In the Age of Computer
Thursday, April 19,
5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
following is an edited transcript.
THORBURN, moderator: Our speaker today, Richard Stallman, is a legendary figure
in the computing world, and my experience in trying to find a respondent
to share the podium with him was instructive. One distinguished
MIT professor told me that Stallman needs to be understood as a
charismatic figure in a biblical parable – a kind of Old Testament
he said, “a Moses or a Jeremiah – better a Jeremiah.” And I said, “Well, that’s very
sounds wonderful. It
confirms my sense of the kind of contribution he has made to the world. Then why are you reluctant to share the podium with him?” His answer: “Like Jeremiah or Moses,
he would simply overwhelm me.
I won’t appear on the same panel him, but if you asked
me to name five people alive in the world who have truly helped us
all, Richard Stallman would be one of them.”
STALLMAN: I should
[begin by explaining why I have refused to allow this Forum to
be web cast], in
case it wasn’t clear fully what the issue is:
The software they use for web broadcasting requires the
user to download certain software in order to receive the broadcast. That software is not free software. It’s available at zero price but
only as an executable, which is a mysterious bunch of numbers.
it does is secret. You can’t study it; you can’t
change it; and you certainly can’t publish it in your own
modified version. And
those are among the freedoms that are essential in the definition
of “free software.”
if I am to be an honest advocate for free software, I can hardly
go around giving speeches, then put pressure on people to use
non-free software. I’d be undermining my own cause. And if I don’t show that I take
my principles seriously, I can’t expect anybody else to
take them seriously.
this speech is not about free software. After I’d been working
on the free-software movement for several years and people started
using some of the pieces of the GNU operating system, I began
getting invited to give speeches [at which] . . . people started asking me: “Well, how do the ideas about freedom for software users
generalize to other kinds of things?”
And, of course, people asked silly questions like, “Well,
should hardware be free?” “Should this microphone be free?”
what does that mean? Should
you be free to copy it and change it?
Well, as for changing it, if you buy the microphone, nobody
is going to stop you from changing it.
And as for copying it, nobody has a microphone copier.
Outside of “Star Trek,” those things don’t
exist. Maybe some day there’ll be nanotechnological
analyzers and assemblers, and it really will be possible to copy
a physical object, and then these issues of whether you’re
free to do that will start being really important. We’ll see agribusiness companies trying to stop people
from copying food, and that will become a major political issue,
if that technological capability will ever exist.
I don’t know if it will; it’s just speculation
at this point.
for other kinds of information, you can raise the issue because
any kind of information that can be stored on a computer, conceivably,
can be copied and modified. So the ethical issues of free software,
the issues of a user’s right to copy and modify software,
are the same as such questions for other kinds of published information. Now I’m not talking about private
information, say, personal information, which is never meant to
be available to the public at all.
I’m talking about the rights you should have if you
get copies of published things where there’s no attempt to
keep them secret.
order to explain my ideas on the subject, I’d like to review
the history of the distribution of information and of copyright.
In the ancient world, books were written by hand with a pen,
and anybody who knew how to read and write could copy a book about
as efficiently as anybody else.
Now somebody who did it all day would probably learn to be
somewhat better at it, but there was not a tremendous difference.
And because the copies were made one at a time, there was
no great economy of scale. Making ten copies took ten times as long
as making one copy. There
was also nothing forcing centralization; a book could be copied
because of this technology, because it didn’t force copies
to be identical, there wasn’t in the ancient world the same
total divide between copying a book and writing a book.
There are things in between that made sense.
They did understand the idea of an author. They knew, say, that this play was written by Sophocles but
in between writing a book and copying a book, there were other useful
things you could do. For
instance, you could copy a part of a book, then write some new words,
copy some more and write some new words and on and on.
This was called “writing a commentary” -- that
was a common thing to do – and these commentaries were appreciated.
could also copy a passage out of one book, then write some other
words, and copy a passage from another book and write some more
and so on, and this was making a compendium. Compendia were also very useful. There are works that are lost but parts
of them survived when they were quoted into other books that got
to be more popular than the original.
Maybe they copied the most interesting parts, and so people
made a lot of copies of these, but they didn’t bother copying
the original because it wasn’t interesting enough.
as far as I can tell, there was no such thing as copyright in
the ancient world. Anyone who wanted to copy a book could
copy the book. Later
on, the printing press was developed and books started to be copied
on the printing press. Now
the printing press was not just a quantitative improvement in
the ease of copying. It affected different kinds of copying
unevenly because it introduced an inherent economy of scale. It was a lot of work to set the type and
much less work to make many identical copies of the page. So the result was that copying books tended
to become a centralized, mass-production activity. Copies of any given book would probably
be made in only a few places.
also meant that ordinary readers couldn’t copy books efficiently. Only if you had a printing press could you do that. So it was an industrial activity.
for the first few centuries of printing, printed books did not
totally replace hand-copying. Hand-copied books were still made, sometimes
by rich people and sometimes by poor people. The rich people did this to get an especially
beautiful copy that would show how rich they were, and poor people
did it because maybe they didn’t have enough money to buy
a printed copy but they had the time to copy a book by hand. As the song says, “Time ain’t money when all you
got is time.”
hand-copying was still done to some extent.
I think it was in the 1800s that printing actually got
to be cheap enough that even poor people could afford printed
books if they were literate.
copyright was developed along with the use of the printing press
and given the technology of the printing press, it had the effect
of an industrial regulation. It didn’t restrict what readers
could do; it restricted what publishers and authors could do. Copyright in England was initially a form
of censorship. You
had to get government permission to publish the book. But the idea has changed. By the time of the U.S. Constitution, people came to a different
idea of the purpose of copyright, and I think that that idea was
accepted in England as well.
the U.S. Constitution it was proposed that authors should be entitled
to a copyright, a monopoly on copying their books.
This proposal was rejected.
Instead, a crucially different proposal was adopted which
is that, for the sake of promoting progress, Congress could optionally
establish a copyright system that would create these monopolies.
So the monopolies, according to the U.S. Constitution, do
not exist for the sake of those who own them; they exist for the
sake of promoting the progress of science.
The monopolies are handed out to authors as a way of modifying
their behavior to get them to do something that serves the public.
the goal is more written and published books which other people
can then read. And this is believed to contribute to increased literary activity,
increased writing about science and other fields, and society then
learns through this. That’s
the purpose to be served.
