Talk:FSF's "free software" ideal/Archive 2

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3

What is the actual difference?

Ok I got it that FSF reflects the license, not the price, while 'freeware' refers to the price, not license. However what difference does this make to the average user who isn't caring about code modification etc because he knows no programming? Aren't both free of cost to him? Or can there be free software which is not gratis? Pictureuploader 12:44, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

RMS himself had a $100 pricetag on Emacs at a time, while still under the GPL. So, yes, free software as in Eleftheria (Ελεύθερος) can still commend a hefty pricetag. As with all products in a capitalistic society, it's all about how much money is the buyer/user is willing to depart with, in order to purchase the product, ie, since i consider myself a programmer, none, cuz i can compile and configure the damn thing myself. <Insert Adam Smith here>.
Does anyone think that Freedom 2: The freedom to copy the program so you can help your neighbor. directly means to copy software to give to others (which is illegal) - atomic1fire
It isn't illegal when the software is licensed under the GNU GPL. Go to (and /philosophy) and to Anhimgr8 03:54, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
IMHO, Free Software is directed at society at large, which Joe Average User is part of. Free Software seeks to liberate a medium of communication and expression (the code), which is going to be at the core of all things in the next 200-300 years. Joe User doesn't have to know how to code or care about the ability to modify the code. S/he has to care about the freedom, or lack ofthereof, of the ability to express himself in a certain medium and the impact which any restriction is going to create upon himself and his society at large. <Insert anarchosyndicalist songs from the Spanish Civil War here>. Project2501a 01:17, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
There's more to it than even philosophy, as Project2501a points out above. There is also pragmatism: user X may not care whether a piece of software is free/libre, or merely free/gratis. X just wants to use it. But there might be another user Y, who can actually fiddle with the code of the program (if it is free/libre, but not if it is merely free/gratis), and release a patch for some bug, or implement a new functionality. Evidently, this would benefit the unsuspecting user X, who does not need to be a programmer to be able to download the latest version of said program.
This is not theory. This is actually happening. Skype is a great example of freeware, NOT free software. There are some problems with the sound drivers under GNU/Linux (because it uses the old OSS, instead of the newer ALSA), and there are a lot of users who have implemented bizarre workarounds (which make it work fine), but have not been able to correct the source code directly, because it is proprietary. This is counterproductive, because fixing the original code directly would be easier for the developer to do and easier for the other end users to acquire (better to download the latest version, that having to download the buggy official version and a third party fix, plus then install both) Isilanes 22:45, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

This article is completely inaccurate - needs major revisions

This whole article is wrong. "Free Software" as it is commonly known is not defined as narrowly as this article suggests. In fact, this article belongs under "Free Software Foundation" not the generic term of "free software". I'll wait for feedback before recommending major and dramatic changes.

I agree 100%. This whole article should be rewritten with a caveat at the top that distinguishes "Free Software" from Open Source or FSF. The world does not exist in the cubicle of linux developers and "Free Software" is not commonly understood in these terms.
Hello. I disagree 100%. Free software, not only as I understand, but also as it's used in the newspapers, means exactly "free software as defined by FSF". The open source definition either doesn't mix with the free software or is mixed with it by assuming free software and open source are all open source (and not free software). The meaning of freeware never mixes with free software at all. --Hdante 19:58, 24 February 2006 (UTC)
I also disagree. "Free software", as a technical term worthy of inclusion in an encyclopedia, really has only one definition: the FSF's definition. I think the status quo, where Free software refers to the FSF's definition, and Free software (disambiguation) refers to everything else, is fine. --Wonderstruck 00:49, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

The article is quite messy

No offense, but I think the article is quite hard to read/understand for a person not familiar with the topic. It does not have a clear/logical flow and the headings do not fit the text underneath in many cases. I am not sure right now, what should be done. To be constructive let me start with the overall structure. I think something like that would make sense:

  1. History
    1. A time before software license agreements -> the 60s/70s stuff
    2. Avoiding license agreements iwht free software -> RMS, FSF, etc.
  2. Political Aspects/Relevance
    1. Free Software vs. Open Source Software -> the comparison text
    2. Free Software as a public good -> because THIS is the political relevance
  3. Examples -> like now but shorter

