What is example of public domain software?

What is example of public domain software? : Public domain software is any software that has no legal , copyright or editing restrictions associated with it It is free and open-source software that can be publicly modified, distributed or sold without any restrictions SQLite, I2P and CERN httpd are popular examples of public domain software
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Public-domain software is software that has been placed in the public domain, in other words, software for which there is absolutely no ownership such ascopyright, trademark, or patent . Software in the public domain can be modified, distributed, or sold even without anyattribution by anyone; this is unlike the common case of software under exclusive copyright, where licenses grant limited usage rights.

Under theBerne Convention, which most countries have signed, an author automatically obtains the exclusive copyright to anything they have written, and local law may similarly grant copyright, patent, or trademark rights by default. The Convention also covers programs, and they are therefore automaticallysubject to copyright. If a program is to be placed in the public domain, the author must explicitly disclaim the copyright and other rights on it in some way, e.g. by a waiver statement.[1] In somejurisdictions, some rights (in particular moral rights) cannot be disclaimed: for instance, civil tradition-basedGerman law’s “Urheberrecht” differs from Anglo-Saxon common law tradition’s “copyright” concept.


Early academic public-domain softwareecosystem[edit]

From the software culture of the 1950s to 1990s, public-domain (or PD) software were popular as original academic phenomena. This kind of freely distributed and shared “free software” combined the present-day classes offreeware, shareware, and free and open-source software, and was created in academia, by hobbyists, andhackers.[2] As software was often written in an interpreted language such as BASIC, the source code was needed and therefore distributed to run the software. PD software was also shared and distributed as printed source code (type-in programs) in computer magazines (likeCreative Computing, SoftSide, Compute!, Byte, etc.) and books, like thebestseller BASIC Computer Games.[3] Earlier on, closed-source software was uncommon until the mid-1970s to1980s.[4][5][6]

Before 1974, when the US Commission on New Technological Uses of CopyrightedWorks (CONTU) decided that “computer programs, to the extent that they embody an author’s original creation, are proper subject matter of copyright”,[7][8] software was not copyrightable and therefore always in the publicdomain. This legislation, plus court decisions such as Apple v. Franklin in 1983 for object code, clarified that the Copyright Act gave computer programs the copyright status of literary works.

In the 1980s, a common way to share public-domainsoftware[verification needed] was by receiving them through a local user group or a company like PC-SIG of Sunnyvale, California, which maintained a mail-order catalog of more than 300 disks with an average price ofUS$6.[9] Public-domain software with source code was also shared on BBS networks. Public-domain software was commercialized sometimes by a donationware model, asking theusers for a financial donation to be sent by mail.[10]

The public-domain “free sharing” and donationware commercialization models evolved in the following years to the (non-voluntary) shareware model,[11][12] and software free of charge, called freeware.[13] Additionally, due to other changes in the computer industry, the sharing of source code became lesscommon.[6]

The Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 (as well as the earlier Copyright Act of 1976) significantly altered the legal foundation for public-domain software. Software was already in the public domain prior to the act if it was released without a copyright notice. A clear waiver statement or license from the author was required for software under the new act because it was by default copyright protected. [14][15].

Reference implementations of algorithms,often cryptographic meant or applied for standardization are still often released into the public domain; examples include CERNhttpd[16] in 1993 and Serpent cipher in 1999. The Openwall Project maintains a list of several algorithms and their source code in the publicdomain.[17]

Free and open-source software as successor[edit]

Permissive license texts, including the BSD license and its derivatives, were developed as a response of the academic software ecosystem to the change in the copyright system in the late 1980s. The majority of the characteristics of earlier software that was in the public domain are shared by permissive-licensed software, which is a type of free and open-source software but is supported by copyright law.

In the 1980s Richard Stallman, who for long worked in an academic environment of “public-domain”-like software sharing, noticed the emergence of proprietary software and the decline of the public-domainsoftware ecosystem. In an effort to preserve this ecosystem he created a software license, the GPL, which encodes the public-domain rights and enforces them irrevocably on software. Paradoxically, his copyleft approach relies on the enforceability of the copyright to be effective. Copyleft free software, therefore, shares manyproperties with public-domain software, but does not allow relicensing or sublicensing. Unlike real public-domain software or permissive-licensed software, Stallman’s copyleft license tries to enforce the free shareability of software also for the future by not allowing license changes.

To refer to free software (which is under a free software license) or to software distributedand usable free of charge (freeware) as “public-domain” is therefore incorrect. While public domain gives up the author’s exclusive rights (e.g. copyright), in free software the author’s copyright is still retained and used, for instance, to enforce copyleft or to hand out permissive-licensed software. Licensed software is in general not in the public domain.[18]Another distinct difference is that an executable program may be in the public domain even if its source code is not made available (making the program not feasibly modifiable), while free software always has the source code available.

