Free And Non-Free Platforms
IMPORTANT: The platform categorization on this page does not constitute legal advice by Ross N. Williams or any other party, and accordingly is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon as, a substitute for legal or other professional advice in relation to The Free World Licence. Where there is a conflict between this page and the licence itself, the text of the licence prevails.
1.4 FREE PLATFORM: A Free Platform is defined to be any Platform whose software component satisfies all of the following conditions technically, legally, and free of charge for all entities: a. complete Executables can be downloaded from the internet; b. complete Source Code can be downloaded from the internet; c. the software may be used for any purpose; d. the software may be modified, and modified versions used; e. modifications and modified versions may be publicly shared under the same terms; f. these freedoms apply to both Executables and Source Code; g. these freedoms are granted irreversibly for the particular version of the Platform in question; the Platform's licence must not contain termination clauses triggered by anything other than the wish of the licensee or formally defined breaches of the licence's conditions relating directly to the intellectual property of the Platform software. Exception: The incorporation of non-free device drivers, and other directly hardware-related software does not in itself cause a Platform to be classified as non-free.
To assist users of the licence to apply this definition, this page contains a catalogue of many popular platforms along with their free/non-free status. This page is provided as a guide only and is not definitive. The official definition is the Free World Licence itself. Furthermore, this page may become out of date if platform licensing changes.
GNU/Linux (often called just "Linux") is a free operating system distributed under the GNU GPL. Many organizations and individuals have developed their own configurations of GNU/Linux as provided in this list. Unless someone can show otherwise (i.e. that a platform does not obey the Free World Licence's definition of free), the following GNU/Linux distributions are all classified as free platforms: Caldera OpenLinux, Debian GNU/Linux, Linux Mandrake, Linux PPC, Linux Pro, LinuxWare MkLinux, Red Hat Linux, Slackware Linux, Stampede Linux, S.u.S.E. Linux, TurboLinux, Plug and Play Linux, DLX Linux, DOS Linux, hal91 Floppy Linux, and tomsrtbt.
FreeBSD is a BSD-distribution-derived unix variant for Intel-386 family PC computers. It is distributed under the free Berkeley Licence with some components covered by the GNU GPL. FreeBSD's strength is its stability and tailoring for i386 hardware.
NetBSD forked off from FreeBSD. Whereas FreeBSD focused on providing a stable PC unix, NetBSD focused on porting to many different hardware platforms. Like FreeBSD, NetBSD is distributed under the free Berkeley Licence, with some components covered by the GNU GPL. The NetBSD Licensing and Redistribution page has all the details.
OpenBSD is a free version of BSD Unix that was largely forked from NetBSD. OpenBSD's focus is on security. The OpenBSD Copyright Policy confirms that OpenBSD is a free platform (and also provides a good overview of all the various Unix licences).
BeOS is a new operating system tailored for multimedia use. It is proprietary.
Darwin See "MacOS X Darwin".
MacOS X is Apple Computer's re-architectured proprietary GUI operating system. See this diagram for MacOS X's architecture. MacOS X is not classified as a free platform because most of it is commerical proprietary code. The MacOS X Darwin Unix foundation of MacOS X appears to be a plausible candidate for classification as a free platform, but is excluded as described below.
MacOS X Darwin is Apple Computer's Unix, and the foundation of its proprietary MacOSX operating system. Apple has released MacOS X Darwin under the Apple Public Source License, which Apple refers to as "Open Source". However, MacOSX Darwin is not classified as a free platform under The Free World Licence because clause 12.1(c) of the Apple Public Source License terminates the licence if the licensee commences a patent infringement action against Apple. As this termination clause is triggered on conditions not solely related to the licensee's behaviour in relation to the platform's software, it breaches the definition in clause 1.4(g) of The Free World Licence. Example: Apple releases some software (perhaps unrelated to MacOS X) that infringes your patent. You sue for patent infringement, and thereby automatically terminate your MacOS X Darwin licence.
Plan 9 is Lucent's experimental operating system. It has been released under a free licence. However, Plan 9 is not classified as a free platform under The Free World Licence because clause 6.0.1 of the Plan 9 License terminates the licence if the licensee initiates any intellectual property action against the original licensor. As this termination clause is triggered on conditions not solely related to the licensee's behaviour in relation to the platform's software, it breaches the definition in clause 1.4(g) of The Free World Licence. Example: Lucent creates a new company whose name infringes your company's trademarked name, so you sue Lucent, and this triggers clause 6.0.1 of the Plan 9 licence which terminates the licence.
Solaris is Sun's proprietary unix. Sun is providing Solaris binaries free of charge to certain users under certain conditions, and some email correspondents have suggested that this makes Solaris a free platform. However, it is clear that the freedoms provided by the Free Solaris Binary License Program fall far short of the freedoms required to satisfy The Free World Licence. For example, Sun's website makes it clear that even under the Free Solaris Binary License Program, binaries cannot be distributed freely:
10. Can I make copies of the Solaris 8 runtime binaries and share them with others? Can I pass my copy of the Solaris 8 software on to someone else? No in both cases. Under the terms of the program, all licensees must receive the software directly from Sun, and must register the number and type of systems on which the Solaris 8 software is installed. So although you can use the Solaris 8 software anywhere inside your organization, you cannot make copies to give to anyone else. http://www.sun.com/software/solaris/binaries/faq.html#10 26 December 2001.
If a platform does not appear above, then you should treat it as non-free until you can satisfy yourself and others that it meets the Free World Licence's conditions for free platforms. If you want a platform to be added to this page, please email the Webmaster.
Here are some less-mainstream platforms that are (as far as can be determined) non-free. If you are think that one of these platforms should be classified as free, please email the Webmaster. They are: Newton, PalmOS, AmigaOS, CP/M, Minix, Magic Cap, Sequent, Acorn, Apple II, Atari, Playstation, Nintendo, A/UX, Ultrix, Umax V, NextStep, Dynix, Xenix,
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