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CNET News: Free Speech, Free Beer and Free Software

Aug 23, 2002, 08:00 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Simon Phipps)

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"'Free' is used as in the phrase 'free speech' (a right we covet), rather than the phrase 'free beer' (always too good to be true) or 'free kitten' (which sounds good, but has a high overhead).

"Confusion arises because free software mostly has a zero price tag as a natural consequence of the original license, the GPL, that enforces the liberty of developers to use code created by their peers. The innovation of the Open Source Initiative was to provide new, more business-friendly licenses. By suggesting alternatives to GPL licensing, it enabled hybrid open-source/closed-source works.

"The early years of open source have thus focused on free (as in beer) software, so it is still possible to misunderstand. But we have seen a definite shift in thinking. The open-source community has welcomed companies that build commercial enterprises, as long as they act symbiotically rather than parasitically. Today it is clear that open source has matured..."

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