Why is software freedom useful, and what does it mean ?

This is a talk I gave at SANE'98 in Maastricht.

The full talk and slides are also online and available for you to read.


Besides the moral and philosophical reasons for preferring free software, free software enjoys many practical advantages in its design, development, deployment, support, maintenance and reuse. Most of these benefits are already recognised and used by the free software community. These, and the resulting quality benefit, are now becoming very important for the spread of free software into the nonspecialist and business world. In this talk I shall describe these benefits and explain how they flow from the freedom of the software. I'll then examine what kinds of freedoms are necessary for these advantages to operate, and what the effects of various common restrictions are on them. Finally, I shall present a set of loose criteria which can be applied to a particular piece of software to see if it is sufficiently free to obtain these practical benefits (if not necessarily the moral ones).
Ian Jackson / ian@chiark.greenend.org.uk

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