The creation of private monopolies was a means to an end
only, and the end is a public end.
copyright in the age of the printing press was fairly painless because
it was an industrial regulation.
It restricted only the activities of publishers
and authors. Well,
in some strict sense, the poor people who copied books by hand may
have been infringing copyright, too.
But nobody ever tried to enforce copyright against them because
it was understood as an industrial regulation.
in the age of the printing press was also easy to enforce because
it had to be enforced only where there was a publisher, and publishers,
by their nature, make themselves known.
If you’re trying to sell books, you’ve got
to tell people where to come to buy them. You don’t have to go into everybody’s
house to enforce copyright.
finally, copyright may have been a beneficial system in that context. Copyright in the U.S. is considered by legal scholars as a
trade, a bargain between the public and authors. The public trades away some of its natural rights to make copies,
and in exchange gets the benefit of more books’ being written
is this an advantageous trade?
Well, when the general public can’t make copies because
they can only be efficiently made on printing presses –
and most people don’t own printing presses – the result
is that the general public is trading away a freedom it is unable
to exercise, a freedom that is of no practical value. So if you have something that is a byproduct
of your life and it’s useless and you have the opportunity
to exchange it for something else of any value, you’re gaining. So that’s why copyright may have
been an advantageous trade for the public in that time.
the context is changing, and that has to change our ethical evaluation
of copyright. Now the basic principles of ethics are
not changed by advances in technology; they’re too fundamental
to be touched by such contingencies.
But our decision about any specific question is a matter
of the consequences of the alternatives available, and the consequences
of a given choice may change when the context changes.
That is what is happening in the area of copyright law
because the age of the printing press is coming to an end, giving
way gradually to the age of the computer networks.
networks and digital information technology are bringing us back
to a world more like the ancient world where anyone who can read
and use the information can also copy it and can make copies about
as easily as anyone else could make them. They are perfect copies and they’re
just as good as the copies anyone else could make. So the centralization and economy of scale introduced by the
printing press and similar technologies is going away.
this changing context changes the way copyright law works.
You see, copyright law no longer acts as an industrial regulation;
it is now a Draconian restriction on a general public. It used to be a restriction on publishers for the sake of authors.
Now, for practical purposes, it’s a restriction on
a public for the sake of publishers. Copyright used to be fairly painless and
didn’t restrict the general public.
Now that’s not true.
If you have a computer, the publishers consider restricting
you to be their highest priority.
Copyright was easy to enforce because it was a restriction
only on publishers who were easy to find and what they published
was easy to see. Now the copyright is a restriction on each and everyone of
you. To enforce it
requires surveillance – an intrusion – and harsh punishments,
and we are seeing these being enacted into law in the U.S. and other
copyright used to be, arguably, an advantageous trade for the public
to make because the public was trading away freedoms it couldn’t
exercise. Well, now it can exercise these freedoms. What do you do if you have been producing
a byproduct which was of no use to you and you were in the habit
of trading it away and then, all of a sudden, you discover a use
for it? You can actually consume it, use it.
What do you do? You don’t trade at all; you keep
some. And that’s
what the public would naturally want to do.
That’s what the public does whenever it’s given
a chance to voice its preference; it keeps some of this freedom
and exercises it. Napster is a big example of that, the
public deciding to exercise the freedom to copy instead of giving
it up. So the natural thing for us to do to make
copyright law fit today’s circumstances is to reduce the amount
of copyright power that copyright owners get, to reduce the amount
of restriction that they place on the public and to increase the
freedom that the public retains.
this is not what the publishers want to do.
What they want to do is exactly the opposite.
They wish to increase copyright powers to the point where
they can remain firmly in control of all use of information. This has led to laws that have given an unprecedented increase
in the powers of copyright.
Freedoms that the public used to have in the age of the
printing press are being taken away.
instance, let’s look at e-books.
There’s a tremendous amount of hype about e-books;
you can hardly avoid it. I took a flight in Brazil and in the in-flight
magazine, there was an article saying that maybe it would take
10 or 20 years before we all switched to e-books. Clearly, this kind of campaign comes from somebody paying for
it. Now why are they
doing that? I think
I know. The reason is that e-books are the opportunity
to take away some of the residual freedoms that readers of printed
books have always had and still have – the freedom, for
instance, to lend a book to your friend or borrow it from the
public library or sell a copy to a used bookstore or buy a copy
anonymously, without putting a record in the database of who bought
that particular book. And maybe even the right to read it twice.
are freedoms that the publishers would like to take away, but
they can’t do this for printed books because that would
be too obvious a power-grab and would raise an outcry. So they
have found an indirect strategy:
First, they obtain the legislation to take away these freedoms
for e-books when there are no e-books; so there’s no controversy. There are no pre-existing users of e-books
who are accustomed to their freedoms and will defend them. That they obtained with the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act in 1998. Then
they introduce e-books and gradually get everybody to switch from
printed books to e-books and eventually the result is, readers
have lost these freedoms without ever having an instant when those
freedoms were being taken away and when they might have fought
back to retain them.
see at the same time efforts to take away people’s freedom
in using other kinds of published works.
For instance, movies that are on DVDs are published in an
encrypted format that used to be secret – it was meant to
be secret – and the only way the movie companies would tell
you the format, so that you could make a DVD player, was if you
signed a contract to build certain restrictions into the player,
with the result that the public would be stopped even from fully
exercising their legal rights. Then a few clever programmers in Europe
figured out the format of DVDs and they wrote a free software package
that would read a DVD. This
made it possible to use free software on top of the GNU Plus Linux
operating system to watch the DVD that you had bought, which is
a perfectly legitimate thing to do.
You ought to be able to do that with free software.
the movie companies objected and they went to court.
You see, the movie companies used to make a lot of films
where there was a mad scientist and somebody was saying, “But,
Doctor, there are some things Man was not meant to know.”
They must have watched their own films too much because they
came to believe that the format of DVDs is something that Man was
not meant to know. And
they obtained a ruling for total censorship of the software for
playing DVDs. Even making a link to a site where this
information is legally available outside the U.S. has been prohibited. An appeal has been made against this ruling.
I signed a friend-of-the-court brief in that appeal, I’m
proud to say, although I’m playing a fairly small role in
that particular battle.
U.S. government intervened directly on the other side.
This is not surprising when you consider why the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act was passed in the first place. The reason is the campaign finance system that we have in the
U.S., which is essentially legalized bribery where the candidates
are bought by business before they even get elected. And, of course, they know who their master is – they
know whom they’re working for – and they pass the laws
to give business more power.
will happen with that particular battle, we don’t know.
