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There are a number of words and phrases which we recommend avoiding, or avoiding in certain contexts and usages. The reason is either that they are ambiguous, or that they imply an opinion that we hope you may not entirely agree with.
Copyright apologists often use words like “stolen” and “theft” to describe copyright infringement. At the same time, they ask us to treat the legal system as an authority on ethics: if copying is forbidden, it must be wrong.
So it is pertinent to mention that the legal system—at least in the US—rejects the idea that copyright infringement is “theft.” Copyright apologists are making an appeal to authority … and misrepresenting what authority says.
The idea that laws decide what is right or wrong is mistaken in general. Laws are, at their best, an attempt to achieve justice; to say that laws define justice or ethical conduct is turning things upside down.
Publishers often refer to copying they don't approve of as “piracy.” In this way, they imply that it is ethically equivalent to attacking ships on the high seas, kidnapping and murdering the people on them. Based on such propaganda, they have procured laws in most of the world to forbid copying in most (or sometimes all) circumstances. (They are still pressuring to make these prohibitions more complete.)
If you don't believe that copying not approved by the publisher is just like kidnapping and murder, you might prefer not to use the word “piracy” to describe it. Neutral terms such as “unauthorized copying” (or “prohibited copying” for the situation where it is illegal) are available for use instead.
To speak of “compensation for authors” in connection with copyright carries the assumptions that (1) copyright exists for the sake of authors and (2) whenever we read something, the author is working for us so we owe him money. The first assumption is simply false, and the second is rather outrageous.
The term “creator” as applied to authors implicitly compares them to a deity (“the creator”). The term is used by publishers to elevate the authors' moral stature above that of ordinary people, to justify increased copyright power that the publishers can exercise in the name of the authors. We recommend saying “author” instead. However, in many cases “copyright holder” is what you really mean.
Publishers and lawyers like to describe copyright as “intellectual property” — a term that also includes patents, trademarks, and other more obscure areas of law. These laws have so little in common, and differ so much, that it is ill-advised to generalize about them. It is best to talk specifically about “copyright,” or about “patents,” or about “trademarks.”
The term “intellectual property” carries a hidden assumption — that the way to think about all these disparate issues is based on an analogy with physical objects, and our ideas of physical property.
When it comes to copying, this analogy disregards the crucial difference between material objects and information: information can be copied and shared almost effortlessly, while material objects can't be.
To avoid the bias and confusion of this term, it is best to make a firm decision not to speak or even think in terms of “intellectual property”. (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html)
The hypocrisy of calling these powers “rights” is starting to make WIPO embarrassed. (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/wipo-PublicAwarenessOfCopyright-2002.html)
Other Texts to Read | “BSD-style” | “Closed” | “Commercial” | “Compensation” | “Consumer” | “Content” | “Creator” | “Digital Goods” | “Digital Rights Management” | “Ecosystem” | “For free” | “Freely available” | “Freeware” | “Give away software” | “Hacker” | “Intellectual property” | “LAMP system” | “Linux system” | “Market” | “MP3 player” | “Open” | “PC” | “Photoshop” | “Piracy” | “PowerPoint” | “Protection” | “RAND” | “Sell software” | “Software Industry” | “Theft” | “Trusted Computing” | “Vendor”
The expression “BSD-style license” leads to confusion because it lumps together licenses that have important differences. For instance, the original BSD license with the advertising clause is incompatible with the GNU GPL, but the revised BSD license is compatible with the GPL.
To avoid confusion, it is best to name the specific license in question and avoid the vague term “BSD-style.”
Describing non-free software as “closed” clearly refers to the term “open source”. In the free software movement, we want to avoid being confused with the more recent open source movement, so we are careful to avoid usage that would encourage people to lump us in with them. Therefore, we avoid describing non-free software as “closed”. We call it “non-free” or “proprietary”.
Please don't use “commercial” as a synonym for “non-free.” That confuses two entirely different issues.
A program is commercial if it is developed as a business activity. A commercial program can be free or non-free, depending on its license. Likewise, a program developed by a school or an individual can be free or non-free, depending on its license. The two questions, what sort of entity developed the program and what freedom its users have, are independent.
In the first decade of the free software movement, free software packages were almost always noncommercial; the components of the GNU/Linux operating system were developed by individuals or by nonprofit organizations such as the FSF and universities. Later, in the 90s, free commercial software started to appear.
