Talk:Free software

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Former good article nominee Free software was a good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
September 1, 2007 Good article nominee Not listed

Control over the Software and the computer.[edit]

This article almost completly ignores the question of the control by the user. Though this notion must be criticaly important to free software, since the free software definition by the fsf says:

Roughly, the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. With these freedoms, the users (both individually and collectively) control the program and what it does for them.

When users don't control the program, the program controls the users. The developer controls the program, and through it controls the users. This nonfree or “proprietary” program is therefore an instrument of unjust power.

[1]

I'm not one hundred percent fluent in english, so I would not modify the article on my own for now. But I think, the article needs seriously to include this notion of control,to be accurate. --Pparent (talk) 11:00, 9 March 2012 (UTC)

We should try to include a paragraph on it as it is mentioned by fsf as well as outside fsf a quite few times. Belorn (talk) 10:38, 15 April 2012 (UTC)

Length of See also[edit]

I am considering shrinking the size of the See also section by only linking to one list of software projects. The one I think we should keep is List of free and open source software packages, and thus remove List of formerly proprietary software, List of free software project directories and List of free software for Web 2.0 Services. What are other people's thoughts on this? Belorn (talk) 16:25, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

You could alternatively make a list of lists perhaps? That would tidy up the see also section. IRWolfie- (talk) 17:48, 22 April 2012 (UTC)
This See Also section is not too long, though I'm about to move the lists to a sub-section. Providing the reader with access to all the lists is important for an encyclopedia. Lentower (talk) 18:01, 22 April 2012 (UTC)
A few of the entries in that "See Also" list appear to be already present in the article. I'll go through and see which links in the section duplicate wikilinks already in the body of the article and remove these per WP:SEEALSO. - SudoGhost 18:21, 22 April 2012 (UTC)
Now that I think of it. Should Portal:Free software be added to the see also list? Belorn (talk) 20:57, 22 April 2012 (UTC)
It's already there, in one of the boxes to the right. - SudoGhost 21:57, 22 April 2012 (UTC)
You are so right. I must be blind :). Thanks. Belorn (talk) 22:22, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

I added "*Category:Free software lists and comparisons" to the Lists sub-section. This is roughly the same as IRWolfie-'s idea of a Lists of lists about free software.

It might be possible to get a list of the lists added to the Portal, too. Lentower (talk) 03:27, 23 April 2012 (UTC)

incompatible with many familiar legal arrangements[edit]

I find the following sentence bordering on pejorative:

"Although the terms of free software are incompatible with many familiar legal arrangements by which developers are paid, they may still seek compensation by other routes that are compatible."

Would it make sense to reword it to something like:

Rather than selling the software itself (or permission to use it) to earn a living, developers of free software typically do so by offering professional services such as software development (e.g. custom extensions, adapting and improving the software), support, training and consultancy.

Reason: there is a subtle implication that free software developers are working outside of or on the fringes of the law. The terms of free software are also compatible "with many familiar legal arrangements by which developers are paid". In the former wording "many" could be changed to "some of the". The latter wording takes the reader a little further by mentioning the sorts of services that free software developers might offer to earn a living. - Kim Tucker (talk) 10:32, 12 May 2013 (UTC)

Not outside "the law," which is an utterly absurd reading, but absolutely outside of dependence on intellectual property law, because Stallman considers it repugnant. The sort of detail you propose is already discussed in the body of the article; the passage in the introduction is for the sake of getting the "freedom vs. price" distinction out of the way before moving on to details. 2001:558:6045:1D:56E:DCCB:ED9D:24EA (talk) 05:58, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
This really needs improvement. Because Free Software it's not about how programmers get paid. And it's certainly not about "intellectual property" (which is flimsy term anyway, that lumps together unrelated legal aspects; and is often used to manipulate by intentional blurring it incurrs). To put the aspect of programmer compensation into the intro of the article Free Software, is thus a focussing on side-issues, where these are not appropriate: Thus is a violation of the recommendations of Wikipedia:Lead_section. Hnfiurgds (talk) 20:03, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
A way to mention "money-aspects" of free software, is to say it like it is. Hnfiurgds (talk) 21:08, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

Revert of Intro[edit]

