Free as in Freedom or Free Beer

I have heard a number of people talk about Richard Stallman’s ideas in the context of wanting software to be free (as in price). This is a misunderstanding about how the Free Software Foundation defines the word “free” meaning freedom, including the freedom to view the source code, modify it, and redistribute it to others.

A recent incident in Brazil highlights this misunderstanding. At the 7th Annual International Free Software Forum, Stallman asked for a small donation to the Free Software Foundation (US$2.00 – $5.00) in exchange for the time that he spent signing autographs and posing for pictures. This resulted in a geek protest and march at the event. Richard Stallman responded with the following:

“I believe that all software ethically must be free, free in the sense of respecting the users’ freedom, but I don’t believe that software must be gratis–nor services, such as autographing or posing. Rather, I believe people deserve the freedom to decide whether to do these things. So I decline to support the newly formed gratis autograph movement. Instead, I hererby launch the free autographing movement, which advocates everyone’s freedom to sign autographs or not.” (NewsForge)

read more | digg story