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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Software patent - any action?

From: Chris Croughton
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Software patent - any action?
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 16:21:06 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.2.5i

On Tue, Dec 31, 2002 at 01:44:18PM +0000, Chris Lale wrote:

> I also want to explain the meaning of free software to a lay person in 
> my letters. I would welcome comments on the following text, especially 
> where I have made mistakes.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> Open-source software and free software are the same in practical terms. 
> They both use the same licence (GPL).

Er, no.  Much, possibly most free and open source software does not use
the GPL (the whole of the BSD code, for a start).  The FSF recognises a
whole set of licences which are compatible with the GPL, and even more
which are "open source" (and possibly even 'free') but are not
compatible with the GPL.

It is even arguable that the GPL itself is not as 'free' as, say, the
BSD licence, since it forces programmers using GPL software to use the
same licence for their own code in some circumstances.

> Their philosophy is different. 
> Free software is defined in terms of freedoms (freedom to run, study, 
> adapt, redistribute and improve a program). Open-source software is

may be

> defined in practical terms (rights attached to a program must allow 
> redistribution and derived works, avoid descrimination, must not be 
> specific to a product or restrict other software, must be technology 
> neutral).

Free software is always open source.  The reverse is not always true.

> Both require full access to source code - no secrecy.
> Free software is not the same as freeware or public domain software. 

Which are not the same thing either.  Most 'freeware' is closed-source,
executable only (but the executables may be distributed without charge
-- it's "free as in free beer") but the source code is not only still
copyright to the author but is not released either.  Most public domain
software, on the other hand, is source code of one kind or another, and
is owned by no one (or by everyone, depending on your point of view)
having been explicitly 'orphaned' by its creator (note that
international copyright exists in every work, whether an explicit
copyright notice is attached or not, unless it it is explicitly released
into the public domain).

> Freeware and public domain software can be snapped up and put into 
> non-free programs. Any improvements then made are lost to society. To 
> stay free, software must be copyrighted and licensed.

Not necessarily true.  The /original/ source is generally still
available in the public domain, it is only changes to it which are
'lost' (and whether you think that is an evil thing depends on whether
you are a communist).  However, without a copyright owner the code can
then be copyrighted by someone else, who can claim it as their own
because there is no one to challenge it.

> Free software does not


> mean non-commercial. A free program must be available for commercial
> use, commercial development, and commercial distribution.  Commercial
> development of free software is now quite common.

Chris C

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