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Inaccurate Reports About Free Software

Posted in Apple, Deception, Free/Libre Software, GPL, Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 10:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Highlighting of factual mistakes in the news and how they may affect perception of Free(dom) software

THE MEDIA either fails to understand or actually wants to misunderstand and misinform about Free(dom) software. We will show why this happens based on several items that we caught on Google News last night (and last night alone, so it’s just a representative sample of a norm).

Here for example is a new article that manages to ‘stretch’ — to put it most politely — the definition of both “free software” and “open source” at the same time: [via The Source]

Alek Rollyson, a third-year in information systems and the club’s president, said there is a difference between free software and open source software. Free software is like “free beer, or free as in it doesn’t cost me anything,” he said.

Open source software is not just free; it is open for development.

Whoa. That sounds almost like Microsoft’s distortion of the terms. 20 months ago Bill Gates publicly said: “There’s free software [he meant gratis] and then there’s open source… there is this thing called the GPL, which we disagree with.”

Regarding this short interview from usesthis.com, the Web site Liliputing.com published the post/article “Open source champion Richard Stallman’s netbook”

Whoa again. “Open source champion”? He does not like to be called that, and quite rightly so.

Lastly, here is a new article defending patents and stating:

With the slow (seeming) death of copyright, open source is being touted by many to be the future of intellectual property.

No, it’s not.

“Intellectual property” is a vague term. Open source believes in copyrights (which it uses to defend and preserve the openness/freedom), not in mere patterns of code being a restriction on cost or use. Copyrights are sufficient protection for developers.

Here is another new article that oddly enough mentions “open source” only for Macs, which are probably — although just arguably, depending on definition — the closest and most non-Free platform in existence (Mac OS X).

If people cannot comprehend free(dom) software, maybe it’s because they are fed with disinformation. It is important to spot and correct such factual errors.

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  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    January 26, 2010 at 12:28 pm


    This is a remix of Microsoft’s long running attempt at using the pejorative “freeware” It looks like everyone knows the difference between “freeware” and FLOSS/OSS/Free Software.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    We need to spread the term Free software (with capital F) and also explain to people what it means (or should mean). It’s not hard to explain or to understand. Many people know nothing about “free” (or Creative Commons) music, either. They are taught (indoctrinated) that free is nasty and illegal, or at least shoddy.

    Dennis Murczak Reply:

    Strangely, everybody seems to know Linux and the term “Open Source” in the country where I live, but nobody knows the term “Free Software”. Everybody asks “You mean Freeware?” That’s quite astounding because the German word for “free” can only mean “at no cost” as the adjective part of a compund noun, not when standing by its own and just relating to a noun, as in this case.

    I usually try to explain the differences between the software philosophies as good as I can, especially the apparent confusion with “Freeware” and that it can be any combination of commercial/noncommercial/no-cost/paid, but they don’t understand how the freedoms benefit them. Perhaps too many years of trouble-free software pirating have deadened them regarding such issues.

    your_friend Reply:

    Try the the free software definition translated to German by the FSF. There are only four simple freedoms to explain, the hard part is explaining the implications. These can take years to understand and appreciate because they mostly seem too good to be true. The most important practical results of software freedom are:

    Widespread, fast access. Repositories are everywhere, so donloads are always fast.
    Excellence of code. The efficiency and quality of free softare can not be beat. No more worrying about viruses, lost files and work sucking “upgrades”.
    Fit to purpose. There are few things you might want to do with your computer that does not have a thriving community dedicated to doing just that. If you don’t like how those communities have done it, you can fix it to be just what you want.
    Freedom from spy and malware. Free software authors don’t write anti features, unless they are working for Novell, Microsoft or some other company looking to screw over users with DRM and taxes.

    Have fun with the FSF’s nice German translations.

  2. Robotron 2084 said,

    January 26, 2010 at 10:57 pm


    Inaccurate…. depending on who’s choosing the definition, and that’s the problem here. To most people, myself included, free software has a price of $0.00. Simple as that. Viewing or altering the source code is not part of that definition. For that there is open source. For most computer users, software that has a price of $0.00 is a lot more useful than having a copy of the source code because most people prefer to use software, not create or change it.

    Ask a FOSS zealot what free software is and anything that differs from the definition set by Stallman is going to raise a red flag. However, that doesn’t mean the media is being biased, inaccurate, or deceptive. It just means the views of the zealot do not mirror that of society as a whole.

  3. Robotron 2084 said,

    January 26, 2010 at 11:34 pm


    This is just silly. Just because most people’s definition of free software doesn’t match the version defied by Stallman does not make it inaccurate. To most people, free software is such because the cost is $0.00. The freedom to see or modify the source code isn’t necessary or desired by everyone. For the programmers that value such things, there is open source software.

  4. uberVU - social comments said,

    January 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by schestowitz: Inaccurate Reports About #FreeSoftware and how they may affect perception of Free(dom) software http://ur1.ca/kpla….

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