GNU Project Founder Calls Steam on Linux "Unethical"

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GNU Project Founder Calls Steam on Linux "Unethical"

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The GNU movement's founder doesn't like the idea of DRM on an open-source platform.

Recently, Valve's Gabe Newell claimed that gaming would help to bring Linux into the mainstream, and announced his plans to officially release Steam on Linux. In response, the founder of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project, Richard Stallman, has hit back saying that closed-source games on Linux could harm the very freedom the GNU project was set up to achieve.

In a statement on the GNU website, Stallman conceded that a wider availability of "non-free" programs would indeed most likely increase the uptake of Linux among computer programs. "However," he said, "our goal goes beyond making this system a 'success'; its purpose is to bring freedom to the users." He went on to say that non-free programs, game or otherwise, are "unethical because they deny freedom to their users."

Stallman does, however, use Steam's transition to Linux to make a call for users to steer away from Microsoft's operating system: "If you're going to use these games, you're better off using them on GNU/Linux rather than on Microsoft Windows," he stated. "At least you avoid the harm to your freedom that Windows would do." In all, Stallman thinks that the overall benefit of PC gamers migrating to Linux would just about outweigh the detriments, but he worries that the focus of users would shift away from software freedom.

The GNU founder seems to be unhappy at Valve's apparent attempt to use Linux as a marketing point, saying at the end of his statement, "Please take care not to talk about the availability of these games on GNU/Linux as support for our cause." While he seems happy to afford users the freedom to run closed software on Linux rather than Windows if they so choose, he certainly sounds keen to curtail any thoughts that Steam is in line with his original design philosophy.

Source: GNU Project via Ars Technica

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I guess this guy forgot the part where Valve is a business. I'd understand being upset about Steam's use of DRM, but the fact that he is mad about paying for games is... unsettling.

I kinda agree with the guy, GOG.com seems more in line with what Linux stands for, not Steam. While there's nothing wrong with a company porting their software to a new OS and supporting that port, it doesn't necessarily mean that the ideals and goals of the two mesh. In the end though it doesn't really matter to me, since I refuse to use Steam under any circumstances, regardless of Operating System. I just hope that this doesn't become a trend, DRM-heavy software coming over to Linux and dominating the market to the point that it becomes impossible for Linux to be a cheap alternative for users again.

Fappy:
I guess this guy forgot the part where Valve is a business. I'd understand being upset about Steam's use of DRM, but the fact that he is mad about paying for games is... unsettling.

Free not as in Beer, free as in freedom.

Vie:

Fappy:
I guess this guy forgot the part where Valve is a business. I'd understand being upset about Steam's use of DRM, but the fact that he is mad about paying for games is... unsettling.

Free not as in Beer, free as in freedom.

Well then if that's the case I can understand his concern.

I dream of an open source gaming world. A world where every game could have a massive player base writing additional modifications like we see with Skyrim on the PC. I would pay so much money for that. Seriously.

Thus we see why Linux has never been a gaming platform, open source is not profitable. It's many good things but it certainly isn't something you do for a living (unless you charge for your expertise). If everything always fit the Linux ideal, its unlikely to ever have an major games on it. Still, if they want Linux to be used by more user, you have to make sacrifices to make it more appealing. Course sometimes wide spread use doesn't matter as much as holding onto ideals. Makes me wonder what the world would be like if Unix systems had become wide-spread early on and maintained there popularity and Windows was now the minority market share.

Just to clarify:

When Stallman says "free" - he means free of DRM, free of distributor-imposed limitations and with source code freely available so you can remix and change the software to whatever shape you wish.

This does not necessarily mean free of charge, but often does.

But on the other hand, not having Steam on Linux removes your freedom to use Steam on Linux.

Dun dun dun.

"You're free to do as you like, just not that"

He just seems to be dancing on both sides of the fence. I'm free to choose to agree to bind myself to a contract. If I'm told to not shake hands in a two way agreement, I'd say that's a little less free.

