We have collected tips for talking about Free Software. If you have anything to add to this list please contact us. It would also be useful if you could translate this FAQ into other languages.
How can I give a speech about Free Software?
Know your audience! If you are talking about Free Software, talk about it in a way that will genuinely engage the target audience. Tailor your delivery to suit the people, and that way you will get a positive result. If you are speaking to media students, don't go into details regarding engineering methodology. If you are speaking to computer science students, don't do a statistical analysis to show a good TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).
Make the presentation fun. Don't look like a teacher, but more like a student: don't stay behind a desk, walk around and involve the audience by asking questions.
What important aspects of Free Software should I highlight?
There are many things you can talk about to show the benefits of Free Software. The four freedoms (free use, free modification, free sharing, free improving) are important, but are not the only things you can bring into a speech. If you are talking to political students, you might want to highlight the empowerment aspects of Free Software for developing nations. If you are talking to computer science students, you might want to highlight the advantages of Free Software licences and the flexibility they bring to both community-driven and in-house development models.
It's important to emphasise that Free doesn't mean price, it means Freedom.
What about questions regarding the legality of Free Software?
You can point out that Free Software has attracted virtually no lawsuits, but the GNU GPL has been upheld in court on several occasions. At least twice in Germany and once in the USA. The licence was considered valid in all cases. More information about this is available on http://www.fsf.org/news/wallace-vs-fsf, http://www.netfilter.org/news/2004-04-15-sitecom-gpl.html and http://www.ifross.de/ifross_html/home1_2006.html#ARTIKEL15.
What about questions regarding quality control in Free Software?
The quality of software depends on many factors. If a project is well managed it should have a very high standard of quality. This is true for free and non-free software. The problem is that non-free software precludes the possibility of peer-review. Proprietary software is a black box. You have to trust the company that produced that box. There is no way to verify your trust. This is particularly important when it comes to the security of software. Free software has a higher chance of being able to be independently audited for security bugs.
Free software is not always higher quality, but everyone has the right to examine it and make improvements if desired.
What about questions about the difference between Free Software and Open Source?
It's important to point out that Free Software and Open Source means the same software. The FSFE prefer to speak of free software, and try to be consistent in this. We do not, however, consider there to be any difference between the two terms. The tension is often not between free software and open source but between free and open source proponents and these who say free or open source but mean something less.
Any chance we can get to point out that free software and open source are the same, the better. It mitigates the feeling of a division in the community and encourages the community to stand together against those who try to disrupt our work.
How should I characterise software companies that produce proprietary software?
You don't need to talk about them at all. Your message should be focused on the positive nature of free software, not the negative one of proprietary software. If you do need to talk about proprietary software companies, be aware that almost all software developing companies today use free software, and some of those who develop proprietary software also contribute significantly to free software. So rather than talking about companies as a whole, we prefer to talk about their individual offerings.
A company may have both proprietary and free software which they offer to their customers. It's not a picture of black and white but various shades of grey, so if someone asks what company to avoid, it's not about avoiding any one company, but avoiding proprietary software offerings, regardless of what company offers them.
What should I say if people suggest Free Software is for tree-hugging hippies?
We're almost never asked this any more. But it may help to point to the fact that Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Intel, Facebook and other companies (which are decidedly not tree-hugging hippies) are all using and contributing significantly to free software. It's not a marginal activity either, in many cases, but highly strategic.
Other pages on wiki.fsfe.org
Transcripts - text copies of presentations about free software