I'm going to explain why these changes are reverted: The reverted intro mentioned "legal rights to source code, that the software's creators have". Well Free Software is not at all about this: Any legal rights can be changed by politics; they are not set in stone. Free Software is about Freedoms of the users, and not about giving them what you believe legal rights of "creators" or authors to be, or what politics will legislate these rights to be. The reverted intro mentioned "These rights are granted independently of whether the author receives any payment for creating the software." Well: the original author still has control how she wishes to distribute the software. She can give it away gratis of request some payment. But the point is: If it really is free software, then she can not stop any users of the software from redistributing it (for gratis or for a fee): She cannot dictate to them how to use it, or with whom to cooperate. The reverted intro mentioned "Although the terms of free software are incompatible with developer compensation arrangements based on intellectual property law, developers may still seek compensation through other arrangements that are compatible." Intellectual property law can be: copyright, trademarkts, patents. What are you talking about? Well let's assume it is in fact any of the 3. None have any terms whatsoever about programmer compensation. Example: copyright only says what can and cannot be done, by someone who receives the work. It has no influence on what fee the author asks in order for someone to receive the work. Furthermore: a lot of free software licences (e.g. GNU GPL) are actually based on copyright law, and thus have real legal leverage. So a lot of free software makes use of copyright fundamentally and then grants very specific exceptions to it, but only if these exceptions protect the user's freedoms. It's still very much copyrighted, and can be distributed for a fee or not. So the quoted reverted sentence had errors regarding "compensation arrangements based on intellectual property law"... What does free software say about compensation: Basically nothing much. It's a side issue: Anyone who has received free software can distribute/redistribute it for any fee, or gratis. You can even choose to re/distribute it to a potential new user, only if you are given 30 bottles of some vintage Schnapps! Or you can choose not to re/distribute it at all. So it's absolutely up to the user, who thus has freedom. Hnfiurgds (talk) 20:44, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

Here's a way to mention "money aspects" of free software: "users are free – which includes the freedom to redistribute the software, which can be done gratis or for a fee". Hnfiurgds (talk) 21:10, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

You complain that FS is not "about" extending legal rights. I never said it was. Extending these legal rights is, however, the means through which freedom is guaranteed, and that is what my text said. I think that is more helpful to people approaching the subject because it is concrete, as opposed to talking about "software that respects this-or-that" and "putting users first." How is a newcomer supposed to make sense of these phrases? This is supposed to be an encyclopedia, not an agitprop session.

You go on to ask "what I'm talking about" with regard to intellectual property law. Well, I'm citing Stallman, and he's talking about copyright, although he loathes the other stuff as well. So if you want to change to copyright that's fine with regard to the source. However there were points in the history of software licensing when companies considered relying on other forms of intellectual property (e.g. trademark in the case of Java) so why not keep it general? It is no secret that software companies rely on IP law to enforce their software fee structure. Stallman knows it, and I would hope that you do as well, but that isn't required because I'm citing Stallman. Again, this is not an agitprop session. It is an encyclopedia for the purpose of explaining concepts by reference to sources. 2001:558:6045:1D:56E:DCCB:ED9D:24EA (talk) 21:49, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

Free Software is not defined by "open availability"[edit]

Revert. Why? Because the version is not accurate and has numerous errors. Example: "Free software [...] is software provided under terms that guarantee the freedom of all computer users (individually or in groups) to obtain it, [...]" This is wrong. Hence please don't edit an article about whose subject matter you do not know enough about. It's wrong since you do NOT every computer user has the freedom to obtain it. In contrast: only if have you obtained it, are you granted the freedoms which free software guarantees. Thus your assertion in the very first sentence is BLATENTLY WRONG. Of course: usually it is possible for everyone to receive copies, since they are provided via anonymous download. Why is it thus free software? Not because of the availablility. NO. But instead, because if you obtain it, you obtain with it freedoms to redistribute it, modify it, etc. Other errors regarding compensation (and they way it is phrased) were already mentioned previously. Hnfiurgds (talk) 04:57, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

I have made another attempt to address my concerns about the opening sentences. I hope you will review it with the usual good faith assumption and respond. 2001:558:6045:1D:56E:DCCB:ED9D:24EA (talk) 05:56, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

Free software development[edit]

Following a discussion at Wikipedia:Redirects for discussion/Log/2013 May 31#Free software development, Free software development now redirects to this article. In the discussion it was suggested that a section on development may be appropriate to this article, and that if one is written the redirect should be refined to point to that section. This note is just so you are aware of the suggestion and can consider it. Thryduulf (talk) 10:44, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

Revert of recent edits[edit]

