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Stallman Selling Autographs 335

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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  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:22AM (#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.

  • I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:23AM (#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 Svenne ( 117693 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:25AM (#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 Idaho ( 12907 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:26AM (#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 ;)
  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:28AM (#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.
  • by squarooticus ( 5092 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:34AM (#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.
  • by dukerobillard ( 582741 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:36AM (#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.

  • by Bing Tsher E ( 943915 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:40AM (#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 mikeb ( 6025 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @09:50AM (#15231645) Homepage
    I for one would be fascinated to see the public response to a semi-nude calendar of OSS luminaries. When a bunch of middle-aged ladies did it here it made thousands for their organisation and a film got made of it ... mind you, it would take a strong stomach to tolerate seeing it pinned to the wall.
  • You need to sell (Score:2, Insightful)

    by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @10:00AM (#15231682)
    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 cliche) working on their pet projects, while some other ones move on with their lives and sign up to work in a real company. They succeeded with never sold their products, they instead abandoned them and became yet another drone in the enterprise industry.

    Not everyone is Richard Stallman and can afford to fund his favorite organisations by selling autographs, but apparrently in the end even Richard Stallman has to sell something, there's no free lunch.

    And don't put me that crap about reducing demand. It's embarassing to sell your signatures especially given your status, and especially given that you can't really make a change with those money (100 bucks a month?). You can instead say "I'm sorry I'm really busy, glad we met" and continue on your way. Was that so much harder? I guess it's easier to sell your dignity.
  • Re:Yes, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rakshasa Taisab ( 244699 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @10:10AM (#15231717) Homepage
    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].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 30, 2006 @10:17AM (#15231733)
    ...that free and open-source celebrity is not a sustainable business model.
  • by ravee ( 201020 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @10:33AM (#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.
  • Re:Very Fair (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wed128 ( 722152 ) <> on Sunday April 30, 2006 @10:41AM (#15231827)
    The man could use some deflation.
  • by kaden ( 535652 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @10:42AM (#15231833)
    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.
  • Sellout? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linvir ( 970218 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @10:49AM (#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.
  • by dorkygeek ( 898295 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @12:29PM (#15232314) Journal
    Many many many people work on OSS tools and when people blatantly say "OSS is because of RMS" they blatantly disregard their contributions.
    Which is released under which license? Hmmmm? Yes, the GPL. Which in turn is constantly developed and defended by? Hmmmm? Yes, RMS.

  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <> on Sunday April 30, 2006 @12:44PM (#15232371) Journal

    You went to school to have "a career developing software - not providing tech support". How nice. But if you want to sell your software, you're going to have to support it at the code level. Custom modifications, new features, etc. That's more than just "tech support."

    Businesses pay for these things all the time. Ask any IBM customer.

    Besides, that has nothing to do with the main thread - Stallman's free to charge whatever the market will bear for his autograph. You're free to charge whatever the market will bear for your autograph.

    After all, why should they buy Stallman's autograph for $5 when they can get yours for $1?

    My bet - Stallman will sell more autographs at $5 than you will at $1.

    He'll also sell more autographs at $5 than you will for free.

    The point? - Value is in the eye of the buyer, not the seller. If you can create value to the buyer, they will buy. If not, it doesn't matter that you spent 1,000 hours working on a piece of code - they won't take it even for free.

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

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @02:05PM (#15232665)
    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.

  • Demand? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tgeller ( 10260 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @04:00PM (#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 []. O.K., maybe that's too extreme... certainly he's no more important than Esperanto-creator Ludwig Zamenhof [].

    Every subculture has its heroes, and every subculture overestimates the value of its heroes to the general public.
  • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @03:28AM (#15235396)
    "Yes, but Cost To Copy != Cost To Produce."

    Cost to copy is the cost to produce the copies. The cost to produce the initial incarnation is a sunk cost that doesnt relate to the cost to produce the copies, except through artificial means.

    "It costs potentially years of someone's life to produce an application, or piece of art or music."

    In which case they should probably release early and release often, in order to keep a time advantage, or arrange their financing to pay for the actual time. The economy simply isnt served by people taking years; opensource and the other free media have already shown that the ability of others to build upon a free foundation scales better and faster.

    I'm not saying we shouldnt reward creativity; I'm saying rewarding it with a monopoly is not a useful way to do it.

    "At least not until we get Star Trek replicators."

    In which case I'll betcha the current pro-IP crowd would try to ensure you had to pay for every rock, stick or hammer you replicate. After all, the guy chopping off the original stick has to get paid...

    "Now *that* would really fuck up an economy."

    Or not... that would be the ultimate goal of Adam Smith's free market capitalism. Many tend to get stuck on the idea of getting paid for labour; the whole point of the free market isnt to get paid, it's to pay less. Wealth is increased in the economy by _decreasing_ the amount of labour needed to produce things. You can trace it through history from the time we all had to spend 16 hours per day farming just to produce food all the way to a future star-trek society when we can replicate things at will.

    The trouble isnt that the economy gets messed up, it just gets improved, the trouble is we're not very good at handling the situation when we need less labour to accomplish the same thing.

    Personally I suspect that we've passed a defining point in the last decade; we've passed the point where demand can no longer keep up with the improvements in production. The infinite replication capabilities of the internet and digital media creates a situation where many people simply dont have the time to consume what gets produced.

    This is a situation we will have to deal with, because no matter how much politicians talk about stimulating the economy and creating jobs (tsk), the fact remains; we simply dont have to work as much anymore.

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.