A free software is a Logiciel of which the license known as free gives to each one the right to use, to study, modify, duplicate, give and sell the software. Richard Stallman formalized the concept of free software in first half of the Années 1980 then popularized it with the Projet GNU and the Free Software Foundation (FSF).
Since the end of the Years 1990, the success of the free software, in particular of Linux, arouses an lively interest in computing industry and the media. The free software constitutes an option vis-a-vis those which are not it, qualified “owners”.
The concept of free software merges neither with that of software Gratuit ( freewares ), neither with that of sharewares , nor with that of public domain. In the same way, the freedoms defined by a free software are much wider than the simple access to the sources, what is called often software Open Source or “with open sources”. However, the formal concept of software Open Source such as it is defined by the Open Source Initiative is recognized like technically comparable with the free software.
Origins and evolution of the free software
The operators of the first Ordinateur S produced in series took the practice to form user groups to share their experiments: SHARE and COMMON for IBM, DISAPPOINTED for Digital Equipment Corporation, etc Indeed, it then did not have there a resource to be formed, apart from the formations given by the manufacturers. These groups were supported by the manufacturers themselves and of the modifications of Logiciel S were exchanged. At that time, it was the Computer material which was supposed to constitute the source of revenue, the Logiciel being only one means of facilitating the sale of it. The access to the Source code was normal, because no one did not buy a computer without having a team of programmers. Quite front even the creation of Unix, professional environments and academics exchanged readily their software and their source codes, and the manufacturers gave theirs for nothing until the anti-monopoly acts theirs prohibit in order to allow the exercise of a competition in this field., Moreover, until the Années 1970, it was not yet completely clearly that the Royalty applies to the software.
, the manufacturers are constrained to separately invoice their software at the beginning of Années 1970; in fifteen years, the advent of the Micro-informatique will generalize this model and will give a rise to the software publishers who direct themselves towards the sale of licenses of use. An example often quoted to illustrate this turning is an open letter of Bill Gates to the hobbyists to enjoin them to cease copying the software unlawfully. This same Bill Gates, by obtaining that IBM leaves him the rights of DOS - then of Windows - and markets only a license use, will become two decades later the richest man in world where it is sold a Personal computer every ten seconds, more than nine out of ten being prééquipé of a system Microsoft.
The manufacturers in parallel restricted the access to the Source code of the programs, because the modifications often carried out by the teams of the customers make problematic the remote support from there (strategy OCO, object-code only , of IBM starting from the beginning of the Années 1980. It becomes impossible, and in certain prohibited cases, to study, correct or improve the acquired software. Not only the user cannot adapt the software any more to his wishes, but in the event of bug, it is found depend on goodwill of the editor of the software. Lastly, the copy, a natural operation with a computer, becomes prohibited in general (by defect, the royalty prohibits the copy not explicitly authorized).
The software available only under these restrictive conditions becomes the rule then, and the software hitherto freely exchanged is often found integrated in fixed and nonshareable commercial products.
Richard Stallman, then researcher at the laboratory of artificial intelligence of the Massachusetts Institute off Technology , feels this change deeply when the colleagues, with whom it worked and exchanged software up to now, are engaged in their turn to produce software which they will not be able to share any more. In 1983 it thus creates the Projet GNU, which aims to build an operating system compatible with Unix, and whose totality of the software is freely shareable. Parallel to the work of development started, Richard Stallman founds the Free Software Foundation . In order to give a solid base to his project, Richard Stallman defines precisely the concept of free software . And it writes with the assistance of Eben Moglen the public License general GNU (LPG) which uses the royalty to guarantee the perenniality of the right to the division (and thus to prohibit the possibility that an evolution is not shareable any more). Thus it fixes a legal framework and encourages the development of the free software. The goal of the free software is to allow the complete division of information, from where the reference to the Liberté.
If Richard Stallman considers of course that the freely shareable software hitherto is free, it also includes the software under Copyleft in the free software. The invention of the copyleft , implemented by the public License general GNU, makes it possible to solve two apparently paradoxical requirements: to allow the free division of a software, while preventing its integration in nonshareable products. The free software under copyleft is thus available under a license which includes a big number of clauses aiming at preventing any possibility of making the software less free by redistributing it. Thus the LPG requires inter alia any redistribution be done exactly under the conditions of the LPG, as well for the original software as for the modifications which would have been made, by guaranteeing the access to the complete Source code during several years.
