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Richard Stallman and the FSF examine Android to ascertain if it’s free enough to be “Free”.

Their shocking and unexpected conclusion?

It isn’t.

#1 Posted by _sw on Sep 20, 2011 4:10 AM


I was talking about the “Noderivs” licence, which he also used for Windows 7 Sins.

It’s blatant hypocrisy that he doesn’t allow things he has written to be modified.

#2 Posted by Conzo on Sep 20, 2011 5:36 AM

So many years, and still no trace of a hint of a start of an argument as to the should of those 'freedoms’, as opposed to RMS-and-some-others-would-like-it

Save the innocent – join Penguins United Against Linux now!

#3 Posted by kurkosdr on Sep 20, 2011 6:11 AM

The best part of the story is that not being open source (not 100% percent open source equals not open source) has greatly benefitted Android.

By keeping the keys to the Android market, Google can dictate what OEMs can do with Android and what not. And the requirements will go up with Ice Cream Sandwitch, requiring OEMs to release updates and not fragment the platform with vendor-specific APIs. OEMs will only be able to change the UI.

Meanwhile, if a 100% percent open source OS like MeeGo ever becomes a success (unlikely), it’s going to get forked to death and filled with crapware by OEMs to the point that no MeeGo device will remotely resemble MeeGo.

#4 Posted by kurkosdr on Sep 20, 2011 7:19 AM

On most Android phones, this firmware has so much control that it could turn the product into a listening device.“

I never got why Stallman is so worried about his phone being converted into a listening device by some kind of malicious firmware, when the encryption used in GSM and CDMA is so weak that litterally anyone can crack it. For the people not in the know, weak encryption in cellphone signals was a requirement of the intelligence agencies everywhere, and telcos (and hence cellphone standards) had to comply in order to get spectrum. There is even an open source tool for eavesdropping on GSM and CDMA signals.

Plus, Stallman could be a paranoid loon and still have a cellphone by installing replicant in an openmoko (and an SSL enabled IM client), but truth is, he can‘t afford one.

PS: Experienced readers probably have noticed in the above article the evident butthurt stemming from the fact the dominant OS in cellphones, tablets and smartbooks will be an Apache-licensed and not a GPL-licensed one.

#5 Posted by Adam_King on Sep 20, 2011 1:06 PM

“I call for hypocrisy on that one.”

No. One of the most amazing things about RMS is how consistent he is for decades. RMS explains why he supports Free Software if you look hard enough, if you understand the “why”, you’ll understand why he has no problem with stuff like closed hardware and microcode.

#6 Posted by Gesh on Sep 20, 2011 1:25 PM

Yes, I agree with Adam, Stallman has really been consistently hypocritical for decades.

#7 Posted by _sw on Sep 20, 2011 3:33 PM

Take that, Google loving freetards.

My favourite part of it is this though:

Copyright 2011 Richard Stallman. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution Noderivs 3.0 licence.

#8 Posted by administrator on Sep 20, 2011 3:55 PM

@Adam, RMS isn’t consistent. His beloved GPL has gone through 3 revisions and a series of extensions like LGPL and AGPL.

He needed all this because of all the unforeseen problems his restrictive license has faced with that pesky thing called “progress”.

#9 Posted by need2bfree on Sep 20, 2011 4:42 PM

Android GNU/Linux has been hijacked by evil nazi corporatist winbreds. That’s why it no longer contains GNU components. The only versions I acknowledge are the true Android GNU/Linux releases. Someone needs to get google back on track.

#10 Posted by KimTjik on Sep 20, 2011 5:18 PM

“Their shocking and unexpected conclusion?”

Hm, those conclusions have been made by independent analysts as well a long time ago. Whether we like it or not, it doesn’t matter who you ask with some insight in licenses, but the answer will be the same as given by RMS in that article. Hence it’s not FUD, but you could argue whether it’s a practical opinion in view of how the industry works.


I’m not a fan of RMS but for the sake of correct information it should be noted that RMS isn’t against copyright, but view software patents and DRM as going too far. Secondly his criticism in this article is soften by him commending Google as well.

#11 Posted by DrLoser on Sep 20, 2011 5:36 PM

I think the more important question, as raised by our good friend KurkosDR, is:

Is Android even an Operating System?

By the exacting standards of our little Pirate pal, er, no, it isn’t.

Doesn’t come with its own compiler, you see.

#12 Posted by DrLoser on Sep 20, 2011 5:40 PM


If you mean by “isn’t against copyright” that RMS is all for totally redefining copyright and then pouncing on anybody who disagrees with him, with the benefit of this newly-redefined “copyright,” then you are indeed correct.

