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Free Software

    source: Wikipedia
    Extract from the Introduction of the article Free Software
    Wikipedia contributors, "Free software," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
    (accessed May 25, 2010). 
    Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike

*Free software*, *software libre* or *libre software* is software that can be
used, studied, and modified without restriction, and which can be copied and
redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or
with minimal restrictions only to ensure that further recipients can also do
these things and that manufacturers of consumer-facing hardware allow user
modifications to their hardware. Free software is generally available without
charge, but can have a fee.

In practice, for software to be distributed as free software, the
human-readable form of the program (the source code) must be made available to
the recipient along with a notice granting the above permissions. Such a notice
either is a "free software license", or a notice that the source code is
released into the public domain.

The free software movement was conceived in 1983 by Richard Stallman to satisfy
the need for and to give the benefit of "software freedom" to computer
users.[^1] Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation in 1985 to provide the
organizational structure to advance his Free Software ideas.

From 1998 onward, alternative terms for free software came into use. The most
common are "software libre", "free and open source software" ("FOSS") and
"free, libre and open source software" ("FLOSS"). The "Software Freedom Law
Center" was founded in 2005 to protect and advance FLOSS.[^2] The antonym of
free software is "proprietary software" or "non-free software". Commercial
software may be either free software or proprietary software, contrary to a
popular misconception that "commercial software" is a synonym for "proprietary
software". (An example of commercial free software is Red Hat Linux.)

[^1]: "GNU project Initial Announcement"(http://www.gnu.org/gnu/initial-announcement.html). 
[^2]: "Software Freedom Law Center". http://www.softwarefreedom.org.