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Free Software Movement

In: Social Issues

Submitted By whisp
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A computer programmer named Richard Stallman started the Free Software Movement in the mid 1980’s; Stallman was an avid participant and part of the underground computer hacking and programming culture at MIT during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. When the hacker culture began to break up and move on to building software for the first personal computers many people who once worked together so closely began to hide the source code they were writing and started to copyright and put exclusive licenses and usage agreements in an effort to limit the copying, altering, and redistribution of the software. To combat this growing trend and Stallman started the GNU Project, which was a collection of free software that could be modified and changed to the users preferences and needs. Stallman’s initial goal was to “Put together a sufficient body of free software so that it will be able to “get along” software that is free. “
Currently the majority of software that is released into the consumer market is considered proprietary software, this means that the coding that runs the software is copywrighiten and cannot be changed, studied, or redistributed in any form. The main stand that Stallman and the Free Software Movement (FSM) take against this concept is they believe that once the software is purchased the end user should be able to change and modify the software as they wish, similar to the way in which after purchasing a car you are able to modify the car as you wish albeit possible voiding your warranty. The FSM believes that the coding of the software should be open source where it can be used studied and modified without restriction, they claim that the companies that have proprietary restrictions on their software are actually undermining the potential of the software. They also say that the companies would not see much a difference in their profits because the number people that have the technical skills to modify the software is so low and redistributing the software for a price would still be illegal. By the definition of different social movements the Free Software Movement would be considered a reform movement that aims to change the way that large corporations use proprietary software.

While not a large social movement, being made up of mostly hackers and people with backgrounds in advanced computer knowledge gives the FSM a large presence on the internet and is fueled by the constant criticisms of large software companies like Microsoft and Apple. In 1985 Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation which supports the FSM, the foundation currently provides the GNU Project users with a free software directory, project hosting for software projects they may have, a publishing department that posts a newsletter about he world of open source software, there is also a vast online network of people involved in the FSM who are always in contact over the internet. The FSM also builds awareness through public speaking and at public and industry events, they participate in the lobbying of the denial of certain patents. The movement is now worldwide and just this week Baker (2011, Para. 3) reports the president of Free Software Foundation Europe has asked the EU parliament to look more deeply into a ruling which Gerloff claims, “…hurt innovation and are an unnecessary burden on European software developers.” A worldwide presence online, in politics and business makes the Free Software Movement a social movement that is the forefront of the technical world and one day could be more important that many may see it now.

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