But meanwhile Australia has passed a similar law and Europe
is almost finished adopting one; so the plan is to leave no place
on earth where this information can be made available to people. But the U.S. remains the world leader in trying to stop the
public from distributing information that’s been published.
U.S. though is not the first country to make a priority of this.
The Soviet Union treated it as very important. There this unauthorized copying and re-distribution was known
as Samizdat and to stamp it out, they developed a series
of methods: First,
guards watching every piece of copying equipment to check what
people were copying to prevent forbidden copying.
Second, harsh punishments for anyone caught doing forbidden
copying. You could sent to Siberia.
Third, soliciting informers, asking everyone to rat on
their neighbors and co-workers to the information police.
Fourth, collective responsibility – You!
You’re going to watch that group! If I catch any of them doing forbidden copying, you are going
to prison. So watch
them hard. And, fifth,
propaganda, starting in childhood to convince everyone that only
a horrible enemy of the people would ever do this forbidden copying.
U.S. is using all of these measures now.
First, guards watching copying equipment.
Well, in copy stores, they have human guards to check what
you copy. But human guards to watch what you copy
in your computer would be too expensive; human labor is too expensive. So they have robot guards. That’s the purpose of the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act.
This software goes in your computer; it’s the only
way you can access certain data and it stops you from copying.
a plan now to introduce this software into every hard disk, so
that there could be files on your hard disk that you can’t
even access except by getting permission from some network server
to access the file. And to bypass this software or even tell other people how to
bypass it is a crime.
harsh punishments. A
few years ago, if you made copies of something and handed them
out to your friends just to be helpful, this was not a crime;
it had never been a crime in the U.S. Then they made it a felony, so you could
be put in prisons for years for sharing with your neighbor.
informers. Well, you may have seen the ads on TV,
the ads in the Boston subways asking people to rat on their co-workers
to the information police, which officially is called the Software
fourth, collective responsibility.
In the U.S., this has been done by conscripting Internet
service providers, making them legally responsible for everything
their customers post. The only way they can avoid always being held responsible is
if they have an invariable procedure to disconnect or remove the
information within two weeks after a complaint.
Just a few days ago, I heard that a clever protest site criticizing
City Bank for some of its nasty policies was disconnected in this
way. Nowadays, you don’t even get your
day in court; your site just gets unplugged.
finally, propaganda, starting in childhood.
That’s what the word “pirate” is used for. If you’ll think back a few years,
the term “pirate” was formerly applied to publishers
that didn’t pay the author.
But now it’s been turned completely around. It’s now applied to members of the public who escape
from the control of the publisher.
It’s being used to convince people that only a nasty
enemy of the people would ever do this forbidden copying. It says that “sharing with your neighbor is the moral
equivalent of attacking a ship.”
I hope that you don’t agree with that and if you don’t,
I hope you will refuse to use the word in that way.
the publishers are purchasing laws to give themselves more power. In addition, they’re also extending the length of time
the copyright lasts. The
U.S. Constitution says that copyright must last for a limited time,
but the publishers want copyright to last forever. However, getting a constitutional amendment would be rather
difficult, so they found an easier way that achieves the same result. Every 20 years they retroactively extend
copyright by 20 years. So
the result is, at any given time, copyright nominally lasts for
a certain period and any given copyright will nominally expire some
day. But that expiration will never be reached
because every copyright will be extended by 20 years every 20 years;
thus no work will ever go into the public domain again. This has been called “perpetual
copyright on the installment plan.”
law in 1998 that extended copyright by 20 years is known as the
“Mickey Mouse Copyright Extension Act” because one of
the main sponsors of this law was Disney. Disney realized that the copyright on
Mickey Mouse was going to expire, and they don’t want that
to ever happen because they make a lot of money from that copyright.
the original title of this talk was supposed to be “Copyright
and Globalization.” If you look at globalization, what you
see is that it’s carried out by a number of policies which
are done in the name of economic efficiency or so-called free-trade
treaties, which really are designed to give business power over
laws and policies. They’re not really about free trade.
They’re about a transfer of power:
removing the power to decide laws from the citizens of
any country who might conceivably consider their own interests
and giving that power to businesses who will not consider the
interests of those citizens.
is the problem in their view, and these treaties are designed
to put an end to the problem. For instance, NAFTA actually contains
provisions, I believe, allowing companies to sue another government
to get rid of a law that they believe is interfering with their
profits in the other country.
So foreign companies have more power than citizens of the
are attempts being made to extend this beyond NAFTA.
For instance, this is one of the goals of the so-called
free trade area of the Americas, to extend this principle to all
the countries in South America and the Caribbean as well, and
the multilateral agreement on investment was intended to spread
it to the whole world.
thing we’ve seen in the ‘90s is that these treaties
begin to impose copyright throughout the world, and in more powerful
and restrictive ways. These treaties are not free-trade treaties. They’re actually corporate-controlled
trade treaties being used to give corporations control over world
trade, in order to eliminate free trade.
the U.S. was a developing country in the 1800s, the U.S. did not
recognize foreign copyrights. This was a decision made carefully, and
it was an intelligent decision.
It was acknowledged that for the U.S. to recognize foreign
copyrights would just be disadvantageous, that it would suck money
out and wouldn’t do much good.
same logic would apply today to developing countries but the U.S.
has sufficient power to force them to go against their interests.
Actually, it’s a mistake to speak of the interests
of countries in this context.
In fact, I’m sure that most of you have heard about
the fallacy of trying to judge the public interest by adding up
everybody’s wealth. If working Americans lost $1 billion and
Bill Gates gained $2 billion, would Americans generally be better
off? Would this be good for America? Or if you look only at the total, it looks
like it’s good. However,
this example really shows that the total is the wrong way to judge
because Bill Gates really doesn’t need another $2 billion,
but the loss of the $1 billion by other people who don’t have
as much to start with might be painful.
Well, in a discussion about any of these trade treaties,
when you hear people talk about the interests of this country or
that country, what they’re doing, within each country, is
adding up everybody’s income. The rich people and the poor people are being added up. So it’s actually an excuse to apply
that same fallacy to get you to ignore the effect on the distribution
of wealth within the country and whether the treaty is going to
make that more uneven, as it has done in the U.S.
it’s really not the U.S. interest that is being served by
enforcing copyright around the world.
It’s the interests of certain business owners, many
of whom are in the U.S. and some of whom are in other countries.
