Stallman: Valve's Linux games "unethical" but might boost OS usage

By Lee Kaelin on July 31, 2012, 6:30 PM

Never afraid to speak his mind, GNU founder and PC-rights campaigner Richard Stallman has called Valve's decision to sell DRM-laden games on Linux "unethical." Steam recently announced that it would port its client and popular titles to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, with Left 4 Dead 2 for Linux well underway -- a move that has been positively received by many in the Linux community, which has been largely ignored by major commercial software developers.

Although some folks see this as a turning point towards making Linux more popular, Stallman believes closed source games are "unethical because they deny freedom to its users." He added, "any GNU/Linux distro that comes with software to offer these games will teach users that the point is not freedom. Nonfree software in GNU/Linux distros already works against the goal of freedom. Adding these games to a distro would augment that effect."

However, Stallman does concede that efforts by the likes of Valve could possibly boost adoption rates of Linux. "It might encourage GNU/Linux users to install these games, and it might encourage users of the games to replace Windows with GNU/Linux. My guess is that the direct good effect will be bigger than the direct harm."

It's important however to note that the problem isn't necessarily the cost. Even if Valve provided free games to those on Linux, it's unlikely the game developer would release the full source code for everything, so it works against the "freedom" of Linux in Stallman's eyes.




User Comments: 62

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ikesmasher said:

call unethical all you want, but it doesnt change the fact that valve is keeping PC gaming alive.

Guest said:

I can see this point perfectly I would like to know valves response

1 person liked this |
Staff
Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

All this talk about "non-free" is just crazy

Which developer would release a top of the line game (meaning a game that took 3 > 5 years to make with over a hundred developers) for free?

And with the source at that?

With a mindset like that it's not very strange that Linux on the desktop is still to this day a minority even compared to Apple...

If just all these open source developers would get together instead of having 2000 ways of doing the same thing we might actually one day see some progress for Linux on the desktop, but I'm not holding my breath!

Leeky Leeky said:

If just all these open source developers would get together instead of having 2000 ways of doing the same thing we might actually one day see some progress for Linux on the desktop, but I'm not holding my breath!

Pretty much sums it up, and I'm very pro Linux.

ramonsterns said:

All this talk about "non-free" is just crazy

Which developer would release a top of the line game (meaning a game that took 3 > 5 years to make with over a hundred developers) for free?

Maybe he means, DRM-free.

Either way, Steam does more good than bad, so it's a necessary evil until someone decides to make a Steam-like game manager without DRM, which is about as likely to happen as Activision going bankrupt.

Sniped_Ash said:

If he wants all software to be free, how are developers supposed to make money?

Alpha Gamer Alpha Gamer said:

Saying that selling a closed source game denies the freedom of the user is pushing it. I mean, if you don't feel comfortable with the idea of playing such a game in Linux, you just don't buy it. It's not like the games will be forced upon people. Like any kind of business transaction, you only take part in it if you want to be there.

Guest said:

I can think of 3 ways that a company can make money with open source

1: advertising: you can include advertising in the game and make it part of the game play for video games, for other applications it can be a banner or other form.

2: donations:

3: kick starter: which is my personal favorite ask for the money before you even make it why not there are many people who are gaining there standing in the programming world by doing this but not taking advantage of the open source opportunity.with this opportunity you can relax and let your users find and fix problems.

Guest said:

3: kick starter: which is my personal favorite ask for the money before you even make it, there are many people who are gaining there standing in the programming world by doing this but not taking advantage of the open source opportunity.with this opportunity you can relax and let your users find and fix problems.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

If just all these open source developers would get together instead of having 2000 ways of doing the same thing we might actually one day see some progress for Linux on the desktop, but I'm not holding my breath!

Yeah, I really never got that. There are so many brilliant programmers out there, and so many cool distros of Linux, you'd figure they could hold some kind of summit and decide on making a super accessible version of Linux.

