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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
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  5. <title>FSF Europe - World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)</title>
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  8. <center>
  9. <a href="FreeSoftware.pdf">[ PDF; 92k ]</a>
  10. </center><br />
  11. <center>
  12. <h1>Free Software</h1>
  13. <h2>(a.k.a. "Libre Software" or "Open Source")</h2>
  14. </center>
  15. <p class="indent"> During PrepCom3, a regular request was for a reference document on Free
  16. Software and its role in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
  17. This document seeks to provide such reference.</p>
  18. <p class="indent">Free in Free Software is referring to freedom, not price. Having been used
  19. in this meaning since the 80s, the first documented complete definition
  20. appears to be the <a href="http://www.gnu.org/bulletins/bull1.txt">GNU's Bulletin, vol. 1 no. 1</a>, published February 1986. In particular, four freedoms
  21. <a href="http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html">define</a> Free Software:</p>
  22. <ul>
  23. <li class="indent"><B>The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.</B>
  24. <p class="indent"> <em>Placing restrictions on the use of Free Software, such
  25. as time ("30 days trial period", "license expires January 1st, 2004")
  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></p>
  29. </li>
  30. <li class="indent"><B>The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to
  31. your needs.</B>
  32. <p class="indent"> <em>Placing legal or practical restrictions on the
  33. comprehension or modification of a program, such as mandatory purchase
  34. of special licenses, signing of a Non-Disclosure-Agreement (NDA) or -
  35. for programming languages that have multiple forms or representation
  36. - making the preferred human way of comprehending and editing a program
  37. ("source code") inaccessible also makes it proprietary (non-free).
  38. Without the freedom to modify a program, people will remain at the mercy
  39. of a single vendor.</em></p>
  40. </li>
  41. <li class="indent"><B>The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your
  42. neighbor.</B>
  43. <p class="indent"> <em>Software can be copied/distributed at virtually no
  44. cost. If you are not allowed to give a program to a person in need,
  45. that makes a program non-free. This can be done for a charge, if you so
  46. choose.</em></p>
  47. </li>
  48. <li class="indent"><B>The freedom to improve the program, and release your
  49. improvements to the public, so that the whole community
  50. benefits.</B>
  51. <p class="indent"> <em>Not everyone is an equally good programmer in all
  52. fields. Some people don't know how to program at all. This freedom
  53. allows those who do not have the time or skills to solve a problem to
  54. indirectly access the freedom to modify. This can be done for a
  55. charge.</em></p>
  56. </li>
  57. </ul>
  58. <p class="indent">These freedoms are rights, not obligations, although respecting these
  59. freedoms for society may at times oblige the individual. Any person can
  60. choose to not make use of them, but may also choose to make use of all of
  61. them. In particular, it should be understood that Free Software does not
  62. exclude commercial use. If a program fails to allow commercial use and
  63. commercial distribution, it is not Free Software. Indeed a growing number of
  64. companies base their business model completely or at least partially on Free
  65. Software, including some of the largest proprietary software vendors. Free
  66. Software makes it legal to provide help and assistance, it does not make it
  67. mandatory.</p>
  68. <h3>Terminology</h3>
  69. <p class="indent">English seems to be the only language in which such a strong ambiguity
  70. exists between freedom and price. When translated into other languages, Free
  71. Software becomes "logiciels libre" in French, "software libre" in
  72. Spanish, "software libero" in Portugese, "Fri Software" in Danish or
  73. whatever is the equivalent term in the local language referring to
  74. freedom.</p>
  75. <b>Open Source</b>
  76. <p class="indent">On February 3rd 1998, in the wake of Netscapes announcement to release their
  77. browser as Free Software, a group of people met in Palo Alto in the Silicon
  78. Valley and proposed to start a marketing campaign for Free Software using the
  79. term ``Open Source.'' The goal was to seek fast commercialisation of Free
  80. Software and acceptance of Free Software by the companies and venture
  81. capitalists of the booming new economy. As a means to this end, they made a
  82. conscious decision to leave aside all long-term issues (such as philosophy,
  83. ethics and social effects) related to Free Software, feeling these posed
  84. obstacles in the way of rapid acceptance by economy. They proposed to focus
  85. on technical advantages only<a class="fn" href="#fn">1</a>.</p>
  86. <p class="indent">Often used in good faith by people who refer to what Free Software stands
  87. for, the term "Open Source" - originally defined to mean the same thing as
  88. Free Software in terms of licenses and implementation - has seen inflationary
