Metaprogramming and Free Availability of Sources

Richard Stallman
Wed, 30 Jun 1999 05:26:33 -0600 (MDT)

      But I don't understand why everybody who
    releases a program of any sort should be compelled to release the
    source.  In my mind, this is the _opposite_ of freedom -- the compelling
    of someone to do something they do not wish to do, when their preferred
    approach harms no one.

If you don't have the source, you are barred from modifying the
program or even knowing what's inside it, in any feasible way.  I
disagree with the claim that this "harms no one".

Right now, people cannot legally make modified versions of GNU Emacs
and keep the source code secret, because the GPL blocks that.  If
copyright were eliminated, but nothing required the release of source
code, it would become possible to do release such secret modified
versions.  I consider that a problem, and therefore I'm not in favor
of such a change.  I would support reductions in copyright power,
but they should accompanied by measures to prevent this problem.

    Consumers (in the broadest sense of the word) have the freedom not to
    use closed-source software.

You seem to be citing the argument that it is never a problem for
people to give up their freedom, as long as they had some kind of
choice about it.  That argument is superficially tempting, but it is
fundamentally mistaken.  I am writing an article about this, which I
will publish when it is ready.