Free Software? Open Source? Why should I care?
Fundamental Freedoms of Free Software
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:
- Freedom 0
The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
- Freedom 1
The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.
Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- Freedom 2
The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
- Freedom 3
The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements
to the public, so that the whole community benefits. Access to the source code
is a precondition for this.
Open source doesn't just mean access to the source code. The distribution terms of
open-source software must comply with the following criteria:
- 1. Free Redistribution
The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software
as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several
different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.
- 2. Source Code
The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well
as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there
must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable
reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code
must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately
obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor
or translator are not allowed.
- 3. Derived Works
The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed
under the same terms as the license of the original software.
- 4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code
The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the
license allows the distribution of "patch files" with the source code for the purpose of
modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of
software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry
a different name or version number from the original software. Accordingly, an open-source
license must guarantee that source be readily available, but may require that it be
distributed as pristine base sources plus patches. In this way, "unofficial"
changes can be made available but readily distinguished from the base source.
- 5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.
Some countries, including the United States, have export restrictions for certain types
of software. An OSD-conformant license may warn licensees of applicable restrictions
and remind them that they are obliged to obey the law; however, it may not incorporate
such restrictions itself.
- 6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field
of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business,
or from being used for genetic research.
- 7. Distribution of License
The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed
without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
- 8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's being part of a
particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and
used or distributed within the terms of the program's license, all parties to whom the
program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction
with the original software distribution.
- 9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software
The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along
with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other
programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software. Yes, the GPL is
conformant with this requirement. Software linked with GPLed libraries only inherits
the GPL if it forms a single work, not any software with which they are merely distributed.
- 10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral
No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.
More information on free software, open source, and licensing
Creative Commons: Licenses Explained
GNU Project: The Free Software Definition
GNU Project: License List
Open Source Initiative: The Open Source Definition