22 September 2010
Free software activist speaks at RMIT
Free software activist Dr Richard Stallman was a guest of RMIT.
A packed house crowded RMIT’s Storey Hall for the talk.
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Corporate copyright powers and the threat to public access to technology were key themes in a talk by internationally renowned software freedom activist, Dr Richard Stallman, to a packed house at RMIT University last week.
Dr Stallman described how current copyright laws were inadequate when applied to modern computer networks in his speech, titled Copyright vs Community in the Age of Computer Networks.
The event was co-sponsored by the School of Computer Science and Information Technology, the Society of System Administrators Guild of Australia (SAGE-AU), the IEEE Computer Society (Victorian section) and the IEEE RMIT student branch.
"The global corporations that profit from copyright are lobbying for draconian punishments, and to increase their copyright powers, while suppressing public access to technology," Dr Stallman said.
"But if we seriously hope to serve the only legitimate purpose of copyright - to promote progress, for the benefit of the public - then we must make changes in the other direction."
Dr Stallman periodically tours the world explaining his position on the importance of free software, freedom in the sharing of information, the dangers of software patents and why long copyright periods for artistic works are against the public interest.
As founder and President of the Free Software Foundation, Dr Stallman was instrumental in developing the GNU operating system in 1984, which is free software that anyone can access, copy, change or redistribute.
The combination of the tools developed by GNU and Linus Torvald's Linux kernel provided the first usable free operating system and the GNU/Linux system is used on tens of millions of computers today.
Dr Stallman has been the recipient of the ACM Grace Hopper Award, a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award and the Takeda Award for Social/Economic Betterment, as well as several honorary doctorates.
IEEE volunteers (including RMIT students) helped publicise and run the event, which attracted some 400 people. They were awarded Certificates of Appreciation by the association.