"Free Software" is free as in "freedom", not necessarily "gratis" (most are gratis though). It would be a mistake to confuse between Free Software and Freeware. But, what does freedom really means when it comes to software, and how does this makes a difference to us? The core concept is very simple, it requires only that the four essential freedoms are respected for a software to be considered free:
- Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program whenever you wish.
- Freedom 1: The freedom to study and modify the program the way you wish.
- Freedom 2: The freedom to distribute copies of the original program.
- Freedom 3: The freedom to distribute copies of your modified version of the program.
Whenever these four freedoms are respected the program is Free Software. Some implications are derived from these four freedoms. First of all, the program is not only free of copyrights but it is almost for sure free of price in the long run. It's just too hard to sell things when they are available for free. The economical model of it is that, as a developer, you get paid on demand when you write the program. Once the program is written, and if the client wants, the source code is revealed to the public for re-use into new software. As you can imagine, this is excellent for the evolution of software technology and the pay of the developer remains the same. Most of the price you pay for proprietary software is going to editors, publishers, administration, finance and all the services a large company needs to keep cash-flow. Only a few bucks of the price goes to actually developing technology.
The other implication is that the source code of the program must be open in order to be able to study and modify it. And finally, every modification of the original program must be released as Free Software too and grant the users of your modified versions the same freedoms that you enjoyed.
"Free Software" is also the name of the movement that keeps these freedoms safe. The founder of the Free Software Movement, Richard Stallman (Watch the video below!), is also involved with the creation of GPL (General Public Licence) and the GNU operating system. All of these initiatives follow a philosophy that fights to preserve the four essential freedoms. These freedoms allow the creation of communities that cooperate in order to build better technology. In "Free Software", the word “Free” should be thought as in "free speech" and not as in "free beer". Sometimes we call it "Software Libre" to avoid the confusion with the word "Free".
The Free Software Movement also inspired the creation of the Open Source Movement. The difference between them is that Free Software also has a strong philosophy of freedom behind it.
Free Software is probably the most permissive license after public domain. It is the first and purest form of development and collaboration. To have more information about Free Software you can access the information at its source, the Free Software Foundation at www.fsf.org. To find Free and Open Source Software to download, try out our custom Search for FOSS. Hopefully you will find there the software you need!
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic. (Attribution: Copyright 2005 UNDP-APDIP)
This video is from WSIS 2005 conference held in Tunis. At the left of Richard is Bruce Perens, the man who wrote the Open Source manifest. We cannot see it on this video but on this same table is, among others, Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical, the company that releases Ubuntu, the most popular GNU/Linux distribution. It must have been a great moment!
You can watch the entire conference here. (1h25min)
Short animated video about the importance of software freedom: User Liberation: Watch and share our new video