User:Hnfiurgds recently reverted dozens of edits that I have recently made to the article, because they do not agree with some changes I made to the lead/intro. I am totally open to collaborating with you, if you want to express your disagreements here, but you should really be careful about only reverting the changes that I made which you actually disagree with (rather than wholesale reverting a bunch of image formatting fixes, article cleanup, etc. along with the sentence they don't like). There is no sense undoing all the work I did over a small quibble about wording in the lead paragraph. Let's work a definition we can all agree upon here, and improve on my work by incorporating it into the current article. That said, I'm not really clear where you are coming from with when you say:

Undo: "released with the intent to guarantee users' freedoms to study and modify software through the OPEN AVAILABILITY OF ITS SOURCE CODE" ->wrong!!! Only if have you OBTAINED free software, are you granted the freedoms which free software guarantees.

... could you elaborate on what your problem with my changes are? Do you believe that open source code is not critical to providing the freedom to modify software? How would you modify it without source code? -- Mesoderm (talk) 18:30, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

"Open availability" implies that everyone can get it. That is not the defining feature of Free Software. To understand why, please see here. In other words: Free software is not about free availability, or open availability; and yes: it's not even about open availability of source code, that everyone can get. Rather, it is defined as freedoms that a user gets, once he receives the software. There is no requirement of free software having to be available to everyone. (Of course there is also nothing that forbids availability for everyone; in particular: any user who has free software, has the freedom to make it available to everyone, if he/she so wishes).
Another weak point in your form of the intro, is the use of the wording "open source".
Here's a paragraph that might help clear that up:
The term open source (and open source software) from the Open Source Initiative (OSI), while usually referring to the same category of software as free software,[1][2] focuses on different values than those associated with the term free software:[3][4][1][5][2] The FSF's and GNU projects' focus (associated with the term free software) is the freedom of the users (viewed as an important social, political and ethical ideology/concern),[4] while OSI's focus (associated with the term open source) is the highlighting of practical benefits and the development method,[6] while not raising ethical issues, such as issues of freedom.
The Free Software Foundation and Open Source Initiative have largely approved the same software licenses;[1][7][8] the focus of license-approval being only license-contents and definitions, not social or ethical values.)
So I think those 2 things (open availability, open source) can be improved in the article. By the way: I prefer the previous version of the intro, as it has much better focus on free software's defining feature: freedom. The current version skirts around a bit. Example - it says: oh hey, you need no fear of legal penalties. That's true, but it is a minor point, that comes from free software's freedoms. etc.
Sorry about reverting all your edits, I thought they were only in the intro.
Hnfiurgds (talk) 19:20, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for taking the time to explain! I agree with you that the primary focus in this article should be on freedom rather than open source (which has its own article). On the other hand, I also think it's crucial to point out that the freedom in free software is, in part, derived from the fact that the source code is open (i.e. if you have no source code, you cannot have freedom in the free software sense). So I tried to incorporate both of these into the lead, including an entire paragraph on freedom, namely:
The term "free software" and its exact definition,[4] as well as the freedom philosophy behind it, were coined and have developed since the beginning of the GNU project (to create a freedom-respecting operating system) and the founding of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) in 1985 by Richard Stallman. This definition states that users of free software are "free" because they do not need to ask for any permission; and they are are not restricted in activities through restrictive proprietary licenses (e.g. copy-restriction), or requirements of having to agree to restrictive terms of others (e.g. non-disclosure agreements), and they are not already restricted from the outset (e.g. through deliberate non-availability of source code).[9] Thus, free software is primarily a matter of liberty, not price (users are free to do whatever they want with it – which includes the freedom to redistribute the software gratis (free-of-charge), or by selling it for profit[10]
That is, more than 1/3 of the intro is currently focusing on the issues you are talking about, so I definitely don't feel like I'm trying to skirt around it. The old lead had a lot of problems with readability and repetition (for instance, it discussed the founding by Richard Stallman in multiple places, and talked about freedom to distribute 3 times) ... I feel that we need to say everything once, and make sure we say it clearly. But I also don't want you to feel like it's not covering something important. How would you integrate your ideas about open availability into the current intro, without having to revert back to the redundant/repetitive and disorganized older version? Thanks again for your suggestions! -- Mesoderm (talk) 19:42, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
For a start, I'd suggest getting rid of the words "open"... e.g. in "open availability, etc.": Rationale. Hnfiurgds (talk) 20:35, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

