The free software movement was started in 1983 by Richard Stallman with the foundation of the GNU Operating System project. The goal was to create an operating system using only free software, where free is defined using four principles:
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
The project is known for having developed a large suite of software that is run with the Linux kernel (the heart of the operating system), forming the GNU/Linux system. To ensure that this software remains free, the project uses the GNU Public License, which requires programmers to release any modifications of the licensed code using the same license. In other words, free software using this license must remain free and include the source code so that other programmers can make changes. Many people refer to software using this license as open source software, since a program must come with the source code required to modify its functionality. The GNU Public License has become the most widely used license by open source programmers. A popular license for protecting the written word are those developed by Creative Commons.
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit group that advocates for digital rights legislation. The EFF has worked on many issues, including free speech, open access, intellectual property, international agreements, privacy, and transparency. For example, the EFF has advocated against the DMCA, educated users about digital rights with respect to electronic books, warned of the dangers of those "click" licenses we all agree to, lobbied on behalf of Net Neutrality, and fights software patents it feels are overly broad.
Many of these issues affect all of us and the myriad ways we interact with computer technology. It is important to be aware of these developments so that we can help shape the society that will evolve from the digital revolution.
Which of these issues concern you? What parallels can you draw to Martin Luther's time?