Post-copyright publicdomain[edit]

With the 2000s and the emergence of peer-to-peer sharing networks and sharing in web development, a newcopyright-critical generation of developers made the “license-free” public-domain software model visible again, also criticizing the FOSS license ecosystem(“Post Open Source”) as stabilizing part of the copyrightsystem.[19][20][21][22] New non-FOSS licenses and waiver texts were developed, notably the Creative Commons “CC0″ (2009) and the”Unlicense” (2010), and there was a noticeable rise in the popularity of permissive software licenses. Also, the growing problem of orphaned software and digital obsolescence of software raised awareness of therelevance of again passing software into the public domain for better preservation of the digital heritage, unrestricted by copyright and digital rightsmanagement.[23][24][25][26]

Around 2004, there was debate on whetherpublic-domain software could be considered part of the FOSS ecosystem, as argued by lawyer Lawrence Rosen in the essay “Why the public domain isn’t a license”,[27] a position that faced opposition byDaniel J. Bernstein and others.[28] In 2012, the status was finally resolved when Rosen changed his mind and accepted the CC0 as an open-source license, while admitting that, contrary to previous claims, copyright could be waived, as backed by aNinth Circuit decision.[29]

Passing of software into the publicdomain[edit]

Release without copyrightnotice[edit]

Before the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 (andthe earlier Copyright Act of 1976, which went into effect in 1978) works could be easily given into the public domain by releasing them without an explicit copyright notice and no copyright registration. After 1988, all works were by default copyright protected and needed to be actively given into the public domain by a waiverstatement.[14][15]

Leaving the copyrightterm[edit]

Copyrighted works, like software, are meant to pass into the public domain after the copyright term, losing their copyrightprivilege. Due to the decades-long copyright protection granted by the Berne Convention, no software has ever passed into the public domain by leaving copyright terms. The question of how quickly works should pass into the public domain has been a matter ofscientific[30][31][32] and public debates, as well as for software likevideogames.[24][25][26]

Public-domain-like licenses and waivers[edit]

WTFPL license logo, a public-domain-like license

CC0 license logo, copyright waiver, and license that is similar to the public domain[33].

While real public domain makes software licenses unnecessary, as no owner/author is required to grant permission(“Permission culture”), there are licenses that grant public-domain-like rights. There is no universally agreed-upon license, but there are multiple licenses that aim to release source code into the public domain.

i a g u u T n e d ]

As result, such licensed public-domain software has all the four freedoms but is not hampered by the complexities of attribution (restriction of permissive licensed software) or license compatibility (issue with copyleftlicensed software).

Public-domain software[edit]

See also Category:Public-domainsoftware with source code, Category:Public-domain software

Classical PD software(pre-1988)[edit]

For example, type-in programs from public domain software were distributed in early computer books and magazines like BASIC Computer Games. Atypical at the time were explicit PD waiver statements or license files. Without a copyright notice, publicly accessible software was regarded as public domain and distributed as such.

Notable general PD software from that time include:

  • ELIZA(1966)[41][42]
  • SPICE(1973)[43]
  • BLAS (1979)
  • FFTPACK (1985)

Video games are among the earliest examples of shared PD software, which are still notabletoday:

  • Spacewar! (1962)[44]
  • Hamurabi (1969)
  • Star Trek (text game) (1971)
  • Hunt the Wumpus (1972)
  • Maze War (1974)
  • Colossal Cave Adventure (1976)
  • Android Nim (1978)
  • Rogue (video game) (1980)
  • Ballerburg (1987)

Many PD software authors kept the practices of public-domain release without having a waiver text, not knowing or caring for the changed copyright law, thus creating a legal problem. On the other hand, magazines started in the mid-1980s to claim copyright even for type-in programs that were previously seen asPD.[45][46] Only slowly did PD software authors start to include explicit relinquishment or license statement texts.

Examplesof modern PD software (post 1988)[edit]

These examples of modern PD software (after the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988) are either under proper public domain (e.g.created by a US governmental organization), under a proper public domain like license (for instance CC0), or accompanied by a clear waiver statement from the author. Whilst not as widespread as in the pre-2000s, PD software still exists nowadays. For example,SourceForge listed 334 hosted PD projects in 2016,[47] and GitHub 102,000 under the Unlicense alone in 2015.[39] In 2016, ananalysis of the Fedora Project’s packages revealed PD was the seventh most popular “license”.[48]

The award-winning video game developerJason Rohrer releases his works into the PD, as do several cryptographers, such as Daniel J. Bernstein, Bruce Schneier and Douglas Crockford,[49] with reference implementations of cryptographic algorithms.

