n. 1 Software that can be freely copy, redistributed and modify, including source code; software that is libre. 2 Any software that is free of charge, such as freeware.
Free software, freedom-respecting software, software libre, or libre software is computer software that gives users the freedom to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute the software and any adapted versions. The right to study and modify free software grants access to its source code. For computer programs that are covered by copyright law, this is achieved with a software license by which the author grants users the aforementioned freedom. Software that is not covered by copyright law, such as software in the public domain, is free if the source code is in the public domain, or otherwise available without restrictions. Other legal and technical aspects, such as software patents and digital rights management may restrict users in exercising their rights, and thus prevent software from being free. Free software may be developed collaboratively by volunteer computer programmers or by corporations; as part of a commercial, for-profit activity or not.
Free software is a matter of liberty, not price: users, individually or collectively, are free to do what they want with it, including the freedom to redistribute the software free of charge, or to sell it, or charge for related services such as support or warranty for profit. Free software thus differs from proprietary software, such as Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides or iWork from Apple, which users cannot study, change, and share. Free software is also different than freeware, which is a category of freedom-restricting proprietary software that does not require payment for use. Proprietary software, including freeware, use restrictive software licences or EULAs and usually do not provide access to the source code. Users are thus prevented from changing the software, and this results in the user relying on the publisher to provide updates, help, and support. This situation is called vendor lock-in. Users often may not reverse engineer, modify, or redistribute proprietary software.
Richard Stallman used the already existing term free software when he launched the GNU Project—a collaborative effort to create a freedom-respecting operating system—and the Free Software Foundation (FSF). The FSF's Free Software Definition states that users of free software are free because they do not need to ask for permission to use the software.
Free software may refer to one of the following.
- Freely redistributable software
- Free software, defined by the Free Software Foundation, is software which may be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed ("free as in free speech"), but is not necessarily available for no charge
- Open-source software, similar to free software
- Free and open-source software
- Freeware, software available for zero price, but not necessarily with the rights to modify and redistribute it
- Free Software Magazine
- Free Software Magazine (China)
Usage examples of "free software".
Efficient computing was rare at the turn of the millennium, and companies with well-designed, bug-free software had a tremendous edge over their competition.
He threatened that if there was any foul play, his partner would publish the key, and all firms would suddenly find themselves in competition with free software.
They genuinely thought that they could survive on wreckage, scrap, grunge computers, fellow feeling, free software, cheap thrills, and Jerry's charisma.
The most hackerish of all the hackers, the Ur-hacker as it were, was and is Richard Stallman, who became so annoyed with the evil practice of selling software that, in 1984 (the same year that the Macintosh went on sale) he went off and founded something called the Free Software Foundation, which commenced work on something called GNU.
I don't program, and I don't have a GNOME box or anything, but I like the whole Free Software effort, just because it's a radically different industrial method.