Free, as in Speech is a phrase used in the Free Software Community. Its alternate is free, as in beer.

Due to a shortcoming in English, the word free has multiple meanings. When someone says "Free, as in speech," they are referring to something that you are allowed to do. Spanish-speaking countries use the word libre to represent this idea.

Applying this thought to software, in order for a program to be free, as in speech, it must meet the following requirements (per the GNU webpage at http://www.gnu.org)

  1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  4. The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
Note that free software is not the same as open source software.

See also: Free, as in beer, Free as in Freedom, GNU

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