Richard Stallman was born in New York City in 1953. His childhood was different because of his relationship with his parents. He became involved in computers at an early age and was involved with IBM when he was in high school.
He graduated from Harvard with a degree in physics. While in college, he became a hacker. He became involved in artificial intelligence (AI) in the mid-seventies while working at MIT.
When software became proprietary under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, Richard became an activist against what he called “a crime against humanity”. He pioneered the concept of copyleft to encourage the distribution of free software licenses.
He was a fierce and uncompromising advocate for free access to software. Obviously, his advocacy for free software was not well received by the software industry. He participated in protests against software patents. He frequently demonized technology leaders.
One approach that he took was to work at a national government level. He had some success in India, France, and Ecuador. He has also tried to limit the duration of copyright ends reducing restrictions on sharing and attempted to end restrictions on software sharing. He was an advocate for no restrictions on the non-commercial sharing of software products. He was not a fan of e-books because they cannot be shared or reused. He believed that encryption of non-secret data should be considered a conspiracy.
To many, Richard Stallman is an anarchist. While his advocacy for opening up access to digital products and services is refreshing, his personal life has often been a distraction. His support for Jeffrey Epstein, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden has made his advocacy more difficult to accept by many who might otherwise be attracted to his cause.
Hidden heroes often present challenges to those who want to support them. The problem is that they lack a sense of how to focus their advocacy.
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“Software is like sex: it’s better when it’s free.”– Linus Torvalds (software developer)