an agency like the NSF to  spend  on
     software development.

     + But  if  the  computer  buyer  makes  a  donation  to
     software  development  himself,  he  can  take a credit
     against the tax.  He can donate to the project  of  his
     own  choosing-often, chosen because he hopes to use the
     results when it is done.  He can take a credit for  any
     amount of donation up to the total tax he had to pay.

     + The total tax rate could be decided by  vote  of  the
     payers  of  the tax, weighted according to how much tax
     they paid in the previous year.

The consequences:

     +  The  computer-using  community   supports   software

     + This community  decides  what  level  of  support  is

     + Users who care which projects their share is spent on
     can choose this for themselves.

     In the long run, making programs free is a step  toward
the post-scarcity world, where nobody will have to work very
hard just to make a living.  People will be free  to  devote
themselves  to activities that are fun, such as programming,
after spending the necessary ten hours a  week  on  required
tasks  such as legislation, family counseling, robot repair,
and asteroid prospecting.  There will be no need to be  able
to make a living from programming.

     We have already greatly reduced the amount of work that
the  whole  society must do for its actual productivity, but
only a little of this has translated itself into leisure for
workers  because  so much nonproductive activity is required
to accompany productive activity.  The main causes  of  this
are bureaucracy and isometric struggles against competition.
Free software will greatly reduce these drains in  the  area
of software production.  We must do this in order for techn-
ical gains in productivity to translate into less  work  for
     Richard Stallman, 166  Prospect  Street,  Cambridge  MA
02139.   Copyright (c) 1985 Richard Stallman.  Permission is
granted to make and distribute copies  of  this  article  as
long as the copyright and this notice appear, and the copies
are distributed at no charge.

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