It doesn’t, in any sense, serve the public interest.
what would make sense to do?
If we believe in the goal of copyright stated, for instance
in the U.S. Constitution, the goal of promoting progress, what would
be intelligent policies to use in the age of the computer network?
Clearly, instead of increasing copyright powers, we have
to pull them back so as to give the general public a certain domain
of freedom where they can make use of the benefits of digital technology,
make use of their computer networks. But how far should that go? That’s an interesting question because I don’t
think we should necessarily abolish copyright totally. The idea of trading some freedoms for
more progress might still be an advantageous trade at a certain
level, even if traditional copyright gives up too much freedom. But in order to think about this intelligently, the first thing
we have to recognize is, there’s no reason to make it totally
no reason to insist on making the same deal for all kinds of work.
fact, that already isn’t the case because there are a lot
of exceptions for music. Music is treated very differently under
copyright law. But
the arbitrary insistence on uniformity is used by the publishers
in a certain clever way.
They pick some peculiar special case and they make an argument
that, in that special case, it would be advantageous to have this
much copyright. And
then they say that for uniformity’s sake, there has to be
this much copyright for everything.
So, of course, they pick the special case where they can
make the strongest argument, even if it’s a rather rare
special case and not really very important overall.
maybe we should have that much copyright for that particular special
case. We don’t have to pay the same price for everything we
buy. A thousand dollars
for a new car might be a very good deal.
A thousand dollars for a container of milk is a horrible
deal. You wouldn’t pay the special price
for everything you buy in other areas of life. Why do it here?
we need to look at different kinds of works, and I’d like
to propose a way of doing this.
includes recipes, computer programs, manuals and textbooks, reference
works like dictionaries and encyclopedias.
For all these functional works, I believe that the issues
are basically the same as they are for software and the same conclusions
apply. People should
have the freedom even to publish a modified version because it’s
very useful to modify functional works. People’s needs are not all the same.
If I wrote this work to do the job I think needs doing,
your idea as a job you want to do may be somewhat different.
So you want to modify this work to do what’s good
for you. At that point, there may be other people who have similar needs
to yours, and your modified version might be good for them. Everybody who cooks knows this and has
known this for hundreds of years.
It’s normal to make copies of recipes and hand them
out to other people, and it’s also normal to change a recipe. If you change the recipe and cook it for
your friends and they like eating it, they might ask you, “Could
I have the recipe?”
Then maybe you’ll write down your version and give
them copies. That is exactly the same thing that we
much later started doing in the free-software community.
that’s one class of work.
The second class of work is works whose purpose is to say
what certain people think. Talking about those people is their purpose.
This includes, say, memoirs, essays of opinion, scientific
papers, offers to buy and sell, catalogues of goods for sale.
The whole point of those works is that they tell you what
somebody thinks or what somebody saw or what somebody believes.
To modify them is to misrepresent the authors; so modifying
these works is not a socially useful activity.
And so verbatim copying is the only thing that people really
need to be allowed to do.
next question is: Should people have the right to do commercial
verbatim copying? Or
is non-commercial enough?
You see, these are two different activities we can distinguish,
so that we can consider the questions separately – the right
to do non-commercial verbatim copying and the right to do commercial
verbatim copying. Well, it might be a good compromise policy
to have copyright cover commercial verbatim copying but allow everyone
the right to do non-commercial verbatim copying. This way, the copyright on the commercial verbatim copying,
as well as on all modified versions – only the author could
approve a modified version – would still provide the same
revenue stream that it provides now to fund the writing of these
works, to whatever extent it does.
allowing the non-commercial verbatim copying, it means the copyright
no longer has to intrude into everybody’s home. It becomes
an industrial regulation again, easy to enforce and painless, no
longer requiring Draconian punishments and informers for the sake
of its enforcement. So we get most of the benefit – and avoid most of the
horror – of the current system.
third category of works is aesthetic or entertaining works, where
the most important thing is just the sensation of looking at the
work. Now for these
works, the issue of modification is a very difficult one because
on the one hand, there is the idea that these works reflect the
vision of an artist and to change them is to mess up that vision. On the other hand, you have the fact that
there is the folk process, where a sequence of people modifying
a work can sometimes produce a result that is extremely rich. Even when you have artists’ producing the works, borrowing
from previous works is often very useful. Some of Shakespeare’s plays used a story that was taken
from some other play. If
today’s copyright laws had been in effect back then, those
plays would have been illegal.
So it’s a hard question what we should do about publishing
modified versions of an aesthetic or an artistic work, and we
might have to look for further subdivisions of the category in
order to solve this problem. For example, maybe computer game scenarios
should be treated one way; maybe everybody should be free to publish
modified versions of them.
But perhaps a novel should be treated differently; perhaps
for that, commercial publication should require an arrangement
with the original author.
if commercial publication of these aesthetic works is covered
by copyright, that will give most of the revenue stream that exists
today to support the authors and musicians, to the limited extent
that the present system supports them, because it does a very
bad job. So that
might be a reasonable compromise, just as in the case of the works
which represent certain people.
we look ahead to the time when the age of the computer networks
will have fully begun, when we’re past this transitional
stage, we can envision another way for the authors to get money
for their work. Imagine
that we have a digital cash system that enables you to get money
for your work. Imagine
that we have a digital cash system that enables you to send somebody
else money through the Internet; this can be done in various ways
using encryption, for instance. And imagine that verbatim copying of all
these aesthetic works is permitted.
But they’re written in such a way that when you are
playing one or reading one or watching one, a box appears on the
side of your screen that says, “Click here to send a dollar
to the author,” or the musician or whatever.
And it just sits there; it doesn’t get in your way;
it’s on the side. It doesn’t interfere with you, but
it’s there, reminding you that it’s a good thing to
support the writers and the musicians.
if you love the work that you’re reading or listening to,
eventually you’re going to say, “Why shouldn’t
I give these people a dollar? It’s only a dollar. What’s that? I won’t even miss it.” And people will start sending a dollar. The good thing about this is that it makes
copying the ally of the authors and musicians. When somebody e-mails a friend a copy, that friend might send
a dollar, too. If you
really love it, you might send a dollar more than once and that
dollar is more than they’re going to get today if you buy
the book or buy the CD because they get a tiny fraction of the sale.