  • BLAST (1990)
  • CERN’s httpd(1993)[50]
  • ImageJ (1997)[51]
  • Serpent (cipher)(1999)[52]
  • SQLite (2000)[53]
  • reStructuredText(2002)[54]
  • I2P (2003)
  • youtube-dl (2006)[55]
  • 7-Zip’s LZMA SDK (2008)[56]
  • Diamond Trust of London (2012)
  • Glitch(2013)[57][58]
  • The Castle Doctrine (2014)
  • SHA-3 (2015)[59]
  • One Hour One Life (2018)[60]
READ  Requirements.txt: A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Effective Requirements Files

See also[edit]

  • Public domain
  • Public copyright license
  • License-free software
  • Free and open-source software
  • Abandonware


  • ^Open Source: Technology and Policy by Fadi P. Deek, James A. M. McHugh “Public domain”, page 227 (2008).
  • ^ Shea, Tom (1983-06-23). “Free software – Free software is a junkyard of software spare parts”. InfoWorld.Retrieved 2016-02-10. In contrast to commercial software is a large and growing body of free software that exists in the public domain. Public-domain software is written by microcomputer hobbyists (also known as “hackers”) many of whom are professional programmers in their worklife.
  • ^ Ahl, David. “David H. Ahl biography from Who’s Who in America”. Retrieved2009-11-23.
  • ^ Object code only: is IBM playing fair? IBM’s OCOpolicy protects its own assets but may threaten customers investment on Computerworld – 8 Febr. 1988
  • ^Firm sidestep IBM policy by banning software changes onComputerworld (18 March 1985)
  • ^ a bGallant, John (1985-03-18). “IBM policy draws fire – Users say source code rules hamper change”. Computerworld. Retrieved 2015-12-27. While IBM’s policy of withholding source code for selected softwareproducts has already marked its second anniversary, users are only now beginning to cope with the impact of that decision. But whether or not the advent of object-code-only products has affected their day-to-day DP operations, some users remain angry about IBM’s decision. Announced in February 1983, IBM’s object-code-only policy has been applied to a growing list of Big Blue system softwareproducts
  • ^ Apple Computer, Inc. v. Franklin Computer Corporation Puts the Byte Back into Copyright Protection for Computer Programs in Golden Gate University Law Review Volume 14, Issue 2, Article 3 by Jan L. Nussbaum (January 1984)
  • ^ Lemley, Menell, Merges and Samuelson. Software and Internet Law, p. 34.
  • ^ Kristina B. Sullivan (1986-01-14). “Hackers CreatePublic-Domain Software for the Sheer Joy of It”. PC Week. Vol. 3, no. 2. pp. 121–122.
  • ^ April 1987: Ballerburg – Zwei Spieler, zwei Burgen und ein Berg dazwischen… on eckhardkruse.net: “Ich habe das Programm als Public Domain veröffentlicht (die Unterscheidung in Freeware, Shareware usw. gab es damals nicht), mit der Bitte um eine 20 DM Spende.Dafür gab es dann die erweitere Version und den Quellcode.” (in German).
  • ^ “Bob Wallace Timeline”. Erowid. Jan 12, 2004.Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  • ^ Article about Jim “Button” Knopf, from Dr. Dobb’s Journal.
  • ^ the-history-of-shareware-psl on asp-software.org.
  • ^ ab publicdomain on cornell.edu
  • ^a b Copyright Notice, U.S. Copyright Office Circular 3, 2008.
  • ^ The birth of the web Licensing the web on cern.ch (2014).
  • ^Source code snippets and frameworks placed in the public domain on openwall.info.
  • ^ Shankland, Stephen (February 28, 2008).”Is public domain software open-source?”. cnet.com. Retrieved 2016-02-03. There’s no doubt that open-source software and that in the public domain are similar. But even experts differ about just how closely linked theyare.
  • ^ The Surprising History of Copyright and The Promise of a Post-Copyright World by Karl Fogel (2006).
  • ^ Younger developers reject licensing, risk chance for reform on opensource.com by Luis Villa (on 12 Feb 2013).
  • ^ Pushing back against licensing and the permission culture Luis Villa (January 28, 2013).
  • ^ Post open source software, licensing and GitHub on opensource.com by Richard Fontana (on 13 Aug 2013).
  • ^Charlesworth, Andrew (5 November 2002). “The CAMiLEON Project: Legal issues arising from the work aiming to preserve elements of the interactive multimedia work entitled “The BBC Domesday Project”“. Kingston upon Hull: Information Law and Technology Unit, University of Hull. Archived fromthe original (Microsoft Word) on 6 February 2011. Retrieved 23 March2011.
  • ^ a b Walker, John (2014-01-29).”GOG’s Time Machine Sale Lets You CONTROL TIME ITSELF”. Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 2016-01-30. As someone who desperately pines for the PD model that drove creativity before the copyright industry malevolently tookover the planet, it saddens my heart that a game two decades old isn’t released into theworld.
  • ^ a b Walker, John (2014-02-03).”Editorial: Why Games Should Enter The Public Domain”. Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 2016-01-30. games more than a couple of decades old aren’t entering the public domain. Twenty years was a fairly arbitrary number,one that seems to make sense in the context of games’ lives, but it could be twenty-five,thirty.
  • ^ a b Rouner, Jef (April 28, 2015).”U.S. Copyright Office to Explore Making Some Video Games Public Domain”. Houston Press. Retrieved2016-02-03.
  • ^ Lawrence Rosen (2004-05-25). “Why the public domain isn’t a license”. rosenlaw.com. Retrieved2016-02-22.
  • ^ Placing documents into the public domain by Daniel J. Bernstein on cr.yp.to: “Most rights can be voluntarily abandoned (‘waived’) by the owner of the rights. Legislators can go to extra effort tocreate rights that can’t be abandoned, but usually they don’t do this. In particular, you can voluntarily abandon your United States copyrights: ‘It is well settled that rights gained under the Copyright Act may be abandoned. But abandonment of a right must be manifested by some overt act indicating an intention to abandon that right. See Hampton v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 279 F.2d 100, 104 (9th Cir. 1960).’ ” (2004).
  • ^ Lawrence Rosen (2012-03-08). “(License-review) (License-discuss) CC0incompliant with OSD on patents, (was: MXM compared to CC0)”. opensource.org. Archived from the original on 2016-03-12. Retrieved 2016-02-22. The case you referenced in your email, Hampton v. Paramount Pictures, 279 F.2d 100 (9th Cir. Cal. 1960), stands for the proposition that, at least in the Ninth Circuit, a person can indeed abandon hiscopyrights (counter to what I wrote in my article) – but it takes the equivalent of a manifest license to do so. 🙂 […] For the record, I have already voted +1 to approve the CC0 public domain dedication and fallback license as OSD compliant. I admit that I have argued for years against the “public domain” as an open source license, but in retrospect, considering the minimal risk to developers and users relying on such software and the evident popularity of that “license”, I changed mymind. One can’t stand in the way of a fire hose of free public domain software, even if it doesn’t come with a better FOSS license that I trustmore.
