free software

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Related to free software: Open Source Software

free 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.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (

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

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.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Considered one of the founders of the free software movement in the 1980s, Stallman (2010) defines free software as 'software that comes with permission for anyone to use, copy, and/or distribute, either verbatim or with modifications, either gratis or for a fee' (77).
In this sense, free software provides a form of "commons-based peer production," a form of production that is "radically decentralized, collaborative, and nonproprietary; based on sharing resources and outputs among widely distributed, loosely connected individuals who cooperate with each other without relying on either market signals or managerial commands" (Benkler, 2006, p.
free software. (45) There has been little litigation under the GPL, (46)
Free software possesses three properties that enable this collective development that proprietary4 solutions do not: its source code (5) is auditable, its source code is modifiable, and it has a license cost of zero.
The notion of 'free software' has enemies in predictable places notably Microsoft Corporation and Richard Stallman's essays address all these issues, discussing the history and evolution of the free software movement, its political and social effects, and basic issues of copyright in a digital world.
However, Tiemann underlines that the four software vendors who are members of the consortium view free software as threatening to their business, and consider that the purchase of intellectual property is a way of protecting themselves - particularly in the domains of operating systems (especially for mobile devices), middleware, virtualisation and location independent computing ('cloud') affected by the patents set to be purchased.
When competing with free software it is more important than ever to re-think how you sell.
During a working visit and as part of the 5 th edition of the free software forum which was recently held in Tunisia, Mr.
Connectify has announced Connectify 1.0 a free software application for Windows 7 that turns any Wi-Fi enabled computer into a real wireless access point.
Cisco Systems will appoint a director to ensure that its Linksys products comply with the terms of free software licenses, and in return the Free Software Foundation will dismiss its lawsuit against the networking giant, the parties said.

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