GNU OS Creator: Linux On Steam ‘Unethical’ Due To DRM
When Valve announced earlier this month that they were planning to bring Linux to Steam and the Source engine, it certainly sounded like a good idea. Millions of people – an estimated 1.11% of total Internet traffic – preferentially use Linux and other Unix-based operating systems, and being shut out of one of the more popular access points for PC gaming has to be frustrating.
But will making Steam and Source compatible with Linux be a good thing? As the founder GNU OS reminds us, doing so actuallys violate one of the fundamental principles of open source technology: Free and open access. On Gnu.org, Richard Stallman has posted a thoughtful editorial about the matter, laying out the pros and cons of Linux on Steam. While he admits that the move might “boost adoption of the system,” there are bigger and more important issues at stake.
“I suppose that availability of popular nonfree programs on GNU/Linux can boost adoption of the system,” Stallman says. “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.”
Stallman makes the case that ‘nonfree’, meaning for-sale games are, like other for-sale software, unethical “because they deny freedom to their users.” If you’re interested in freedom, then you’re not helping the cause, he says, by installing nonfree software. That said, if you simply must play these games, Stallman acknowledges that using CNU/Linux is better for the operator than Windows. “At least,” he says, “you avoid the harm to your freedom that Windows would do.”
Ultimately, he says that if Valve’s move to bring Linux to Steam causes more people to adopt the system, then more good than harm will come of it, but the risk in undermining the whole point of that system is serious. “Any GNU/Linux distro that comes with software to offer these games will teach users that the point is not freedom,” he says. “Nonfree software in GNU/Linux distros already works against the goal of freedom. Adding these games to a distro would augment that effect.”
So what do you think, Game Fronters? I myself am part of the problem, as I use both a Mac, and a Windows-based PC during my day (PC for games, Mac for showing off what a smug prick I am when writing at my local coffee shop. /Snark). If you’re a Linux user, what’s your take on the matter? Sound off in comments.