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Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  375 ratings  ·  29 reviews

This collection includes historical writings such as The GNU Manifesto, which defined and launched the activist Free Software Movement, along with new writings on hot topics in copyright, patent law, and the controversial issue of "trusted computing."
Stallman takes a critical look at common abuses of copyright law and
patents when applied to computer software programs, and

Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by Free Software Foundation (first published 2002)
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4.12  · 
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 ·  375 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
When reading this book, it's important to remember just how seminal these essays are. Stallman may be weird and cranky at times but he's also one of the most single minded, visionary programmers there has been. He may not be as well known as Gates or Jobs but then he's always been more about the ethics than the product, and that may turn out to be the thing that ensures he's remembered long after his rivals have faded from memory. The right to read, the Gnu manifesto and what is copyleft? are al ...more
Sreejith Pp
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant collection of essays which explains why we need free software (free as in freedom not in price, an unfortunate property of the English language) and how, since great software is always built using smaller software libraries, an ecosystem of copyleft software aligns the interests/forces the hands of the different players on the scene (Programmers, Managers, Businesses).

It's interesting to note the changing narrative of copyright through history. Copyright was never a right in the US
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: free and open source software developers
One of my friends ( Paul K. Moser) described this book as "Fractured ranting." While that might be a little harsh, it does come awfully close to reality.

Stallman is fanatical about his ideas -- and I'm pretty sure he would tell you that. And it is impossible to question the huge impact he has had on the ideological (and legal) aspects of software development. As the author of the original GPL (GNU Public License), he is rightly considered the father of both the Free Software Movement, and the mo
Erika RS
May 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: software, owned
This is a collection of essays and talks given by Stallman over many years. The book is divided into three sections (4 actually, but the 4th is just a reprint of the licences). Section one talks about free software and the gnu project. Section two talks about copyright, copyleft, and patents. Section three talks about freedom, society, and software.

This being a book of Stallman essays, there is much to agree with and much to disagree with. I agree that that sharing is good, that software is incr
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technopolitics
A great collection of excellent essays by Richard Stallman on the philosophy and practice of the free software movement. The writing is very direct, concise and persuasive, and accessible (to an extent) to people who don't have a lot of knowledge or experience with software and computers. Reading through the whole book can feel a bit repetitive, however, since many of the essays are independent and thus have to repeat some of the basic arguments; this is probably best seen as a very good referen ...more
Mirek Kukla
“Free Software, Free Society” is a collection of essays by Richard Stallman - author of eMacs, primary contributor to the GNU operating system project, and the outspoken founder of the “free software movement”. The book serves as primarily as an introduction to the free software movement, an enumeration of its tenets, and a defense of its principles. As an introduction to Stallman’s values, the book is decent; as a defense of those values, it fails spectacularly.

While you’ll leave with a
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
The understanding of Software Licences, Patents, Copyrights is essential in this era of Development. These selected essays could give a clear idea of Free Software Terms, What license to apply? etc. Overall, a good read initially.
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As this is written by Dr. Stallman himself, it is quite repetitive at times; however only the most important or essential bits are repeated. This is an essential book for any software developer who has even the tiniest sight of morals left.
Kam Yung Soh
Apr 26, 2018 marked it as to-read
First edition can be downloaded from

Third edition available via github.
Pritesh Shrivastava
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting ideas on free software, open source, patents, copyrights and licenses.
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When it comes to the social impact of technology, there are few people quite as passionate about the subject as Dr Richard Stallman. As founder of the Free Software Foundation, Stallman has for at least the last three decades been the most prominent advocate for ‘free software’. As he reminds us throughout his book, the ‘free’ in free software refers to freedom rather than any monetary value. He defines the four key characteristics of free software as follows:

A program is free software if the pr
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Compelling arguments in the context of some kind of post material scarcity world
Paul Hinman
Jun 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Richard Stallman is an idealist above all else. Even he would admit that. What makes it somewhat unfortunate is the obstinate attitude that this then includes. I think he makes very good points regarding the need to change copyright and patent law in order to better reflect to the historical philosophy and underpinnings on which they ultimately have their authority, along with technological changes and the way people interact with software. however, his all-or-nothing approach seems tailored to ...more
Nov 16, 2010 rated it liked it
To start with the obvious: this is a collection of essays by the person who established the free software movement. They span a period of about 20 years and contain all the ideas Stallman is known for, so if you're interested in his thoughts, this is the book to get.

