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You are here: Home Blogs Community A message from president Geoffrey Knauth: Reflecting on the origins of software freedom

A message from president Geoffrey Knauth: Reflecting on the origins of software freedom

by Geoff Knauth Contributions Published on Dec 28, 2023 04:32 PM

This year-end, we are putting an emphasis on education and how we can best secure freedom for generations to come. Our fundraising goal is $375,000, and we are only 20% away from reaching it! The deadline is only two days away! We need your support, and any contribution is valuable. This is a great reason to speak to your neighbors and loved ones about free software. We need to secure the funds to defend the four freedoms and educate others about them.

By donating to us today, you help secure a free future, one in which everyone will be able to learn in freedom and will know their rights as a user. You can also advocate for user freedom by convincing just one person to join the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Any contribution made before December 31 will count towards achieving our year-end goal. Below is a message from our president, Geoffrey Knauth, reflecting on the FSF's mission to protect software users everywhere.

Humans have wondered about origins beyond memory, perhaps even before we had words. In our community of free software activists, the origin is GNU, a declaration of freedoms that must be guarded. The FSF is the firmament created to protect and develop the GNU Project, and, these days, other free software initiatives as well. Today, GNU is the gold standard of what free software should be: unambiguously devoted to your computing freedom and rigorously maintained to provide maximum power and extensibility to users. The purpose of GNU is also to inspire developers, to educate those who wish to code and create in the ultimate collaborative project.

These days, much of the world's computers have free software in it. Some people say, "We have won, we can relax." If only that were true. The same forces that wanted to take away your freedom are far more powerful today than they were forty years ago. People put their software where they think it will be safe, only to discover that some processes of corporatization and capitalization make those places less safe, less permanent, less owned by you and more an "asset" of a corporation that is not you. In the worst cases, your code that was free gets morphed into software that is ultimately not free.

More than a half century ago, a number of dystopian novels warned us against what the world might become if we did not appreciate our freedoms. Ask yourself if now many of those authors' worst fears have not become reality for billions of people around the world. Many of today's rulers seem preoccupied with taking away freedoms you have enjoyed. Wealth for some is often collected by creating scarcity for many, especially when that scarcity had not existed before. Many rulers seek to make freedom itself a scarcity too. Is that the world you want?

The FSF exists to protect your freedoms in the realm of computing. Given that computing is so much more a part of our lives than ever, it is vitally important that you consider how you can help. I'm sure that far more than 375,000 persons have benefited from free software. The real number is likely orders of magnitude more.

If only 375,000 persons gave one dollar, we would meet this year's fundraising goal, and it would maintain the organization and its very dedicated staff, who work exclusively to protect your computing freedom. The staff is fantastic. I am so proud of their energy and commitment. The GNU maintainers and volunteers, too, are endlessly dedicated and generous with their time and creativity. There are so many freedom-respecting projects that need funding. If you don't have a dollar, then think of something else you can do. Write an essay about a freedom you are worried you might lose. Write about the world you would like to see.

Don't allow the world to become the dystopian nightmare, imposed on you, that some few would like it to be. Give of yourselves for the world you want, and that gift will come back to you and those who follow after you.

Be well and be free,

Geoff Knauth

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