  • ^ Watt, Richard (September 26, 2014). Handbook on the Economics of Copyright: A Guide for Students and Teachers. Edward Elgar Publishing.ISBN 9781849808538. Retrieved2015-01-11.
  • ^ Pollock, Rufus (2007-10-01). “OPTIMAL COPYRIGHT OVER TIME:TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE AND THE STOCK OF WORKS” (PDF). University of Cambridge. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-02-21. Retrieved2015-01-11.
  • ^ Pollock, Rufus (2009-06-15). “FOREVER MINUS A DAY? CALCULATING OPTIMAL COPYRIGHTTERM” (PDF). University of Cambridge. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-01-12. Retrieved 2015-01-11. The optimal term of copyright has been a matter for extensive debate over the lastdecade.
  • ^ “Downloads”. Creative Commons. 2015-12-16. Retrieved2015-12-24.
  • ^Version 1.0 license on anonscm.debian.org.
  • ^ “11/17: LulanArtisans Textile Competition”. 18 June 2009.
  • ^ Validity of the Creative Commons Zero 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication and its usability for bibliographic metadata from the perspective of German Copyright Law by Dr. Till Kreutzer, attorney-at-law inBerlin, Germany.
  • ^ The unlicense a license for no licenseArchived 2017-01-22 at the Wayback Machine on ostatic.com by Joe Brockmeier (2010)
  • ^The Unlicense Archived 2018-07-08 at the Wayback Machine on unlicense.org.
  • ^a b Balter, Ben (2015-03-09). “Open source license usage on GitHub.com”.github.com. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 1 MIT 44.69%, 2 Other 15.68%, 3 GPLv2 12.96%, 4 Apache 11.19%, 5 GPLv3 8.88%, 6 BSD 3-clause 4.53%, 7 Unlicense 1.87%, 8 BSD 2-clause 1.70%, 9 LGPLv3 1.30%, 10 AGPLv3 1.05% (30 mill * 2% * 17% =102k)
  • ^ “BSD 0-Clause License (0BSD) Explained in Plain English”. Retrieved 25 February2020.
  • ^“Alan Turing at 100”. Harvard Gazette. 13 September 2012. Retrieved2016-02-22.
  • ^ The Genealogy of Eliza by Jeff Shrager
  • ^history-of-spice on allaboutcircuits.com “The origin of SPICE traces back to another circuit simulation program called CANCER. Developed by professor Ronald Rohrer of U.C. Berkeley along with some of his students in the late 1960s, CANCER continued to be improved through the early 1970s. When Rohrer left Berkeley, CANCER was re-written and re-named to SPICE, releasedas version 1 to the public domain in May of 1972. Version 2 of SPICE was released in 1975 (version 2g6—the version used in this book—is a minor revision of this 1975 release). Instrumental in the decision to release SPICE as a public-domain computer program was professor Donald Pederson of Berkeley, who believed that all significant technical progress happens when information is freely shared. I for one thank him for his vision.”
  • ^ Classic Games on oilzine.com “Space War (Asteroids) – Steve Russell – MIT – Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) – PDP-1 In 1961, the game that would eventually become Asteroids started life, humbly, at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). […] It was also open source, so the code was publicdomain, available for anybody to utilize and improve upon.”
  • ^ Compute-Gazette-Issue-11-01.pdf
  • ^ Transactor_v8i3.pdf: “though our disk labels show a copyright notice, up until this issue we stated right on our policies page (page 2) that our programs are ‘public domain; free to copy, not to sell’. This notice goes back about 4 years – a popular phraseoriginally designed to prevent one’s program from being ‘acquired’ by someone in the software business”.
  • ^ 334 PD projects on sourceforge.net (February 2016)
  • ^ Anwesha Das (22 June 2016). “Software Licenses in Fedora Ecosystem”. anweshadas.in. Retrieved 2016-06-27. In the above bar-chart I have counted GPL and its different versions as one family, and I did the same with LGPLtoo. From this diagram it is very much clear that the MIT License is the most used license, with a total number of use case of 2706. Therefore comes GPL (i.e GNU General Public License) and its different versions, BSD, LGPL (i.e. GNU Lesser General Public License) and its different versions, ASL (i.e Apache Software License) family, MPL (i.e. Mozilla Public License). Apart from these licenses there are projects who has submitted themselves into Public Domain and that number is137.
  • ^ douglascrockford on GitHub
  • ^ disclaimer on rsb.info.nih.gov
  • ^SERPENT – A Candidate Block Cipher for the Advanced Encryption Standard “Serpent is now completely in the public domain, and we impose no restrictions on its use. This was announced on the 21st August at the First AES Candidate Conference.” (1999)
  • ^copyright on sqlite.org
  • ^ copyrights-and-licensing on docutils.sourceforge.net
  • ^ “youtube-dl GitHub page”. GitHub. Retrieved 2 October2016.
  • ^Igor Pavlov (2008). “LZMA SDK (Software Development Kit)”. Retrieved2013-06-16.
  • ^ tinyspeck (2013-11-18). “Glitch is Dead, Long Live Glitch! – Art & Code from the Game Released into Public Domain”. glitchthegame.com. Retrieved 2013-12-11. The entire library of art assets from the game, hasbeen made freely available, dedicated to the public domain. Code from the game client is included to help developers work with the assets. All of it can be downloaded and used by anyone, for anypurpose.
  • ^ Blackwell, Laura (2013-11-18). “Afterlife of an MMO: Glitch’s offbeat art enters public domain”. pcworld.com. Retrieved2013-12-11.
  • ^ KeccakReferenceAndOptimized-3.2.zip in mainReference.c: “The Keccak sponge function, designed by Guido Bertoni, Joan Daemen, Michaël Peeters and Gilles Van Assche. For more information, feedback or questions, please refer to our website:http://keccak.noekeon.org/Implementation[permanent dead link] by the designers, hereby denoted as ‘the implementer’. To the extent possible under law, the implementer has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rightsto the source code in this file. https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/”.
  • ^Skipping Steam: Why Jason Rohrer independently distributes One Hour, One Life on Gamasutra by Richard Moss “you’re paying for an account on the server that I’m running. […], and it’s actually in the public domain — the source code’sall available.” (on August 30, 2018)
  • External links[edit]