  89. usage. Nowadays, it is regularly used for everything between Free Software
  90. and the highly proprietary "Governmental Security Program" (GSP) by
  91. Microsoft<a class="fn" href="#fn">2</a>.</p>
  92. <b>Libre Software</b>
  93. <p class="indent"> When the European Commission started dealing with Free Software on a
  94. regular basis, they sought to avoid the ambiguity of the English word "Free
  95. Software" and the misunderstandings of "Open Source" alike, which led to
  96. the adoption of a third term which has popped up occasionally since around
  97. 1992: "Libre Software." This term has proven resistant to inflationary usage
  98. and is still used in an identical way to Free Software. So it may pose a
  99. solution for those who fear being misunderstood when speaking English.</p>
  100. <h3>Development</h3>
  101. <p class="indent">When thinking about Free Software, it should be seen as an encompassing
  102. concept for a reliable, sustainable and dependable information and knowledge
  103. society involving all stakeholders.</p>
  104. <p class="indent">The price we are paying for the predominance of the proprietary software
  105. approach is high. Because the proprietary software paradigm has a strong,
  106. system-inherent monopolising tendency <a class="fn" href="#fn">3</a> and software permeates all areas of
  107. economy, northern economies suffer and southern countries are given the
  108. choice between exclusion or co-suffering in total dependence. That is why
  109. breaking up Microsoft without a change in paradigm would not improve the
  110. situation significantly. Free Software, on the other hand, brings back
  111. competition while allowing cooperation among companies, people, and
  112. governments. All of these equally available and empowering to all the
  113. peoples.</p>
  114. <p class="indent">While minorities remain at the mercy of large multinational companies
  115. regarding support for their culture and language when using proprietary
  116. software, Free Software gives them freedom to modify all software according
  117. to their needs. Thus, Free Software also allows building a sustainable local
  118. hard- and software industry independent from monopolies and large
  119. multinationals. Of course cooperation with large companies is possible and
  120. may be useful, but while dependency is the price to pay for such cooperation
  121. in proprietary software, Free Software provides independence.</p>
  122. <h3>Equality</h3>
  123. <p class="indent">The design, development and use of software is increasing in all societies.
  124. Increasingly, access to software is largely determining our capabilities for
  125. education, communication, work and even social networking. This includes
  126. building social movements, promoting citizenship and transparent democracy as
  127. well as general governmental and health services.</p>
  128. <p class="indent">Software in general has grown into northern societies to a very large extent
  129. and if development policies are successful, this will also be true for
  130. southern societies at some point in time. Therefore software must be
  131. considered a cultural technique, sometimes even a cultural good.</p>
  132. <p class="indent">For all central cultural techniques, we have to ask who should be put in
  133. control of it. Proprietary software puts large northern multinationals in
  134. control<a class="fn" href="#fn">4</a>. Free Software
  135. makes this cultural technique equally available to all the peoples.</p>
  136. <h3>Human Rights</h3>
  137. <p class="indent">For those who are connected - and we surely hope this will mean all the
  138. peoples at some point - human rights of participation in culture, freedom of
  139. speech and opinion are influenced to a large extent by their control over the
  140. software they use, as are freedom of association and movement. Software forms
  141. the medium. Unlike the proprietary approach, Free Software gives each person
  142. full control about their personal information space. Although this alone is
  143. not sufficient to grant privacy and security, it is a necessary
  144. prerequisite.</p>
  145. <h3>Preventing Technocracy - upholding democracy</h3>
  146. <p class="indent">Legislation should be developed by democratically elected representatives in
  147. a transparent way. Even in situations where this is true, rights that cannot
  148. be exercised remain empty. Granting rights on paper does not mean people will
  149. have the means of exercising them.</p>
  150. <p class="indent">The complexity of modern systems alone makes it a difficult task to uphold
  151. democracy in the digital domain, but the overall intransparency of
  152. proprietary software makes it impossible. Unless you are using Free
  153. Software, the rights you can or cannot exercise are determined by the
  154. proprietary software vendor - it is the vendors decision alone, a decision
  155. that nowadays is often given precendence over the democratic legislative
  156. process.</p>
  157. <p class="indent">Good examples are the European Copyright Directive (EUCD) and Digital
  158. Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), both implementations of the "The World
  159. Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty" (December 1996).