And this is still blatently wrong. "Free Software [...] released with the intent to guarantee users' freedoms to study and modify software through the open availability of its source code".
Cut the word open. Or even better use this: Free Software is provided under terms, such that a user receiving the software, receives with it the corresponding source code (or ability to obtain it) and the freedom to run the software for any purpose, adapt/modify it, and redistribute it with or without changes. Hnfiurgds (talk) 21:03, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
I like your suggestion a lot, as far as removing the word "open" and just saying "availability of its source code". I went ahead and removed it, and also tried to incorporate your other suggestions as well as possible. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for improvement. -- Mesoderm (talk) 23:30, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
The intro still is not good enough. And an intro really needs to be good. Examples of what can be improved: "proprietary software [...] threatens users with legal penalties if they do not conform to the terms of restrictive software licenses". (No software can ever threaten anybody.) What more? Do you think copyrightholders of free software can not or will not threaten if someone does not conform to a freedomrespecting software license?? Well: Copyright holders of free software most definately can not only threatened, but also successfully win cases where user's violate the licences of the free software. See http://gpl-violations.org (example) and BusyBox#GPL_lawsuits. (Hint: The GNU GPL is based on copyright law, and thus has full legal power). You wrote "free software [...] users are free to do whatever they want with it". It should be clear from the previous points made, that this is not true. Users have freedom, but they must still respect license terms. Example: Users are in violation of the GNU GPL license, if they fail to pass on freedom when passing on the software. Hnfiurgds (talk) 17:01, 2 August 2013 (UTC)


References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Open source Categories of free and nonfree software (gnu.org)
  2. ^ a b What is "free software" and is it the same as "open source"? Open Source Initiative FAQ
  3. ^ Words to Avoid (or Use with Care) Because They Are Loaded or Confusing (gnu.org)
  4. ^ a b Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software (gnu.org)
  5. ^ Open Source? What is free software? (gnu.org)
  6. ^ Mission of the Open Source Initiative
  7. ^ Various Licenses and Comments about Them (gnu.org)
  8. ^ Open Source Licenses (Open Source Initiative)

Confused by introduction text: FS vs PD ?[edit]

Just came to this page for the first time to learn more about this subject. The intro says:

Free software[1] is computer software that is distributed along with its source code, and is released under terms that guarantee users the freedom to study, adapt/modify, and distribute the software.[2][3][4][5][6]

What confuses me is that these "guarantees" are also provided by putting the programming code into the public domain. Because this intro paragraph implicitly reads as a definition of what free software is, it becomes important to understand how free software is differentiated from public domain software. If these guarantees are all that define free software then the two are indistinguishable. If there is more to the distinction then that ought to be reflected in the intro text. 66.97.209.215 (talk) 04:32, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

Intro is wrong[edit]

Loads of things wrong:

  • First, source and a licence isn't enough. Tivoised software can have these two things and it won't be free software.
  • Second, the licence doesn't have to "guarantee" these freedoms. Look at BSD licences, they grant the rights, but it's an abuse of language to say they "guarantee" the rights, and yet they're still free software
  • Third, a licence isn't even always necessary. Public domain source code is free software in many/most countries.
  • Fourth, yes, some/much free software is written by volunteers and communities, but that's no reason to not mention that other free software is written by traditional businesses (including megacorps, even including Microsoft)
  • Fifth, it should be mentioned that free software and open source software overlap on almost 100% of cases. When people hear about some great piece of open source software, it's a very safe bet that they've just heard about some great piece of free software. This article should mention this. There is a difference in philosophy between the free software movement and the open source whatever, yes, but they are not distinct sets of software.

I hope this gets fixed. I'd dig in, but seeing the recent edits, I expect there would be more discussion than I, unfortunately, have time for this week. Gronky (talk) 00:30, 19 March 2014 (UTC)

I agree and almost said some of the same things. In short, Free Software must respect the freedom of the user(s). Everything else, such as license and even the source code, is a secondary point, a bandaid to facilitate that freedom. --Trakon (talk) 23:35, 23 March 2014 (UTC)
Nobody has objected. I am going to take these proposals further. --isacdaavid 02:57, 9 July 2014 (UTC)

Introduction[edit]

I feel the circumstances in which the term became associated with the definition provided by the FSF should be better emphasized, and the reasons as to why it is important to prioritize it over deducting the meaning of the term from the generic dictionary meanings of "free" and "software". Skl (talk) 21:26, 5 June 2014 (UTC)