The developers and users of free software result independent, from all political tendencies, and their motivations are far from being homogeneous.
Richard Stallman considers that the royalty, while prohibiting to help his/her friends by a simple copy, by privileging the author with depend on the whole world, is harmful for the company
A social phenomenonThe passion for the free software exceeds today largely the framework of the small community of the technicians in and by whom the concept originally was created and developed. One does not count any more the standpoint in the company in favor of the very new development model and distribution of the software. A great number of completely foreign people to the data-processing culture entichent concept, without it being however quite certain that they distinguish subtleties from the " open source" , of the " gratuité" software or quite simply of the " liberté" really concerned.
The free software is not only any more one solution legal protecting the royalty choosing to work in a way open and collaborative, that becomes a true social phenomenon. It impassions young people who are discovered vocations of promoters of this new philosophy, with a dash which touches sometimes with the romanticism. The software owner (perhaps you will include/understand commercial and industrial) of which the " libre" is a posted alternative becomes with the eyes of some an objective enemy. The simple competition of the market cannot be enough to explain their passion. They speak about choice of company and find sometimes a positive feedback among certain national political officials, who add the topic in their programs.
To be qualified of free software , a software must be available under conditions answering strict criteria. The Free Software Foundation and the project Debian study carefully each license of software to determine if the software is free (according to their respective criteria).
Free Software Foundation (FSF), project GNU
The FSF maintains a definition of the free software based on four freedoms:
- Freedom 0: Freedom to carry out the program, for all the Use S.
- Freedom 1: Freedom studied the operation of the program.
- This supposes the access to the Source code.
- Freedom 2: Freedom to redistribute copies.
- This includes/understands freedom to sell copies.
- Freedom 3: Freedom to improve the program and to publish its improvements.
- This supposes the access to the Source code.
Freedom 3 encourages the creation of a community of developers improving the software and allows the Fork , that is to say the creation of a concurrent branch of development, in particular in the event of dissension between developers.
The FSF insists on the fact that “free” does not have to be included/understood like “free”. This confusion is particularly sensitive in English, where “free” and “free” result in “ free ”, and “free software” is written “ free software ”. To raise this confusion, the sentence “ Free ace in " free speech" , not ace in " free beer" ” (“Free as in freedom of expression , not as in free beer ”) is often repeated by the promoters of the free software. Concerning the financial aspect, let us note that the free software is free on Internet and that there exists in parallel of the specialized companies in the sale and the support of free software, one of most known in this field being Red Hat. Each one of course has the right to redistribute free or not a free software, whatever the means by which it acquired it.
The FSF specifies the definition: these freedoms owe irrevocable beings; one must be able to enjoy it without having to prevent a third; one must be able to redistribute the program in any form, in particular compiled, however the access to the Source code must be possible to enjoy freedoms of study and improvement; one must be able to amalgamate free software which one is not oneself the author. The FSF accepts minor restrictions as for the way in which a modified software must be presented when it is redistributed.
DebianAs a Distribution Linux cash of the thousands of free software of all sources, the project Debian is confronted with problems a little different from the FSF, which concentrates more on the development. Debian developed the principles of the free software according to Debian also known under acronym DFSG (for Debian Free Software Guidelines ). They include/understand the non-discrimination of the users and of the Usage S. They specify the acceptable restrictions as regards safeguarding of the source code of the original author. Debian accepts the requirement explicitly that the distribution of a modified form of a free software is made under another name that the original software. One can note on this subject that the names of several free software are registered trademarks: for example Linux, Mozilla and Apache.
Legal baseThe free software is subjected, like any software deposited, with the Royalty. The characteristic of the free software is that the author exerts his right by distributing the software accompanied by a free License which enumerates the rights given to the user. It gives up thus the exclusiveness in the majority of the rights which the royalty gets.