    • “Public domain software”. Categories of freeand nonfree software. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved2013-07-31.
    • “Cod5.org: public domain software source code archive”. Cod5. Archived from the original on 2015-03-19. Retrieved2015-03-12.
    • “Unlicensed FreeSoftware”. Unlicense. Archived from the original on 2018-07-08. Retrieved2015-03-12.


    What is example of public domain software?

    What do you mean by public domain software? : Definition(s): Software that is not covered by any country’s copyright laws, which allows for unrestricted use without the creator’s consent or payment and comes with no warranties or liabilities.
    Is free software a public domain? : Public domain software This is not free software, because free software requires accessibility of source code Meanwhile, most free software is not in the public domain; it is copyrighted, and the copyright holders have legally given permission for everyone to use it in freedom, using a free software license
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    This diagram, originally by Chao-Kuei and updated by several others since, explains the different categories of software. It’s available as a Scalable Vector Graphic and as anXFig document, under the terms of any of the GNU GPL v2 or later, the GNU FDL v1.2 or later, or the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike v2.0 or later.

    Free software

    Free software is software that comes with permission for anyone to use, copy, and/or distribute, either verbatim or with modifications, either gratis or for a fee. In particular, this means that source code must beavailable. “If it’s not source, it’s not software.” This is a simplified description; see also the full definition.

    A program may be included in a free operating system, such as GNU, or in free variants of the GNU/Linux system if it is free.

    There are numerous ways to make a program free, and there are numerous details that could be decided in multiple ways while maintaining the program’s freedom. The following is a description of a few of the options. Check out the license list page for details on particular free software licenses.

    Free software is a matter of freedom, not price. But proprietary software companies typically use the term “free software” to refer to price. Sometimes they mean that you can obtain a binary copy at no charge;sometimes they mean that a copy is bundled with a computer that you are buying, and the price includes both. Either way, it has nothing to do with what we mean by free software in the GNU project.

    Because of the potential for misunderstanding, it is important to always check the actual distribution terms when a software company claims that its product is free software to ensure that users have the freedoms that free software implies. Free software isn’t always what it appears to be.

    Free as in freedom and free as in no cost are often expressed using two different words. Free and gratuity are examples of words in French. Not so with English; while there is a word called gratis that clearly denotes price, there isn’t a common adjective that clearly denotes freedom. We therefore advise free translation into your language if you are speaking another language in order to make it clearer. See our list of termfree software translations into various other languages.