And yes, I agree that the Security section does not fit and rather belongs to "Security by obscurity". So, what do you think? Madmaxx 23:41, 13 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I agree. On a related note, the history section is very, very weak. I don't know enough about the history to rewrite it, but I do know that the actions of Richard Stallman which led to the founding of the FSF are classically controversial, but only the peripheral, poor example of the printer driver is mentioned. Who cares about the printer driver? Where is the mention of his unilateralism? 05:16, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

Extreem and pragmatic views of free software

Look at Extreem, FSF, Pragmatic, ... and anti views of free software.

Pragmatic to include: Practical benefits that the freedom of free software give. Look at vendor lockin, and vendor lockout. (ill try to put somethink in, in the coming weeks.)

Agree. Software being 'free' is independent of the practicality/functionality of a certain program. Actually, A program can be useless but still be free -- or very sophisticated and non-free. So, mixing the practical argumentation with the political/societal one would be misleading. Hm, we should have a place (separate article?) to compare the practical benefits of software whose source is available and closed source software... Madmaxx 22:54, 13 Jan 2005 (UTC)

OSD not allowing copying?

The notion of OSD not allowing copying sounds like a red herring to me. I can't fathom how the DFSG (from which the OSD originated) could be construed to include redistribution and exclude copying. --Shallot 12:42, 21 Sep 2003 (UTC)

It looks ridiculous from here and smells of original research and editorialising. This is the very first place I've heard this contention, in several years of reading FS/OS advocates' ranting. Further, if it were a real problem, I'd be very surprised at the FSF never having mentioned it. I believe this is what judges call "a novel argument." I've commented it out and eagerly await any reasonable justification and preferably a cite or several here on this talk page - David Gerard 09:54, 2 Jun 2004 (UTC)

The mode of production of free software

The following text from Wikipedia:Votes for deletion relates to a former article which was converted to a redirect to this article before being deleted by me after a rough consensus was reached on Vfd. It is included here for the benefit of anyone wondering about the recent edits to this article. -- Oliver P. 04:36, 11 Nov 2003 (UTC)

  • The mode of production of free software - Idiosyncratic attempt to philosophize about Free software using the terminology of Marxist theory. An orphan after the author's attempt to insert a link to it into Karl Marx was reverted. --Delirium 02:11, Nov 6, 2003 (UTC)
    • Delete. original essays and research Daniel Quinlan 02:23, Nov 6, 2003 (UTC)
    • Delete, single not-so-prominent reference. Fuzheado 03:23, 6 Nov 2003 (UTC)
    • Redirected to Free software. I merged the content in there too so that that should be edited there or removed if it is problematic. Angela
    • Redirect should be deleted. Unsurprisingly, all the content was deleted from Free software in less than an hour, so there's no point redirecting to a page which has nothing on this. Angela 05:19, Nov 6, 2003 (UTC)
    • Might as well keep. If nothing else, will allow creator to retrieve his text. Martin 23:03, 6 Nov 2003 (UTC)
    • Since when was that a reason for keeping something? It is a problematic redirect as the page it redirects to bears no relevance to the title. Problematic redirects may be deleted. If the user wishes to retrieve their text, that would seem like the ideal use for VfU. Angela 00:16, Nov 7, 2003 (UTC)
      • Fair enough. Doesn't bother me dramatically. Martin 22:24, 8 Nov 2003 (UTC)
    • Keep. The history is sometimes useful to see why the article was deleted. -- Taku 05:08, Nov 7, 2003 (UTC)
    • Delete. Article was nonsense to begin with, was deleted from Free software. I think concerns about retrieving the history do not apply. At18 17:23, 8 Nov 2003 (UTC)
    • Delete. The article was factually untrue to begin with; it cannot be salvaged. Delete. -- Mattworld 02:20, 9 Nov 2003 (UTC)
    • Delete, inappropriate redirect. --Minesweeper 19:51, Nov 10, 2003 (UTC)

End of moved text


Generally, the "libre" definition for "free" has higher priority than the "gratis" definition for "free". Therefore, shouldn't the "libre" definition for "free software" be the primary one, and the "gratis" definition for "free software" be the secondary one? Are there any objections to swapping the order of the two?

