Richard Stallman questions the ethics of Steam using DRM on Linux

Outspoken open source software advocate and Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman has questioned the ethics of Digital Rights Management (DRM) being used in the Steam computer game service on Linux.

Last week, computer game distributor Valve announced that it would be porting its Steam game platform to the open source Linux operating system, in order to hedge its bets should Windows 8 be a failure in the market.

However, Stallman has questioned whether DRM, commonly called anti-piracy protection, marks too big a departure from the libertarian free software/open source principles Linux was built on.

In a statement, Stallman said:

“A well-known company, Valve, that distributes non-free computer games with Digital Restrictions Management, recently announced it would distribute these games for GNU/Linux. What good and bad effects can this have?”

“I suppose that availability of popular non-free programs on GNU/Linux can boost adoption of the [operating] system. However, our goal goes beyond making this system a ‘success’; its purpose is to bring freedom to the users. Thus, the question is how this development affects users’ freedom.”

“Non-free game programs (like other non-free programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users. (Game art is a different issue, because it isn’t software.) If you want freedom, one requisite for it is not having non-free programs on your computer. That much is clear.”

“However, if you’re going to use these games, you’re better off using them on GNU/Linux rather than on Microsoft Windows. At least you avoid the harm to your freedom that Windows would do.”


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