Fappy:
I guess this guy forgot the part where Valve is a business. I'd understand being upset about Steam's use of DRM, but the fact that he is mad about paying for games is... unsettling.

He's not mad about paying for games. He's mad about paying for closed games on a platform that was founded on the idea of open, free software (Games or otherwise). He doesn't have a problem with businesses trying to make money, he has a problem with businesses trying to make money on a project and platform that was founded on the idea of software freedom and open-source alternatives.

And I echo his concerns.

I love Steam, and applaud a lot of the business practices that Valve has adopted. They aren't perfect, but they are a pretty massive step in the right direction. I also love Linux, and what it represents. It shows that people can come together to create something truly great and ground-breaking, something that really actually has a foothold in the market (However small)...and is entirely free. It was created to be used, not be bought. It's about the open, free exchange of software and ideas for the sake of helping others, and building up our digital communities.

And those two things are a bit at odds. Not entirely, but at a certain level, they don't mix. Steam is a distribution platform for closed source, locked entertainment. Linux is a platform for open source, open entertainment and productivity.

Bringing Steam to Linux can open the doors to Linux for thousands of gamers, who may have never otherwise tried Linux as an alternative. This is very very exciting.
But it also brings with it the possibility of other big businesses pushing their way into the world and platform of Linux. Businesses who may not hold to the ideals of Linux, or as least understands them, as well as Gabe Newell seems to. Steam is a powerhouse, undeniably, and with this push (Depending on it's success) comes the very real possibility of a proverbial 'flood' of unscrupulous software and game companies looking to make a buck in the once free land of Linux.

Will that happen? Who knows. I won't say the glass is either half empty, or half full. But I and many other open source advocates will be watching this with both great excitement, as well as great concern.

Vie:

Fappy:
I guess this guy forgot the part where Valve is a business. I'd understand being upset about Steam's use of DRM, but the fact that he is mad about paying for games is... unsettling.

Free not as in Beer, free as in freedom.

On the other hand, if it's free as in freedom it might as well be free as in beer, because one of those freedoms is being able to redistribute it as widely as you want - so basically, piracy. Which is all well and good if you're making open-source software as a hobby and want to share it with the world, but Stallman and his fellow software-wants-to-be-free types think it's morally wrong to create media for profit. They're basically communists in denial.

Baby Tea:
-Snip-

Has Linux ever had its philosophy endangered like this before? I admit, my knowledge of Linux is limited to a few friends who use it.

Fappy:
I guess this guy forgot the part where Valve is a business. I'd understand being upset about Steam's use of DRM, but the fact that he is mad about paying for games is... unsettling.

Stallman is well-known in the software world for his dedication to his principles above everything else. He works off of a laptop that's entirely open-source; he works off of the command-line almost exclusively, and rather than using a web browser, he sends an e-mail that launches a script that mails him back the page he wanted.

He's a weird guy, but you can't claim he's a hypocrite; he stands by everything he says. :)

http://stallman.org/stallman-computing.html

Fappy:

Baby Tea:
-Snip-

Has Linux ever had its philosophy endangered like this before? I admit, my knowledge of Linux is limited to a few friends who use it.

There have been, and are, other companies that sell software for Linux. But I can't think of any company like Valve making this kind of push. As far as I know, it's pretty unprecedented. Which is why it's both so exciting, and so scary.

ScruffyMcBalls:
I kinda agree with the guy, GOG.com seems more in line with what Linux stands for, not Steam. While there's nothing wrong with a company porting their software to a new OS and supporting that port, it doesn't necessarily mean that the ideals and goals of the two mesh. In the end though it doesn't really matter to me, since I refuse to use Steam under any circumstances, regardless of Operating System. I just hope that this doesn't become a trend, DRM-heavy software coming over to Linux and dominating the market to the point that it becomes impossible for Linux to be a cheap alternative for users again.

He would not like GOG, too. He is a fanatic. And he does not speaks for Linux, he speaks for GNU (not that I think there is a Linux that isn't GNU, except Android and Chrome OS, maybe).

