Personal freedom, the unrestricted sharing of knowledge, and unfettered access to information are the marks of any society that treads the path of greatness. Conversely, opposition to such goals involves restriction, hoarding, and limitation, ultimately stymying growth and leading to stagnation and infighting.
Your outlook, your choices, and your actions influence those you interact with, and shape the world around you. You declare your support for freedom or for restrictions by the choices that you make, whether it is in the realm of software, social interactions, or politics.
In the realm of software the GNU General Public License (GPL) represents freedom and the responsibilities that come with it, which is why we license our products under the GNU GPL. For you, that means access to our knowledge, so long as whatever you derive from our work is passed on in the same spirit: you can download our software, learn from it, and use it in your own products, but you must license the result under the GNU GPL, too. Fair is fair, after all, but if you don't like these terms (the GPL) and don't want to comply with its requirements then just stay away from our stuff. It's as simple as that.
For more information about the licenses, see our legal page.
It is, perhaps, telling of the state of affairs these days that in a capitalist democracy such as the United States the word 'free' conjures up notions involving price more often than of freedom. But Free software is about freedom, not about price. The idea is that software should be Free (liberated) in the same way that knowledge should be Free. Just imagine that a corporation owned the knowledge to boil water and required anyone to pay a license fee to use an approved device for boiling water. You may laugh, but that's exactly the kind of world that we live in these days. And it's getting worse!
Free software uses established copyright law to act as a counter to the landgrab for knowledge in the software industry by ensuring that Free software cannot be turned into proprietary (closely guarded, private) software. The source code to software is how programmers learn their trade; it forms the core of their ability to research ways of how others have approached an issue, and to build better and more reliable products and further their trade.
And Free software ensures rights to the consumer (that's you), rather than taking rights away (as the typical End User License Agreement (EULA) does). Some of the rights embodied in the GNU GPL ensure that you can modify the software to suit your needs (or have someone else do it for you) and that you can redistribute the software at will (which is what companies such as Redhat and Novell do with GNU/Linux1). These freedoms liberate you from the endless upgrade cycle trap that companies such as Microsoft impose on their customers2.
Users of proprietary software are by design at the mercy of the company that produced that software. The company may have more pressing issues than to fix bugs in their products, or they do not even know how to fix the bugs3. Free Software is no guarantee that you'll always get superior software, of course, nor is it necessarily an effortless switch away from proprietary software, but you have the right and the freedom to fix problems yourself (or pay someone to do this). And if you merely look at the likes of Firefox or OpenOffice.org4 you will see that high quality Free software is far from the myth that many companies, with proprietary products to sell, would like you to believe it is.
Critical bugs in Microsoft Windows, for example, may be there for months, even years. Critical bugs in Free software such as the GNU/Linux operating system tend to be fixed within days and, in some cases, even hours.
Microsoft likes to tout that GNU/Linux has more security bugs than Microsoft Windows, but the truth is that numbers don't matter. The seriousness of the problem matters. If your car has scratches, is missing a hubcap, and the radio doesn't work, would you consider those three problems as critical as another car's frequent brake failure? No, I didn't think so, either, but Microsoft would like you to believe that three problems are worse than one.
Companies like Microsoft have a lot to lose, of course. Billions of dollars in revenue are at stake if people were to stop believing what the vendors tell them. What have you to gain from Free software? Well, freedoms of course. And so does everyone around you. And as an added bonus, you may even save money with Free software, though Free stands for Freedom, not for lack of any cost; so you could find Free software for sale and that's okay, too, so long as it's Free.
Anyone who claims an uptime for Microsoft Windows greater than 30 days has obviously not been installing security updates.__________
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