Guest said:

I can think of 3 ways that a company can make money with open source

1: advertising: you can include advertising in the game and make it part of the game play for video games, for other applications it can be a banner or other form.

2: donations:

3: kick starter: which is my personal favorite ask for the money before you even make it why not there are many people who are gaining there standing in the programming world by doing this but not taking advantage of the open source opportunity.with this opportunity you can relax and let your users find and fix problems.

you are either very stupid or have no notion of the costs to create modern big budget video games, I'll bet it's both.

trparky said:

If he wants all software to be free, how are developers supposed to make money?

I've always wondered about that myself.

Now, I'm all for free software but let's think realistically here. Fuel for your car costs money, food costs money, a house costs money, living costs money. See where I'm going with this? How is a programmer that makes his software free and gives the source freely away supposed to make a living? I don't understand how.

Many of these games take years to develop and along with that thousands upon thousands of man hours to write the code, debug the code, draw the artwork, refine the artwork, market the game, etc. All of which costs money, a lot of money. I see no serious game studio putting out a massive game for free, it's just not going to happen. A little game, sure, but not some massive game like Battlefield, Diablo 3, or Starcraft 2.

Truly free software is an honorable idea and goal to obtain but realistically speaking, it's never going to happen in a society in which people need to be paid real world money to be able to survive in it. Now, if we all lived in a nice and perfect society in which everyone worked for the betterment of society (like Star Trek) truly free software will work. But not now.

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

From Stallman's post

Nonfree game programs (like other nonfree programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users.

All I can say: ... what???

Guest said:

It's either freedom or the death of GNU/Linux. Let's face it, most desktop users are gamers-some casual and some hardcore, so, providing native support for many popular titles on Linux is a must for its survival.

Because, it's not that unethical. You can't just give everybody your source code-there's a lot of competition in this industry and if everyone just starts doing that then the number of developers willing to work on video games might just diminish by a lot.

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

All this talk about "non-free" is just crazy

Which developer would release a top of the line game (meaning a game that took 3 > 5 years to make with over a hundred developers) for free?

And with the source at that?

With a mindset like that it's not very strange that Linux on the desktop is still to this day a minority even compared to Apple...

Yes exactly. It's not the first time Stallman has added little value to the debate. Companies can't do what they do without big budgets and the revenue that comes from their development. They aren't just going to give it away because some open source zealot thinks that is the way the world should work.

If Stallman can get the Valve dev team to work for free (let alone the EA umbrella etc etc), then good luck to him but I doubt we'll ever see it happen. People who care about the Linux making a real difference are just going to have to ignore his rants and get on with doing something productive.

Slytek Slytek said:

HAHA WOW is your name Gabe?

Zeromus said:

Yeah it is pretty crazy for propriety games to have their full source code available. It's a tremendous liability. Hacking, cheating, unlicensed branches, and illegal distribution are just a few things large game companies want to avoid to protect profits. I can understand Valve for doing this since they've probably already reach their goal gamer-penetration and want to expand to new platforms without a real liability that would otherwise effect them any earlier beyond the release of these ports.

Guest said:

Even popular Linux distros aren't completely GNU, so why blaberring about closed source games? See this list to check whether your favorite distro is GNU or not :

http://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.html

See even Ubuntu isn't listed there. I can't call forcing people to install what and what freedom!

ShadowDeath said:

I just want to say one thing... LINUX LINUX LINUX LINUX... it's not GNU/Linux. Linus made it not Stallman otherwise it'd be called GNU/Richard_Stallman_OS. I'm getting pretty sick of him having to shove "GNU" in front of Linux every time he says it. All he did was create the GNU. >.>

Ok, I feel better now.

Guest said:

to all you blinding asnwering without learning, find out more about free software. Quick google&wikipedia will be enough. Stallman is not saying software should be free as in without cost, but free as in respecting people's freedoms. stupid douches. There's lots of commercial games that are free.

psycros psycros said:

Every time Stallman opens his ***** yap he makes Linux less appealing to the masses.

