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<title>FSF Europe - Observing WIPO - Free Software Essentials Reference Sheet</title>
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[ <a href="FSER.pdf">PDF Version (53k)</a> ]
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<h1 align="center">Free Software - Essentials Reference Sheet</h1>
<p>Free Software has become an issue of increasing importance in all
political fora, national and international. This paper aims to provide
a reference of some Free Software essentials to allow delegates to
focus on the substance.</p>
<h2>Free for freedom, not price</h2>
<p>Free in Free Software exclusively refers to freedom, it never refers
to price. This fact warrants highlighting because it is at times
obscured by a particular weakness of the English language that is
generally not shared by other languages. Primarily used in this
definition since the 1980s, Free Software is defined by four
fundamental freedoms:</p>
<ul>
<li><b>The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.</b><br />
<em>Placing restrictions on the use of Free Software, such
as time (30 days trial period'', ''license expires January 1st, 2007'')
purpose (''permission granted for research and non-commercial use'') or
geographic area (''must not be used in country X'') makes a program
non-free.</em></li>
<li><b>The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to
your needs.</b><br />
<em>Placing legal or practical restrictions on the
comprehension or modification of a program, such as mandatory purchase
of special licenses, signing of a Non-Disclosure-Agreement
(NDA) or making the preferred human way of comprehending and editing a program
(and its ''source code'') inaccessible also makes it proprietary.</em></li>
<li><b>The freedom to make and redistribute copies.</b><br />
<em>If you are not allowed to give a program to someone else,
that makes a program non-free. This can be done for a charge, if you so
choose.</em></li>
<li><b>The freedom to improve the program, and release improvements.</b><br />
<em>Not everyone is a programmer, or a programmer equally good
in all fields. This freedom allows those with the necessary
skills to share them with those who do not possess them. This can be done for a
charge.</em></li>
</ul>
<h3>Rights, not obligations</h3>
<p>These freedoms are rights, not obligations. Any institution and person
can choose to not make use of them, but may also choose to make use of
all of them. In particular, it should be understood that Free Software
does not exclude commercial use. If a program fails to allow
commercial use and commercial distribution, it is not Free
Software. Indeed a growing number of companies base their business
model completely or partially on Free Software, including
some of the largest proprietary software vendors. Free Software makes
it legal to provide help and assistance, it does not make it
mandatory.</p>
<h3>Implemented in Copyright</h3>
<p>These freedoms are generally implemented by means of copyright,
although not in all cases: public domain software is also Free
Software, although a special case. For the vast majority of Free
Software it is the copyright license that determines whether a
particular program is indeed Free Software. If a copyright license
grants the freedoms described above, it is a Free Software license, of
which between 50 and 150 are in use today.</p>
<p>This suprisingly low
number is caused by the tradition to choose established and
well-understood licenses for Free Software, rather than writing a new
license for every program. Thus, by examining a handful of
comparatively simple licenses, it is possible to understand the
licensing terms of more than 90% of all Free Software, greatly
reducing the overhead of licensing administration and compliance.</p>
<h2>Terminology</h2>
<p>Free Software is discussed under various headings, with alleged
antonyms and synonyms, which frequently cause confusion and doubt and
will therefore be explained briefly.</p>
<h3>Antonyms</h3>
<p>The antonym of Free Software is proprietary software, or non-free
software. Commercial software is not an antonym to Free Software,
being commercial is unrelated to freedom. Commercial Free Software is
just as normal as non-commercial proprietary software, sometimes also
referred to as ''freeware''.</p>
<h3>Synonyms</h3>
<p>As of 1992, the term ''Libre Software'' was promoted as a synoym to
Free Software in parts of Europe to address the particular confusion of
the English language. The term ''Open Source'' was proposed in 1998 as
a marketing term for Free Software by the Open Source Initiative
(OSI). The OSI definition of ''Open Source'' covers an identical
body of copyright licenses to that of the 1989 Free Software
Definition explained above.</p>
<p>From the copyright licensing
viewpoint, both ''Libre Software'' and ''Open Source'' are Free
Software synonyms. Combination of terms, such as ''FOSS'' and
''FLOSS'' combine synonyms, redundantly identifying the
same body of software.</p>
<h3>Ambiguities</h3>
<p>The term ''Open Source'' was occasionally used in various ways before
its 1998 definition, and is used in several meanings today, which are
often mutually exclusive with each other, and in particular the Open
Source Definition of the OSI. So ''Open Source'' can refer to Free
Software, but it can also refer to software not meeting the criteria
above. It is also at times used to describe a particular software
development model, although some parts of Free Software are
developed in closed development models, and proprietary software is
increasingly experimenting with open development approaches. This
makes the term ''Open Source'' highly ambiguous, and indeed difficult
for all areas that depend on precision in their language, such as
science, law and politics.</p>
<h2>Public Policy Considerations</h2>
<p>Unlike
proprietary software, there is never any single company that has
absolute control of a Free Software solution. By choosing Free
Software, governments protect their independence from the corporate
interests of any single vendor, local or foreign. Maintaining their
ability to freely and independently live up to their political mandate
is the sovereign right of any government. Preferring or mandating Free
Software promotes this goal and is always non-discriminatory. It
preserves technological and political neutrality because Free Software
belongs to no single vendor or organisation, and any vendor is welcome
to supply Free Software of third parties. If vendors seek to do
business with governments, they can make the decision to give them
independence by releasing their own software under a Free Software
license.</p>
<h3>About the FSFE</h3>
<p>The <a href="/">Free Software Foundation
Europe</a> (FSFE) is a European NGO dedicated to all aspects of Free
Software. It provides a competence center for industry, politics and
society at large and participates in numerous activities, including as
fiduciary for Free Software authors, and participates in research and
development activities on European and national levels. More
information at <a
href="/">https://fsfe.org</a>. To contact the
author of this document, send email to <a href="/about/people/greve/">Georg
C.F. Greve</a> <a
href="mailto:greve@fsfe.org">greve@fsfe.org</a>, comments
and questions welcome.</p>
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