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Linux, GNU, and freedom


Since Joe Barr\'s article criticized my dealings with SIGLINUX, I would like to set the record straight about what actually occurred, and state my reasons.

When SIGLINUX invited me to speak, it was a \"Linux User Group\"; that is, a group for users of the GNU/Linux system which calls the whole system \"Linux\". So I replied politely that if they\'d like someone from the GNU Project to give a speech for them, they ought to treat the GNU Project right, and call the system \"GNU/Linux\". The system is a variant of GNU, and the GNU Project is its principal developer, so social convention says to call it by the name we chose. Unless there are powerful reasons for an exception, I usually decline to give speeches for organizations that won\'t give GNU proper credit in this way. I respect their freedom of speech, but I also have the freedom not to give a speech.

Subsequently, Jeff Strunk of SIGLINUX tried to change the group\'s policy, and asked the FSF to list his group in our page of GNU/Linux user groups. Our webmaster told him that we would not list it under the name \"SIGLINUX\" because that name implies that the group is about Linux. Strunk proposed to change the name to \"SIGFREE\", and our webmaster agreed that would be fine. (Barr\'s article said we rejected this proposal.) However, the group ultimately decided to stay with \"SIGLINUX\".

At that point, the matter came to my attention again, and I suggested they consider other possible names. There are many names they could choose that would not call the system \"Linux\", and I hope they will come up with one they like. There the matter rests as far as I know.

Is it true, as Barr writes, that some people see these actions as an \"application of force\" comparable with Microsoft\'s monopoly power? Probably so. Declining an invitation is not coercion, but people who are determined to believe that the entire system is \"Linux\" sometimes develop amazingly distorted vision. To make that name appear justified, they must see molehills as mountains and mountains as molehills. If you can ignore the facts and believe that Linus Torvalds developed the whole system starting in 1991, or if you can ignore your ordinary principles of fairness and believe that Torvalds should get the sole credit even though he didn\'t do that, it\'s a small step to believe that I owe you a speech when you ask.