The Free Software Definition

The GNU project publishes a list of four Freedoms and recommend a single license*, the GPL.

They claim the word "Free" for software available under the GPL.

Let us consider some developer freedoms, and some alternative licenses for blocks of code:

Link / UseFour boring freedomsReuse the codeSue author

Looking at this, it's reasonably obvious to me which licenses offer the most Freedom to the developer; that being the BSD/MIT/ISC family.

These are the licenses I use personally, and the licenses I use to define Free Software; I don't see how it can be taken any other way.


  • Link / use: The license allows you to use the software as a whole, for any purpose (i.e. it's free for use in assisting proprietary software and terrorism) (like freedom 0, but applicable to libraries).
  • Four boring freedoms: Follows the four freedoms outlined by the GNU project.
  • Reuse the code: The freedom to study and reuse the code, for any purpose**** (especially for terroism).
  • Sue the author: Generally, with proprietary software and with non-software licenses, you have the right to hold the author responsible for their work, at least, up to a certain value. The author may want to disown this responsibility.


** I can't think of nearly any prominent Freeware libraries, either. Foobar2000's SDK?

*** The WTFPL's FAQ covers "Why is there no “no warranty” clause?", and also why Public Domain isn't really a license.

**** Apparently there's some confusion as to what I mean by "for any purpose". I include using the code inside other applications, regardless of their license, as a purpose. That is, the GPL does not allow code reuse for any purpose, because it does not allow code reuse in proprietary applications.

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