I think this is a correct observation; the article should be changed accordingly. --snoyes 15:56, 5 Jan 2004 (UTC)
IMHO, the gratis software should get its own article, since it is an entirely different thing. It is just sometimes called by the same name -- Sloyment 03:46, 9 Feb 2004 (UTC)

"libre software"?

Are the terms "gratis software" and "libre software" coming from some source that somebody could cite? Because in spanish and other languages which use those words, that's said wrong; you'd say "software gratis" and "software libre". A minor nitpick if you will, but I'm just curious because every single article in Wikipedia that mentions it writes it like that.

Here's some example references:

Actually, there's more at alternative terms for free software.

I think what's happening is that Anglo-speakers want to adopt the "liberty"-rich word "libre" but still preserve the english language usage to put the adjective at the beginning of the phrase. -- 01:14, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

Moreover, you don't say "software gratis" in Spanish, but rather "software gratuito". "Gratis" is and adverb, and "gratuito" an adjective. In English "free" stands for both. Interestingly, for "libre" it's the other way around: "libre" is an adjective (free), and "libremente" an adverb (freely). So funnily enough, gratis and libre can not be confronted, but rather gratis/libremente or gratuito/libre. However this is a bit too much nit-picking, because the use of adjectives and adverbs is so messed up already among the general public (in Spain, and I guess in most countries). Isilanes 13:17, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Separate articles for libre and gratis?

I added a link to the free software article from the Microsoft article and then I realised that some readers might be confused after following the link. The problem is that gratis software and libre software share an article. Could this article be divided in two to avoid this confusion? Tim Ivorson 21:00, 10 Feb 2004 (UTC)

I'm opposed to splitting, precisely because the two terms are used interchangeably. "Free software" is the term for both, and this article should make clear what free software is gratis and which is libre. Jor 21:17, 10 Feb 2004 (UTC)
I see what you mean. In that case, the ambiguity should be fixed in the articles that use 'free software.' How do you suggest I modify 'free software' to remove the ambiguity in my link from the Microsoft article? I can think of several ways (free (as in speech) software, free (open source) software, free (as in freedom) software, etc.), but it would be nice to have one term for consistent use in removing 'free software' ambiguity. -- Tim Ivorson 22:11, 10 Feb 2004 (UTC)
That's my point really: 'gratis software' and 'libre software' are geek terms, which do not see mainstream use (and will not in the foreseeable future). The layman knows the term 'free software', and associates both kinds with it. Any disambiguation should occur inside this article, and not on the opposite end (in my opinion anyway). Perhaps best: split the article INTERNALLY in two, and change the MS link to something like [[Free software#gratis]] and a Linux link to [[Free software#libre]] Jor 22:16, 10 Feb 2004 (UTC)
I hadn't thought of that. It's a good idea. No further internal division is necessary. I have used it in the Microsoft article. -- Tim Ivorson 22:30, 10 Feb 2004 (UTC)
Free(dom) software and gratis software are two very different things, and as Wikipedia's primary purpose is explaining phenomena, not just words, these things should be explained in different articles. This would also help for interwiki links, as the ambiguity does not occur in every language. As free software as in freedom is a well defined technical term, and also used this way most of the time, I'd say, let's keep the freedom stuff here, and move the gratis stuff to gratis software. -- Sloyment 04:51, 22 Feb 2004 (UTC)
I totally agree. By the way, the FSF itself capitalises the term Free Software to distinguish it from 'free as in free beer', but that won't be a cure in our case. Free Software and Freeware are two distinct terms with distinct meanings, and in my opinion should be treated accordingly to clear up all the confusion. -- Demitsu 18:15, 2004 Oct 14 (UTC)

This article is massively confusing due to the double meaning of "free software" throughout. These are two entirely different concepts which merely happen to have the same name in English. Note how we separate Chicago the city from Chicago the movie. The same should be done here. "Free software" should redirect to "Free software (FSF)", and there should be an alternate meaning notice at the top of "Free software (FSF)": This article refers to free software as defined by the Free_Software_Foundation. For software available free of charge, see Freeware. Then on "Freeware" place a notice: This article refers to software available free of charge. For "free software" as defined by the Free_Software_Foundation, see Free software (FSF).