The same publishers that are demanding total power over the
public in the name of the authors and musicians are giving those
authors and musicians the shaft all the time.
recommend you read Courtney Love’s article in “Salon”
magazine, an article about pirates that plan to use musicians’
work without paying them. These pirates are the record companies
that pay musicians 4% of the sales figures, on the average. Of course, the very successful musicians
have more clout. They
get more than 4% of their large sales figures, which means that
the great run of musicians who have a record contract get less than
4% of their small sales figures.
the way it works: The record company spends money on publicity and
they consider this expenditure as an advance to the musicians, although
the musicians never see it.
So nominally when you buy a CD, a certain fraction of that
money is going to the musicians, but really it isn’t.
Really, it’s going to pay back the publicity expenses,
and only if the musicians are very successful do they ever see any
of that money.
musicians, of course, sign their record contracts because they hope
they’re going to be one of those few who strike it rich.
So essentially a rolling lottery is being offered to the
musicians to tempt them. Although
they’re good at music, they may not be good at careful, logical
reasoning to see through this trap.
So they sign and then probably all they get is publicity.
Well, why don’t we give them publicity in a different
way, not through a system that’s based on restricting the
public and a system of the industrial complex that saddles us with
lousy music that’s easy to sell.
Instead, why not make the listener’s natural impulse
to share the music they love the ally of the musicians?
If we have this box that appears in the player as a way to
send a dollar to the musicians, then the computer networks could
be the mechanism for giving the musicians this publicity, the same
publicity which is all they get from record contracts now.
have to recognize that the existing copyright system does a lousy
job of supporting musicians, just as lousy as world trade does
of raising living standards in the Philippines and China.
You have these enterprise zones where everyone works in
a sweatshop and all of the products are made in sweatshops.
I knew that globalization was a very inefficient way of
raising living standards of people overseas. Say, an American is getting paid $20 an
hour to make something and you give that job to a Mexican who
is getting paid maybe six dollars a day, what has happened here
is that you’ve taken a large amount of money away from an
American worker, given a tiny fraction, like a few percents, to
a Mexican worker and given back the rest to the company. So if your goal is to raise the living
standards of Mexican workers, this is a lousy way to do it.
interesting to see how the same phenomenon is going on in the
copyright industry, the same general idea.
In the name of these workers who certainly deserve something,
you propose measures that give them a tiny bit and really mainly
prop up the power of corporations to control our lives.
you’re trying to replace a very good system, you have to
work very hard to come up with a better alternative.
If you know that the present system is lousy, it’s
not so hard to find a better alternative; the standard of comparison
today is very low. We must always remember that when we consider issues of copyright
I think I’ve said most of what I want to say.
I’d like to mention that tomorrow is Phone-In Sick
Day in Canada. Tomorrow
is the beginning of a summit to finish negotiating the free trade
area of the Americas to try to extend corporate power throughout
additional countries, and a big protest is being planned for Quebec.
We’ve seen extreme methods being used to smash this
protest. A lot of Americans are being blocked from
entering Canada through the border that they’re supposed
to be allowed to enter through at any time.
On the flimsiest of excuses, a wall has been built around
the center of Quebec to be used as a fortress to keep protesters
out. We’ve seen a large number of different
dirty tricks used against public protest against these treaties. So whatever democracy remains to us after
government powers have been taken away from democratically elected
governors and given to businesses and to unelected international
bodies, whatever is left after that may not survive the suppression
of public protest against it.
dedicated 17 years of my life to working on free software and
allied issues. I didn’t do this because I think
it’s the most important political issue in the world. I did it because it was the area where
I saw I had to use my skills to do a lot of good. But what’s happened is that the general issues of politics
have evolved, and the biggest political issue in the world today
is resisting the tendency to give business power over the public
and governments. I see free software and the allied questions
for other kinds of information that I’ve been discussing
today as one part of that major issue.
So I’ve indirectly found myself working on that issue. I hope I contribute something to the effort.
We’ll turn to the audience for questions and comments
in a moment. But let
me offer a brief general response.
It seems to me that the strongest and most important practical
guidance that Stallman offers us has two key elements.
One is the recognition
that old assumptions about copyright, old usages of copyright are
inappropriate; they are challenged or undermined by the advent of
the computer and computer networks.
That may be obvious, but it is essential.
is the recognition that the digital era requires us to reconsider
how we distinguish and weigh forms of intellectual and creative
labor. Stallman is
surely right that certain kinds of intellectual enterprises justify
more copyright protection than others. Trying to identify systematically
these different kinds or levels of copyright protection seems to me a valuable way to engage with
the problems for intellectual work posed by the advent of the computer.
I think I detect another theme that lies beneath what Stallman has
been saying and that isn’t really directly about computers
at all, but more broadly about questions of democratic authority
and the power that government and corporations increasingly exercise
over our lives. This
populist and anti-corporate side to Stallman’s discourse is
nourishing but also reductive, potentially simplifying. And it is also perhaps overly idealistic.
For example, how would a a novelist or a poet or a songwriter or a musician or the author
of an academic textbook surivive in this brave new world where people
are encouraged but not required to pay authors. In other words, it seems to me, the gap between existing practice
and the visionary possibilities Stallman speculates
about is still immensely wide.
I’ll conclude by asking if Stallman would like to expand a
bit on certain aspects of his talk and, specifically, whether he
has further thoughts about the way in which what we’ll call
“traditional creators” would be protected under his
STALLMAN: First of
all, I have to point out that we shouldn’t use the term
“protection” to describe what copyright does. Copyright restricts people. The term “protection” is a
propaganda term of the copyright-owning businesses. The term “protection” means stopping something
from being somehow destroyed.
Well, I don’t think a song is destroyed if there
are more copies of it being played more.
I don’t think that a novel is destroyed if more people
are reading copies of it, either.
So I won’t use that word.
I think it leads people to identify with the wrong party.
it’s a very bad idea to think about intellectual property
for two reasons: First, it prejudges the most fundamental
question in the area which is: How should these things be treated and should they be treated
as a kind of property? To
use the term “intellectual property” to describe the
area is to presuppose the answer is “yes,” that that’s
the way to treat things, not some other way.
it encourages over-generalization.
Intellectual property is a catch-all for several different
legal systems with independent origins such as, copyrights, patents,
trademarks, trade secrets and some other things as well.
They are almost completely different; they have nothing
in common. But people who hear the term “intellectual property”
are led to a false picture where they imagine that there’s
a general principle of intellectual property that was applied
to specific areas, so they assume that these various areas of
the law are similar. This leads not only to confused thinking
about what is right to do, it leads people to fail to understand
what the law actually says because they suppose that the copyright
law and patent law and trademark law are similar, when, in fact,
they are totally different.
if you want to encourage careful thinking and clear understanding
of what the law says, avoid the term “intellectual property.”
