So I went to hear Richard Stallman speak at an ORG meeting. He was late, and couldn’t be contacted because he doesn’t use a mobile phone, or not one that you can make calls to.

He started with the recording rules and distribution rules. Any films must be open format friendly, and published under CC-ND terms. There are to be no pictures posted to Facebook, of him presumably, anyway his advice is to “Unfriend Facebook Today”.

Under the dominion of business, any technical change is the opportunity to oppress people; because of their power.

There are Nine threats to freedom

  1. Surveillance – all devices have it, except free software, our devices, and those we connect to, i.e. you need to connect via an ISP, you’ll be tracked. Phones can be used to spy. He suggests that the UK police can track all car use in real time, really? It’s only the state that can use this surveillance against the people, (I thought the Facebook example proved this wrong).
  2. Censorship – started in the obvious places, coming to the democracies, web filtering/blocking and the courts are being written out of the filtering decisions, start with porn, (no mention of racism and hate), but the aim is to stop sharing
  3. Secret Formats- restricts choice of access tools and hence methods, on you and your correspondents, Italian Public Broadcaster uses VC1. British Library is another example; they’re committed to Microsoft’s formats.
  4. Reject Non free software, otherwise you are in the world of program or be programmed – closed software “generates an unjust relationship”, The Four Freedoms are, the right to Run the program, the right to study & change the code, and run it (i.e. android ain’t), the Right to help others to change the code, and right to “put back” your changes. See also
  5. Misuse of Data – this where you put your data in someone else’s domain, if they loose it, it’s your problem, you can only change it according to their rules, they can deny those you want to share with your data, and they share without permission, including Law Enforcement ( he alleges that the FBI take all of Facebook once/week). US companies particularly vulnerable, he alleges that the US ( oops notes lost by me, this isn’t an NSA redaction ).
  6. Other people’s servers mean you loose control – SaaS, in breach of 4 freedoms, you don’t know what it does.
  7. Voting by Computer – don’t! Can’t be trusted because they breach the four freedoms, the results can’t be inspected by agents or the returning officer. Election systems are designed on the basis of zero trust. You can’t guarantee that the voting platform is integral
  8. War on Sharing – IT makes copying cheap, Industrial Content opposes this, seeking to tax consumption. Decryption is illegal in the EU/USA except in Finland who consider it so pervasive that it can’t use trade protection. They then pursued the fans, then introduced the campaign for three strikes, inc. DE Act in the UK. In the speech, Stallman explored the issue of how to pay for Art, with a pretty poor exploration of the use of taxation, and voluntary payment.
  9. No longer an ability to act, you can’t be on the internet without an ISP or DNS provider, there is no cash on the internet so less anonymity, and you need a bank. This was shown by the Wikileaks pursuit, which is why peer-to-peer is so important. In cyberspace, you have no rights, only terms and conditions – we need a campaign so they can’t cut off the internet while you’re paying, like water and electricity – mastercard & visa are in court for cutting off a wikileaks collector today

The key issue of today is the regulation of companies to be the servants not the master, end the empire of the Corporations. (Sounds a bit lefty to me.)

He finished with some further points

  1. Computing is small, you’ll have to google this, it made sense at the time. It might be his take on consumerisation, i.e. people can afford this stuff, you don’t need to be a joint stock company with access to the capital markets; although the last sentence may be more me than Stallman.
  2. His computer runs a free bios, therefore he can read the code and knows that there is no back door. His hardware comes from China, he undertook a interview, and stated that and he uses gNewSense, see GNU’s Free Distro page
  3. Windows and Mac & Kindle have surveillance and restrictions and backdoors.
  4. He referenced, of course.
  5. He states that Education should be based on free software. It teaches good software, the right to read is important here, Free software means freedom not zero price. It encourages Developer seeding. He made the point that only two industries call their customers Users. He made the important point that, there’s an issue about the role of schools; expressing moral leadership and the desirability of sharing. There are two points here, I am unclear how much support there is in the anglophone world for sharing as a systemic quality, and we all need to be software engineers.
  6. Never put on handcuffs, if you haven’t got the keys.
  7. Tax the internet to pay for Art, I don’t think so
  8. Smart Grids, don’t need surveillance, statistics, prediction and measurement at higher levels of granularity. (What?)
  9. What is the freedom box?
  10. If we win in Software, then there’s hardware – ,
  11. Free Software is not Opensource, it only supports the right to read. Sometimes the reading of code, enslaves you, not liberates. DFL
  12. Ubuntu contains non-free programs,


This article was created from notes written at the time, transferred to computer, ignored, transferred to another computer, ignored some more, and so the transition form notes to article became difficult. I decided to  resurrect and publish it because of the Guardian/Washing Post scoop on the US surveillance efforts on the internet, the scope and fact proving Stallman right in sooo many ways.

This article was published on 10th June 2013 and back dated to the date of the meeting.

A Free Digital Society, with Richard Stallman
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