Image of GNU Manifesto GNU Manifesto

Why I Must Write GNU

I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others.

I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this way. I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license agreement. For years I worked within the Artificial Intelligence Lab to resist such tendencies and other inhospitalities, but eventually they had gone too far: I could not remain in an institution where such things are done for me against my will.

So that I can continue to use computers without dishonor, I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I will be able to get along without any software that is not free. I have resigned from the AI lab to deny MIT any legal excuse to prevent me from giving GNU away.

— Richard Stallman, from the GNU Manifesto, 1985

Stallman’s radical ideals launched the “free software” movement and profoundly shaped contemporary public understanding of moral and legal rights regarding the development and use of computer software.

GNU First Announcement
Richard Stallman

photo: Michael Cardinali for MIT Museum

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