About the contents: these essays were written independently and not originally intended as part of any book, so some of the ideas explained here are necessarily reiterative, although I have to say that not as much as I had initially
Colin Grove
Nov 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Richard Stallman is considered an extremist by some, but it is hard to agree after reading this collection of his essays. His GNU project is firmly based in idealism, it is true, but it has been a rare example of idealism made real. Perhaps he comes off more abrasive in person than in written form, but from the book one gets the impression that Stallman is perfectly capable of recognizing the contributions of and acknowledging the good in those he disagrees with. It has become clear, particularl ...more
Ryan Morton
I hear and have read quite a bit about both the open source and free software movements. However, not until hearing from the horse's mouth do I fully understand the difference and scope of the GNU movement the problems of (to differ from author) Intellectual Property rights in the digital age. Besides a failed attempt (imho) at distinguishing between software and more physical property rights, the views of Stallman should be studies and if we lived in an ideal world all his views would work (but ...more
Jon Merkley
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never heard any sort of speech given by Richard Stallman first hand, so this book is the closest thing to that that I may ever experience. I like the essays here and agree with them for the most part. Richard Stallman is a bit of an extreme person and at first that drove me away from the idea of reading his essays but he has some very good logic and if you give his messages some real thought then you'll probably agree with me that what this man represents is a very much necessary bipolar op ...more
Seth Kenlon
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Got this book at a tech conference from the Free Software Foundation. Great collection of essays by Richard Stallman, covering mostly technological matters but, as always, the discussion of liberty in the world of technology bleeds over into non-tech issues as well. I think it's a must-read for anyone interested in libertarianism, anarchism, and not just those interested in information technology.
Harsh Gupta
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Free in Free Software stands for Free as in Free Speech and not Free Beer, that is Free for Freedom and not for Free of Cost. Free Software allows its users to use it in whatever they want, study it, modify it and share the modifications with their friends. As software is becoming more and more ubiquitous the need to upheld the freedom of the software is becoming a necessity to upheld a Free Society.
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
My views on Richard Stallman vacillate wildly between "I think you're a crazy old man out of touch with reality" and "Man, I wish I was a better person." Whatever you think of the full brunt of his admittedly idealistic positions, the software world would be a much poorer place without him and the ideas and conversations he forced us to have. And I wouldn't trade that tension between conflicting ideas for anything, even a working copy of GNU HURD.
Reza Kazemifar
A historical story of a global movement with some great and brilliant ideas rather than a book of sociology or philosophy. Too much wordy and full of personal stuff and attitudes. Stallman is a true revolutionary, but not a philosopher.
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love this book and I am in agreement with thoughts of all gentle-PEOPLE who documented the book. FSF is working for a noble cause. May God bless us all to turn these dreams into reality and make world a better, beautiful society!
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Probably one of the most important books I will ever read.Even the intro was profound. So smart with out being pretentious. Stallman's ideas apply to everything.
Mmmmm - good background to a crusade but his self ritiuosness gets me down.
Dainius Jocas
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Richard Stallman is a programming superstar.
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enlightening, Orwellianly insightful.
May 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If the topic is not new, the essays can be very boring, but other essays were valuable.

"The Amazon Kindle e-book reader (whose name suggests it's intended to burn people's books)" :) :)

Feb 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
Very repetitive. Didn't seem like it was meant to be read as a book. Also not a big fan of stallmans writing...or thinking.
rated it it was amazing
May 28, 2017
Cameron C
rated it really liked it
Oct 16, 2013
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Richard Matthew Stallman is a software developer and software freedom activist. In 1983 he announced the project to develop the GNU operating system, a Unix-like operating system meant to be entirely free software, and has been the project's leader ever since. With that announcement Stallman also launched the Free Software Movement. In October 1985 he started the Free Software Foundation.