Free Software movement

 [image of the Head of a GNU]

People use Free Software operating systems such as GNU/Linux for various reasons. Many users switch for practical reasons: because the system is powerful, because it is reliable, or for the convenience of being able to change the software to do what you need.

Those are good reasons---but there is more at stake than just convenience. What's at stake is your freedom, and your community.

The idea of the Free Software movement is that computer users deserve the freedom to form a community. You should have the freedom to help yourself, by changing the source code to do whatever you need to do. And the freedom to help your neighbor, by redistributing copies of programs to other people. Also the freedom to help build your community, by publishing improved versions so that other people can use them.

Whether a program is free software depends on its license. Our detailed definition of free software shows how we evaluate a license to see if it makes programs free software. We also have articles about certain specific licenses explaining the advantages and disadvantages of some licenses that do qualify, and why some other licenses are too restrictive to qualify.

Another related movement was started in 1998---the Open Source movement. The two movements do similar work, and often cooperate on software projects, but we have completely different philosophical reasons for what we do. The Open Source movement talks only about practical advantages of free software. That's good as far as it goes, but it only scratches the surface of the issue. They carefully avoid raising the issues of freedom, community, and principle. The Free Software movement raises these deeper issues.

If you think that freedom and community are important for their own sake, please join us in proudly using the term ``Free Software'', and help spread the word.

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Copyright (C) 1999 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110, USA

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

Updated: 12 january 2000 prashant