The originator of the LPG, Eben Moglen, insists on the distinction between license and Contrat which exists in American right: a license is a unilateral authorization, while a contract supposes reciprocal obligations. The free software is distributed with simple licenses. Generally, they are also distributed without the least guaranteed.
Certain licenses, whose the most known and used for the free software, the public License general GNU, are relatively complex. Thus the LPG gives the right to redistribute a software only if the whole of the software, including all the possible modifications, are redistributed according to the exact terms of the LPG. This license is known as “viral” or “contaminant” by its opponents, because if it authorizes the fusion of a software under LPG with a software under another license, it authorizes on the other hand the redistribution of the software amalgamated only under LPG.
See also: free License
The free software is often divided into three, according to the degree of freedom granted by the license as regards redistribution.
Licenses of standard BSDThey are the licenses which offer greatest freedom. In general, only the quotation of the original authors is required. In particular, these licenses make it possible to redistribute a free software in a nonfree form. These licenses thus make it possible any actor to change the license under which the software is distributed. A case of current change of license is the integration of software under license BSD in a software under copyleft (license LPG). Another case running is the integration of software under license BSD in the software owners.
Copyleft , licenses of standard LPGThey are the licenses which prohibit the redistribution out of the principles of the copyleft, because If a program is a free software at the time when it leaves the hands of its author, that necessarily does not mean that it will be a free software for whoever will have a copy of it. The licenses of the project GNU are most famous. Such a license makes it possible to integrate software under license BSD and to redistribute it under license LPG. The reverse is impossible. Actors of projects BSD criticize a less degree of freedom of the licenses of the type copyleft , and commercial actors denounce a contaminant nature.
Free contentsBy extension, one speaks about Contenu free for documents whose contents are freely consultable, copiable and modifiable by everyone, in particular the documents governed by GFDL, like Wikipédia.
Literally, Open Source means “open source code”. However, one generally uses Open Source in reference to the Open Source Definition introduced by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) in 1998 which wished another terminology for the free software, which wanted to be in English less ambiguous and more adapted to the business world than Free Software .
This initiative because a controversy with Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation which regretted the setting in front of the technical principles with depends on ethics. In practice, a software Open Source within the meaning of the OSI is free within the meaning of the FSF and reciprocally, the only notable exception having been the versions 1.x the Apple Public Source License .
Freewares , free software, graticielsOne uses the term freeware for the software owners which is distributed Gratuit ement. The freewares are not free because them Source code is not available and thus only the original author can improve it and publish modified versions. Moreover, the resale of a freeware is often restricted. The freewares are increasingly rare and are often regarded as a kind of brake to the free software.
Contrary, the free software is not inevitably free. So that a software is free, each one must have the right to distribute it at any price. In the facts, the majority of the free software are free on Internet, but can simultaneously be bought at a price comparable with the software owners. In this second case, the purchase generally gives right to a guarantee of support.
Sharewares , software to be divided, partagicielsThe shareware is a software which one can legitimately get free, but that one must pay if one wishes to use it. No free software is a shareware . In extreme cases, a free software could encourage the remuneration of the author, without that not having force of license (without what it would not be free any more). But any person would be free to remove the encouragement and to redistribute this reduced version.
Source code divided) comes from the Shared Source Initiative of Microsoft. It is about a type of license which gives the right to look at the Source code and sometimes to distribute modified versions of them. However, the right to sell is not given and the licenses shared source are not regarded as licenses of free software.
Software ownerA nonfree software is called Logiciel owner. Name can appear misleading, because except for software in the public domain, the free software does not have less owners than the others, although the term authors is more suitable. The authors of free software preserve certain rights dependant on the free type of license employed.
Characteristics of the free software
Access to the sourcesFreedoms studied and to improve a software suppose an access to the Source code software. The access to the source code is important because the software is generally distributed in a compiled form in Machine language, ready to be carried out by a Ordinateur. But the machine language is far from readable and returns the study of the excessively painful software. The access to the source code gave place to the concept of Open Source (open source).