    Free software is often more reliable than nonfree software.

    Open source software

    Some individuals use the term “open source software” to refer to software that falls into the same general category as free software. They accept some licenses that we deem to be overly restrictive, and there are free software licenses that they have not accepted, so it is not exactly the same class of software. Only a few instances of source code that is open source but not free are known to us, so the differences in the category’s extension are minor. Although we are unaware of any instances, in theory it is possible that some free programs could be denied open source status.

    We prefer the term “free software” because it refers to freedom—something that the term “open source“ doesnot do.

    Public domain software

    Public domain software is software that is not copyrighted If the source code is in the public domain, that is a special case of noncopylefted free software, which means that some copies or modified versions may not be free at all

    A program’s source code may not always be accessible even though its executable form is sometimes in the public domain. Due to the requirement for source code accessibility in free software, this is not free software. The majority of free software, on the other hand, is not in the public domain; rather, it is copyrighted, and the copyright holders have formally permitted anyone to use it freely under a free software license.

    The term “public domain” is sometimes used inadvertently to denote “free” or “available without charge.” Public domain is a legal term, and it precisely means that something is not copyrighted. For the sake of clarity, we advise using public domain only for that meaning and employing different terms to convey the other meanings.

    Under the Berne Convention, which most countries have signed, anything written down is automatically copyrighted. This includes programs. Therefore, if you want a program you have written to be in the public domain, you must take some legal steps to disclaim thecopyright on it; otherwise, the program is copyrighted.

    Copylefted software

    Free software that has been copylefted has distribution terms that guarantee all copies of all versions carry essentially the same terms. This implies, for instance, that copyleft licenses generally forbid third parties from introducing new requirements into the software (although a small number of secure additional requirements may be permitted) and demand the release of the source code. This protects the program and any modified versions from some of the usual techniques used to make software proprietary.

    Some copyleft licenses, like the GPL version 3, forbid the tivoization of software in addition to other methods of turning it proprietary.

    In the GNU Project, we copyleft almost all the software we write, because our goal is to give every user the freedoms implied by the term free software See our copyleft article for more explanation of how copyleft works and why we use it

    Copyleft is a general concept; to copyleft an actual program, you need to use a specific set of distribution terms. There are many possible ways to write copyleft distribution terms, so in principle there can be many copyleft free software licenses. However, in actual practice nearly all copylefted software uses theGNU General Public License. Two different copyleft licenses are usually “incompatible,” which means it is illegal to merge the code using one license with the code using the other license; therefore, it is good for the community if people use a single copyleft license.

    Noncopylefted free software

    Noncopylefted free software is provided by the creator with the right to be modified, redistributed, and subject to new restrictions.

    If a program is free but not copylefted, some copies or modified versions might not even be free. The program can be compiled, with or without modifications, and the executable file can be made available as a proprietary software product.

    The X Window System illustratesthis. The X Consortium released X11 with distribution terms that made it noncopylefted free software, and subsequent developers have mostly followed the same practice. A copy which has those distribution terms is free software. However, there are nonfree versions as well, and there are (or at least were) popular workstations and PC graphics boards for which nonfree versions are the only ones that work. If you are using this hardware, X11 is not free software for you.The developers of X11 even made X11 nonfree for a while; they were able to do this because others had contributed their code under the same noncopyleft license.

    Lax permissive licensed software

    Lax permissive licenses include the X11 license and the two BSD licenses. These licenses permit almost any use of thecode, including distributing proprietary binaries with or without changing the source code.

    GPL-covered software

    One specific set of distribution guidelines for copylefting a program is the GNU GPL (General Public License). It is the distribution term for the majority of GNU software according to the GNU Project.

    To equate free software with GPL-covered software is therefore an error.

    The GNU operating system

    The GNU operating system is the Unix-like operating system, which is entirely free software, that we in the GNU Project have developed since 1984

    There are numerous programs that make up a Unix-like operating system. All of the authorized GNU packages are part of the GNU system. It also contains a large number of non-GNU software packages, including the X Window System and TeX.

    In 1996, the full GNU system received its first test release. This includes our 1990-developed kernel, the GNU Hurd. The GNU system, which includes the GNU Hurd, started to function reasonably consistently in 2001, but it is still uncommon to see the Hurd in use because it lacks some crucial features. Since the 1990s, the GNU/Linux operating system has enjoyed great success. It is a branch of the GNU operating system that uses Linux as the kernel rather than the GNU Hurd. As evidenced by this, the GNU system is not a single static collection of programs; rather, users and distributors are free to choose various packages in accordance with their preferences and needs. Still a GNU system variant, the outcome.

    Since the purpose of GNU is to be free, every single component in the GNU operating system is free software. They don’t all have to be copylefted, however; any kind offree software is legally suitable to include if it helps meet technical goals.

    GNU programs

    “GNU programs” is equivalent to GNU software. A program Foo is a GNU program if it is GNU software. We also sometimes say it is a “GNU package.”