Note that "free software" is typically used as a slang term in marketing, like "free jellybeans." Freeware is a more precise term, and more suited to an encyclopedia. So I think this solves the double meaning problem as well. Connelly 10:14, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I don't agree that that definition should be marked as "FSF" because there's other notable definitions that accomplish the same effect and it would be largely incorrect to put them under the FSF umbrella. (This is not dissimilar to how not every Linux distribution should be named "GNU/Linux" just because GNU/FSF is important.) --Joy [shallot] 10:50, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I agree with Connelly it should be split into Freeware and Free software. People currently are coming here from articles like GDB and getting confused about which definition applies to the article that linked to this one, and for interwiki reasons. -- Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason 10:05, 2004 Aug 29 (UTC)

Not all FSF-approved licenses are OSI-approved either

It is not true that all FSF-approved free software licenses are OSI-approved open source licenses. Example: the Netscape Public License. FSF lists this as a free software license "with problems;" the OSI doesn't list it at all. I asked OSI about this precise point when writing and got a message back from Danese Cooper saying that the NPL doesn't qualify because of the bias toward Netscape Communications Corporation. - David Gerard 22:00, Feb 14, 2004 (UTC)


"The freedom definition of "free software" has been championed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), founded by Richard Stallman, who codified his philosophy of software freedom in the 1980s."

What does "codified mean"? ;-) —Noldoaran (Talk) 05:01, Feb 18, 2004 (UTC)
Put in the 'coda' (book), or 'set to paper'. Jor 22:24, 19 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Pure public good

"Once a free software product has started to circulate, it soon becomes available at little or no cost. At the same time, its utility does not decrease. This means that free software can be characterized as more like a culture good than a commodity."

The term most commonly used for such a good is a 'pure public good'. A pure public good is a good that is nonrival (my use of the good does not prevent you from using the good) and nonexclusive (It is difficult / impossible for someone to restrict a person's use of the good). --ShaunMacPherson 06:45, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Less cheering

IMHO, we need more facts from the less cheering side. Like the accusations of viral properties and criticism of Stallman in general. Not everybody may agree to these, but they are out there and deserve to be made known in an encyclopedia article. Watcher 21:00, 6 May 2004 (UTC)

I asked for these on Talk:GNU General Public License, but it looks like we'll have to write them ourselves. Should GPL criticism be there or here? BSD license criticism? Etc. - David Gerard 21:26, May 6, 2004 (UTC)
You can mention it, but point to the specific articles for a more thorough critique. For instance, David Lancashire claims that free software developers gravitate to where market opportunities arise, and this view is in agreement with Lerner and Tirole.
While criticisms of his ideas related to free software may be appropriate, personal criticisms of Richard Stallman are off topic here; They belong either on the Richard Stallman article, or nowhere. --Wonderstruck 00:59, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

DFSG and !software

User from wrote: Debian has always advocated freedom of all digital information, not just recently. When the DFSG was first written, it was intended to apply to everything Debian would distribute, not just programs.

