Downtown sidewalks in disbelief littered her stare with a snowfall of shattered glass. Last night's clouds had finally broken — for good. The closeted morning heat was just coming out, shimmering the laddered streets into a Florida nativity scene; snow flung out by believers bereft of earthly anchor. Only a slight breeze stirred fumes and sulfur in steam up from the crunched wreckage, against an overturned police cruiser's lonely remaining tire desperately spinning smoke to the rhythm of a looping APB. Others were emerging slowly but exponentially. They came from cars, basement stairways, dumpsters, subway entrances and exits. Everyone meanwhile clung to something, holding steady while the ground beneath shifted and dug brokenly into the soles of their work shoes and high heels. Trained eyes tried to discern who could be said to have won something, when what they had heard all night was everyone losing everything.
Eyes angled upward, first from aversion, second from hope, third to focus the sound of rotors descending. With no clouds left, she could easily see the copters. Everything had settled so heavily that all movement sank when they came down. She knew that something must happen soon, but for now, there was just nothing left. She turned away from the landing and its megaphones, spinning faster and faster, around but not away.
I'm trying to change the way people approach knowledge and information in
general. I think that to try to own knowledge, to try to control whether people
are allowed to use it, or to try to stop other people from sharing it, is
sabotage. It is an activity that benefits the person that does it at the cost
of impoverishing all of society. One person gains one dollar by destroying two
dollars' worth of wealth. I think a person with a conscience wouldn't do that
sort of thing except perhaps if he would otherwise die. And of course the
people who do this are fairly rich; I can only conclude that they are
unscrupulous. I would like to see people get rewards for writing free software
and for encouraging other people to use it. I don't want to see people get
rewards for writing proprietary software because that is not really a
contribution to society. The principle of capitalism is the idea that people
manage to make money by producing things and thereby are encouraged to do what
is useful, automatically, so to speak. But that doesn't work when it comes to
owning knowledge. They are encouraged to do not really what's useful, and what
really is useful is not encouraged. I think it is important to say that
information is different from material objects like cars and loaves of bread
because people can copy it and share it on their own and, if nobody attempts to
stop them, they can change it and make it better for themselves. That is a
useful thing for people to do. This isn't true of loaves of bread. If you have
one loaf of bread and you want another, you can't just put your loaf of bread
into a bread copier. you can't make another one except by going through all the
steps that were used to make the first one. It therefore is irrelevant whether
people are permitted to copy it--it's impossible.
-- Richard Stallman, interview in BYTE, 1986
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