Talk about copyrights.
Or talk about patents.
Or talk about trademarks or whichever subject you want
to talk about. But don’t talk about intellectual
about intellectual property almost has to be a foolish one. I don’t have an opinion about intellectual property. I have opinions about copyrights and patents
and trademarks, and they’re different. I came to them through different thought processes because
those systems of law are totally different.
I made that digression, but it’s terribly important.
let me now get to the point.
Of course, we can’t see now how well it would work,
whether it would work to ask people to pay money voluntarily to
the authors and musicians they love. One thing that’s obvious is that
how well such a system would work is proportional to the number
of people who are participating in the network, and that number,
we know, is going to increase by an order of magnitude over a
number of years. If we tried it today, it might fail, and
that wouldn’t prove anything because with ten times as money
people participating, it might work.
other thing is, we do not have this digital cash payment system;
so we can’t really try it today.
You could try to do something a little bit like it.
There are services you can sign up for where you can pay
money to someone – things like Pay Pal.
But before you can pay anyone through Pay Pal, you have
to go through a lot of rigmarole and give them personal information
about you, and they collect records of whom you pay.
Can you trust them not to misuse that?
the dollar might not discourage you, but the trouble it takes
to pay might discourage you. The whole idea of this is that it should
be as easy as falling off a log to pay when you get the urge,
so that there’s nothing to discourage you except the actual
amount of money. And if that’s small enough, why
should it discourage you.
We know, though, that fans can really love musicians, and
we know that encouraging fans to copy and re-distribute the music
has been done by some bands that were, and are, quite successful
like the “Grateful Dead.” They didn’t have any trouble making
a living from their music because they encouraged fans to tape
it and copy the tapes. They
didn’t even lose their record sales.
are gradually moving from the age of the printing press to the
age of the computer network, but it’s not happening in a
day. People are still
buying lots of records, and that will probably continue for many
years – maybe forever.
As long as that continues, simply having copyrights that
stIIill apply to commercial sales of records ought to do about
as good a job of supporting musicians as it does today.
Of course, that’s not very good, but, at least, it
won’t get any worse.
[A comment and and question about free downloading and about
Stephen King’s attempt to market one of his novels serially
over the web.]
Yes, it’s interesting to know what he did and what
happened. When I first heard about that, I was elated.
I thought, maybe he was taking a step towards a world that
is not based on trying to maintain an iron grip on the public.
Then I saw that he had actually written to ask people to
pay. To explain what he did, he was publishing a novel as a serial,
by installments, and he said, “If I get enough money, I’ll
release more.” But
the request he wrote was hardly a request.
It brow-beat the reader.
It said, “If you don’t pay, then you’re
evil. And if there are too many of you who are
evil, then I’m just going to stop writing this.”
clearly, that’s not the way to make the public feel like sending
you money. You’ve got to make them love you,
not fear you.
The details were that he required a certain percentage –
I don’t know the exact percentage, around 90% sounds correct.
– of people to send a certain amount of money, which, I believe,
was a dollar or two dollars, or somewhere in that order of magnitude
You had to type in your name and your e-mail address and
some other information to get to download it and if that percentage
of people was not reached after the first chapter, he said that
he would not release another chapter.
It was very antagonistic to the public downloading it.
the scheme where there’s no copyright but people are asked
to make voluntary donations open to abuse by people plagiarizing?
No. That’s not what I proposed. Remember, I’m proposing that there
should be copyright covering commercial distribution and permitting
only verbatim re-distribution non-commercially. So anyone who modified it to put in a pointer to his website,
instead of a pointer to the real author’s website, would
still be infringing the copyright and could be sued exactly as
he could be sued today.
QUESTION: I see.
So you’re still imagining a world in which there is
Yes. As I’ve
said, for those kinds of works.
I’m not saying that everything should be permitted. I’m proposing to reduce copyright
powers, not abolish them.
I guess one question that occurred to me while you were speaking,
Richard, and, again, now when you’re responding here to this
question is why you don’t consider the ways in which the computer,
itself, eliminates the middle men completely – in the way
that Stephen King refused to do – and might establish a personal
Well, they can and, in fact, this voluntary donation is one
You think of that as not involving going through a publisher
STALLMAN: Absolutely not. I
hope it won’t, you see, because the publishers exploit the
authors terribly. When
you ask the publishers’ representatives about this, they say,
“Well, yes, if an author or if a band doesn’t want to
go through us, they shouldn’t be legally required to go through
us.” But, in fact, they’re doing their utmost to set it up
so that will not be feasible.
For instance, they’re proposing restricted copying
media formats and in order to publish in these formats, you’ll
have to go through the big publishers because they won’t tell
anyone else how to do it. So they’re hoping for a world where
the players will play these formats, and in order to get anything
that you can play on those players, it’ll have to come through
the publishers. So,
in fact, while there’s no law against an author or a musician
publishing directly, it won’t be feasible.
There’s also the lure of maybe hitting it rich. They say, “We’ll publicize
you and maybe you’ll hit it as rich as the Beatles.” Take your pick of some very successful
group and, of course, only a tiny fraction of musicians are going
to have that happen. But
they may be drawn by that into signing contracts that will lock
them down forever.
tend to be very bad at respecting their contracts with authors. For instance, book contracts typically
have said that if a book goes out of print, the rights revert to
the author, and publishers have generally not been very good about
living up to that clause.
They often have to be forced.
Well, what they’re starting to do now is use electronic
publication as an excuse to say that it’s never going out
of print; so they never have to give the rights back. Their idea is, when the author has no
clout, get him to sign up and from then on, he has no power; it’s
only the publisher that has the power.
QUESTION: Would it
be good to have free licenses for various kinds of works that
protect for every user the freedom to copy them in whatever is
the appropriate way for that kind of work?
STALLMAN: Well, people are working on this.
But for non-functional works, one thing doesn’t substitute
for another. Let’s look at a functional kind
of work, say, a word processor.
Well, if somebody makes a free word processor, you can
use that; you don’t need the non-free word processors. But I wouldn’t say that one free song substitutes for
all the non-free songs or that a one free novel substitutes for
all the non-free novels.
For those kinds of works, it’s different.