Just for the record, that is completely irrelevant for the encyclopedia, which doesn't record wishful thinking but facts. In the 1990s, the DFSG was only being applied to software, and that meant programs with source code. Then, a few years ago, the LDP documents and the RFCs were mass-checked for compliance by the maintainers, which marked the beginning of the period when the docs became subject to it. Right now it's still not being applied to all digital information, and even if the current purge of firmwares, fonts etc would be completed one day, such a statement would still be an overgeneralization because it can't be applied to the license texts. --Shallot 16:51, 1 Jun 2004 (UTC)
How's the present version? I've commented out the "some people" bit on the grounds that it's not really significant in the present state of things - David Gerard 17:08, 1 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Well, it's not really that insignificant because it does mark a trend. It should just be made clear what's wishful thinking and what are the facts. --Shallot 17:41, 1 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Documentation and other data has always been subject to the DFSG. In this debian-legal message, Bruce Perens, the author of the DFSG, stated "I intended for the entire contents of that CD to be under the rights stated in the DSFG - be they software, documentation, or data.". The only thing that has changed in recent years is the diligence used when examining packages in Debian. -- 03:45, 8 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Yes, I know exactly what Bruce said, but that really doesn't mean all that much given that most of e.g. LDP docs were blatantly non-free even when he was the project leader. A half-hearted intent is not particularly relevant for this encyclopedia entry. --Shallot 09:34, 8 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Well, edit for accuracy at will, unless you feel you're close enough to it that you shouldn't :-) - David Gerard 10:52, 8 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Like I said, the only thing that changed was the diligence used in auditing packages and applying the DFSG. Considering that the project just agreed by more than 4:1 that they really do want the DFSG applied to everything, I think it is reasonable to state that as the majority opinion of the Debian project. There are certainly dissenting opinions, but they are in the minority. -- 00:00, 9 Jun 2004 (UTC)
I have explained several times in the discussions about this that the project did not agree to such a thing any more after the vote than it did before the vote, and to my knowledge there hasn't been a single reply contradicting that, only the different interpretations, of which the one by the release manager had the greatest weight when it comes to the release process. In any event, I don't think that Wikipedia has any reason to bother with the whole semantic-syntactic debate of what the opinion of Debian is, simply stating the facts will suffice. --Shallot 00:39, 9 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Zero index list is NPOV in this case 06:38, 10 Jun 2004 (UTC): User:Darrien changed the FSF definition in this article to omit the "poetic" use of a zero-based list.

No, I removed the "help your neighbor" stuff as being too poetic.
Since the list is specifically defined to be FSF's definition (which is zero-based), I don't see what the issue is here.
Few people use zero based indices in everyday life, and most people will be confused by a zero based index. This is supposed to be a general encyclopedia, not a computer science/political rhetoric dumping ground. It is much clearer to use bullet points rather than any index at all. However, a one based index should always be used if ever needed. An obvious exception would be computer science articles. Darrien 06:55, 10 Jun 2004 (UTC) 07:01, 10 Jun 2004 (UTC): I agree that zero-based indices are an artifice. I agree that the FSF definition, with its references to neighbors and community, is beyond the pragmatic. I have no ax to grind here except the simple one that the list is meant to be a recap of the FSF definition, and they define it that way (see the reference link). Note that it is an unnumbered bullet item, so the zero-based names are just parenthetical remarks.
I agree. It says it's the list as defined by the FSF, zero index and all. You could put it in quotes if you want, but I think that'd look even worse - David Gerard 07:53, 10 Jun 2004 (UTC)

How should we label free software links on wikipedia articles?

The whole point of wikipedia is to make knowledge as free (as in free speech) as possible. But a lot of knowledge is represented using formulae and also using computer software. Surely it would be consistent with the spirit of wikipedia to put a priority on helping someone who reads e.g. computer algebra system an easy way of picking up which are the free systems, without having to click through a dozen links - especially given that someone might want to pick up free software packages from a dozen or so different wikipedia pages. It's practical to browse through, e.g. 12 pages, but browsing through 144 pages is getting beyond what's practical. And the battle between free knowledge/software and closed knowledge/software often comes up against the practicality argument - i'm getting a bit tired of hearing But linux is too difficult or But i want to use this package and it doesn't exist in linux, but making it easier to find free software is surely a good idea. OK, enough ranting ;).

i'll try out something on computer algebra system with a template - i suggest this discussion page (Talk:Free software) as the place to discuss this further . Anyway, let's try something... Boud 12:36, 10 Aug 2004 (UTC)

T-shirt photos

Step back and think about this. You are putting people wearing GNU/free-software T-shirts on this page. Do you have any idea how silly that is? To top it off, this article is not about GNU/free-software alone. It talks about freeware and other types as well.

