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Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Road to the Free Digital Society MOOC

Become a Better Digital Citizen and Learn how to Keep your Creations Free for Everyone.

Starting May 4th, programmer, activist, privacy advocate and liberator of software Richard Stallman will finally join the ranks of the open online education movement.

Richard Stallman
(src: Preliminares 2013 via Flickr)

Stallman, or ‘rms’, was a Harvard alum and until 1984, worked at MIT’s Artificial intelligence lab where he developed the Emacs text editor. In response to the proprietary and closed source software boom of the mid 70’s, Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation and developed the GNU operating system. This included many tools such as GNU emacs, gdb (GNU debugger) and gcc (GNU compiler collection), which was an integral piece of Linus Torvalds’ Linux kernel. Equally important was the creation of the GPL (GNU public license) and copyleft, which preserved the rights of free software and modified works. Of late Stallman has added his voice to political activism and privacy rights and has become outspoken regarding the dangers of cloud computing and the loss of the control it represents.

The class, Road to the Free Digital Society, will be based on a series of lectures given by Stallman and hosted on the Finnish Eliademy platform. It will discuss the threats and risks modern technology exposes authors, creators and users to thru DRM, proprietary software, connected devices and cloud based services. Stallman also explains how authors and creators can protect themselves and ensure that their works remain free. Admittedly, the course is very heavy on providing a philosophical and culture based framework for becoming a better digital citizen and achieving a free digital society.

The week by week breakdown is as follows:

  • Week 1. Introduction, Free Software and the Four Freedoms. Introduction to the course. What makes the Software Free?
  • Week 2. Threats to the Free Digital Society. Living in the digital society. Should we aim for inclusion or exclusion from it? What is a Free Digital Society?
  • Week 3. Copyleft: How to make software free? What is Copyright and Copyleft? How to make software free? Why is it important?
  • Week 4. Works of Authorship in the Free Digital Society. How to make Works of Authorship free? Why is it important?
  • Week 5. Digital lifestyle to support freedom. How can YOU contribute to the Free Digital Society?

The course itself will be released under the non-commercial, Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA copyleft license.

Over the years Stallman has become quite the polarizing figure in the computer science community regarding his ideals, and for good reason. He doesn’t own a cellular phone or “browse” the web. Instead he fetches web pages using a mail program similar to wget and views them connectionless. He firmly refuses to install or use non-free software, opting for libreboot and Trisquel GNU/Linux. He has never had or used any social network such as Google, Facebook or Twitter, but has been the subject of many an imposter. Never let it be said ‘rms’ was a hypocrite, he clearly lives by the rules he preaches.

Registration is open and you can sign up now for this 5 week course from Eliademy.


Bobby Brady Profile Image

Bobby Brady

Bobby has successfully utilized MOOCs in his professional career twice, transitioning from the service industry to IT support and then again to Development. He now works full time as an edtech consultant and contractor helping students from all over the world learn React and JavaScript.

Comments 2

  1. Avatar

    Alex O'Brien

    Whoever wrote this doesn’t understand that CC BY-NC-SA is in fact *a* copyleft license, and it’s even more restrictive. If this course isn’t going to go the extra mile by including copyfree awareness curriculum … that’s fucking lame. Licensing the course under a BY-NC-SA license also renders it very fettered. I’m entirely done glorifying this one size fits all “free software” propaganda. Copyleft is the connotation, but “free software” appears to be under the copyleft interest groups’ ownership. Alternatively, The Copyfree Initiative is where it’s at.

    • bobby brady

      bobby brady

      Alex, thanks for pointing out the error, I have updated the article and added an informational link. I had actually always understood CC BY-NC-SA to be something other than copyleft. That’s why a course like this could be valuable, at the very least to clear up some confusion regarding the semantics but also to drum up some heated debate regarding Copyfree.


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