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A Social Movement for Software Users

Connor Dowthwaite, Thanasis Priftis

As our society grows more dependent on computers, we are constantly using programs which have been developed by their manufacturers / owners. The question is - are we really in control of these programs? And if we as the users are not controlling the program, then is it the program that is controlling us? With proprietary software, there is always an entity who is controlling the program, and therefore exercising power over its users. For this reason it is now of critical importance that we ensure the software we use is not threatening our freedom as citizens, or even the future of a free society


Amongst some of the most successful social movements which have arisen from the computing culture, the Free Software movement sees a world where all software users have freedom. Free Software does not refer to the monetary value of software, but rather that software users have control over their technology. Free Software philosophy states that a program is free if the program users have the “four essential freedoms” (2) : 

Simply, a program is “free software” when it respects users' freedom and community. It is also referred to as “libre software”, to emphasise that it gives users liberty and freedom. 

(Author: radiantskies, Source:

There are many layers and players in the Free Software movement

The Free Software Foundation 

A nonprofit organisation with the mission of promoting computer user freedom. The FSF is the publisher of the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), which is the world's most popular free software license. It is the only license written expressly for the purpose of preserving and promoting software freedom. The FSF promotes the use and development of free software and documentation—particularly the GNU operating system—and campaigns against threats to computer user freedom (e.g. Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) and software patents). Their website can be found here


Fight to Repair 

An individual's right to repair concerning both the hardware and software components of their devices is becoming more and more crucial in our technology driven world. Fight to Repair campaigns to support right to repair initiatives around the world, and to warn against the day-to-day use of proprietary software.

Free Software in Education

Schools (including all educational activities) influence the future of our society through what they teach. In order to use this influence for the good, they should teach exclusively using free software. By training in the use of free software, schools will direct society's future towards freedom, and help upcoming talented programmers in mastering the craft. Free software supports what the education system aims to achieve: to prepare students to be good members of their community, and to disseminate human knowledge. Proprietary software on the other hand forbids education, by promoting secret and restricted knowledge. 

Case study - The Education System in India by Dr. V. Sasi Kumar (8)  - In India, an initiative taken by Kerala is now influencing other states and even the policies of the Government. States like Karnataka and Gujarat are now planning to introduce Free Software in their schools, and some other states like Maharashtra are examining the option. Once a few of the larger states successfully migrate to Free Software, it is hoped that the entire country would follow suit in a relatively short time. When that happens, India could have the largest user base of GNU/Linux and Free Software in general.

Richard Stallman - The GNU Operating System and Copyleft

(Author: Man with one red shoe, Source:

The GNU Project - launched in 1983 by Richard Stallman, the GNU Operating System makes it possible for anyone to use a computer in freedom. 

Copyleft: Pragmatic Idealism (by Richard Stallman) (10) - “My work on free software is motivated by an idealistic goal: spreading freedom and cooperation. That's the basic reason why the GNU General Public License is written the way it is—as a copyleft … since proprietary software developers use copyright to stop us from sharing, we co-operators can use copyright to give other co-operators an advantage of their own: they can use our code.” 

The success of the free software movement depends upon teaching our work colleagues, neighbours and friends about the dangers of losing our software freedom. So spread the word and make a difference!