ReederOnTheRun ReederOnTheRun said:

Sooo valve decides to expand its services to the linux community even though its just a tiny fraction of the os market, and because of this linux users start bashing them for not giving them the games and their source code for free too? Sounds fair.

Gambit Gambit said:

Judging the ethics of others when you don't share their need to earn a living is unethical.

nickblame said:

Gabe is right. Games need to land on Linux. I don't get the part about only open source on Linux since it also takes that freedom away from users.

Guest said:

RS: "My guess is that the direct good effect will be bigger than the direct harm."

Forget the rest; this is what matters.

Guest said:

It's amazing how forums like this are usually full of people who think they know about Linux, yet as soon as one of the actual authorities on it (arguably more responsible for its existance than Torvalds is) then people are shocked and fail to understand as if this is something new.

This is what the whole GNU/Linux philosophy is about, of course you should think closed source is unethical if you buy into that philosophy (I don't agree with it, for the record). But most of the Linux zealots you find on the Internet who were raving about how great Steam coming to Linux was a few days ago are usually just people who've dual booted Ubuntu for a few years and are actually completely clueless.

Guest said:

Also, he means "free" as in the source code should be free (not sure if he'd extend that to the game's assets as well, e.g. audio files, textures, models, etc.) not as in you have to give the game away for nothing. Stallman wouldn't have a problem with you continuing to sell games for Linux for $60 or whatever as long as you included the source code. Of course, it's still totally impractical in reality, but for all you rambling on about not understanding why he thinks games should be "free", you're totally missing the point.

Guest said:

*sigh*

You guys obviously dont follow Linux enough. Linux want free as in "freedom" to do what you want not free as in "have this for free, no money needed". DRM and closed source, as well as licensing that increasingly gives companies more and more control over the end user is not free, Linux is against that.

nickblame said:

But most of the Linux zealots you find on the Internet who were raving about how great Steam coming to Linux was a few days ago are usually just people who've dual booted Ubuntu for a few years and are actually completely clueless.

...and if those people could run their games on Ubuntu, I bet that they wouldn't have to keep Windows as a dual boot.

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

*sigh*

You guys obviously dont follow Linux enough. Linux want free as in "freedom" to do what you want not free as in "have this for free, no money needed". DRM and closed source, as well as licensing that increasingly gives companies more and more control over the end user is not free, Linux is against that.

Not true. "Linux" is *not* against it. "Linux" does not "want freedom". Some people who use Linux do. The community is fragmented. You do not represent Linux nor do the people who subscribe to your view. You are part of a larger community.

Guest said:

@Darth Shiv

True, but presumably he means the traditional core principles upon which the GNU/Linux project was founded, in which Stallman was one of - if not the - most influential individual. Personally, I think the level of obsessiveness around "freedom" is silly, but you have to acknowledge the fact that this philosophy has played a big part in Linux development and activism, and still does.

Guest said:

"...and if those people could run their games on Ubuntu, I bet that they wouldn't have to keep Windows as a dual boot."

Maybe, maybe not. I'm sure some of them would find some other tie to Windows. My point is there's a lot of posturing from supposed Linux users who want to have their cake and eat it (complaining about Windows and advocating Linux while Windows is actually meeting their needs better than Linux is). A lot of it stems from childish anti-Microsoft sentiment, and wanting to be contrary. It's just humorous how they've bought into this idea of what they think Linux is about, when in fact they basically know nothing, have never contributed code, and have only used maybe a couple at most very user-friendly (in Linux terms) distros, and probably only over the last ten years at most.

I'm not being a snob about it, I don't care how little someone knows about Linux. It's just that these seem people that know so little seem to be by far the most vocal proponents on forums and such, whilst actual long-term or Linux-only users are just minding their own business and using their computers happily. Then it's quite funny when someone with far more experience and knowledge than them, that is basically responsible for Linux existing in the first place goes ahead and casually says something that's completely at odds with that they thought Linux was about (like trying to crack the mainstream consumer market, or get commercial games released for Linux) and get all upset over it.

