Loïc Dachary: a Prophet of Liberty
Loïc Dachary, graduated from EPITA in 1986, is the founder of FSF France – an association for defending free software.
Why defend free software?
The idea of defending free software is based on a philosophical belief: it is better for humanity to share software than enable people to keep it for themselves. To illustrate this idea, we could effectively use the analogy of mathematics: it would be undesirable and ridiculous to patent an algorithm; no one possesses the Pythagorean Theorem. Free software is relevant at all levels: At the individual level – it allows the software to be shared with parents or friends or to facilitate problem solving via the software. It is of interest at the government level. For education – notably all schools of a country can use free software, study and modify what is inside to help their students develop expertise. At the level of security: a consensus emerged to say that transparency is the best defense against cyber criminals. Free software is however less attractive for businesses, as it is less profitable for them in comparison to the proprietary software because of competition. But companies use proprietary software to force a dependence on their customers and this is why we must absolutely reject this form of modern slavery.
What does FSF France concretely do?
FSF France was founded as the first association that I created just a year after I left EPITA, at a time when there weren’t any associations bringing together supporters of free software. Today, the role of FSF France is largely supplemented by that of APRIL – an association of which I am an active member. It has 5,000 members and promotes free software to the general public. FSF France has two roles – in addition to that of April – it provides home to projects and defends the rights (of authors of free software) that have been violated.
What is the future for free software?
Twenty years ago, we would have never thought that free software would become so advanced. Today, 90% of sales of the software are in the form of service: we are thus already in a situation in which if the proprietary software disappears it will not fundamentally change the economic structure built around the software. On the other hand, the entire infrastructure of the Internet and its operative are open source, which is a major result. It is unclear how one could go back. Now all companies are supporting Free Software, including its enemies. Microsoft has changed its position on the subject. The movement has become global. Free software might be less lucrative straightaway (than proprietary software), but the economy it engenders is still profitable. I wish that APRIL reaches between 10 000 and 20 000 members to have a really strong role. FSF France will then confine itself to a representative role.
What did you learn during your training at EPITA?
I was one of the students of the first graduation class of EPITA, i.e. of 1986. At that time, the school was still located in the 18th district of Paris. The main reason I went there was for the big machines that were present at that time. This route played a major role in the development of my enthusiasm for computers. There was a lot of competition, and I was able to make good friends there.