Outside the world of Loon, this is a pretty useless definition of “copyright.”

#13 Posted by DrLoser on Sep 20, 2011 5:42 PM


I rather doubt that Google will feel the same softeny way.

“You’re OK, kid! Oh, and one of your major products is Evil and Noxious in my eyes.”

Yup, right there. How to win friends and influence people.

#14 Posted by KimTjik on Sep 20, 2011 6:02 PM


There are strict definitions for copyright and licenses. Our opinions don’t matter much, neither mine or yours.

If we look at the part _SW quoted it does only tell us that the creator is Richard Stallman, and hence he holds the copyright to the written article. The other part though, the license, tells us on what terms anyone else but the copyright holder may use, or not use, the material.

#15 Posted by pete_mw on Sep 20, 2011 7:00 PM

I’m surprised that the Guardian would happily let RMS write an article like that.

As far as the whole CC-BY-ND thing is concerned, my understanding is that RMS is only worried about software freedom.

In fact, the document describing the GPL is itself nonfree.

#16 Posted by ChrisTX on Sep 20, 2011 10:40 PM

“Android is very different from the GNU/Linux operating system because it contains very little of GNU. Indeed, just about the only component in common between Android and GNU/Linux is Linux, the kernel.”

There Adam, RMS said it. Can you now stop calling it GNU/Android? Even he doesn’t.

#17 Posted by ChrisTX on Sep 20, 2011 10:48 PM

“When we insist that the software in a computing device must be free, we can overlook pre-installed firmware that will never be upgraded, because it makes no difference to the user that it’s a program rather than a circuit”

I call for hypocrisy on that one.

#18 Posted by imgx64 on Sep 20, 2011 11:30 PM

This is like asking “Is Canada a republic?” while implying that a republic is the only acceptable form of democracy.

So no, Android does not fit Stallman’s definition of “Free Software”. Yet, compared to other successful mobile platforms, it gives the most “freedom” to the users (and hobbyist developers like CyanogenMod).

#19 Posted by JoeMonco on Sep 21, 2011 12:29 AM

“There are strict definitions for copyright and licenses. Our opinions don’t matter much, neither mine or yours.”

Neither is RMS’.

Again, I highly anticipate you waffling around the subject and then pretending you have address any of it.

#20 Posted by unixisc on Oct 31, 2011 6:24 PM

For rms, even Debian is not Free Software. If one sees the GNU page on common distros, the reason that Debian doesn’t fit just proves that there are only few degrees of difference b/w Stallman & Stalin. Essentially, b’cos Debian offers its users the choice of using non-Free software if they so desire, it is not recommended by GNU.

Android, otoh, is too big, so they can’t say nothing good about it. But given how the FSF doesn’t regard Debian, Red Hat and Ubuntu as Free Software, no one should be surprised at a seal of non-endorsement from the FSF.

Debian GNU/Linux
Debian’s Social Contract states the goal of making Debian entirely free software, and Debian conscientiously keeps nonfree software out of the official Debian system. However, Debian also provides a repository of nonfree software. According to the project, this software is “not part of the Debian system,” but the repository is hosted on many of the project’s main servers, and people can readily learn about these nonfree packages by browsing Debian’s online package database. This does too much to steer users towards proprietary software for us to endorse it.

Previous releases of Debian also included nonfree blobs with the kernel Linux. With the release of Debian 6.0 (“squeeze”) in February 2011, these blobs have been moved out of the main distribution to separate packages in the nonfree repository.

However, if the question is whether Android is open source, then ultimately the answer is yes. Google doesn’t have to make Android source code available to EVERYBODY – it just has to provide the sources to those who own Android devices.

#21 Posted by DrLoser on Oct 31, 2011 6:53 PM


According to Stallman, you have to provide the source to anybody who asks for it. (There’s a certain admirable consistency here.) Ownership of the device is irrelevant.

And double crap, because if I buy an Android phone and ask politely for the source to various bits of the low-level OS, guess what? I don’t get access.

I don’t really think that the Gnu philosophy, such as it was, was intended to grant me the source to the likes of Angry Birds.

Although, I don’t own an Android phone. Would I be able to see the source to Angry Birds?

#22 Posted by imgx64 on Oct 31, 2011 11:15 PM

“And double crap, because if I buy an Android phone and ask politely for the source to various bits of the low-level OS, guess what? I don’t get access.”

Actually, you do. Take Samsung for example, you can get all the modifications and drivers they added to the kernel from .

No, it’s not very useful for most people, but customs ROM developers do use them.

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