    GNU software

    Software that is released by the GNU Project is known as GNU software. We also refer to a program as a GNU program or GNU package if it is GNU software. A GNU package should identify itself as such in its README or manual, and all GNU packages are listed in the Free Software Directory.

    Most GNU software iscopylefted, but not all; however, all GNU software must be free software

    Some GNU software was written by staff of the Free Software Foundation, but most GNU software comes from manyvolunteers. (Some of these volunteers are paid by companies or universities, but they are volunteers for us.) Some contributed software is copyrighted by the Free Software Foundation; some is copyrighted by the contributors who wrote it.

    FSF-copyrighted GNU software

    The copyright for GNU packages can either be retained by the developers or transferred to the FSF. They have the option.

    The program is FSF-copyrighted GNU software, and the FSF can enforce its license if they have transferred the copyright to the FSF. Enforcing the license is their responsibility if they have retained the copyright.

    The FSF does not accept copyright assignments of software that is not an official GNU package, as a rule.

    Nonfree software

    Nonfree software is any software that is not free. Its use, redistribution or modification is prohibited, or requiresyou to ask for permission, or is restricted so much that you effectively can’t do it freely.

    Proprietary software

    Nonfree software is also referred to as proprietary software. In the past, nonfree software was further divided into proprietary software, which could not be modified, and semifree software, which could. However, we no longer make that distinction and now refer to proprietary software as nonfree software.

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    The Free Software Foundation upholds the principle that we should only temporarily install proprietary software on our computers in order to create a free replacement for that software. Aside from that, we believe there is no possible justification for installing a proprietary program.

    For instance, we felt justified installing Unix on our computer in the 1980s because we were using it to create a free Unix replacement. We no longer use any nonfree operating systems, and any new computer we install must run a fully free operating system because free operating systems are now readily available.

    We don’t insist that users of GNU, or contributors to GNU, have to live by this rule. It is a rule we made for ourselves. But we hope you will follow it too, for your freedom’s sake.


    The term “freeware” has no clear accepted definition, but it is commonly used for packages which permitredistribution but not modification (and their source code is not available). These packages are not free software, so please don’t use “freeware” to refer to free software.


    Shareware is software that allows for the redistribution of copies but requires a license fee for continued use.

    Shareware is not free software, or even semifree. There are two reasons it is not:

    • Formost shareware, source code is not available; thus, you cannot modify the program at all.
    • Shareware does not come with permission to make a copy and install it without paying a license fee, not even for individuals engaging in nonprofit activity. (In practice, people often disregard the distribution terms and do this anyway, but the terms don’t permit it.)

    Private software

    Software that is made specifically for one user, usually a business or organization, is referred to as private or custom software. Both the source code and the binary versions are retained by that user for their own use only.

    If a private program’s sole user enjoys the four freedoms, it is free software (in a very limited sense). The program is free, in particular, if the user has complete control over the private program. However, copies are not considered to be free software if they are distributed to others without the four freedoms.

    Access is not the issue; freedom is. In general, we don’t think it’s wrong to create a program but keep it under wraps. There are times when a program is so crucial that keeping it from the public would be wrong for humanity, according to some. But these situations are uncommon. The majority of programs are not that important, so it is generally acceptable to refuse to release them. Therefore, the creation of private or customized software and the tenets of the free software movement are not at odds.

    Nearly all employment for programmers is in development of custom software; therefore most programming jobs are, or could be, done in a way compatible with the free software movement.

    Commercial software

    Commercial software is created by a company as a function of that company’s operations, which is distinct from proprietary software. Although proprietary software makes up the majority of commercial software, there is also commercial free software and noncommercial nonfree software.

    An organization, for instance, creates GNU Ada. Every copy is free software that is always distributed in accordance with the GNU GPL, but the support contracts are sold by the software’s creators. Customers occasionally state, “We would feel safer with a commercial compiler,” when their salesmen speak to potential clients. Salespeople respond, “GNU Ada is a commercial compiler that just so happens to be free software.”

    The importance of GNU Ada being free software is paramount; its commercial nature is merely a minor detail. This is not the case for the GNU Project. However, the additional development of GNU Ada brought on by its commercial nature is unquestionably advantageous.

    Please spread the word about the availability of free commercial software. You can avoid saying commercial when you mean proprietary by making an effort to avoid doing so.

    [/lightweight-accordion]What is the difference between public domain software and open-source software? : Open source allows people to meet their own needs and innovate with technology by giving them quick certainty. Software that is not subject to copyright restrictions is considered to be in the public domain, as is any other potentially protected work.
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    Users can access and modify the software’s source code for the program itself with both publicdomain and open-source software. The program’s execution is controlled by the source code, which is essentially a list of commands.

    However, some open-source applications have restrictions on their use anddistribution where the public domain software does not. Open-source software does have copyrights. The copyright specifies how the user may change and distribute the software.

