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Stallman Selling Autographs 335

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the happy-hacking-should-be-trademarked dept.
UltimaGuy writes "Sports stars, musicians, and other celebrities have been charging for autographs for years, but who would have thought Richard Stallman would be doing the same? Is this just for fun, or a clever, highly effective protest? Hackers, geeks and nerds gathered together at the 7th FISL - Internacional Free Software Forum, in Porto Alegre (Brazil) last week, were astounded when they got word that Richard Stallman, the founding father of the Free Software Foundation and creator of the GPL, was charging R$ 10 (about US$ 3) for an autograph and R$ 5 (less than US$ 2) to get his picture taken by free software enthusiasts at the event floor."
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Stallman Selling Autographs

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  • Yes, but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jonathan (5011) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:16AM (#15231545) Homepage
    Does RMS allow anyone to copy and modify those autographs?
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:18AM (#15231551)
      Only if you give credit to the original author.
    • by mogul (103400)
      Or use the autographs where they see fit?
    • Re:Yes, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

      Of course, it's like the GPL. He charges for the service of participating in the creation of the works, while the subsequent copying and distribution is Free[tm].
      • Of course, it's like the GPL. He charges for the service of participating in the creation of the works, while the subsequent copying and distribution is Free[tm].

        So I'm free to copy his signature onto, say, a loan application from a bank. After all, I have all the same freedoms and rights to do with it as the original author, right? I'm not less Free[tm] than RMS is when it comes to his signature, am I?

        • Heh. Yeah. But would you really want to? I imagine that since the demand for his autograph is low, his bank balance has recently reached (-$750). Up from (-$768). Unless you like having access to a bank account owned by a penniless programmer... (Said in jest of course since I rather like R.M.S.)
      • Double billing? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by NetSettler (460623) <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Sunday April 30, 2006 @11:24AM (#15232298) Homepage Journal

        Of course, it's like the GPL. He charges for the service of participating in the creation of the works, while the subsequent copying and distribution is Free[tm].

        Of curiosity, do you know this in some authoritative way or are you speculating? I didn't see this stated in the article.

        You could, I suppose, test this by making a GPL'd program (to eliminate red herring objections based on your market paradigm) that uses a picture of Stallman (with a rectangle missing) and merges a gif you give it of yourself to that photo, and then give your program away as freeware (perhaps for media-cost on a disk you brought to one of his events). Like with any free software, you could get your grins from trying to drive down the market price of the original idea to a more "tolerable" level... zero, being the canonical tolerable level.

        His primary point (made in the article), that fans have no inherent right to his time is right in principle. However, when you make yourself available for an event and especially if you're already paid for the event, it gets more questionable. [Credential: I've hosted a conference at which RMS spoke. He wanted a fee, which I had no objection to. Where feasible, speakers should get paid for time and travel. There are fortunately speakers who sometimes have the resources and interest to travel and/or speak where they can't be reimbursed, but it's not an obligation on speakers. Speaking takes prep time and time to do. And, in my limited experience, Stallman rightly insisted on being reimbursed for such things.] But if he had arrived and started charging people at my event for his services while he was on "our time", I'd have found that to be "double billing" (at best) and would have strongly considered kicking him out on the street on the spot.

        Perhaps the conference event people approved of his action in advance. Or perhaps they didn't think to object on this basis. I suspect there's also a question at a conference on free software whether it's "his" conference. It may be his topic, but the ownership of time and conferences is something where I'd follow the money. Perhaps the conference had him as their guest speaker and didn't want to offend him even when he offended them. I don't know the full fact pattern, so am substituting questions for people to ask in order to speak on the issue. But Stallman speaks as if this were simply an issue of signer's rights, he's oversimplifying by not similarly qualifying his advice to others according to forum/venue, which certainly influences any discussion of rights.

        It'd be quite another thing entirely if this fee were asked on his own time (say, when someone finds him in a restaurant or hotel or out on the street where he's not already scheduled). I might then argue that the fee was too low. Fans should not have their right to inject themselves upon unwilling celebrity in their private lives. But I don't see that that's what's going on here.

        • Re:Double billing? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)
          Where feasible, speakers should get paid for time and travel.

          Except you aren't paying for ALL of their time - if you had paid for every hour of RMS's time on the floor then you would have some claim to control his actions during that time. But you didn't - you paid for his performance as a speaker and the costs to put him in earshot. Once the speaking is done, you got what you paid for.

