free software


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
Related to free software: Open Source Software

free software

(software)
Software that everyone is free to copy, redistribute and modify. That implies free software must be available as source code, hence "free open source software" - "FOSS". It is usually also free of charge, though anyone can sell free software so long as they don't impose any new restrictions on its redistribution or use. The widespread acceptance of this definition and free software itself owes a great deal to Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation.

There are many other kinds of "free software" in the sense of "free of charge". See "-ware".

This dictionary is free in both senses, though since it is documentation not software it is distributed under the GFDL.

free software

(1) Software that is free of charge. See freeware.

(2) Software that is free of restrictions and which may be free of charge. Free software licenses grant users the freedom to use it for any purpose, study and change the source code and copy and redistribute the software with or without modifications. Free software must come with source code or provide access to it, while the freedom to redistribute includes the right to give away copies gratis as well as sell copies. For the complete, official definition, visit www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html.

Occasionally, free software comes from proprietary products that were liberated by their developers; for example, the proprietary Netscape Web browser was later turned into the free software Mozilla and Firefox browsers (see Mozilla). However, most free software is intentionally written to be free, the most notable of which is the GNU/Linux operating system (see Linux).

Free Means Freedom, Not Free of Charge
When used in the context of this definition (not #1 above), without a doubt, the "free" in free software can be misleading. Although a huge amount of free software is indeed free of charge, and most developers of free software are volunteers, there is also a great amount that is not. For example, many distributions of the GNU/Linux system are paid for by the customer (see Linux distribution). Therefore, since free software can be commercial, the notion of free software should be contrasted with "proprietary software," not "commercial software."

Copyleft Licenses
Some free software licenses are copyleft licenses, which states that anyone redistributing the software does so under the same license and also includes the source code. The dominant copyleft license is the GNU GPL (see GNU General Public License). However, there are also non-copyleft free software licenses that do permit distribution of proprietary versions.

Free Software Vs. Open Source
The difference is philosophy. Strongly influenced by its founder Richard Stallman, the Free Software Foundation extols the virtues of free software as an ethical movement, vitally necessary for the advancement of society. Open source was derived from the free software movement, but focuses on practical benefits without touting moral issues. In fact, most open source licenses are free software licenses, but some are too restrictive to qualify. See free software movement, GNU, Linux, GNU/Linux and open source.
References in periodicals archive ?
Beginning with an established project will help the city become familiar with the process of procuring free software, and can help the city set a foundation for future projects.
While the agency does not require or favor the use of commercial over free software in medical devices, the Quality System Regulation does require that medical devices automated with computer software be subject to design controls.
One recent example was Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's speech threatening to sue Asian governments who may choose to procure and use free software.
Perhaps some of the practices of free software development could be useful in physical engineering fields, but the ethical problem of non-free software has no analogue in them.
In Argentina, two bills have been submitted since 2001 requiring the federal government to use free software and some state offices are already using it on their own.
It is well known that the Free Software Foundation does not hold copyright in the Linux system kernel program," he said.
The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs.
It is an exciting time in the history of software, particularly in the history of the Free Software movement," said Eben Moglen, general counsel to the Free Software Foundation and founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center, which is providing logistical support and legal advice to the Free Software Foundation.
This was an anathema to adherents of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), the registered charity which predates the open source movement and under whose General Public License (GPL) most open source software is released.
Wikia's OpenServing extends the essence of the open source model - free software and content - to all aspects of web-based computing.
The Free Software Foundation (FSF), established in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' rights to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute modified computer programs.
Summary: A meeting devoted to free software has been held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Post and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), said a a ministry's release on Tuesday.

Full browser ?