    Copyrights or Use Restrictions

    The user’s access to the source code is not the primary distinction between OS and PD software. Instead, the distinction is whether there are any licensing requirements or other limitations on copyright, program use, source code modification, or resale. If there are restrictions, the software is open-source rather than in the public domain.

    Open Source Initiative (OSI), a 501(c)(3) California-based nonprofit, approves open-source copyrights. They offer a very detailed and legal definition of open source software, who can use it, and how. They also have analphabetical listing of companies that offer open-source software if you wish to investigate a particular company. OpenSource.org is a great place to find out moreabout how you can develop, collaborate and use OS software. OSI-approved copyrights will detail four basic freedoms:

  • Changing the code
  • Using the software for any purpose
  • Making new software based on the underlying for your own use
  • Sharing the software
  • On the other hand, public domain software does not carry copyright or patent—although most could if they wished. In some cases, the creator decidednot to copyright—disclaimed—or the copyright may have expired. The software can be used, changed, and shared without further permissions. However, credit should always be given to the intellectual property of the creator. Most creators release their free, public domain software under the GNU- GPL general public license.

    Other Important Distinctions

    As long as it complies with the OSI copyright, OS software is jointly created and can be freely shared, used, and even modified by anyone. Many people contribute to the development of OS, which is then distributed under licenses that have usage requirements. The license cannot exclude anyone on the basis of their identity. In other words, you cannot prevent particular groups from using the software. It must permit derived works.

    You may also see the terms shareware associated with software applications. Shareware is low or no-cost software but will require registration and perhaps fees for the full version. Freeware may also come at a small fee and are usually small applications without user support. You may not be able to directly modify or share either shareware or freeware.


    Software that is open-source is available in a wide range of forms and functions. LINUX, Apache, Firefox, KOffice, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, KOffice, and SquirrelMail are a few examples. Firefox is a straightforward web browser, whereas LINUX is more complex. Its operating system is UNIX-based. Office productivity software from Apache is called OpenOffice.

    In the case of OpenOffice, you can download and install the program on pretty much anycomputer for free—even if you install it on multiple computers. You can also make copies and hand them out to friends and family. There are no license fees. Use it as you would any other word processing, spreadsheet or database program. And if you have a problem—such as that a bugpops up—or if you think you can make it better, you can report it or just tweak the issue yourself on your copy. The program allows users to “enhance” it, according to Apache. 

    Secure Hash Algorithm 3 (SHA-3) is an example of public domain software. SHA-3 is used to convert data of various sizes into a fixed format size. Castle Doctrine, is a puzzle and strategy game developed and released into the public domain in 2014.

    Is It Safe?

    Anytime you allow access by multiple users, the issue of viruses arises. Proceed with caution and make sure you have a good anti-virus application in place when you access open-source or public domain software.


    Additional Question — What is example of public domain software?

    What are the advantages of public domain software?


    Is Linux a public domain software?

    One of the most well-known examples of open-source, free software is Linux. Under the terms of the relevant licenses, such as the GNU General Public License (GPL), the source code may be used, modified, and distributed by anyone for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

    What is considered a public domain?

    Legally speaking, the public domain is the area in which there are no intellectual property rights. As a result, there are no limitations on how public domain works may be used. A work can become public domain in a number of ways. First off, works with expired copyrights are in the public domain.

    Who owns Linux?

    Because Linux is distributed under an open source license, anyone can use it. Though Linus Torvalds, the name’s inventor, owns the trademark, Linux. Numerous independent authors hold copyright to the Linux source code, which is released under the GPLv2 license.

    Why is Linux better than Windows?

    Linux is typically faster than Windows for a variety of reasons. Linux is very light weight compared to Windows, which is fatty. Many programs run in the background in Windows, using up RAM. Second, Linux has a very well-organized file system.

    Is Linux copyrighted or licensed?

    Since Linux is a word-mark, its entirety is protected by the trademark registration. This includes the standard capitalized form (Linux) or the all-caps version (LINUX).

    What public license is Linux?

    Only version 2 of the GNU General Public License (GPL-2) governs the distribution of the Linux Kernel. 0), as stated in LICENSES/preferred/GPL-2. 0, with a specific syscall exception listed in the LICENSES/exceptions/Linux-syscall-note file, as stated in the COPYING file.

    What does it mean that Linux is open-source software?

    Linux and open source Linux is distributed under an open source license, which prevents usage restrictions. As long as this license is followed, anyone can run, study, modify, and redistribute the source code. They can even sell copies of their modified code.

    What is Linux freeware?

    Freeware is software that is provided without charge, but it is copyrighted by its creator, who retains the right to manage its distribution, modify it, and sell it in the future. It is typically distributed without its source code, preventing users from altering it.

    Which software is freely available in internet?

    a free operating system illustration running some representative programs. These applications are displayed: the Xfce desktop environment, Firefox web browser, Vim text editor, GIMP image editor, and VLC media player.

    Where is Linux used most?

    The Czech Republic, India, Cuba, and Russia appear to have the most widespread interest in Linux on a global scale, followed by Bangladesh, which shares Indonesia’s level of interest in its region.

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