RMS Meets with President of India

Seth Johnson seth.johnson at realmeasures.dyndns.org
Sun Feb 1 10:04:26 UTC 2004

(One can detect an odd terminological distinction between free and open that
appears to be operative within this article, and one line seems to find
Stallman's philosophy exhibited in the no-cost distribution of his
biography, but this is exciting and promising news.  The sounds coming back
from his visit to India seem to have been in general very positive, perhaps
reflecting a greater receptivity there to basic key principles regarding the
nature of exclusive rights which the US and other places have largely
ignored, and which the Free Software Foundation has championed, for the last
twenty years.  -- Seth)

> http://www.hindu.com/2004/02/01/stories/2004020104231000.htm

NEW DELHI, JAN. 31. The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, last Thursday played
host to two radically divergent poles of the global software industry. 

The first to meet the President was Richard Stallman, the leading light of
the free and open source software (FOSS) movement. 

Ironically, the people waiting in the Presidential anteroom for the
interaction to end were people from Microsoft. 

Dr. Stallman has devoted his life to countering Microsoft's policy of
selling software that cannot be changed because its code is kept a secret.
It also cannot be shared because of licensing restrictions. 

Talking to The Hindu, Dr. Stallman said the President was "receptive'' to
his views that development of software should be seen as a political and
social issue and not just from the technological point of view. 

At a meeting that lasted 40 minutes, they discussed the need to give people
an alternative way to use computers by popularising open source software

"The President said this was a beautiful concept,'' said Dr. Stallman. Mr.
Kalam had prepared for the meeting by downloading Dr. Stallman's biography
from the Internet which in keeping with the FOSS movement guru's philosophy
is available free of cost. 

The two also went over several common interests, including the use of
software in space programming. For the first time, the Mars Rovers vehicle
is using OSS and it is reported to be functioning well. 

They also reminisced on the development work on several software programmes
in which both had taken interest. 

Besides explaining the political philosophy of FOSS movement, Dr. Stallman
said he also spoke to the President about the real intention behind
Microsoft's plan to spread the use of computers in schools which was "akin
to the colonial system of recruiting the local elite to help keep others in

"I hope my discussion had some influence on the President and he will be
able to resist being used that way.'' 

Dr. Stallman gave up a cushy teaching job in a prestigious American
university after he perceived that "computer colonisation'' was spreading

"There were only two options. Either I stopped using computers or I help
everybody to escape. I chose the latter,'' he said. 

He explained the concept behind FOSS. The word "free'' did not mean giving
the software gratis. 

Rather, it denoted the freedom to control the computer because the seller of
FOSS also provided the source code or the manner in which a particular
software was constructed. 

"This way you can see how it works, you can change it and also share the

By taking to FOSS, India would be able to cut down on the outflow of foreign
exchange which was going to become very large in the near future. 

So far, Microsoft licences were not being forced on individuals, but in the
coming days, proprietary software companies would make it impossible for
individuals to make copies clandestinely. 

"The flood (outflow of foreign exchange) will then become a torrent,'' he
said. Free software, in contrast, would encourage local information
technology developers to innovate and adapt the software constantly. The
result will be that money will circulate in the local economy, he said.


DRM is Theft!  We are the Stakeholders!

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