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 Operation).
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. In the case of SCO the lawsuit is falling apart because SCO actually have no evidence. Free Software is not illegal.
The GNU GPL went to court on three occasions, 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.
Free software is not always higher quality, but everyone has the right to examine it and make improvements if desired.
What about questions regarding sabotage of Free Software?
You can point out that Free Software fosters open development. Someone may try to introduce something bad, but the open review process means this damage will be spotted and removed. It is far more likely that a hostile force could slip something into a closed system.
Examples of Free Software community audits include the backdoors discovered in Firebird when the sources where released the first time; or the tentative move to include backdoors in the Linux kernel that didn't last more than a few hours.
What about questions about the difference between Free Software and Open Source?
The Open Source Initiative proposed the term 'Open Source' as a marketing term for Free Software. Their choice of terminology weakened Free Software's unique selling point (freedom), and introduced confusion through ambiguous terminology.
This is about choosing the most effective terminology to accomplish a purpose. It is important to select a terminology that does not easily yield to misappropriation. The problem with the term Open Source is that it refers to having access to source code, but access to the source code is only a precondition for two of the four freedoms that define Free Software. The term Free Software avoids catering to this relatively common misunderstanding.
If someone is interested in clarity of language then it's important to talk about Free Software. Remember, we're talking free as in freedom. We want to ensure that people are free to use, modify, share and improve software.
How should I characterise software companies like Microsoft?
Always be aware that there may be Microsoft people in the audience that can stand up any time to correct you if you don't stick to the truth! You should try to talk about non-free software companies in general (avoid names) as bad examples of how they treat their customers, forcing upgrades or taking away their data in unknown formats.
Microsoft is a natural product of a wrong approach. They are the worst curtailer of freedom, but that's only because they've been the most successful. Others are trying very hard to restrict the freedom of users in the same way as Microsoft.
We need to fix the general approach.
What should I say if people suggest Free Software is for tree-hugging hippies?
We use the four freedoms of software to ensure that software users have a certain standard of rights. Software development and usage is still a new activity, and it's history and philosophical thinking is still relatively shallow. People using software don't have many rights and they are being exploited. Free Software is about setting a measure for how people should be treated.
If you're talking to a business audience, you can describe this as a procurement policy. Procurement policies usually spell out minimum requirements for purchasing and usage:
- "Software providers must not prevent the company from seeing what the software does"
- "Software providers must not prevent the company from making improvements, customising, fixing bugs - or commissioning others to do these things for the company"
- "Software providers will not prevent the publication of any improvements which the collective users of the software make or commission."
Other pages on wiki.fsfe.org
Transcripts - text copies of presentations about free software