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How to teach students about free software

William Liggett


As most free software advocates know, it can be very difficult to explain the central concepts to people who have never heard of these ideas before. If you introduce too many things at once, people tend to tune you out from being overwhelmed, and then they don't really appreciate the benefits of free software.

This presentation will explain effective strategies to teach the next generation what free software is, how it differs from proprietary software, and how licenses like the GPL and BSD 3-Clause have similar goals yet different legal implementations. William has been teaching (and grading) his college students on these concepts, and he will show you how to do the same for your students or your friends. Foundational legal concepts like copyright, patents, and trademarks will be clarified, as well as how to break down the main software license categories: copyleft (strong/weak), permissive, and proprietary.


3 years, 7 months ago

Tagged with

licensing · William Liggett · Free the Future · LibrePlanet conference · LibrePlanet 2020 video · LibrePlanet 2020 · LibrePlanet · lp2020 · video · FSF


CC BY-SA 4.0


This talk was presented at LibrePlanet.


LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation's annual conference. The FSF campaigns for free/libre software, meaning it respects users' freedom and community. We believe that users are entitled to this; all software should be free.


We do not advocate "open source".

That term was coined to reject our views. It refers to similar practices, but usually presented solely as advantageous, without talking of right and wrong.


Richard Stallman launched the free software movement in 1983 by announcing development of the free operating system, GNU. By 1992, GNU was nearly operational; one major essential component was lacking, the kernel.


In 1992, Torvalds freed the kernel Linux, which filled the last gap in GNU. Since then, the combined GNU/Linux system has run in millions of computers. Nowadays you can buy a new computer with a totally free GNU/Linux system preinstalled.


The views of the speaker may not represent the Free Software Foundation. The Foundation supports the free software cause and freedom to share, and basic freedoms in the digital domain, but has no position on other political issues.