Free commercial software is a contribution to our community, so we should encourage it. But people who think that “commercial” means “non-free” will tend to think that the “free commercial” combination is self-contradictory, and dismiss the possibility. Let's be careful not to use the word “commercial” in that way.
The term “consumer”, when used to refer to computer users, carries unfortunate assumptions.
Economic theory uses the terms “producer” and “consumer”. In that context these words are appropriate. But describing the users of software as “consumers” presumes a narrow role for them. It treats them like cattle that passively graze on what others make available to them.
This kind of thinking leads to travesties like the CBDTPA “Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act” which would require copying restriction facilities in every digital device. If all the users do is “consume”, then why should they mind?
The narrow economic vision of users as “consumers” tends to go hand in hand with the idea that published works are “content”.
To describe people who are not limited to passive consumption on their computers, we suggest terms such as “individuals” and “citizens”.
If you want to describe a feeling of comfort and satisfaction, by all means say you are “content”, but using it as a noun to describe written and other works of authorship is worth avoiding. That usage adopts a specific attitude towards those works: that they are an interchangeable commodity whose purpose is to fill a box and make money. In effect, it treats the works themselves with disrespect.
Those who use this term are often the publishers that push for increased copyright power in the name of the authors (“creators”, as they say) of the works. The term “content” reveals what they really feel.
However, as long as other people use the term “content provider”, political dissidents can well call themselves “malcontent providers”.
The term “content management” takes the prize for vacuity. Neither word has any specific meaning; “content” means “some sort of information”, and “management” in this context means “doing something with it”. So a “content management system” is a system for doing something to some sort of information. In most cases, that term really refers to a system for updating a website. For that, we recommend the term “website revision system” (WRS).
The term “digital goods” as applied to copies of works of authorship forces them into the thought mold of physical goods — which cannot be copied, and which therefore have to be manufactured and sold.
“Digital Rights Management” refers to technical schemes designed to impose restrictions on computer users. The use of the word “rights” in this term is propaganda, designed to lead you unawares into seeing the issue from the viewpoint of the few that impose the restrictions, and ignoring that of the general public on whom these restrictions are imposed.
Good alternatives include “Digital Restrictions Management”, “Digital Restrictions Malware”, and “digital handcuffs”.
It is a mistake to describe our community (or any community) as an “ecosystem”, because that word implies the absence of (1) intention and (2) ethics. In an ecosystem, species evolve according to their fitness. If something is weak, it goes extinct, and that's neither right nor wrong. The term “ecosystem” implicitly suggests a passive attitude: “Don't ask how things should be, just watch what happens to them”.
By contrast, beings that have ethical responsibility can decide to preserve something that, on its own, would tend to vanish—such as civil society, democracy, human rights, peace, public health, … or computer users' freedom.
If you want to say that a program is free software, please don't say that it is available “for free.” That term specifically means “for zero price.” Free software is a matter of freedom, not price.
Free software copies are often available for free—for example, by downloading via FTP. But free software copies are also available for a price on CD-ROMs; meanwhile, proprietary software copies are occasionally available for free in promotions, and some proprietary packages are normally available at no charge to certain users.
To avoid confusion, you can say that the program is available “as free software.”
Don't use “freely available” as a synonym for “free software.” They are not equivalent. “Freely available” means that anyone can easily get a copy. “Free software” is defined in terms of the freedom of users that have a copy. These are answers to different questions.
Please don't use the term “freeware” as a synonym for “free software.” The term “freeware” was used often in the 1980s for programs released only as executables, with source code not available. Today it has no particular agreed-on definition.
Also, if you use other languages than English, please try to avoid borrowing English terms such as “free software” or “freeware.” It is better to translate the term “free software” into your language.
By using a word in your own language, you show that you are really referring to freedom and not just parroting some mysterious foreign marketing concept. The reference to freedom may at first seem strange or disturbing to your compatriots, but once they see that it means exactly what it says, they will really understand what the issue is.
It's misleading to use the term “give away” to mean “distribute a program as free software.” It has the same problem as “for free”: it implies the issue is price, not freedom. One way to avoid the confusion is to say “release as free software.”
A hacker is someone who enjoys playful cleverness—not necessarily with computers. The programmers in the old MIT free software community of the 60s and 70s referred to themselves as hackers. Around 1980, journalists who discovered the hacker community mistakenly took the term to mean “security breaker”.
