James Gosling on how Richard Stallman stole his Emacs source code and edited the copyright notices:

@fribbledom Richard "You Can't Sue A Homeless Person" Stallman ...

@fribbledom A good 10 minute listen (although speed up playback! ) ... I'll have to go through the whole thing some time soon :-)


Gosling's emacs was much better and more efficient than Stallman's. I preferred it hands down until it was no longer freely available (during the unfortunate little spat that started the whole GPL fiasco and split the open source world in two forever). Most people just wanted a decent visual editor and didn't really need a binary copy of Stallman's entire LISP stack.

@fribbledom Sorry, it doesn't seem like it was so much as stolen as pushed to a new maintainer. I haven't been able to watch the whole thing, yet, but he clearly states that he was looking for a new maintainer of the code. He might have changed the license, which is not nice, but steal is quite a different thing.

@ndegruchy @fribbledom license change requires signing over copyright, doesn't it? So if that happened, Stallman should be able to wave with the paperwork.

@ndegruchy @fribbledom It was openly available and free-as-in-beer but it wasn't on an open-license. The guy's saying Stallman took the code and simply removed his copyright notices and replaced it with his own. So Stallman never had the legal right to GPL it.

@Nentuaby @fribbledom That's my takeaway. A dick move, to be sure, but how long ago was this? I imagine the FSF and GNU project were probably not even things, let alone the GPL. I know everyone wants to pigpile on Stallman right now, but this is just one side of the story.

@ndegruchy @fribbledom I mean, it's definitely a dick move. It's also several stronger words like "fraud', and it could actually invalidate the GPL licensing of GNUMacs if somebody actually wanted to pursue it. GPL is a *license*, dependant on the actual owner by copyright law placing the original codebase under it, not a magical abjuration of copyright.

So yeah, it is an accusation rather than a settled fact, but it's a really big (and frankly, plausible) accusation.

@ndegruchy @fribbledom what? Maybe listen to the whole thing. The original code had Gosling's copyright on it. The new maintainers that Gosling chose were a private company who received that code. Stallman got angry, took Gosling's code, scrubbed out the copyright headers, and distributed the result without Gosling's permission.

@sixohsix @fribbledom Yeah, that is (like I said) a dick move. We're only getting one side of the story, though.

Stallman is/was a jerk, or at least someone who has issues understanding the emotional impact of his words -- but this all seems like more mud flinging because of the recent issues that came out.

@ndegruchy @fribbledom when a private company incorporates GPL code in a product in total disregard of its licence is that a "dick move" or perhaps something a bit more... illegal?

@sixohsix @fribbledom I never implied anything that he allegedly did wasn't illegal. The problem is that we only have one person's testimony, from more than 30 years ago about an incident that has, by any stretch of the law, long passed it's statute of limitations (though, the copyright portion *might* still apply, given the current climate).

So, yes, I'd still say it's a dick move, but an unsubstantiated dick move. Illegal? Maybe, though it'd be impossible to prove, now.

@sixohsix @fribbledom Also, if he knew about this situation for this long and didn't report it to the authorities, it could be argued in court that he gave Stallman tacit permission to the code through inaction. Much in the same way a squatter, who materially improves a property without the owner making any effort to remove them can, in many states, rightfully claim the property as their own.

@ndegruchy @fribbledom legally speaking I think the US has provisions for abandoned copyrights, and emacs didn't fit those provisions.

Morally speaking, it's still pretty gross given that Stallman knew full well that Gosling wasn't dead. He could have written him a letter.

@ndegruchy @fribbledom a United States court ruled that IBM and DEC (I think) were not allowed to use GNU/emacs because of its copyrighted providence, and they paid damages for it, so we have that in the record. (Note: I didn't actually read the judgement though).

It's true that Stallman was never charged for anything but I'm not sure who else took the code and put Stallman's name on it, and why Stallman wouldn't deny it if that happened.

@sixohsix @fribbledom Apparently he felt it was fair play, since it was done to him(?) and others:

Effectively, he removed the offending code and no one sued him because it wouldn't be worth their time/money.

There was also a lot of fuckery from the Gosling side, having sold code that wasn't his in the first place.


Oh boy, I remember this like it was only 20 years ago. Wait, it was 😄

@fribbledom I had thinking about Ryan Gosling until it struck me to check the name again...

@fribbledom That sounds very sad. It would be interesting to look at Gosling's source and compare to today's Emacs.

@fribbledom Okay, so I found this

> GNU Emacs 16.56 (15-jul-85)
> (Gosling code expunged
> for copyright reasons)

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