Walter Byers:
I dream of an open source gaming world. A world where every game could have a massive player base writing additional modifications like we see with Skyrim on the PC. I would pay so much money for that. Seriously.

"Modding" is not the same as "open source".

Twilight_guy:
Thus we see why Linux has never been a gaming platform, open source is not profitable. It's many good things but it certainly isn't something you do for a living (unless you charge for your expertise). If everything always fit the Linux ideal, its unlikely to ever have an major games on it. Still, if they want Linux to be used by more user, you have to make sacrifices to make it more appealing. Course sometimes wide spread use doesn't matter as much as holding onto ideals. Makes me wonder what the world would be like if Unix systems had become wide-spread early on and maintained there popularity and Windows was now the minority market share.

You CAN make Open Source for a living. There are millions of companies that proved that. But I don't think this remains true when we talk about games.

JediMB:
But on the other hand, not having Steam on Linux removes your freedom to use Steam on Linux.

Dun dun dun.

As I said, he is fanatical. He does not see that, ironically, he wants to ENFORCE freedom.

Fappy:

Baby Tea:
-Snip-

Has Linux ever had its philosophy endangered like this before? I admit, my knowledge of Linux is limited to a few friends who use it.

Nope. And Linux is pretty popular on servers.

I still think Steam should go though with it. If it turns out that Linux users WANT Steam on their systems then wouldn't it go against the "freedom" that Linux stands for by not letting them have Steam?

If they want it they want it, if they don't they don't. I'm not sure if this will blow the door wide open for Linux, but I do know what happens when you leave the door open... you let in the bugs.

Fappy:

Baby Tea:
-Snip-

Has Linux ever had its philosophy endangered like this before? I admit, my knowledge of Linux is limited to a few friends who use it.

All the time actually ... As Linux is used to run very expensive commercial server software often.

His concern is the mixing of open platform (which Linux installed at home is) with licensed software, as Linux on servers has already gone past that hurdle of "open" in many cases. I agree with him as well. DRM is important but it is at odds with fully open platform philosophy.

I really like the fact that he doesn't dismiss Steam as an idea all together, but rather sounds a warning so it is not implemented wrongly. Good time to do it too, before it is officially released.

Baby Tea:
He's not mad about paying for games. He's mad about paying for closed games on a platform that was founded on the idea of open, free software (Games or otherwise). He doesn't have a problem with businesses trying to make money, he has a problem with businesses trying to make money on a project and platform that was founded on the idea of software freedom and open-source alternatives.

And I echo his concerns.

I love Steam, and applaud a lot of the business practices that Valve has adopted. They aren't perfect, but they are a pretty massive step in the right direction. I also love Linux, and what it represents. It shows that people can come together to create something truly great and ground-breaking, something that really actually has a foothold in the market (However small)...and is entirely free. It was created to be used, not be bought. It's about the open, free exchange of software and ideas for the sake of helping others, and building up our digital communities.

And those two things are a bit at odds. Not entirely, but at a certain level, they don't mix. Steam is a distribution platform for closed source, locked entertainment. Linux is a platform for open source, open entertainment and productivity.

Bringing Steam to Linux can open the doors to Linux for thousands of gamers, who may have never otherwise tried Linux as an alternative. This is very very exciting.
But it also brings with it the possibility of other big businesses pushing their way into the world and platform of Linux. Businesses who may not hold to the ideals of Linux, or as least understands them, as well as Gabe Newell seems to. Steam is a powerhouse, undeniably, and with this push (Depending on it's success) comes the very real possibility of a proverbial 'flood' of unscrupulous software and game companies looking to make a buck in the once free land of Linux.

Will that happen? Who knows. I won't say the glass is either half empty, or half full. But I and many other open source advocates will be watching this with both great excitement, as well as great concern.

"And Lo, EA followed Valve's lead, and expanded to the land of Linux. And lo, nobody gave a damn, because Origin was still horrible in every way imaginable."

