Libre Program

Campain for libre software

What software?

Libre program is one its user can use for any purpose, modify in the form of source code and redistribute, including for commercial purposes. Examples are GNU/Linux operating system, VLC media player, GIMP, LibreOffice, WordPress and also (except for certain components): Firefox browser, Android operating system and Chromium browser. A program user cannot modify or redistribute for either legal or technical reasons is called proprietary or nonfree.

Who needs this?

Libre program gives user control. Computer is a useful device, yet is does nothing by itself. To work it needs a program. Computer's owner is only able to control it indirectly, through a program. If the software being run is libre, the user has control over it and hence over the device. A proprietary program, on the other hand, is controlled by its vendor (or speaking 100% strictly - the party holding its cource code). Such program only does what its vendor wants it to, and therefore also the device does not what its owner wants but rather what program's vendor wants. Instead of the desired situation where device user controls the device, we get a reversed one: vendor, through program, controls the user and decides what user can and cannot do. Of course, in practice we witness different levels of users mistreatment. One edge case is an operating system only allowing installation of applications approved by its vendor.

Everyone should care about using libre programs, simply because it is good to have control over one's own devices. The issue is not, however, limited to personal preferences. The more people in a society rely on proprietary, incompatible tools, the harder life is for those willing to choose libre ones.

The problem is also worth looking at on a different scale. A state with proprietary programs in widespread use is not fully independent - it depends indirectly on vendors of these programs. For this reason a duty of responsibility for one's state also means taking action to stop its economy and education from relying on proprietary operating system or tools.

How does all this matter for someone who cannot program?

One does not need to be a programmer in order to utilize the control libre programs give. Quite often when a direction of some libre program is bad (e.g. antifeatures are being added like telemetry in Firefox), independent people come up with a version of that program without the original drawbacks (example would be LibreWolf browser). All that's needed is for enough demand to appear for a modified version of some program. Bussinessmen, on the other hand, might find it practical to employ someone to adapt a libre program to company's needs.

Does it mean programmers shouldn't be paid for writing software?

Equating libre program with gratis and proprietary with paid is a very common misunderstanding. In reality proprietary programs often come for free (Adobe Reader, Chrome browser, Google Docs) and libre tools can also be made available for a fee (e.g. commercial GNU/Linux distrubutions). Many people associate programming with a business model where a customer is being sold a license for use of some proprietary program. Because such model is less practical in case of libre programs, some think their creation cannot be commercialized. However, most code - both libre and nonfree - is not being written with the goal of selling licenses for its use. Income often comes from different sources, such as selling services or hardware the program works with.

Who came up with all this?

In 1983 Richard Stallman, a MIT scientist, started GNU project with the goal of developing a libre replacement for proprietary UNIX system. 2 years later in Boston he founded Free Software Foundation (FSF) which still promotes and develops these ideals.

How to come to the good side?

You can help in many ways:
  • using libre programs on daily basis,
  • making others aware of the problem (you can link this site or FSF's site),
  • refusing to use proprietary tools to the best of your ability,
  • complaining to vendors of proprietary programs (especially freeware) asing for their source code to be released under some libre license,
  • calling on people in charge of various organizations and educational facilities to deploy a libre operating system and tools,
  • calling on politicians to enact laws good for software freedom (e.g. making code written for public money available under a libre license) and
  • donating to the FSF or various projects developing libre programs.