Free Software Foundation

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Free Software Foundation



Promotes the production and use of free software and the General Public License.

From an interview:

What is the Free Software Foundation and how is it important to open source?

"The FSF is a not-for-profit foundation created in 1985 to sponsor the GNU project and promote the worldwide cause of software freedom.

Free software is about having control over the technology we use in our homes, schools and businesses. Where computers work for our individual and communal benefit, not for proprietary software companies or governments who might seek to restrict and monitor us.

The GNU system that we developed with the help of a worldwide community of volunteers, is in widespread use today in the form of GNU/Linux: a combination of the GNU system and a kernel written by Linus Torvalds.

Open Source is a different idea. The term was created by people in the free software movement that were concerned about appealing to the CEO’s of powerful corporations, who didn’t care to hear about our social movement’s purpose of gaining computer user freedom.

Today, more people know this history and appreciate the values of software freedom. Indeed, many representatives of Open Source organizations point to the Free Software Foundation’s work and recognize that our mission is the core of their purpose.

You can help the cause of software freedom by not participating in the corporate process of hiding the meaning behind this movement. Please call this work free software and not open source. Remember that the system is GNU using the Linux kernel, not just Linux. These are great and simple ways to make a difference and educate others." (


Principles of the free software movement, described at

`Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of ``free as in ``free speech, not as in ``free beer. Free software is a matter of 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 (freedom 0).

- The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour (freedom 2).

- The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this." (Stallman website)

See also the GNU Manifesto at .

- The GPL license explained:

"The GPL governs the programming instructions called source code that developers write and then convert into the binary files that computers understand. At its heart, the GPL permits anyone to see, modify and redistribute that source code, as long as they make changes available publicly and license them under the GPL. That contrasts with some licenses used in open-source projects that permit source code to be made proprietary. Another requirement is that GPL software may be tightly integrated only with other software that also is governed by the GPL. That provision helps to create a growing pool of GPL software, but it's also spurred some to label the license "viral," raising the specter that the inadvertent or surreptitious inclusion of GPL code in a proprietary product would require the release of all source code under the GPL." (

An article about the 'copyleft attitude' and the emergence of the free art license, at

- Richard Stallman on the free software principles:

"My work on free software is motivated by an idealistic goal: spreading freedom and cooperation. I want to encourage free software to spread, replacing proprietary software that forbids cooperation, and thus make our society better. That's the basic reason why the GNU General Public License is written the way it is--as a copyleft. All code added to a GPL-covered program must be free software, even if it is put in a separate file. I make my code available for use in free software, and not for use in proprietary software, in order to encourage other people who write software to make it free as well. I figure that since proprietary software developers use copyright to stop us from sharing, we cooperators can use copyright to give other cooperators an advantage of their own: they can use our code.:" ( )

French-language interview with Stallman:

- Richard Stallman on why it is okay to charge for free software:

"The word ``free has two legitimate general meanings; it can refer either to freedom or to price. When we speak of ``free software, we're talking about freedom, not price. (Think of ``free speech, not ``free beer.) Specifically, it means that a user is free to run the program, change the program, and redistribute the program with or without changes. Free programs are sometimes distributed gratis, and sometimes for a substantial price. Often the same program is available in both ways from different places. The program is free regardless of the price, because users have freedom in using it." ( )