So what I think we simply have to do is to recognize that
these laws do not deserve to be respected.
It’s not wrong to share with your neighbor, and if
anyone tries to tell you that you cannot share with your neighbor,
you should not listen to him.
QUESTION: With regard
to the functional works, how do you, in your own thinking, balance
out the need for abolishing the copyright with the need for economic
incentives in order to have these functional works developed?
Well, what we see is, first of all, that this economic incentive
is a lot less necessary than people have been supposing. Look at the free software movement where we have over 100,000
part-time volunteers developing free software. We also see that there are other ways
to raise money for this which are not based on stopping the public
from copying and modifying these works.
That’s the interesting lesson of the free software
movement. Aside from the fact that it gives you
a way you can use a computer and keep your freedom to share and
cooperate with other people, it also shows us that this negative
assumption that people would never do these things unless they are
given special powers to force people to pay them is simply wrong.
A lot of people will do these things.
Then if you look at, say, the writing of monographs which
serve as textbooks in many fields of science except for the ones
that are very basic, the authors are not making money out of that.
We now have a free encyclopedia project which is, in fact,
a commercial-free encyclopedia project, and it’s making progress. We had a project for a GNU encyclopedia but we merged it into
the commercial project when they adopted our license. In January, they switched to the GNU-free
documentation license for all the articles in their encyclopedia. So we said, “Well, let’s
join forces with them and urge people to contribute to them.”
It’s called “NUPEDIA,” and you can find
a link to it, if you look at http:// www.gnu.org/encyclopedia.
So here we’ve extended the community development of
a free base of useful knowledge from software to encyclopedia.
I’m pretty confident now that in all these areas of
functional work, we don’t need that economic incentive to
the point where we have to mess up the use of these works.
Well, what about the other two categories.
For the other two classes of work, I don’t know. I don’t know whether people will write some day novels
without worrying about whether they make money from it. In a post-scarcity society, I guess they
would. Maybe what we
need to do in order to reach the post-scarcity society is to get
rid of the corporate control over the economy and the laws.
So, in effect, it’s a chicken-or-the-egg problem, you
know. Which do we do first? How do we get the world where people don’t
have to desperately get money except by removing the control by
business? And how can
we remove the control by business except --
Anyway, I don’t know, but that’s why I’m
trying to propose first a compromise copyright system and, second,
the voluntary payment supported by a compromise copyright system
as a way to provide a revenue stream to the people who write those
QUESTION: How would
you really expect to implement this compromise copyright system
under the chokehold of corporate interests on American politicians
due to their campaign-finance system?
It beats me. I
wish I knew. It’s a terribly hard problem.
If I knew how to solve that problem, I would solve it and
nothing in the world could make me prouder.
QUESTION:. How do
you fight the corporate control?
Because when you look at these sums of money going into corporate
lobbying in the court case, it is tremendous. I think the DECS case that you’re talking about is costing
something like a million-and-a-half dollars on the defense side. Lord knows what it’s costing on
the corporate side. Do
you have any idea how to deal with these huge sums of money?
I have a suggestion.
If I were to suggest totally boycotting movies, I think people
would ignore that suggestion. They might consider it too radical.
So I would like to make a slightly different suggestion which
comes to almost the same thing in the end, and that is, don’t
go to a movie unless you have some substantial reason to think it’s
good. Now this will
lead in practice to almost the same result as a total boycott of
Hollywood movies. In
extension, it’s almost the same but, in intention, it’s
very different. Now I’ve noticed that many people
go to movies for reasons that have nothing to do with whether they
think the movies are good.
So if you change that, if you only go to a movie when you
have some substantial reason to think it’s good, you’ll
take away a lot of their money.
One way to understand all of this discourse today, I think,
is to recognize that whenever radical, potentially transforming
technologies appear in society, there’s a struggle over who
controls them. We
today are repeating what has happened in the past.
So from this angle, there may not be a reason for despair,
or even pessimism, about what may occur in the longer run. But, in the shorter term, struggles over the control of text
and images, over all forms of information are likely to be painful
and extensive. For
example, as a teacher of media, my access to images has been restricted
in recent years in a way that had never been in place before.
If I write an essay in which I want to use still images,
even from films, they are much harder to get permission to use,
and the prices charged to use those still images are much higher
– even when I make arguments about intellectual inquiry and
the the legal category of “fair use.” So I think, in this moment of extended
transformation, the longer-term prospects may, in fact, not be as
disturbing as what’s happening in the shorter term. But in any case, we need to understand the whole of our contemporary
experience as a renewed version of a struggle over the control of
technological resources that is a recurring principle of Western
also essential to understand that the history of older technologies
is itself a complicated matter.
The impact of the printing press in Spain, for example, is
radically different from its impact in England or in France.
QUESTION: One of
the things that bothers me when I hear discussions of copyright
is that often they start off with, “We want a 180-degree
change. We want to do away with any sorts of control.”
It seems to me that part of what lay under the three categories
that were suggested is an acknowledgement that there is some wisdom
to copyright. Some of the critics of the way copyright
is going now believe that, in fact, it ought to be backed up and
function much more like patent and trademarks in terms of its
duration. I wonder if our speaker would comment
on that as a strategy.
I agree that shortening the time span of copyright is a
good idea. There is absolutely no need in terms of
encouraging publication for a possibility of copyrights’
lasting as much as 150 years, which, in some cases, it can under
present law. Now the companies were saying that a 75-year
copyright on a work made for hire was not long enough to make
possible the production of their works.
I’d like to challenge those companies to present
projected balance sheets for 75 years from now to back up that
contention. What they really wanted was just to be
able to extend the copyrights on the old works, so that they can
continue restricting the use of them.
But how you can encourage greater production of works in
the 1920s by extending copyright today escapes me, unless they
have a time machine somewhere. Of course, in one of their movies, they
had a time machine. So
maybe that’s what affected their thinking.
QUESTION: Have you
given thought to extending the concept of “fair use,”
and are there any nuances there that you might care to lay out for
Well, the idea of giving everyone permission for non-commercial
verbatim copying of two kinds of works, certainly, may be thought
of as extending what fair use is.
It’s bigger than what’s fair use currently. If
your idea is that the public trades away certain freedoms to get
more progress, then you can draw the line at various, different
places. Which freedoms
does the public trade away and which freedoms does the public keep?