Guest said:

Anyone, ever, thinking that DRM and closed source is cool and good and okay with them. Never ever, and never will, nor COULD! write code themselves. I think freedom for computers is something only programmers really 'get'.

By the way, Books came with NO DRM at all for thousands of years, yet they still seem to sell well year after year.. well, they used to. Now they added DRM, and somehow the books did not get better..

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Anyone, ever, thinking that DRM and closed source is cool and good and okay with them. Never ever, and never will, nor COULD! write code themselves. I think freedom for computers is something only programmers really 'get'.

Let me guess, you happen to be a programmer.

Guest said:

yes lets just stay with windows

Stupido Stupido said:

If just all these open source developers would get together instead of having 2000 ways of doing the same thing we might actually one day see some progress for Linux on the desktop, but I'm not holding my breath!

Yeah, I really never got that. There are so many brilliant programmers out there, and so many cool distros of Linux, you'd figure they could hold some kind of summit and decide on making a super accessible version of Linux.

I also don't get it, although I get the reason - vanity...

the more brilliant programmer, the more "my way or highway" or "I know best" attitude...

I have seen this more than enough with fellows programmers (if I have to be honest, as SW developer often I catch my self thinking that I know better, while in practice it is all the same...)

Guest said:

"Anyone, ever, thinking that DRM and closed source is cool and good and okay with them. Never ever, and never will, nor COULD! write code themselves. I think freedom for computers is something only programmers really 'get'."

Wow, the FOSStard is strong in this one. Plenty programmers are fine with both closed source, you know like all the millions of programmers that work exclusively on closed source projects? Not just for employers, but plenty programmers write their own software and prefer to keep it closed source for a variety of legitimate reasons.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Yeah, I really never got that. There are so many brilliant programmers out there, and so many cool distros of Linux, you'd figure they could hold some kind of summit and decide on making a super accessible version of Linux.

They have, it's called Ubuntu. That's because Shuttleworth took it upon himself to try and do exactly what you suggested and had the money to make it happen. Other than that there's no incentive in the Linux community at large to try and do what you suggested. Again, people - including a lot of people that think they know about Linux when they don't - seem to think there's some big drive to crack the mainstream or compete with Windows or attract more users, when there's just not. The programmers for most Linux distributions couldn't care less about those things, they just enjoy contributing to a particular operating system that suits its own particular aims.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

They have, it's called Ubuntu. That's because Shuttleworth took it upon himself to try and do exactly what you suggested and had the money to make it happen. Other than that there's no incentive in the Linux community at large to try and do what you suggested. Again, people - including a lot of people that think they know about Linux when they don't - seem to think there's some big drive to crack the mainstream or compete with Windows or attract more users, when there's just not. The programmers for most Linux distributions couldn't care less about those things, they just enjoy contributing to a particular operating system that suits its own particular aims.

That's pretty good info, thanks!

Ubuntu is the distro that I tried the most, along with Mint, and while it is pretty accessible, its still Linux.

And I have to agree with you, I don't think that the people responsible for coding Linux want the masses to use it, so I guess it irks me when fanboys get all defensive when you point out the market share is low, and start insulting everyone for not "getting" Linux or understanding what its about.

ReederOnTheRun ReederOnTheRun said:

Ok, not free free, just including source code. Sooo again, valve decides to expand its services to the linux community even though its just a tiny fraction of the os market, and because of this linux users start bashing them for not giving them the game's source code for free too? Just be happy a company with valve's resources are taking notice of linux. Baby steps.

Neojt said:

Man does this guy sound like the classic Hippy image!! just put a text bubble in this pic wit "Its a conspiracy Man"

I like open source its a good thing but no sane videogame studio is going to give something for free WITH open source so some guy can make a repop of the game for 1 second if the source code is open multiplayer gaming will just die in these games theres already tons of hack(aim bot,invulnerability ect) made immagine if the had the source code to get all the exploits!!!

