Free Libre Open Source Software

FLOSS is software that guarantees several important and high impact freedoms. With FLOSS you are free to

run it for any purpose;
study how it works and adapt it to your needs;
copy and redistribute so you can help your neighbor;
improve, and release improvements to the public so that the whole community benefits;

Thus the "Free Libre" emphasizes free as in freedom or 'free speech' rather than free as in gratis or 'free beer'; that is FLOSS may have a purchase price but you will have the above freedoms.

In comparison, proprietary software protects ownership and exploitation of the program by hiding the source code. Much effort can be spent on protecting the code and binaries rather than on useful features. As a result you do not own the software but have a licence to use it in limited ways and obtrusive copy protection schemes can be enforced on the user.

Other types of software licence known as Freeware or Shareware are also low cost but you do not have the freedoms.

The terms Open Source, Free Software and Free Open Software (FOSS) are also often used. Free software was pioneered by Richard M Stallman and developed into the GNU Project. The term Open Source was created later by a consortium in order to appease the discomfort that some commercial venture feel with something labeled as free. The term Open Source is sometimes used for software for which the source is available but not the four Freedoms above, so Schoolforge uses the term FLOSS to make it clear that we exclude such software.

"Open content" is sometimes used to describe freely reusable and modifiable resources in general, including non-software. The GNU Free Document License as used by Wikipedia is an example.

Copyright laws are used to ensure that the freedoms are legally binding and propagated when the software is used in a new creation or derived work. Some licenses protect the freedoms better than others and care is needed in interpreting a licence.

Copyleft is a way of assigning copyright so that modified editions must be released under the same licence as the original, preserving the above freedoms. This is most fully realized in the GNU GPL license.

The open content book Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law by Lawrence Rosen is an excellent and very readable introduction to understanding, using and choosing Open Source licenses (but under US law).

Schoolforge aims to be an inclusive project. Some of the people involved in the project wish to look more generally at open and free communication in education, including reusable resources to support the main aims. For these people, restricting the discussion to just software is not to see the whole picture.

Why some won't call their software "open source"
In a mailing list post, MJ Ray FROM the Association For Free Software described some of the reasons why they strongly prefer the term "free software":--

"Open Source" is an ambiguous phrase with definitions FROM OSI, !OeE, Becta, Microsoft(!) and many others. One of the original reason for the Open Source Initiative was to remove ambiguity by securing a trademark on the phrase (wishful thinking?) and to clarify things through marketing it. However, they didn't get the trademark and their marketing effort is dwarfed by other people defining "open source" as other things. The Free Software Definition is simpler and the ideas have had 20 years or so to establish themselves.

Another reason for "Open Source" was to remove the connection with the ideas of sharing and being a good member of the community. From what I heard at the conference, those are still very popular ideas with people working in education. Some people class promotion of these ideas as political. I guess in that case, Chris could call AFFS a political group. Oh well. I'm not sure why it would be less popular with educators or why it should stop us promoting free software for the practical benefits too, though.

If you sympathize with the goal of providing effective promotion of our preferred software licensing, please use the older term "Free Software" and do the relatively simple explanation about "free as in freedom." Ambiguity and division never help marketing.

The material I consulted for [this] is mostly drawn from OSI's own site, but I had to dig around in pages not listed on the site index for some of it. The history of OSI and "Notes for translators" are the source for most of it. These are some of the older documents on there, as I remember them FROM the start of OSI, and quite enlightening about the original purposes of the campaign, instead of what it is today.

Have a look at:

http://www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS/report/

for more discussion

Original material from Schoolforge-UK at http://www.schoolforge.org.uk/index.php/FLOSS (Original license "Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 UK: England & Wales," permission granted by Schoolforge-UK to share this derivative under "Creative Commons Deed Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5")