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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<html>
<version>3</version>
<head>
<title>Free Software</title>
</head>
<body class="toplevel freesoftware">
<h1>What is Free Software</h1>
<div id="introduction">
<p>
The principles of Free Software are simple but it is important
to not get confused by the underlying complexity caused by its
long history. Learn about the <a href="#freedoms">four
freedoms</a> and their meaning, the fundamentals about <a
href="#licences">Free Software licenses</a>, the <a
href="#advantages">advantages</a> that Free Software provides,
and the most common <a href="#synonyms">synonyms</a>.
</p>
<p>
Looking beyond the circle of software itself, you can read more about
the interplay of Free Software with <a href="#more">other fields</a>
like education, procurement and democracy.
</p>
</div>
<h2 id="freedoms">The Four Freedoms</h2>
<p>
Free Software refers to freedom, not price. It guarantees its users the
essential four freedoms. The absence of at least one of these freedoms
means an application is proprietary, so non‐Free Software.
</p>
<!-- Pie chart and text adopted from p.4 of the PMPC brochure -->
<div class="fsgrid">
<div class="pie">
<div class="pie-use"><p>Use</p></div>
<div class="pie-study"><p>Study</p></div>
<div class="pie-share"><p>Share</p></div>
<div class="pie-improve"><p>Improve</p></div>
</div>
</div>
<div class="icon-grid icons-sm">
<ul>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/pie-topleft.png" alt=""/>
<div>
<h3>Use</h3>
<p>
Free Software can be used for any purpose and is free of
restrictions such as licence expiry or geographic limitations.
</p>
</div>
</li>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/pie-topright.png" alt=""/>
<div>
<h3>Study</h3>
<p>
Free Software and its code can be studied by anyone, without
non‐disclosure agreements or similar restrictions.
</p>
</div>
</li>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/pie-bottomleft.png" alt=""/>
<div>
<h3>Share</h3>
<p>
Free Software can be shared and copied at virtually no cost.
</p>
</div>
</li>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/pie-bottomright.png" alt=""/>
<div>
<h3>Improve</h3>
<p>
Free Software can be modified by anyone, and these improvements
can be shared publicly.
</p>
</div>
</li>
</ul>
</div>
<h2 id="licences">Licenses</h2>
<p>
The four freedoms are given by a software licence. Software licences
define the conditions under which a programme can be used and reused. For
it to be Free Software, the licence text must contain at least the four
freedoms. The <a
href="https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html">Free Software
Foundation</a> and the <a
href="https://opensource.org/licenses/category">Open Source Initiative</a>
maintain lists of reviewed and approved licences. An application can
usually not be considered Free Software if its licence does not appear in
one of these lists.
</p>
<p>
There are a multitude of licences with different focuses, and a
software product or parts of it can also be licenced under more than one
licence. The actual selection is a strategic question but you are advised
to pick one of the most widely used licences.
</p>
<h2 id="advantages">Advantages</h2>
<!-- adopted from PMPC brochure p.16+17 -->
<p>
Free Software is about freedom. In practice, this provides numerous
advantages for users, organisations, businesses and governments.
</p>
<div class="icon-grid">
<ul>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/autonomy.png" alt="" />
<div>
<h3>Autonomy</h3>
<p>
Free Software helps to develop and maintain tailored software that
suits your needs, not just the vendor's business model.
</p>
</div>
</li>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/collaboration.png" alt="" />
<div>
<h3>Collaboration</h3>
<p>
Free Software can be shared and used in a non-exclusive way by
everyone – serving the public good.
</p>
</div>
</li>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/share-copy.png" alt="" />
<div>
<h3>Share &amp; Copy</h3>
<p>
A Free Software licence allows a limitless number of installations
to be run, without paying extra.
</p>
</div>
</li>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/no-lock-in.png" alt="" />
<div>
<h3>No Lock-in</h3>
<p>
Free Software licenses reinforce independence from vendors and
provide more choice in service providers.
</p>
</div>
</li>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/reuse.png" alt="" />
<div>
<h3>Reuse Code</h3>
<p>
Free Software provides the freedom to reuse the code for other
projects.
</p>
</div>
</li>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/innovation.png" alt="" />
<div>
<h3>Innovation</h3>
<p>
A Free Software licence encourages innovation for your software.
</p>
</div>
</li>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/competition.png" alt="" />
<div>
<h3>Competition</h3>
<p>
Free Software resists monopolisation and enhances competition.
</p>
</div>
</li>
<li>
<img src="/graphics/icons/security.png" alt="" />
<div>
<h3>Security</h3>
<p>
Free Software allows for independent security checks that help
close security holes faster.
</p>
</div>
</li>
</ul>
</div>
<h2 id="synonyms">Synonyms</h2>
<p>
Over the course of time, people came up with additional labels for Free
Software. Often the motivation for these terms is to highlight different
aspects and to avoid confusion.
</p>
<p>
Free Software was first defined with the four freedoms mentioned above by
the <a href="/freesoftware/gnuproject.html">GNU project</a> in 1986. In
1998, "Open Source" was set up as a marketing campaign for Free
Software but with the same freedoms in mind. Other widely known labels for
Free Software are "Libre Software", initiated to avoid the ambiguity of
the English word "free", and "FOSS" or "FLOSS" as abbreviations for "Free
(Libre) Open Source Software".
</p>
<p>
The level of freedom particular software offers is always determined by
the licence, not the label. In other words, don’t get confused by
different terms for the same features. If you are interested in the
historical background and why we prefer the original term, you can <a
class="learn-more"
href="/freesoftware/comparison.html">Read&#160;more...</a>
</p>
<h2 id="more">Further Insights</h2>
<p>
The numerous advantages of Free Software are a benefit in themselves, but also contribute positively to other technical and non-technical fields. Since the FSFE's foundation in 2001, we have been exploring different areas and how Free Software can make a difference.
</p>
<ul>
<li>
<strong><a href="/freesoftware/democracy.html">Democracy</a></strong>:
technology greatly influences today's society. That is why control over
technology has to be in the hands of everybody, not just a small group.
</li>
<li>
<strong><a href="/freesoftware/standards/">Open Standards</a></strong>: Open
Standards allow people to share all kinds of data freely and with
perfect fidelity. They resist lock-in and other artificial barriers to
interoperability, and promote choice between vendors and technology
solutions.
</li>
<li>
<strong><a href="/freesoftware/education/">Education</a></strong>: Free
Software is pedagogically superior; its basic spirit of freedom
and cooperation is the proper spirit of education in a democratic
environment.
</li>
<li>
<strong><a href="/freesoftware/procurement/">Public
Procurement</a></strong>: Free Software is a perfect fit for the public
sector. It is a public resource that government organisations can use,
study, improve, and share with each other. For citizens, this means
transparency, cost efficiency, and the freedom to interact with their
government in the way that suits them best.
</li>
</ul>
</body>
</html>