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  4. <title>FSF Europe - Observing WIPO - Free Software Essentials Reference Sheet</title>
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  6. <body>
  7. <p align="center">
  8. [ <a href="FSER.pdf">PDF Version (53k)</a> ]
  9. </p>
  10. <h1 align="center">Free Software - Essentials Reference Sheet</h1>
  11. <p>Free Software has become an issue of increasing importance in all
  12. political fora, national and international. This paper aims to provide
  13. a reference of some Free Software essentials to allow delegates to
  14. focus on the substance.</p>
  15. <h2>Free for freedom, not price</h2>
  16. <p>Free in Free Software exclusively refers to freedom, it never refers
  17. to price. This fact warrants highlighting because it is at times
  18. obscured by a particular weakness of the English language that is
  19. generally not shared by other languages. Primarily used in this
  20. definition since the 1980s, Free Software is defined by four
  21. fundamental freedoms:</p>
  22. <ul>
  23. <li><b>The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.</b><br />
  24. <em>Placing restrictions on the use of Free Software, such
  25. as time (30 days trial period'', ''license expires January 1st, 2007'')
  26. purpose (''permission granted for research and non-commercial use'') or
  27. geographic area (''must not be used in country X'') makes a program
  28. non-free.</em></li>
  29. <li><b>The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to
  30. your needs.</b><br />
  31. <em>Placing legal or practical restrictions on the
  32. comprehension or modification of a program, such as mandatory purchase
  33. of special licenses, signing of a Non-Disclosure-Agreement
  34. (NDA) or making the preferred human way of comprehending and editing a program
  35. (and its ''source code'') inaccessible also makes it proprietary.</em></li>
  36. <li><b>The freedom to make and redistribute copies.</b><br />
  37. <em>If you are not allowed to give a program to someone else,
  38. that makes a program non-free. This can be done for a charge, if you so
  39. choose.</em></li>
  40. <li><b>The freedom to improve the program, and release improvements.</b><br />
  41. <em>Not everyone is a programmer, or a programmer equally good
  42. in all fields. This freedom allows those with the necessary
  43. skills to share them with those who do not possess them. This can be done for a
  44. charge.</em></li>
  45. </ul>
  46. <h3>Rights, not obligations</h3>
  47. <p>These freedoms are rights, not obligations. Any institution and person
  48. can choose to not make use of them, but may also choose to make use of
  49. all of them. In particular, it should be understood that Free Software
  50. does not exclude commercial use. If a program fails to allow
  51. commercial use and commercial distribution, it is not Free
  52. Software. Indeed a growing number of companies base their business
  53. model completely or partially on Free Software, including
  54. some of the largest proprietary software vendors. Free Software makes
  55. it legal to provide help and assistance, it does not make it
  56. mandatory.</p>
  57. <h3>Implemented in Copyright</h3>
  58. <p>These freedoms are generally implemented by means of copyright,
  59. although not in all cases: public domain software is also Free
  60. Software, although a special case. For the vast majority of Free
  61. Software it is the copyright license that determines whether a
  62. particular program is indeed Free Software. If a copyright license
  63. grants the freedoms described above, it is a Free Software license, of
  64. which between 50 and 150 are in use today.</p>
  65. <p>This suprisingly low
  66. number is caused by the tradition to choose established and
  67. well-understood licenses for Free Software, rather than writing a new
  68. license for every program. Thus, by examining a handful of
  69. comparatively simple licenses, it is possible to understand the
  70. licensing terms of more than 90% of all Free Software, greatly
  71. reducing the overhead of licensing administration and compliance.</p>
  72. <h2>Terminology</h2>
  73. <p>Free Software is discussed under various headings, with alleged
  74. antonyms and synonyms, which frequently cause confusion and doubt and
  75. will therefore be explained briefly.</p>
  76. <h3>Antonyms</h3>
  77. <p>The antonym of Free Software is proprietary software, or non-free
  78. software. Commercial software is not an antonym to Free Software,
  79. being commercial is unrelated to freedom. Commercial Free Software is
  80. just as normal as non-commercial proprietary software, sometimes also
  81. referred to as ''freeware''.</p>
  82. <h3>Synonyms</h3>
  83. <p>As of 1992, the term ''Libre Software'' was promoted as a synoym to
  84. Free Software in parts of Europe to address the particular confusion of
  85. the English language. The term ''Open Source'' was proposed in 1998 as
  86. a marketing term for Free Software by the Open Source Initiative
  87. (OSI). The OSI definition of ''Open Source'' covers an identical
  88. body of copyright licenses to that of the 1989 Free Software
  89. Definition explained above.</p>
  90. <p>From the copyright licensing
  91. viewpoint, both ''Libre Software'' and ''Open Source'' are Free
  92. Software synonyms. Combination of terms, such as ''FOSS'' and
  93. ''FLOSS'' combine synonyms, redundantly identifying the
  94. same body of software.</p>
  95. <h3>Ambiguities</h3>
  96. <p>The term ''Open Source'' was occasionally used in various ways before
  97. its 1998 definition, and is used in several meanings today, which are
  98. often mutually exclusive with each other, and in particular the Open
  99. Source Definition of the OSI. So ''Open Source'' can refer to Free
  100. Software, but it can also refer to software not meeting the criteria
  101. above. It is also at times used to describe a particular software
  102. development model, although some parts of Free Software are
  103. developed in closed development models, and proprietary software is
  104. increasingly experimenting with open development approaches. This
  105. makes the term ''Open Source'' highly ambiguous, and indeed difficult
  106. for all areas that depend on precision in their language, such as
  107. science, law and politics.</p>
  108. <h2>Public Policy Considerations</h2>
  109. <p>Unlike
  110. proprietary software, there is never any single company that has
  111. absolute control of a Free Software solution. By choosing Free
  112. Software, governments protect their independence from the corporate
  113. interests of any single vendor, local or foreign. Maintaining their
  114. ability to freely and independently live up to their political mandate
  115. is the sovereign right of any government. Preferring or mandating Free
  116. Software promotes this goal and is always non-discriminatory. It
  117. preserves technological and political neutrality because Free Software
  118. belongs to no single vendor or organisation, and any vendor is welcome
  119. to supply Free Software of third parties. If vendors seek to do
  120. business with governments, they can make the decision to give them
  121. independence by releasing their own software under a Free Software
  122. license.</p>
  123. <h3>About the FSFE</h3>
  124. <p>The <a href="http://fsfeurope.org">Free Software Foundation
  125. Europe</a> (FSFE) is a European NGO dedicated to all aspects of Free
  126. Software. It provides a competence center for industry, politics and
  127. society at large and participates in numerous activities, including as
  128. fiduciary for Free Software authors, and participates in research and
  129. development activities on European and national levels. More
  130. information at <a
  131. href="http://fsfeurope.org">http://fsfeurope.org</a>. To contact the
  132. author of this document, send email to <a href="/about/greve/">Georg
  133. C.F. Greve</a> <a
  134. href="mailto:greve@fsfe.org">greve@fsfe.org</a>, comments
  135. and questions welcome.</p>
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