  160. While the DMCA already gained notoriety for enabling censorship of
  161. Scientology-critical sites in the United States<a class="fn" href="#fn">5</a>, the German implementation of the EUCD is
  162. silently making the right to fair use inaccessible. Although laws clearly
  163. state that customers have the right to copy a CD for their car stereo or even
  164. a friend, those who exercise this right on so-called "copy protected" CDs
  165. or on any DVD now risk punishment. And if you think this is where it ends,
  166. feel free to read <a href="http://www.eff.org/files/20031001_tc.pdf">the EFF paper</a> on so-called "Trusted Computing" (TC).</p>
  167. <p class="indent">Proprietary software effectively puts an area that was previously governed
  168. by democratically elected representatives into the hand of corporations,
  169. therefore establishing technocracy<a class="fn" href="#fn">6</a>.</p>
  170. <h3>Summary</h3>
  171. <p class="indent">All of our hard work to defend and promote human rights, gender equality,
  172. rights of the disadvantaged, a free media, privacy and security, digital
  173. solidarity and other issues is in danger of having been for naught if the
  174. information age is based on proprietary software.</p>
  175. <p class="indent">Free Software alone is certainly not enough to overcome all problems - but
  176. it is a necessity to empower people to exercise the rights we are fighting
  177. for in the information societies.</p>
  178. <h2 id="fn">Footnotes</h2>
  179. <ol>
  180. <li>For reference, see <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20021217003716/http://www.opensource.org/advocacy/faq.html">http://web.archive.org/web/20021217003716/http://www.opensource.org/advocacy/faq.html</a>:
  181. <EM>How is "open source" related to "free software"? The Open Source
  182. Initiative is a marketing program for free software. It's a pitch for
  183. "free software" on solid pragmatic grounds rather than ideological
  184. tub-thumping. The winning substance has not changed, the losing attitude
  185. and symbolism have.</EM>
  186. </li>
  187. <li>In this program
  188. governments and intergovernmental organisations pay substantial fees for a
  189. superficial look at some parts of Windows sourcecode in special Microsoft
  190. facilities. This may increase "felt security" but is essentially useless -
  191. especially since they do not even know whether what they looked at is what
  192. they have on their computers. And of course it does not give them
  193. freedom.</li>
  194. <li>Explanation of these mechanisms will gladly be provided, if of interest.</li>
  195. <li>Side note: Which should
  196. not be understood as a good thing for people in the northern countries. It is
  197. not.</li>
  198. <li>For reference, see <a href="http://www-camlaw.rutgers.edu/publications/law-religion/scientology.htm">http://www-camlaw.rutgers.edu/publications/law-religion/scientology.htm</a> (not available any more).</li>
  199. <li>Technocracy: "Government by technicians or management of society by technical experts." (Merriam Webster Dictionary)</li>
  200. </ol>
  201. <DIV ALIGN="LEFT">
  202. <TT>
  203. <FONT SIZE="-1"> Date: 2004/10/19 15:34:59 Revision: 1.7 </FONT><br />
  204. <FONT SIZE="-1"> Author: <a href="/about/people/greve/">Georg Greve</a></FONT>
  205. </TT>
  206. </DIV>
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