  • by JeffTL (667728) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:18AM (#15231548)
    I'd venture to guess that RMS just wants some extra money for the FSF. In the article he says he wants to be compensated for the time it takes to sign and pose -- a fair request, I dare say.
    • I just want to be compensated for the code I write...
    • I read TFA a bit differently. It appeared to me that Stallman did this to limit demand, not to be compensated for the time it takes to sign and pose. He thought that signing thousands of convention badges and/or posing for hundreds of photos would take a long time. I thought Stallman himself made that pretty clear, but I guess YMMV.
      What's interesting to me is that the article in Portuguese linked as the reference by "Han Solo, Jr." in the NewsForge article tells a slightly different version of the story
    • Hmm (Score:3, Funny)

      by metamatic (202216)
      Maybe he could reserve some of the money for shower gel and shampoo.
  • I'd pay (Score:4, Funny)

    by mobby_6kl (668092) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:18AM (#15231549)
    just to piss him off, if his point was to show that it's wrong to charge for photos.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:18AM (#15231550)
    The FSF should exploit RMS some more. I'm sure there are loads of products which could be based on RMS.

    OMG!!! RMS PONIES!!!
  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:19AM (#15231554) Homepage Journal
    There's now way the FSF fanboys will be able to make it past the crush of girls desperate to get close to the Man :-)
    • There's now way the FSF fanboys will be able to make it past the crush of girls desperate to get close to the Man :-)

      So are you saying there is a way to make it past girls desperate to get close to RMS?

      I think you might be right there...
  • by nother_nix_hacker (596961) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:20AM (#15231558)
    Stallman would have to pay me to own a photo of him. Don't get me wrong, I like the guy but his regexp.c is prettier than him!
  • by BobWeiner (83404) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:20AM (#15231560) Homepage Journal
    I, for one, welcome our Nerd celebrity overlords.

    In all seriousness, I applaud Stallman's ironic sense of humor.
  • Actually from the FA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Andy Gardner (850877) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:21AM (#15231562)
    It doesn't look like he was directly profiting from the autographs, rather he was autographing "in exchange for a contribution of 10 reais (5 dollars) for the Free Software Foundation."

    Not quite Microsoft evil.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:21AM (#15231563)
    or a clever, highly effective protest?
    Unless its "basic personal hygiene", I can't figure out what Stallman is supposed to be protesting against.

    PS : Please don't reply "Whaddya got?"
  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:22AM (#15231572)
    RMS wrote:

    "People who ask me to sign or pose are asking for some of my time, which needs must come from my other volunteer work for the cause. On most occasions, the total time involved is not very large, so I do as they ask, taking steps to make the process efficient. But this does not mean my time is theirs to dispose of. I think it is entirely proper to ask people to make a small contribution to the cause in exchange."

    ---

    When I write a piece of open source code, that takes a bit of my time too and is sometimes boring. By RMS's logic, I should charge each user some sort of nuissance fee so that my time is better spent on more "productive pursuits" or somesuch. Hrmmmmm...

    I do like the fact that he is starting to grasp how scarcity is managed in a capitalist economy though.

    • by Svenne (117693) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:25AM (#15231577) Homepage
      Yes, and if you read the entire article you'll see that he's not opposed to selling software. What good is it to click on the link to the article and then only read half of it?
    • by vadim_t (324782) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:28AM (#15231585) Homepage
      If you'd ever read the GPL, you'd notice that source only needs to distributed to the people who got the binary, and the binary can be charged for. I never heard Stallman say that services like duplication, tech support, etc should be free. IIRC, Stallman has a webpage somewhere detailing his requirements if you want to have him give a talk, which sounds completely fine to me.

      Stallman was always about freedom in the political sense, not in the lack of economic compensation one.
      • If you'd ever read the GPL, you'd notice that source only needs to distributed to the people who got the binary, and the binary can be charged for.

        Ah right, the old "charge $150,000 for the binary because the first person that buys it will just redistribute the source code completely legally under the terms of the GPL" approach.

    • by dukerobillard (582741) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:36AM (#15231610)
      When I write a piece of open source code, that takes a bit of my time too and is sometimes boring. By RMS's logic, I should charge each user

      Yes, that's what he's always said. He just doesn't whan people to sell him something and make it legally impossible for him to alter it, so it works better for him, and to give the altered version to a friend.

      So, if you want to put a smiley face on his autograph and xerox a copy for your brother, I'm sure he'd be okay with that.

    • [When I write a piece of open source code, that takes a bit of my time too and is sometimes boring. By RMS's logic, I should charge each user some sort of nuissance fee so that my time is better spent on more "productive pursuits" or somesuch.]

      Nope, not a good parallel. You can easily charge a fee to the one asking you to write that piece of code and get closer.

