Subject: Re: Exploring the limits of free software: Cygnus, and GPL
From: Michael Stutz <stutz@dsl.org>
Date: Tue, 25 May 1999 12:44:10 -0400 (EDT)

On Tue, 25 May 1999, Jean Camp wrote:

> rms has a very important role. What if he is hit by the proverbial bus?
> What if he sells out? (Not likely to happen I hope in my heart but an
> interesting question given that the foundation will survive him.)  Has he
> constructed something which will prevent takeovers without the power of his
> passion and commitment behind it?

I wonder about this all the time. It appears that RMS is both head of the
GNU Project and of the FSF; while no one can argue that he is not completely
dedicated to the success free software, can anyone argue about the means by
which he attempts to achieve this goal?

Is the success of free software too important to be controlled by the
judgement of one person, and is it selfish for one person to assume that
role at the exclusion of all members of the community who differ in opinion?
(Sure, no one can _control_ free software (Xemacs etc), but there can only
be one FSF, one GNU.)

Now that free software has become larger than just GNU, is there a conflict
of interest between FSF, the tax-exempt charity, and GNU, the project to
create a free OS? How can differences be resolved without a Steering
Committee or open voting process of some sort?

"Open Source" was supposed to be just a way to sell "free software" to the
suits without having to explain the free speech/free beer thing every time
you opened your mouth. Hackers were supposed to still use "free software"
when communicating with their peers; however, I don't see that happening,
and I wonder if there is more than marketing behind the motivations for
using "Open Source" as the term of choice.

Specifically, and because its adoption was excluded only by FSF/GNU, I
wonder if its introduction had to do with diehard free software hackers who
had become frustrated with the FSF's kingship and lack of an open board or
steering committee that the free software community can democratically
partake in.