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Principles of Free Software
December 31, 2021
- Free software1is about freedom:
people should be able to use software in all ways that are
socially useful; such as giving you neighbour a copy of a program, modifying
it to suit your needs or the needs of others.
- Software differs from material objects in that it can be copied and changed
more easily; this fact, along with its social impact is what makes free software
so useful as it is. We believe software users should be able to make use of
- ``Free software'' refers to the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study,
change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of
freedom, for the users of the software:
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
- The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.
Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour.
- The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public,
so that the whole community benefits.
Access to the source code
is a precondition for this.
- A program is free software if users have all of these freedoms. Thus, you should
be free to redistribute copies, either with or without modifications, either
gratis or charging a fee for distribution, to anyone anywhere. Being free to
do these things means (among other things) that you do not have to ask or pay
- You should also have the freedom to make modifications and use them privately
in your own work or play, without even mentioning that they exist. If you do
publish your changes, you should not be required to notify anyone in particular,
or in any particular way.
- You may have paid money to get copies of free software, or you may have obtained
copies at no charge. However, regardless of how you got the copies of free software,
you always have the freedom to copy and change the software, even to sell copies.
- ``Free Software'' does not mean ``non-commercial''. Free software
can be supported and developed for commercial purposes.
- In order for these freedoms to be real, they must be irrevocable as long as
you do nothing wrong; if the developer of the software has the power to revoke
the license, even though you have not given cause, the software is not free.
- Certain kinds of rules about the manner of distributing free software are acceptable,
when they don't conflict with the central freedoms. For example, copyleft (very
simply stated) is the rule that when redistributing the program, you cannot
add restrictions to deny other people the central freedoms. This rule does not
conflict with the central freedoms; rather it protects them.
- One of the main goals of free software is to build a community of cooperation
and sharing. It is through this community that we hope to bring people together
and make the world a better place.
- ... software1
- For a more complete description of the criteria and/or principles of free software
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by Ross Moore, 2022-02-04