A few weeks ago my friend and I had the opportunity to attend a seminar at a local community college with Richard Stallman entitled "Copyright vs. Community in the Age of Computer Networks". If you don't already know, Stallman launched the GNU Project in 1984, founded the Free Software Foundation in 1985, pioneered the concept of "copyleft" with the GNU/GPL license and created the GNU development tools used by Linus Torvald to produce the Linux Kernel. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the work he has done and for his contributions to society.
There is no need to recap everything that was said at the seminar, although you can read more about Stallman and the projects he is working on by visiting the links mentioned above. Also, you can listen to an interview with Stallman on geekspeak.org. One of the main ideas presented during the lecture is the premise that copyright laws were relevant in the historical context they were originally created, as a public service to promote creative works, but now they are no longer serving the best interests of the public. Copyright laws in our current era are geared towards corporate interests and are detrimental to society. Stallman also presented proposals for changes to copyright laws. Here is a quote from the about page on the Free Software Foundation site:
"Currently, many people use proprietary software that denies users these freedoms and benefits. If we make a copy and give it to a friend, if we try to figure out how the program works, if we put a copy on more than one of our own computers in our own home, we could be caught and fined or put in jail. That's what's in the fine print of the license agreement you accept when using proprietary software. The corporations behind proprietary software spy on your activities and restrict you from sharing with others. And because our computers control much of our personal information and daily activities, proprietary software represents an unacceptable danger to a free society."
I still use a few proprietary programs. The programs themselves are not bad, but I'd rather use a free alternative. Linux keeps getting better at an amazing pace and it is incredible how many great programs are currently available. It is quite possible that by the end of the year, I will not have any use for proprietary software.
Some may criticize Stallman as being an extremist. I do not know enough about him to make a judgment like that. After having attended the seminar, I would say that he is a sharp-shooter, a man who knows exactly what he means and stays true to his ideals.
The seminar got me thinking about the license I am currently using on Themebot. All of the original content on Themebot is available with the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 license. All themes that have been created and will by created by Themebot are available with the GNU/GPL license. Members are given the freedom to choose whatever licensing terms they would like to release their software under when listing their files for download.
I have pondered licensing the original content on Themebot (layout, articles, and all other original content) GNU/GPL. However, I and others have put a lot of hard work into the site. You may have read the article: Protect your Website from Leeching with htaccess. I discovered that somebody had taken the code and images used in the design for Themebot to setup a website for Free iPods. Stealing bandwidth is one thing and easy to remedy. Then, I had to think about whether or not I wanted to let them use the original Themebot design on their site, which is basically a hokey pyramid scam with no value whatsoever. This felt a bit like identity theft. Web design is functional, but it is also art. I am not so keen on the idea of one person carbon copying another person's creative work and claiming it to be their own without giving any credit to the original author. When deciding on a license, I did not choose a completely restrictive license but I did decide that I would rather not have commercial sites using the content and I'd like to have credit given in the form of a link back to Themebot. Maybe I will change my mind later and switch to GNU/GPL, time will tell.
You may be wondering what this free stickers business is all about. Well, I have a bunch of GNU stickers from the seminar that I'd like to give away to Themebot members who support Free Software. Until the stickers run out, anyone who submits a GNU/GPL licensed website template on Themebot can request a free sticker and it will delivered to your mailbox.
To get your free sticker,
contact Themebot with the email you used to create your account, your mailing address and the name of the template you submitted. The sticker will be in the mail ASAP, and Themebot will even lick the stamp ;) Stallman asked that the stickers be placed somewhere permanent, where they will do some good. Your mailing address will not be stored and will only be used for delivering your free sticker. Unfortunately, this offer is only available for members who have mailing addresses in the United States. It would be too expensive to send the stickers internationally. If some kind souls start chipping in for the server upgrade, maybe international shipping can be arranged. For now, Themebot is too broke to send things via airmail.