Why your project should never join GNU

If you don't know what GNU is, consult Wikipedia.

Libreboot quit the GNU project on 15 September 2016, in protest of discrimination against a transgender person at the Free Software Foundation. The purpose of this article, however, is to explain why libreboot should have never joined the GNU project in the first place, even if such an injustice never occurred.

While the FSF and GNU project pioneered the free software movement, there are serious issues with both organisations which make joining them unappealing. That being said, the libreboot project strongly believes in Free Software, as per the Free Software Definition published by the FSF. This article is mainly about organisational issues as opposed to philosophical differences.

Leah Rowe, libreboot's founder and maintainer, had long had doubts about the GNU project, even while libreboot was a member, but had made the effort to put libreboot in GNU because at the time, it was believed to be good for the long-term success of the project.

We call libreboot's departure from GNU librexit. The main thing to remember, is that it is quite possible to be strongly in favour of Free Software as a movement, and in favour of free software becoming widely used everywhere, while opposing the Free Software Foundation and GNU project. This is the current position of the Libreboot project, and here's why:

#0: The GNU project is funded by the Free Software Foundation

This page explains why that is a bad thing.

#1: You lose control over your project

Libreboot witnessed this when it left GNU. The GNU project resisted it. Had libreboot stayed and integrated with GNU even more, then it would have been very difficult to leave. Thankfully, the GNU project did not yet have much influence over libreboot, and most of the infrastructure for it was still on libreboot.org, outside of the control of the GNU project. The only GNU infrastructure used were mailing lists, which are easy to replace.

GNU can appoint new maintainers for any program that is part of it, even against your will. If you disagree with GNU practises and want to do things different, there's the possibility that you can simply be removed and replaced as maintainer of your project, even if you are the founder and main developer.

RMS will take credit for your work, on behalf of the GNU project, and will try to assert authority by asking for features which you may not want to implement. RMS will further attempt to dictate how and when releases should occur.

If the GNU project or FSF does something which you disagree with, and you want to withdraw your project, they will try to claim that the project is theirs, and that you are now forking your own project. There are no formal procedures for a project to leave GNU, if a project chooses this path. By joining GNU, you are relinquishing *all* control over your project. - The only reason Libreboot successfully left GNU was because we got out before it was too late.

The GNU project is extremely undemocratic. Individual projects have very little say over it, and the FSF is very much the same. All you are doing by putting your program in GNU, is to help the organisation grow. They do not care about you personally and only care about your project.

#2: GNU Non-free Documentation License

The GNU Free Documentation License is the main license recommended for documentation by the GNU project. This license is non-free, because it allows for so-called invariant sections to be added to your documentation which cannot be modified or deleted without express permission from the copyright holder of that invariant section.

The GNU project mandates that all projects joining it must use this license. The Libreboot project recommends avoiding this license at all costs, and has since switched back to Creative Commons for all documentation.

The libreboot project was always opposed to the GFDL, but compromised since this was one of the conditions for joining GNU. At the time, this was wrongly identified as an acceptable compromise.

#3: TexInfo

TexInfo is a dead markup language used by most GNU programs, for documentation. Most modern projects do not use it, preferring languages like markdown instead. The GNU project still insists on using this bizarre, esoteric language.

This was one of the areas where libreboot also compromised when joining GNU, but has since switched to alternative formats.

#4: The FSF and GNU project is a cult

There is a huge cult of personality around Richard Stallman, which you may or may not want your project to be associated with.

Many - a lot of - FSF followers are fanatical, to the point of extremism. Your project will become associated with all of this, even if you personally dislike Richard Stallman.

Leah witnessed this with libreboot, despite having met Richard several times and finding him contemptible as a human being, for various reasons, even if the free software philosophy is morally correct.

Here is an example: https://web.archive.org/web/20161101101115/https://stallman.org/archives/2016-sep-dec.html#31_October_2016_%28Down%27s_syndrome%29
In this blog post on his website, he refers to kids with down syndrome as "pets". This is unacceptable, for a person who is in such a position of influence, as he is.

He has said similarly nasty things about children and childbirth in the past, and has made sexist jokes. For instance, he once described women who have never used GNU Emacs as EMACS virgins. Leah is an emacs virgin.

Leah Rowe is a woman, and she recommends Vim. Her .vimrc is on vimuser.org.

Personal statement from Leah: RMS's comments about emacs virgins is especially offensive to me. Not only is it sexist in general (and directed at me, because I don't use emacs), but also offensive towards my sexuality. His statement implies that men are supposed to have sex with virgin women, and that women only lose their virginity to men. To this day, I've only ever been in lesbian relationships, although I am bi. I lost my virginity to a woman. I find it extremely insulting when someone assumes that I only like men, or that I'm generally interested in men. The woman that I lost my virginity to also happens to be a Vim user, and she is indeed an emacs virgin, like me.

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