I'm sorry to break this to you, but if you want people to use something, you have to make it worth using. If you want people to switch to Linux, they have to have comparable functionality to Microsoft and Apple.

I've used Linux. I stopped because half my games didn't run. If my games DID run, I'd use Linux, since that would make it a straight upgrade from Microsoft.

So, I guess it boils down to: Is Linux an elitist, exclusionary platform that rejects everyday users in favor of those who are ultra-smart or who are willing to have a computer that doesn't actually work so long as it's "free"? Or are they actually trying to ACCOMPLISH something? Because if they want the average user to switch to Linux, they have to make Linux worth switching to. Coding something falls outside the bounds of "common knowledge" and into the bounds of "professional-level learning". If you want Linux to be a platform made specifically for professionals, fine, but don't promote it as an alternative to Windows. Because as horrific as Windows is, I don't have to code my own patches.

Walter Byers:
I dream of an open source gaming world. A world where every game could have a massive player base writing additional modifications like we see with Skyrim on the PC. I would pay so much money for that. Seriously.

Wait... like Skyrim, on the PC, with Steam Workshop behind it? ;-)

ScruffyMcBalls:
I kinda agree with the guy, GOG.com seems more in line with what Linux stands for, not Steam. While there's nothing wrong with a company porting their software to a new OS and supporting that port, it doesn't necessarily mean that the ideals and goals of the two mesh. In the end though it doesn't really matter to me, since I refuse to use Steam under any circumstances, regardless of Operating System. I just hope that this doesn't become a trend, DRM-heavy software coming over to Linux and dominating the market to the point that it becomes impossible for Linux to be a cheap alternative for users again.

If someone can find a profitable model for open source games, this could be true. Right now, it's very hard to equate "open source" with "profitable game". There are some good open source games but they're mostly copied from other existing commercial games. Many open source game projects suffer because art is expensive to produce and people who can create quality art will rarely do so for free, much less make it available through a free license. To make a truly free game (in the sense of freedom) all the art assets should be made free as well, and this is hard (as exemplified by id open sourcing its engines, they never come with the levels and the art for the respective games).

Hence why there hasn't been a single big success story for open source games yet. Games are expensive to produce and no one was able to equate being free with being profitable.

In general I'm a free software supporter but I don't think this should be an extreme position. There are many different cases and games are one of them in which they're more an entertaining product than a software product. Stallman thinks everything should be free and open, with no exceptions. Maybe someday this will be possible for everything, but right now it's not practical.

Azuaron:
So, I guess it boils down to: Is Linux an elitist, exclusionary platform that rejects everyday users in favor of those who are ultra-smart or who are willing to have a computer that doesn't actually work so long as it's "free"? Or are they actually trying to ACCOMPLISH something? Because if they want the average user to switch to Linux, they have to make Linux worth switching to. Coding something falls outside the bounds of "common knowledge" and into the bounds of "professional-level learning". If you want Linux to be a platform made specifically for professionals, fine, but don't promote it as an alternative to Windows. Because as horrific as Windows is, I don't have to code my own patches.

I just have to highlight this.
This is the most important aspect of this debate and even Stallman pointed this out exactly.

If you want Linux to "beat" Windows, it needs more mainstream. Games are a good way to go mainstream quickly and Steam is not a bad way to go about it.

However, some of the purity and openness might have to be conceded in the process. And I have to agree with Mr. Stallman again, the least amount of loss is what matters. We don't want another Windows with a penguin logo.

PingoBlack:
--snip--

Quote error

uncanny474:
So, I guess it boils down to: Is Linux an elitist, exclusionary platform that rejects everyday users in favor of those who are ultra-smart or who are willing to have a computer that doesn't actually work so long as it's "free"? Or are they actually trying to ACCOMPLISH something? Because if they want the average user to switch to Linux, they have to make Linux worth switching to. Coding something falls outside the bounds of "common knowledge" and into the bounds of "professional-level learning". If you want Linux to be a platform made specifically for professionals, fine, but don't promote it as an alternative to Windows. Because as horrific as Windows is, I don't have to code my own patches.