      Also, nothing stops you from charging for every "handover" that you make. (Or am I missing something?) Now, why would they pay for his autograph and
  • I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vadim_t (324782) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:23AM (#15231574) Homepage
    So, somebody asks Stallman to sign their badge. Stallman realizes he could be stuck there for hours signing badges instead of doing something more useful. So he asks for a donation for the FSF (not even for himself!) to get something out of it, and hopefully reduce the size of the queue. Sounds completely reasonable to me.

    It's not like Stallman ever had anything against charging money, from what I heard, he sold Emacs tapes.
  • by Idaho (12907) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:26AM (#15231580)
    Is this just for fun, or a clever, highly effective protest?

    Anyone care to explain how this can possible be construed as to be highly effective?

    Let's see, RMS does something very subtle that nobody in the mainstream press will bother to report, or actually even *notice*, not to mention *understand*. I fail to see how this can in any way, shape or form be seen as an "highly effective" protest.

    Of course this is Slashdot, but even then....I mean come on ;)
    • Hey, if it were one of the Google founders, it would be the most brilliantly innovative business strategy ever and we'd be reading a string of comments about how "I bet teh Steve Ballmer is throughing another chair!!!!"

      As sucking up goes, "clever, highly effective protest" is pretty thin stuff.

    • RMS does something very subtle that nobody in the mainstream press will bother to report ... I fail to see how this can in any way, shape or form be seen as an "highly effective" protest. ... Of course this is Slashdot ...

      Surprise, Slashdot is mainstream press. Slashdot is the 64th most visited site on the net [netcraft.com]. That's right behind the New York Times, which is 56th and more read than the Drudge Report, 75th. Only BBC, CNN, Google, Yahoo and MSNBC are more read news sources. Neither CBS nor ABC news mak

      • Yeah but people primarilly encounter CNN, BBC, MSNBC and the NY Times in a form that has little to do with their webpages. Do 50% of Americans know what Slashdot is? Do even 5%? Most Americans know what CNN is, most Americans even know what the BBC is. Slashdot isn't mainstream.
        • Yeah but people primarilly encounter CNN, BBC, MSNBC and the NY Times in a form that has little to do with their webpages.

          That's less true everyday. The average US citizen spends no more than 15 minutes a day on news. That's an old figure from a journalism class I took, but it's not going to change much. As those 15 minutes are increasingly consumed online at work, other forms will dissapear. Here's a mainstream admission of that [usatoday.com], just in case you need someone official and legitimate to tell you the ob

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:27AM (#15231584)
    Autographs are only the beginning. I hear a Richard Stallman nude calendar is in the pipeline!
  • by squarooticus (5092) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:34AM (#15231609) Homepage
    RMS isn't keeping the money for himself: he's trying to reduce demand by charging, and giving all the proceeds to the FSF.

    What do you people all have against RMS? Remember that you use his software every day.
    • as seldom as possible. i'm certainly no HURD user, and i've gotten over emacs years ago. thanks mostly to the larger GNU/FSF's seeming inability to write portable code, i'm bound to use gcc more often than i'd like (which would be never; it's slow, astoundingly large, and often incorrect). in 90 seconds of looking (about all this is worth), i wasn't able to find anything claiming to be a list of contributions from rms, but would chiefly find it useful as a list of components to consider replacing.

      please do
      • What's your beef with GCC? It's not the fastest compiler in the world [MSVC holds that in my books] but it does a very good job at optimizing and it follows the C99 and C++98 specs much closer than ICC or MSVC. Keep in mind that GCC today is the product of many contributors and not solely RMS.

        I don't see being a Linux fanboy as being a RMS fanboy. I use many tools on a daily basis, none of which are written by RMS [or being maintained by RMS for the last decade].

        Tom
        • it's not just "not the fastest", but it's decidedly on the slow end. they put in so much in the way of optimization that the actual compilation takes forever. plus, since the architecture of the code's designed to support exactly that, it's much slower than it should be even with all the optimizations turned off. more damning, however, is the frequency with which various levels of optimization produce incorrect code in lots of cases. i totally understand the compilation speed vs. execution speed tradeoff, a
    • "Remember that you use his software every day."

      Far, far more people use Bill Gates's software every day than RMS's, so what does that prove? (Yes, I know Bill didn't write most of MS's code but RMS didn't write much of the available "free" code either.)
  • by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:40AM (#15231617) Journal
    My March 1987 copy of the GNU Emacs Manual (Sixth Edition, Version 18) has a FSF order form in the back. The source code is avilable on tape for $150. The Gnu C Compiler on tape for $150. Gnu Emacs manuals for $15 each.

