4 freedoms conferred to the users define free software :
- the freedom to run the program, for any purpose;
- the freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does the computing as the user wishes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this;
- the freedom to redistribute copies so users can help others;
- the freedom to distribute copies of modified versions to others. By doing this, the whole community has a chance to benefit from changes made by other users. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
These 4 freedoms ensure the users the ability to control the software that is executed on their computer, but they also ensure the sharing of the computer knowledge and a better security.
Free software is a matter of liberty, not price: users -individually or in cooperation with computer programmers- are free to do what they want with their copies of a free software (including profiting from them) regardless the price to get the program.
Summary of the history of free software
The beginning of the free movement starts in the 1980’s with the thinking of Richard Stallman on the sharing of the computer knowledge and the work of computer programmers. He started to wonder the ethic of computer scientists confronted to the appropriation of the computer knowledge by commercial actors.
Facing the emergence of privative practices, Richard Stallman has developed the concept of free software, that will be later legally formalized thanks to the free licence created by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). The FSF fights to make sure that the user is able to control the computer system.
Everybody should be free to know exactly the system of the software that he uses, to share it, to improve it. This freedom makes the software’s evolution faster and more creative, and the sharing of data coming from the software is easier. It also prevents you from anyone or any society that would try to make you artificially captive by forbidding you to study the system of the software and by forbidding you to share the data that you created.
This social and philosophical fight has started for more than 30 years and is more relevant than ever, because computing is in every element of our everyday life.
The environment of libraries and documentation centres is particularly concerned by the free software fight.
Why should we all defend free software ?
Free software philosophy is essential : information and knowledge, via Internet and digitalization, are becoming social and economic pillars of our societies. It is really important that the different ways to access to this information and knowledge remain free thanks to the software freedoms that make the creation, the loading and the display possible.
The non-materialization of knowledge is unavoidable. However, what about the public freedoms in a world where only a few private actors can decide if the majority of people can access or not to non-materialized knowledge ?
And what about this paradigm applied to libraries and documentation centres ? What about the social role of a library in a world in which the access to the knowledge is no more preserved, in which this knowledge is controlled by the financial interests, in which it is no more possible to be educated without paying a subscription, in which the data sustainability has disappeared ?
The free software philosophy highlights all those matters and is deeply opposed to nonfree software that deprive every body of freedom.