How long has it been since you used Linux?
I can get an Ubuntu or Mint machine up and running a Windows game in Wine without typing a line of code. Both of those distributions (Just to name two) are extremely user friendly. They are different than Windows, no question, but still very user friendly. I'd say just as user friendly as Windows. The only problem is that people have been using Windows for decades. People are so used to it, that anything else seems utterly foreign. Like when a long time Windows user sits down at a Mac and says 'what the heck is this?'. Because it doesn't have a start button, or windows explorer, or anything they are used to.

Linux is far from rejecting everyday users. Ubuntu alone is a testament to the commitment of the Linux community to reach out to the less technically minded and offer an alternative to paid operating systems. It's easy, it's available, and it works.

That being said, Linux just isn't compatible with a lot of games out there. And if you want it to be that can, indeed, take some tinkering. But that's hardly the fault of the Linux community or the OS. Nobody is excluding people from making software for Linux, developers are discounting Linux when making their software. It's not until recently that bigger software and game developers have really started to look at Linux as a real player, and Valve is bringing some serious fire-power to this move. Steam is a major distributor of games (obviously), and to have that on Linux is a major indicator of what types of shifts we can see in the future in regards to OS compatibility.

And Linux is beyond ready for it. OpenGL is extremely capable for graphic fidelity, even when up against Direct3D. All that is needed is for more companies, like Valve, to get on board. Not to mention a lower over-head for everyone involved.

Linux is absolutely 'worth using'.

I do believe his point is kind of moot. you can already get paid drm-software on Linux by using Wine and running windows games and software through it. while you don't have to pay for wine, you don't have to pay for steam's actual software either.

Guys... this is Richard Stallman.

The man uses ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that isn't open-source software.

He'd oppose a freaking FREE program if it was controlled by only one group.

Case in point:

http://stallman.org/

There's his personal website. He opposes Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Skype... the list extends.

Steve the Pocket:

Vie:

Fappy:
I guess this guy forgot the part where Valve is a business. I'd understand being upset about Steam's use of DRM, but the fact that he is mad about paying for games is... unsettling.

Free not as in Beer, free as in freedom.

On the other hand, if it's free as in freedom it might as well be free as in beer, because one of those freedoms is being able to redistribute it as widely as you want - so basically, piracy. Which is all well and good if you're making open-source software as a hobby and want to share it with the world, but Stallman and his fellow software-wants-to-be-free types think it's morally wrong to create media for profit. They're basically communists in denial.

How is Stallman in denial about being a communist, now?

Stallman complains about X. Stallman complains about Y. Stallman complains about someone saying "Linux" and not "GNU/Linux" like God meant it to be.

I await the day when a headline reads "Stallman thinks Z is quite good."

Baby Tea:

uncanny474:
--snip--

--snip--

The problem with Linux is that it's only useful for absolute beginners and experts. As soon as you want to do anything more complicated than surf the internet or use a word processor (and sometimes even then), you have to start writing patches and scripts, which, as a non-expert, I totally screw up, and then suddenly my computer crashes every time I turn it on.

And for games? Forget about it. PC gaming has always been plagued with hardware incompatibilities and driver conflicts. Add Linux to the mix (where you could very well be writing your own drivers) and good luck!

And you know what? I don't want to be an expert Linux user. I don't want to be an expert Windows user or an expert Mac user. I want to be able to say, "Computer, do this," and have it do it.

So, Windows it is.

(Every couple of years since 2006 I try Linux again, and it never gets much better.)

Azuaron:

Baby Tea:

uncanny474:
--snip--

--snip--

The problem with Linux is that it's only useful for absolute beginners and experts. As soon as you want to do anything more complicated than surf the internet or use a word processor (and sometimes even then), you have to start writing patches and scripts, which, as a non-expert, I totally screw up, and then suddenly my computer crashes every time I turn it on.

And for games? Forget about it. PC gaming has always been plagued with hardware incompatibilities and driver conflicts. Add Linux to the mix (where you could very well be writing your own drivers) and good luck!