    Why is there an 'outcry' about Stallman and his organization making some money to support their efforts? It's how movements based on ideals, not keeping 'the bottom line' number big, sustain their organizations and themselves.
  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @08:42AM (#15231621)
    He's buying Microsoft.

    -- Dvorak
  • You need to sell (Score:2, Insightful)

    by suv4x4 (956391)
    Some people produce products and sell them. They are ok.

    Some other people produce products but give them out for free. They believe that is fair and money will naturally come from some place. Years pass, money don't come. So naturally, the people in question gotta rework their model so they can put food on the table. They will try to sell T-shirts, logos, tea cups and even branded underwear, but won't sell their products.

    Years pass, some of those people are still living in their mom's basements (pardon the
  • ... there was no cost as long as you downloaded the autograph onto your own media? Was he also charging for copies of his public key?
  • by ravee (201020) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:33AM (#15231790) Homepage Journal
    If I am a celebrity and if there is a demand for my autograph, I might also choose to charge for it. It has atleast two advantages.

    One: It reduces the crowd as only those who are serious about getting the autograph will pay up. The others who get autographs just for kicks will stay away.

    Two: It helps the cause a little bit. Especially if it is a person of the likes of Stallman who is associated with a not-for-profit movement.

    Any way, charging $5 for an autograph or $2 for a photograph is much better than charging hundreds of dollars for a piece of software.
  • Sellout? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linvir (970218) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:49AM (#15231854)
    You people tagging him as a sellout are dumbasses. He doesn't have a regular steady income. He lives off shit like this. Fees for appearing at events and the like are what he uses to his buy pizza and mountain dew.
  • Therefore I said I would sign it in exchange for a contribution of 10 reais (5 dollars) for the Free Software Foundation. Likewise, I realized that hundreds or thousands might ask me to pose with them for photographs. So I decided to ask 5 reais for this, about $2.50, also for the Free Software Foundation.

    If it's an official donation to the FSF, the foundation should also provide the option of official tax receipts to those who donate, unless there is a lower limit imposed; for example: no tax receipts fo

  • The fee was a contribution to the FSF of course.

    "By charging for autographs and for poses, I raised a few hundred dollars for the FSF and FSF Latin America..."
  • by TropicalCoder (898500) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @10:07AM (#15231946) Homepage Journal

    Complete translation of the original article in the Business Journal Baguete

    FISL: Stallman's autograph auctioned for R$ 22 (~US $10) 22/04/2006

    An autograph from Free Software guru Richard Stallman was auctioned for R $23 (~US $11) at FISL 7.0 (International Free Software Forum) this Saturday, the 22nd. The initiative by gaucho Leonardo Vaz (Open BSB - RS) [Ed: Residents of the state of Rio Grande do Sul are called "gauchos".] caused a joyful uproar on this last day of the event when he went to personally deliver the money collected to Stallman, accompanied by about a hundred people.

    Vaz bought Stallman's signature during the first edition of the Forum, six years ago. To charge contributions for the Free Software Foundation in trade for autographs or photo ops is only one of the eccentric habits of the American, who accepted the money gratefully and affirmed that it would be delivered to the recently founded Free Software Foundation of Latin America.

    The auction concept summarizes the distracted atmosphere of this last day of FISL 7.0. The launch of GULA (Alcoholic Linux Users Group) is scheduled for 4:00 pm, which promises to shake up the final hours of the meeting.

    [Obs. Apesar de ser canadense, moro em Brasil há seis anos agora.]

  • Geeze guys, he's giving money away and you report it all wrong. You ask for an auto-graph and he *pays you*. Honestly, who would want his autograph for any other reason.
  • Are they blessed? :P
  • Not the first time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Helios1182 (629010) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @01:11PM (#15232691)
    He just spoke at the University of Illinois at Chicago on Friday and the first thing did was tell people they should buy some GNU/GPL/FSF merchandise that he brought with him. Then he milled around for a while so people could before he began his talk.
  • Demand? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tgeller (10260) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @03:00PM (#15233194) Homepage
    The only thing that surprises me is the idea that there's any real demand -- outside of a tiny circle, I mean.

    Move about five feet away from geekdom and you discover that he's no more important to the world than, say, past bridge champion Pierre Jais [worldbridge.org]. O.K., maybe that's too extreme... certainly he's no more important than Esperanto-creator Ludwig Zamenhof [wikipedia.org].

    Every subculture has its heroes, and every subculture overestimates the value of its heroes to the general public.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary saftey deserve neither liberty not saftey." -- Benjamin Franklin, 1759

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