Open formatsThe free software tends, in their great majority, to respect the open general formats, which supports the Interopérabilité. For example, the development of the Navigateur Web Mozilla Firefox endeavors scrupulously to respect the recommendations put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium. In the same way, OpenOffice.org defined the format OpenDocument, with the public specifications and certified like ISO normalizes, thus incarnating a perennial value for the bureaucratic applications. The use of open formats whose whole of the technical specifications are known guarantees the filing of the numerical documents.
Quality is often proportional to the numbers of the developers. The more the community of development extends, the more it becomes a pledge of quality and reactivity. Same manner, the community of the users, having like main role to make go up dysfunctions and suggestions, has an influence proportional to its size.
The relative safety of the free software and owners is prone to debate.
- the free access to the Source code allows the examination of the software by independent experts.
- the free access to the Source code makes impossible the recourse to the Sécurité by the darkness, which is regarded as an advantage or a defect, according to the point of view.
- the discovery of security breaches is facilitated by the publication of the source code. Indeed, the opening of the code statistically makes it possible a greater number of people to have the possibility of locating and of correcting vulnerabilities.
The marketing of the free software is possible but freedom n°2 prohibits exclusiveness in it. This characteristic makes delicate the financial return on investment for the developers of the software by the sale of the software. In other words: The free software does not allow a direct remuneration of the authors. For this reason the latter often turn to the sale of service associated with the software (see the article devoted to with the services companies in free software).
The free licenses more “constraining” impose that any project which re-uses the source code of the free software becomes itself a free software. The traditional editors refusing there categorically, this provision locks up them in the world of “not-free” (universe of the software owners). It then creates for itself a gap between the two worlds, which is detrimental from the point of view of interworking and the harmony between free systems and owners who are brought “to cohabit”.
The discussed policy of the large accountsCertain partisans of the Free software see an inconsistency in the policy of certain companies having posted an adhesion with the principles of the Open Source but being favorable to the extension to the software of the field of the patentable one. For them, Free software (via the Free Software Foundation) fight openly against the patentability of the software and, consequently, against the exclusiveness in exploitation of an idea per only one person or company. They fear that in the long term, certain members of the Open Source hold wallets of patents on ideas , enabling them to claim royalties on each portion of source code.
IBM, for example, deposited in Europe and with the the United States certain algorithms crucial in the general operation of the core or the operating system Linux and carried in front of courts of the businesses so that the software patents are instituted and recognized in Europe. However, this same company offers 500 of these patents to the developers of Free software and Open Source.
In practice, however, any lawsuit in Intellectual property is expensive in time and money. It is often difficult at the community Open Source to take advantage of its rights vis-a-vis the Multinationale S. Some of its detractors show it to sometimes receive multinational of the nudges in the right direction helping it to fight against the influence of another (it was one moment the case between Sun and Microsoft in the business OpenOffice; IBM also finances the Linux community against the actions of Microsoft, etc)
InnovationThe free software does not make it possible to guarantee the protection of the innovations: a free software revealing and allowing the recopy of the integrality of its source code does not make it possible to keep a long time an competitive advantage which would be related to a new method or algorithm.
Offer in free software
Some free software
Among the most known free software of the general public appear:
- the Core of operating system Linux
- the Navigator Web Mozilla Firefox (Though this statute is disputed in the last versions)
- the Serveur HTTP Apache
- the continuation Bureautique OpenOffice.org
- software of Retouche of image, The Gimp
- basic managers of data MySQL and PostgreSQL
Free software in the market of the softwareThe free software is essential more and more like a less expensive replacement solution (from the strict point of view of " the acquisition") software owners. It becomes also a product increasingly proposed by retailers, either for his reliability (case of suppliers of waiters), or at its null cost of license, allowing the customer to invest the difference in associated services.
- Report/ratio CAP 2005, cité by Computer Reseller News, No 192, January 18th, 2007, p 18
Side of the administrations, one can quote the governments Brazilian, South-African, of Andalusia and Estrémadure in Spain, which officially posted their orientation towards the free software. In France, one can note, after the national police, the passage of the whole of the central administration with OpenOffice.org. It would be the greatest migration of this type (according to the Barber in 2006).
Moreover, AFUL published a document on the economic models related to the free software.
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