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Copyleft for the next decade: a comprehensive plan

Bradley Kuhn, Software Freedom Conservancy

Copyleft has faced serious challenges in the last five years. It's not over: many more threats are on the way. Not by coincidence these attacks on copyleft come when "open source" reaches new heights of success. For example, hordes of software developers are funded full time to churn out new free software, as long as it's not copylefted. Some such code is specifically designed to replace existing, widely used, copylefted programs.

Meanwhile, programs under copyleft licenses (most notably the kernel named Linux) face a decades long, ongoing myriad of license violations. Such violations include nefarious attempts by major companies to shirk their responsibilities under copyleft. The situation is undoubtedly bleak.

Those of us who care about software freedom need a plan. Copyleft once assured an equal playing field, but big companies work daily to tilt the playing field in their favor and against the interests of most developers, hobbyists, users, and enthusiasts.


5 years, 8 months ago

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CC BY-SA 4.0


This talk was presented at LibrePlanet.


LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation's annual conference. The FSF campaigns for free/libre software, meaning it respects users' freedom and community. We believe that users are entitled to this; all software should be free.


We do not advocate "open source".

That term was coined to reject our views. It refers to similar practices, but usually presented solely as advantageous, without talking of right and wrong.


Richard Stallman launched the free software movement in 1983 by announcing development of the free operating system, GNU. By 1992, GNU was nearly operational; one major essential component was lacking, the kernel.


In 1992, Torvalds freed the kernel Linux, which filled the last gap in GNU. Since then, the combined GNU/Linux system has run in millions of computers. Nowadays you can buy a new computer with a totally free GNU/Linux system preinstalled.


The views of the speaker may not represent the Free Software Foundation. The Foundation supports the free software cause and freedom to share, and basic freedoms in the digital domain, but has no position on other political issues.