And you know what? I don't want to be an expert Linux user. I don't want to be an expert Windows user or an expert Mac user. I want to be able to say, "Computer, do this," and have it do it.

So, Windows it is.

(Every couple of years since 2006 I try Linux again, and it never gets much better.)

This has not been true for a long time. You don't need to write a single script to use Ubuntu.

(But, indeed, you need lots of scripts for expert distros, as Arch Linux. I'm suffering with it).

Challenging his ideology by making a large amount of competing non-free software is ethical. He should embrace a chance to see if he might be right and free software people make in their spare time can withstand competition by the opposite or not.

Fappy:

Baby Tea:
-Snip-

Has Linux ever had its philosophy endangered like this before? I admit, my knowledge of Linux is limited to a few friends who use it.

Has GNU* ever had it's philosophy endangered like this. Linux is a kernel, GNU is an operating system. Plenty of GNU/Linux distributions use non-free software or standards (non-free meaning under a proprietary license), and many have versions both with and without non-free elements. Hell, free distributions can't play mp3s out of the box, since that's a proprietary standard.

Vie:

Fappy:
I guess this guy forgot the part where Valve is a business. I'd understand being upset about Steam's use of DRM, but the fact that he is mad about paying for games is... unsettling.

Free not as in Beer, free as in freedom.

I can completely understand how that confusion would occur. That was a spectacular example of bad communication on Stallman's part; anyone who's not very familiar with the GNU movement will assume he's whining because people have to pay for things.

He needs to learn to speak effectively, or encourage someone else to be the public voice of the movement.

Azuaron:
The problem with Linux is that it's only useful for absolute beginners and experts. As soon as you want to do anything more complicated than surf the internet or use a word processor (and sometimes even then), you have to start writing patches and scripts, which, as a non-expert, I totally screw up, and then suddenly my computer crashes every time I turn it on.

This seems extreme.
I'm not sure what exactly you're trying to do that requires you to write your own scripts, or what distribution you're using. I've done everything from audio editing (I'm a radio producer by trade), word processing, networking, server set-ups, photo manipulation, desktop customization, and more and have never had to write a line of code, so long as I was using something like Ubuntu.

I use Slitaz Linux for servers, and that DOES require coding and command-line usage, but who the heck is using that besides nerds like me? Even so, you can use Slitaz for the mundane (Web surfing, word processing, etc) and it would STILL work perfectly with no code or command-line usage.

I'd put it to you that Windows isn't easier, you're just used to it more. Which is totally fair. If you've been using it since 3.0 like I have, you just 'get used' to the fact that certain things work certain ways, and when you're introduced to an operating system that does it differently, it just seems like a user unfriendly platform.

And Linux isn't that incompatible as you might think. ESPECIALLY with something like Ubuntu. I've installed Ubuntu (Or Xubuntu) on some old shitty machines, and had zero issues with hardware compatibility out of the proverbial box. This includes obscure wi-fi drivers and GPUs. Speaking of which: OpenGL runs naively in Linux, and there are plenty of drivers available for existing, modern GPUs.

This isn't the mid to late 90s anymore. Linux, Ubuntu specifically, is more than capable, and very user friendly.

Steve the Pocket:

Vie:

Fappy:
I guess this guy forgot the part where Valve is a business. I'd understand being upset about Steam's use of DRM, but the fact that he is mad about paying for games is... unsettling.

Free not as in Beer, free as in freedom.

On the other hand, if it's free as in freedom it might as well be free as in beer, because one of those freedoms is being able to redistribute it as widely as you want - so basically, piracy. Which is all well and good if you're making open-source software as a hobby and want to share it with the world, but Stallman and his fellow software-wants-to-be-free types think it's morally wrong to create media for profit. They're basically communists in denial.

This is not necessarily true. Providing source code does not require one to permit open distribution. That's a licensing issue. Granted, most software with source code available now is as you say, but it doesn't have to be that way.

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