November 19, 2001

FSF Europe announcement: "We speak about Free Software"

Author: JT Smith

"There are compelling reasons to think and speak about Free Software
and its philosophy. It is rather common knowledge this applies to
society as a whole, but it has not yet been widely understood
that it benefits companies, as well. Therefore the FSF Europe
launches this campaign on behalf and with support of several Free
Software companies."
"We speak about Free Software"

Free Software is often referred to as "Open Source." This is a result
of an attempt by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) to create a
marketing campaign for Free Software.

The OSI set out to maintain the integrity of the movement and prevent
abuse by proprietary vendors by introducing "Open Source" as a
trademark for Free Software; but this initiative failed.

Examining the development of the Open Source Initative after three
years, it becomes apparent that the reasons to prefer the term Free
Software have become even more true. Speaking of Free Software or the
equivalent term in other languages offers many advantages, which we
explain below.

"Free Software" is easier to understand

Although some people say that using the term "free" creates ambiguity,
many languages have separate terms referring to freedom and price. In
these languages, the term "free" is not ambiguous. It may be in
others, including English, but in those misunderstandings can easily
be avoided by pointing out that free refers to freedom, not price.

The terminology "Open Source" refers to having access to the source
code. But access to the source code is only a precondition for two of
the four freedoms that define Free Software. Many people do not
understand that access to the source code alone is not enough. "Free
Software" avoids catering to this relatively common misunderstanding.

Free Software is harder to abuse

Unfortunately many companies have started calling their products "Open
Source" if at least some parts of the source code can be seen. Users
buy this software believing they are purchasing something "as good as
GNU/Linux" because it claims to follow the same principle.

We should not allow proprietary vendors to abuse peoples enthusiasm
like this. Since the "Open Source" trademarking initiative failed,
there is no way to prevent abuse of the term that becomes possible
because of the aforementioned misunderstanding.

Free Software is well-defined

Experience in science and philosophy has shown that a good and clear
definition is to be preferred.

The Free Software Definition of the Free Software Foundation with its
four freedoms is the clearest definition existing today.

Free Software provides additional value

Unlike Open Source, Free Software provides more than just a technical
model how to develop better software, it provides a
philosophy. Companies can learn and profit from the philosophy and
background of Free Software.

Free Software offers freedom

Free Software provides the freedoms to
 - run the program, for any purpose.
 - study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.
 - redistribute copies.
 - improve the program, and release your improvements to the public,
   so that the whole community benefits. 

Because of these four freedoms, Free Software offers freedom to learn,
freedom to teach, freedom of competition, freedom of speech and
freedom of choice.

Freedom counts!

For all these reasons we made the conscious decision to avoid the term
Open Source and speak of Free Software or the equivalent term in other

We encourage you to make the same decision.

An initative of the
Free Software Foundation Europe

We speak about Free Software:

 Alcôve      -
 Intevation  -
 Lolix       -
 Easter-Eggs -
 Prosa srl   -
 Luminas Ltd

If your company also speaks about Free Software and would like to be
listed , please send mail to and let us know. Also
you can support the initiative by linking to
Click Here!