University of Calgary

Free software guru

Jan. 21, 2009

Free software guru Richard Stallman coming to U of C

Richard Stallman
Richard Stallman
Ask most tekkies who Richard Stallman is, and they’ll know all about him. For those who haven’t heard of him, instead of cashing in on software development like Bill Gates and the like, Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation and developed a form of free software that everyone has the freedom to copy, redistribute, and alter as they see fit. Today, the GNU/Linux system is used on tens of millions of computers.

On Tuesday, Feb. 3, U of C students, faculty, staff and guests are invited to hear Stallman share his views on ownership and access to software—which he posts in the blogsphere in an ongoing basis—in person. Stallman has been selected to give the 2009 Merv Leitch, QC, Memorial Visiting Chair in Law Lecture, entitled “Copyright vs. Community in the Age of Computer Networks.”

The notion of copyright was developed in the age of the printing press and designed to fit with the system of centralized copying imposed by the printing press. According to Stallman, the copyright system doesn’t fit well with computer networks and only draconian punishments can enforce it. The way he sees it, if we seriously hope to serve the only legitimate purpose of copyright—to promote progress for the benefit of the public—we cannot allow for global corporations that profit from copyright to successfully lobby for severe punishments, increase their copyright powers, and suppress public access to technology.

Stallman has received the Association for Computing Machinery’s 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 doctorate degrees.

The Chair was established in honour of C. Mervin Leitch, BA, LLB, QC, who passed away in 1990. The Member of the Legislative Assembly for Calgary-Egmont, he served as Attorney-General and Provincial Secretary, Provincial Treasurer, and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources. Prior to his political career, he was active in associations for legal professionals, serving as president of the Calgary Bar Association and as a Bencher of the Law Society of Alberta. He was a partner with the Macleod Dixon law firm in Calgary. The Chair is funded through an endowment established by friends and associates of Mr. Leitch. The endowment is used to invite visiting chair-holders who participate in classes in the Faculty of Law and present lectures on topics of public importance.

WHEN: Tues., Feb. 3, from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: U of C Faculty of Law’s community lecture theatre (Murray Fraser Hall 2370)