The GNU project developed some of the 21st century's most important software. The GNU Compiler Collection is used on Linux systems, BSD/OSX systems, and on Windows. GNAT has, for the most part, replaced any other Ada compiler ever created. The list could go on, but you get the idea. The sad thing about GNU is that it is so ideologically bent that I can no longer support it.
I am not looking to start a fight here. Please respond with your opinions on this topic. Let me know where you stand. My mind is open.
Richard M. Stallman (founder of the GNU project) has mixed his politics with his software. I have done this in one sense. In two posts of mine, I talked about making the US federal government work in a somewhat open source development process kind of way. I did not, however, talk about policies in government. GNU in general, and RMS in particular, talk about "ending" proprietary software. They are on a crusade to do away with proprietary software entirely under the belief that is your human right to modify and redistribute any code on Earth. On the GNU website (Philosophy section), you can find quite a bit of material, much of which talks about the evils of copyrights and closed source software.
Software, like literature, is an art form. As an art form, I feel it is appropriate for artists to have copyrights. If I make a painting, and someone else copies my art, takes that art as her own, and then proceeds to become wealthy using my artwork has a wrong against me not been committed? This talk about freedom seems skin deep to me. Where is the freedom to keep your code as yours? Where is the freedom to choose closed source? The GPL claims that no warranty comes with code. What if I want a warranty? I guess I choose closed source code, huh?
RMS and I disagree on just about everything really. I favor true freedom. The principal of my ideas is that my rights stop where your rights begin, and as such I will fight to protect your right to close your code, even though I personally would never do so. I will never favor any form of regulation at a federal level (states, sure, do what you want to as a state; further, consumers vote with their wallets, you don't like what a company does then don't buy its products), I will never support an increase in government size. I would never vote to give more power to a politician. Stallman would take the opposite stance on all of those issues. This seems to me to be expressed in the difference between "free software" and "open source software" and the licenses that would accompany each (FS = GPLv3, OSS = MIT or BSD). In the "free software" model, you are free to use software in any way you want, but you may never claim that it is your software. You can never try to keep code to yourself. You would be committing a crime if you choose to not allow derivative works of your code. In the open source model, you are free to do as you wish with the software you write, and others have that same ability.
To me the difference between the two groups of software are really quite simple. There is free software and pseudo free software. Free software would allow a company to incorporate their closed code with open code and leverage open source software for financial gain (think OSX), and all the while maintain the rights of all parties involved. On the other hand, pseudo free software would not permit such a merger between closed source and open source software.
As the programmer behind some code is it not your right to do with that software as you please? If you do not want to allow users to ever own that code, but only own a license to use it, is that not your right? If you want to allow them to change that code, redistribute it, and so forth is that not also your right?
It seems like we are in this battle between the rights of the creators and the rights of the consumers, and I have no idea why. To me it seems as if people having the ability to choose whether or not they want closed source or open source software solves this issue. I could be wrong about all this. Let me know what you think.