Imagine a World Without the GPL

Fri, 24 May 2024

Greetings, fellow freedom fighters. I invite you to join me in a thought experiment. Imagine waking up one day, in a not-so-distant future, to find the digital world you knew had vanished. The free software movement was still started, but the GPL never existed, leaving behind a barren landscape dominated by locked-down, proprietary software. Welcome to the dystopian nightmare of a world without the GPL.

Without the GPL's protection, the free software movement, which was initiated by the visionary Richard Stallman to ensure user freedom and control over their computing, ultimately faltered. The GNU operating system, a key component of this movement, was fragmented into numerous proprietary UNIX versions and didn't survive the UNIX wars. In this world, every user is subjugated and controlled. They are divided and helpless. They are divided because they're prohibited from aiding each other by the license and powerless because they lack the freedom to control their computing.

But it gets worse.

In a world void of the GPL and its protective embrace of user freedoms, privacy is a relic of the past, and surveillance has become the standard integrated into every program. Your devices serve double duty as spies for corporate and governmental overlords, watching your every move, cataloging your every interest, and exploiting your data for their gain. Every keystroke is monitored, every digital interaction is a transaction, and every software update is a carte blanche for proprietary software developers to control your life. Your life is not your own; it's a leased entity, with terms dictated by those who control the software.

Remember the days when you could tinker with your software, install modified versions, and truly make it your own? Those days are gone. In this proprietary dystopia, devices are locked down tighter than in Fort Knox. You're not just barred from modifying the software, but even from understanding how it works. This is the stark contrast between the world we know and the potential future without the GPL.

While this dystopian future might be a satirical exaggeration, it is a stark warning of what could happen without the GPL and the principles of software freedom it upholds. The GPL is a bulwark against such a future, ensuring software remains a tool of freedom rather than control.

But the GPL is not self-enforcing; it requires everyone's vigilance and commitment. Each one of us has a role to play in steering our world away from this dystopian nightmare. By supporting the GPL and advocating for software freedom, we can ensure that software remains a tool of freedom rather than control. Here's how you can help:

  • Support Free Software: Use and promote free software in your daily life.
  • Educate: Raise awareness and help people understand the importance of software freedom and the defense that strong copyleft provides.

A world without the GPL - where software freedom is a forgotten concept - might seem far-fetched, but it's a potential reality if we become complacent. We have the power to shape our future. Let's join hands in ensuring that this dystopian nightmare remains nothing more than a cautionary tale. Together, we can build a world where software empowers rather than controls, and our freedoms are protected for generations. Start by supporting the GPL, advocating for its principles, and using and promoting free software in your daily life.