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Free software (or libre software)[1][2] is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute it and any adapted versions.[3][4][5][6][7] Free software is a matter of liberty, not price: all users are legally free to do what they want with their copies of a free software (including profiting from them) regardless of how much is paid to obtain the program.[8][2] Computer programs are deemed "free" if they give end-users (not just the developer) ultimate control over the software and, subsequently, over their devices.[5][9]

The right to study and modify a computer program entails that source code—the preferred format for making changes—be made available to users of that program. While this is often called "access to source code" or "public availability", the Free Software Foundation recommends against thinking in those terms,[10] because it might give the impression that users have an obligation (as opposed to a right) to give non-users a copy of the program.

Although the term "free software" had already been used loosely in the past,[11] Richard Stallman is credited with tying it to the sense under discussion and starting the free-software movement in 1983, when he launched the GNU Project: a collaborative effort to create a freedom-respecting operating system, and to revive the spirit of cooperation once prevalent among hackers during the early days of computing.[12][13]

The economic viability of free software has been recognized by large corporations such as IBM, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems.[59][60][61][62][63] Many companies whose core business is not in the IT sector choose free software for their Internet information and sales sites, due to the lower initial capital investment and ability to freely customize the application packages. Most companies in the software business include free software in their commercial products if the licenses allow that.[18]

Free software is generally available at no cost and can result in permanently lower TCO costs compared to proprietary software.[64] With free software, businesses can fit so

The economic viability of free software has been recognized by large corporations such as IBM, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems.[59][60][61][62][63] Many companies whose core business is not in the IT sector choose free software for their Internet information and sales sites, due to the lower initial capital investment and ability to freely customize the application packages. Most companies in the software business include free software in their commercial products if the licenses allow that.[18]

Free

Free software is generally available at no cost and can result in permanently lower TCO costs compared to proprietary software.[64] With free software, businesses can fit software to their specific needs by changing the software themselves or by hiring programmers to modify it for them. Free software often has no warranty, and more importantly, generally does not assign legal liability to anyone. However, warranties are permitted between any two parties upon the condition of the software and its usage. Such an agreement is made separately from the free software license.

A report by Standish Group estimates that adoption of free software has caused a drop in revenue to the proprietary software industry by about $60 billion per year.[65] Eric S. Raymond argued that the term free software is too ambiguous and intimidating for the business community. Raymond promoted the term open-source software as a friendlier alternative for the business and corporate world.[66]