QUESTION: To extend
the conversation for just a moment, in certain entertainment fields,
we have the concept of a public presentation. So, for example, copyright does not prevent us from singing
Christmas carols seasonally but it prevents the public performance. And I’m wondering if it might be
useful to think about instead of expanding fair use to unlimited,
non-commercial, verbatim copying, to something less than that
but more than the present concept of fair use.
I used to think that that might be enough, and then Napster
convinced me otherwise because Napster is used by its users for
non-commercial, verbatim re-distribution.
The Napster server, itself, is a commercial activity but
the people who are actually putting things up are doing so non-commercially,
and they could have done so on their websites just as easily.
The tremendous excitement about, interest in, and use of
Napster shows that that’s very useful.
So I’m convinced now that people should have the
right to publicly non-commercially, re-distributed, verbatim copies
QUESTION: One analogy
that was recently suggested to me for the whole Napster question
was the analogy of the public library.
I suppose some of you who have heard the Napster arguments
have heard this analogy. I’m
wondering if you would comment on it.
The defenders of people who say Napster should continue and
there shouldn’t be restrictions on it sometimes say something
like this: “When folks go into the public library and borrow
a book, they’re not paying for it, and it can be borrowed
dozens of times, hundreds of time, without any additional payment.
Why is Napster any different?”
Well, it’s not exactly the same.
But it should be pointed out that the publishers want to
transform public libraries into pay-per-use, retail outlets. So they’re against public libraries.
QUESTION: Can these
ideas about copyright suggest any ideas for certain issues about
patent law such as making cheap, generic drugs for use in Africa?
No, there’s absolutely no similarity.
The issues of patents are totally different from the issues
of copyrights. The
idea that they have something to do with each other is one of
the unfortunate consequences of using the term “intellectual
property” and encouraging people to try to lump these issues
together because, as you’ve heard, I’ve been talking
about issues in which the price of a copy is not the crucial thing.
But what’s the crucial issue about making AIDS drugs
for Africa? It’s the price, nothing but the price.
the issue I’ve been talking about arises because digital
information technology gives every user the ability to make copies.
Well, there’s nothing giving us all the ability to
make copies of medicines. I don’t have the ability to copy
some medicine that I’ve got.
In fact, nobody does; that’s not how they’re
made. Those medicines can only be made in expensive
factories and they are made in expensive centralized factories,
whether they’re generic drugs or imported from the U.S. Either way, they’re going to be
made in a small number of factories, and the issues are simply
how much do they cost and are they available at a price that people
in Africa can afford.
that’s a tremendously important issue, but it’s a
totally different issue. There’s just one area where an issue
arises with patents that is actually similar to these issues of
freedom to copy, and that is in the area of agriculture. Because there are certain patented things that can be copies,
more or less – namely, living things. They copy themselves when they reproduce. It’s not necessarily exact copying;
they re-shuffle the genes.
But the fact is, farmers for millennia have been making
use of this capacity of the living things they grow to copy themselves. Farming is, basically, copying the things
that you grew and you keep copying them every year. When plant and animal varieties get patented,
when genes are patented and used in them, the result is that farmers
are being prohibited from doing this.
is a farmer in Canada who had a patented variety growing on his
field and he said, “I didn’t do that deliberately.
The pollen blew, and the wind in those genes got into my
stock of plants.”
And he was told that that doesn’t matter; he has
to destroy them anyway. It was an extreme example of how much
government can side with a monopolist.
I believe that, following the same principles that I apply to
copying things on your computer, farmers should have an unquestioned
right to save their seeds and breed their livestock.
Maybe you could have patents covering seed companies, but
they shouldn’t cover farmers.
more to making a model successful than just the licensing.
Can you speak to that?
Absolutely. Well, you know, I don’t know the
answers. But part of
what I believe is crucial for developing free, functional information
is idealism. People have to recognize that it’s
important for this information to be free, that when the information
is free, you can make full use of it.
When it’s restricted, you can’t. You have to recognize that the non-free information is an attempt
to divide them and keep them helpless and keep them down. Then they can get the idea, “Let’s
work together to produce the information we want to use, so that
it’s not under the control of some powerful person who can
dictate to us what we can do.”
tremendously boosts it. But
I don’t know how much it will work in various different areas,
but I think that in the area of education, when you’re looking
for textbooks, I think I see a way it can be done.
There are a lot of teachers in the world, teachers who are
not at prestigious universities – maybe they’re in high-school;
maybe they’re in college – where they don’t write
and publish a lot of things and there’s not a tremendous demand
for them. But a lot
of them are smart. A
lot of them know their subjects well and they could write textbooks
about lots of subjects and share them with the world and receive
a tremendous amount of appreciation from the people who will have
learned from them.
what I proposed. But
the funny thing is, I do know the history of education. That’s what I do – educational,
electronic media projects.
I couldn’t find an example.
Do you know of one?
No, I don’t.
I started proposing this free encyclopedia and learning
resource a couple of years ago, and I thought it would probably
take a decade to get things rolling. Now we already have an encyclopedia that
is rolling. So things
are going faster than I hoped.
I think what’s needed is for a few people to start
writing some free textbooks. Write one about whatever is your favorite
subject or write a fraction of one. Write a few chapters of one and challenge other people to write
what I was looking for is something even more than that. What’s important in your kind of
structure is somebody that creates an infrastructure to which everybody
else can contribute. There
isn’t a K through 12 infrastructure out there in any place
for a contribution for materials.
I can get information from lots of places but it’s
not released under free licenses, so I can’t use it to make
a free textbook.
Actually, copyright doesn’t cover the facts. It only covers the way it’s written.
So you can learn a field from anywhere and then write a textbook,
and you can make that textbook free, if you want.
I can’t write by myself all the textbooks that a student
needs going through school.
Well, it’s true.
And I didn’t write a whole, free operating system,
either. I wrote some pieces and invited other
people to join me by writing other pieces. So I set an example.
I said, “I’m going in this direction. Join me and we’ll get there.”
And enough people joined in that we got there.
So if you think in terms of, how am I going to get this
whole gigantic job done, it can be daunting.
So the point is, don’t look at it that way.
Think in terms of taking a step and realizing that after
you’ve taken a step, other people will take more steps and,
together, it will get the job done eventually.
that humanity doesn’t wipe itself out, the work we do today
to produce the free educational infrastructure, the free learning
resource for the world, that will be useful for as long as humanity
exists. If it takes
20 years to get it done, so what? So don’t think in terms of the size of the whole job.
Think in terms of the piece that you’re going to
do. That will show
people it can be done, and so others will do other pieces.