Richard Fontana

Richard Fontana at

I think in a way you romanticize or at least oversimplify what was going on in your elders' time, based on my own historical research.

In the 1980s, the attitudes of many hackers towards the consequences of permissive licensing and also proprietization of free software ranged from indifference to complacency to outright enthusiasm. Many of the early proprietary software entrepreneurs emerged from the same hacker-research social mileu that RMS came out of. RMS's invention of copyleft was not some act of normalcy: it was a revolutionary act at the time because the norm was already permissive licensing in software-sharing communities. Once RMS and others associated with the FSF (such as Len Tower) began to promote the ideas around copyleft, coinciding with the release of influential copylefted software like GNU Emacs and GCC, much of the reaction from their fellow hackers, people more or less their own age, was hostility. That atmosphere of hostility is the context to the GNU Manifesto, for example, but the hostility increased as the 1980s went on, it sees to me from what I've researched. Things only started changing (if they changed at all) when a somewhat younger generation -- which includes you at the younger end, probably -- began to see copyleft as a preferred licensing policy.

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Actually re-reading what you wrote I am not sure anything I'm saying is inconsistent with what you were saying. If there were an obvious way to delete comments I would have deleted that one and perhaps replaced it with another, FWIW.

Richard Fontana at 2014-01-13T14:34:20Z