He should be saying wow thanks valve for trying to bring Linux into the gaming world

Wagan8r Wagan8r said:

That beard is unethical...

Seriously. How many children has he frightened just by smiling at them?

Guest said:

And I have to agree with you, I don't think that the people responsible for coding Linux want the masses to use it, so I guess it irks me when fanboys get all defensive when you point out the market share is low, and start insulting everyone for not "getting" Linux or understanding what its about.

Yeah, odds are those fanboys are ****** that don't they what they're talking about, have probably only used some recent, accessible distro like Ubuntu, probably still dual boot, never contributed code in their life, and only started using Linux in the last ten years or so. Yet those are the kind of people going around ranting about how great Linux is and how Windows sucks, etc. etc. as they're some authority on the subject.

Stallman, on the other hand, actually is an authority on the subject, and his views (which I don't applaud or anything) are totally at odds with the fanboys that think Linux should be more widespread.

Guest said:

He should be saying wow thanks valve for trying to bring Linux into the gaming world

Why should he be doing that? Stallman's aim isn't to bring Linux to the gaming world, its to create an operating system environment where every piece of software is open source (which is what he means when he uses the word "free"), so what Valve is doing is actually pretty contrary to what he wants. It's not an aim I share or anything, but it was that aim that caused Linux (or GNU/Linux is you want to get pedantic) to exist in the first place.

Guest said:

Oops wrong attribution for that quote.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I happen to love Linux, and am delighted that Steam is bringing so much potential to the platform (I've been vocally wishing for a Linux-based gaming system for a decade now)...

But seriously, these "everything has to be free" cyber-hippies like Stallman tend to be more of a negative factor than positive when it comes to promoting Linux adoption (at least, in my estimation). To me, it's more unethical to just assume that anything to do with Linux has to be totally free and open, publicly chastise anything that isn't free, and yet lament how Linux is not being adopted. Well, maybe it's more crazy than unethical, really. If there is no possible revenue stream options on a platform that will help guarantee recouping your development costs (and profit to keep yourself in business), there is no incentive to support that platform. Period. Not many people want to be inundated with advertisements constantly to achieve "freedom." And you can't rely on people actually donating when they have a choice, cause most of us are cheap bastards

tomkaten tomkaten said:

I agree with Vrmithrax 100%.

You want free stuff in a world that bleeds you dry, you implement something like The Venus Project and you might get your wish, but until then, no mass adoption of anything happens in this world without some means to control the generated revenue.

ElShotte ElShotte said:

Obviously no one (even pro-Linux devs) is gonna give away AAA titles for free, open-source or not. However, I'd like to point out that in today's gaming world, only a fraction of released games are actually moddable, where the developer actually releases tools to do so. Valve's Source titles are all highly moddable, which is something that should appeal to the Linux community and in my eyes, it deserves to be available on Linux.

Zilpha Zilpha said:

You know what freedom I'm concerned about? The freedom from Microsoft I might gain when Steam is fully functional on Ubuntu.

Stallman can crow and trumpet all he wants, but nothing Valve is doing is encroaching upon my rights or freedoms in any way. I am still free to make my own choice about whether or not to give up my freedoms to a certain software program. I am free to decide what, and when, to install anything on my computer.

Since I enjoy playing games, I buy them to support the company that develops them and follow their rules when playing. If I wasn't comfortable with that, I'm free to keep my wallet closed and my hard drive spacious.

Only good can come out of a company like Valve taking on this kind of side project. As more people take an interest in Linux, it has more of an opportunity to be a serious competitor with Microsoft and that kind of competition creates jobs for people. Look at what Ubuntu has already become, and think of what it can now achieve with Valve throwing in with them.

It's a good thing.

Guest said:

It s good for linux. It might help develop drivers for linux for the long run and new hardware get easy to adopt.

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