P.S. Please do not revert my edits without at least giving an edit summary. Darrien 03:22, 2004 Sep 2 (UTC)

These pictures are so awful. I mean, we aim to illustrate our articles, but not like this. The only photo I could see as relevant on this article would be a photograph of a free software convention or something like that. Not photos of T-shirts. - Mark 03:40, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I agree that there could be much more appropriate pictures to illustrate this article. Lacking a better solution, I'd say keep just one for now. --Joy [shallot]

Splitting of the Free Software article into Free software and Freeware

I split Free software into two parts, Free software and Freeware and put any leftovers here, they should be merged into either one. -- Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason 15:12, 2004 Oct 19 (UTC)

Security section

I don't like the Security section. I removed it once, but it was added again. The bottom paragraph is basically a "look, these free software packages rule!! M$ sux!!" kinda thing. fataltourist 23:09, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I've removed the paragraph in question. --minghong 18:10, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)

RMS on BitKeeper

RMS: BitKeeper bon-voyage is a happy ending Monday April 25, 2005 (01:00 PM GMT) By: Richard M. Stallman

"For the first time in my life, I want to thank Larry McVoy. He recently eliminated a major weakness of the free software community, by announcing the end of his campaign to entice free software projects to use and promote his non-free software. Soon, Linux development will no longer use this program, and no longer spread the message that non-free software is a good thing if it's convenient.

My gratitude is limited, since it was McVoy that created the problem in the first place. But I still appreciate his decision to clear it up.

There are thousands of non-free programs, and most merit no special attention, other than developing a free replacement. What made this program, BitKeeper, infamous and dangerous was its marketing approach: inviting high-profile free software projects to use it, so as to attract other paying users.

McVoy made the program available gratis to free software developers. This did not mean it was free software for them: they were privileged not to part with their money, but they still had to part with their freedom. They gave up the fundamental freedoms that define free software: freedom to run the program as you wish for any purpose, freedom to study and change the source code as you wish, freedom to make and redistribute copies, and freedom to publish modified versions.

The Free Software Movement has said "Think of free speech, not free beer" for 15 years. McVoy said the opposite; he invited developers to focus on the lack of monetary price, instead of on freedom. A free software activist would dismiss this suggestion, but those in our community who value technical advantage above freedom and community were susceptible to it.

McVoy's great triumph was the adoption of this program for Linux development. No free software project is more visible than Linux. It is the kernel of the GNU/Linux operating system, an essential component, and users often mistake it for the entire system. As McVoy surely planned, the use of his program in Linux development was powerful publicity for it.

It was also, whether intentionally or not, a powerful political PR campaign, telling the free software community that freedom-denying software is acceptable as long as it's convenient. If we had taken that attitude towards Unix in 1984, where would we be today? Nowhere. If we had accepted using Unix, instead of setting out to replace it, nothing like the GNU/Linux system would exist.

Of course, the Linux developers had practical reasons for what they did. I won't argue with those reasons; they surely know what's convenient for them. But they did not count, or did not value, how this would affect their freedom -- or the rest of the community's efforts.

A free kernel, even a whole free operating system, is not sufficient to use your computer in freedom; we need free software for everything else, too. Free applications, free drivers, free BIOS: some of those projects face large obstacles -- the need to reverse engineer formats or protocols or pressure companies to document them, or to work around or face down patent threats, or to compete with a network effect. Success will require firmness and determination. A better kernel is desirable, to be sure, but not at the expense of weakening the impetus to liberate the rest of the software world.

When the use of his program became controversial, McVoy responded with distraction. For instance, he promised to release it as free software if the company went out of business. Alas, that does no good as long as the company remains in business. Linux developers responded by saying, "We'll switch to a free program when you develop a better one." This was an indirect way of saying, "We made the mess, but we won't clean it up."

Fortunately, not everyone in Linux development considered a non-free program acceptable, and there was continuing pressure for a free alternative. Finally Andrew Tridgell developed an interoperating free program, so Linux developers would no longer need to use a non-free program.

McVoy first blustered and threatened, but ultimately chose to go home and take his ball with him: he withdrew permission for gratis use by free software projects, and Linux developers will move to other software. The program they no longer use will remain unethical as long as it is non-free, but they will no longer promote it, nor by using it teach others to give freedom low priority. We can begin to forget about that program.

We should not forget the lesson we have learned from it: Non-free programs are dangerous to you and to your community. Don't let them get a place in your life.

Copyright 2005 Richard Stallman. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted worldwide without royalty in any medium provided this notice is preserved. " [1]