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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 A.K.A_Magnet ( 860822 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @10:28AM (#15231776) Homepage
    Without him, there would be no GPL (and maybe no "Free Software", who knows? There would be BSD but the concept and ideology behind Free Software may not exist -- BSD may be filed under "university science" ideology only). Linux wouldn't have been GPL'd. There wouldn't have been the GPL domino effect as we know it that made it possible for us to have these thousand packages (most of which are GPL'd and wouldn't be even Free Software if it weren't for the GPL). Without the full free stack and GPL, there would be no company investing in GNU/Linux (no IBM, etc). In fact, Linux would not be a famous kernel but maybe it would have remained a small project just for fun. And without Linux being what it is, there would be no "Open Source" movement (of which I'm no fan, but we must admit it created a hype around GNU/Linux and gave us [for the most part] tons of Free Software even running on different OS'es).

    So Stallman may not have been the top contributor in terms of code, but he's I think more significant than many developpers (including some kernel developing trollmaster) in the F/OSS movement (even if he's not a part of the Open Source movement, there would be no such thing without him). Anyway, I wouldn't ask his autograph either :)
  • Double billing? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NetSettler ( 460623 ) <> on Sunday April 30, 2006 @12:24PM (#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.

  • Not the first time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Helios1182 ( 629010 ) on Sunday April 30, 2006 @02:11PM (#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.
  • by NetSettler ( 460623 ) <> on Sunday April 30, 2006 @06:26PM (#15233783) Homepage Journal

    Meanwhile, you might try attending any sort of non-professional convention - celebrities selling autographs is de rigueur.

    I think I said pretty clearly that I expected there might be conferences where this was expected, so this refutes nothing of what I said.

    What makes Stallman's position questionable is, when you cut away all the guff, that his underlying claim is based on the notion that there are "good" and "bad" ways to earn money. He holds himself out as someone who wants to be judged in this light and he will be judged differently by different people for what he does. But I think it's fair to impose a stricter standard upon him than on the average person on the street who's just trying to make a buck.

    In this regard, one of Stallman's implicit claims is that "other people do it" or "I do it because I can" are not adequate defenses of why one makes money. Hence, if he will deny either of those to others, he must deny those defenses to himself. If "it's customary to charge money for software" is a good enough reason, a lot of the debate on free software would go away. So let him defend himself however he likes, but if it comes down to "other people do it", he's undermined his whole political movement.

    What he seems to many to be saying is how people should structure a theory of economics from first principles. And so my arguments are from first principles. My argument on the California law was not "what does it give a person a right to" nor "whose right is defended", but rather "what are the material elements one must take into consideration in deciding such a case". The law extends protection to workers only in the case where various material considerations are satisfied. I looked to that law not for precedent in terms of outcome, but in terms of considered thought on material elements. Venue seems to me a material element.

    In any case, my role here isn't to convince every last person nor even to assert there's a definitive answer, only to lay out an alternate point of view because I tire of these discussions being one-sided. I've done that, and I'll hold to that. Invite me to your conference sometime (for a fee, of course) and I'll debate it until the late hours with you. And if you can find me while I'm out in public milling about at that conference, incidentally, just mention that you read this post and the autograph I give you will be free.

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson