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Thanks to your support, 2015 marks 30 years of the FSF! In the next 30 years, we want to do even more to defend computer user rights. To kick off in that direction, we're setting our highest-ever fundraising goal of $525,000 by January 31st. Read more.

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How Free Software and Open Source Relate as Categories of Programs

Here's how free software and open source relate as categories of programs:


       /----------------------------------------------\
      / |                                            | \
     /  |                                            |  \
    /   |                                            |   \
        |                                            |
        |       Source license is GNU *GPL, Apache,  |
        |        original BSD, modified BSD,         |
free    |        X11, expat, Python, MPL, etc.,      |
        |        and executable is not tivoized      |   open source
        |                                            | 
        |                                            |
    \   |                                            |
     \  |                                            |
      \ |                                            |   /
       \----------------------------------------------  /
        |     tivoized (tyrant) devices          | O | /
        ----------------------------------------------/

Among all programs that are open source, only a minuscule fraction are not free. If the bottom row were drawn to scale, its text would have to be in a tiny font, perhaps too small to read.

Tivoized or “tyrant” devices contain nonfree executables made from source code that is free. As of 2013, many Android devices are tyrants, but some are not.

“O” stands for “other” and refers to programs whose source is under licenses which are open source but not free. Several such licenses were written around 2000, and they were used to release some programs. It has been a long time since we heard of software released under those licenses. We don't know whether they are still used.

Most nonfree licenses are not open source either.

 [FSF logo] “Our mission is to preserve, protect and promote the freedom to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer software, and to defend the rights of Free Software users.”

The Free Software Foundation is the principal organizational sponsor of the GNU Operating System. Support GNU and the FSF by buying manuals and gear, joining the FSF as an associate member, or making a donation, either directly to the FSF or via Flattr.

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