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Gates threatening spirit of freedom: Free software guru

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates threatens the spirit of freedom, the founder of the free software movement said.

business Updated: Nov 14, 2002 14:52 IST

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates threatens the spirit of freedom, the founder of the free software movement said here even as the world's richest man was on a tour to India.

Richard Stallman said in the Indian capital that Microsoft and Gates -- on a four-day visit to India -- were perpetuating systems that threaten the freedom of computer users.

Stallman was in the city to release his book "No Sir, No Monopoly! Free Software - A Perspective".

Published by Prajashakti publishers, the book was released by B.K. Kcayla, convenor of the national working group on patent laws.

Stallman, who has emerged as a symbol against everything that Bill Gates has
stood for, is also the founder of the GNU software project out of which has
emerged the Linux operating system -- available free or in low-cost software

Clad informally, Stallman seemed every inch the man he is reputed to be.
After walking to the podium sans his shoes, Stallman said: "This is a struggle for freedom and independence. Non-free software, like the ones sold by Microsoft, divides people.

"It is like not being allowed to share your favourite cooking recipes with your friends. One cannot exchange recipes, one cannot change the cooking nor does one know anything about the ingredients - that is the world of non-free software, developed by Microsoft.

"It doesn't allow any software to be shared and one has to pay for running these programmes. In India, it would cost an enormous amount and a big drain on resources.

"Non-free software violates the spirit of goodwill that is so important for human society and civilization. It is akin to the exploitative colonial system.

"When Bill Gates donates computer systems to schools, it is like gifting cigarettes. It is initially free but when you get hooked you have to pay for it. Non-free software programmes are like that. It will be available free of cost but for a couple of years only."

Gates is pledging a large donation to health projects in India through his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Said Stallman: "Gates is donating a small fraction of what he has squeezed out of computer users."

"What India should do is to resist against non-free software collectively. The good effects of globalisation can come about only through the use of non-free software," Stallman argued.

In India, Linux is used by less than 10 percent of the country's personal computers and server computers.

India has an estimated half-million individual software developers. There are an estimated four million PCs in use in India among the nation's billion people.

First Published: Nov 14, 2002 14:40 IST