Please don't spread this mistake. People who break security are “crackers”.
“LAMP” stands for “Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP”—a common combination of software to use on a web server, except that “Linux” really refers to the GNU/Linux system. So instead of “LAMP” it should be “GLAMP”: “GNU, Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP”
Linux is the name of the kernel that Linus Torvalds developed starting in 1991. The operating system in which Linux is used is basically GNU with Linux added. To call the whole system “Linux” is both unfair and confusing. Please call the complete system GNU/Linux, both to give the GNU Project credit and distinguish the whole system from the kernel alone.
It is misleading to describe the users of free software, or the software users in general, as a “market”.
This is not to say we're against markets. If you have a free software support business, then you have clients, and you trade with them in a market. As long as you respect their freedom, we wish you success in your market.
But the free software movement is a social movement, not a business, and the success it aims for is not a market success. We are trying to serve the public by giving it freedom—not competing to take them away from a rival. To equate this campaign for freedom to a business' campaign for mere success is to diminish the significance of freedom.
In the late 1990's it became feasible to make portable, solid-state digital audio players. Most support the patented MP3 codec, but not all. Some support the patent-free audio codecs Ogg Vorbis and FLAC, and may not even support MP3-encoded files at all, precisely to avoid the patents. To call such players “MP3 players” is not only confusing, it also puts MP3 in an undeserved position of privilege which helps the patent holders continue to attack our community. We suggest the terms “digital audio player”, or simply “audio player” if context permits.
Please avoid using the term “open” or “open source” as a substitute for “free software”. They refer to a different position (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html) based on different values. Free software is a political movement; open source is a development model. When referring to the open source position, using its name is appropriate; but please don't label us or our work with its slogan—that leads people to think we share those views.
It's ok to use the abbreviation “PC” to refer to a certain kind of computer hardware, but please don't use it with the implication that the computer is running Microsoft Windows. If you install GNU/Linux on the same computer, it is still a PC.
Please avoid using the term “Photoshop” as a verb, meaning any kind of photo manipulation or image editing in general. Photoshop is just the name of one particular proprietary image editing program, and there are plenty of free alternatives, such as GIMP (http://www.gnu.org/software/gimp).
Please avoid using the term “PowerPoint” to mean any kind of slide presentation. PowerPoint is just the name of one particular proprietary program to make presentations, and there are plenty of free alternatives, such as the beamer class available with any (La)TeX distribution.
Publishers' lawyers love to use the term “protection” to describe copyright. This word carries the implication of preventing destruction or suffering; therefore, it encourages people to identify with the owner and publisher who benefit from copyright, rather than with the users who are restricted by it.
It is easy to avoid “protection” and use neutral terms instead. For example, instead of “Copyright protection lasts a very long time,” you can say, “Copyright lasts a very long time.”
If you want to criticize copyright instead of supporting it, you can use the term “copyright restrictions.” So you can say, “Copyright restrictions last a very long time.”
The term “protection” is also used to describe malicious features, as in “copy protection”, a feature that interferes with copying. From the user's point of view, this is obstruction. So we call that malicious feature “copy obstruction”.
Standards bodies that promulgate patent-restricted standards that prohibit free software typically have a policy of obtaining patent licenses that require a fixed fee per copy of a conforming program. They often refer to such licenses by the term “RAND,” which stands for “reasonable and non-discriminatory.”
That term white-washes a class of patent licenses that are normally neither reasonable nor non-discriminatory. It is true that these licenses do not discriminate against any specific person, but they do discriminate against the free software community, and that makes them unreasonable. Thus, half of “RAND” is deceptive and the other half is prejudiced.
Standards bodies should recognize that these licenses are discriminatory, and drop the use of the term “reasonable and non-discriminatory” or “RAND” to describe them. Until they do so, other writers who do not wish to join in the white-washing would do well to reject that term. To accept and use it merely because patent-wielding companies have made it widespread is to let those companies dictate the views you express.
We suggest the term “uniform fee only,” or “UFO” for short, as a replacement. It is accurate because the only condition in these licenses is a uniform royalty fee.
The term “sell software” is ambiguous. Strictly speaking, exchanging a copy of a free program for a sum of money is “selling”; but people usually associate the term “sell” with proprietary restrictions on the subsequent use of the software. You can be more precise, and prevent confusion, by saying either “distributing copies of a program for a fee” or “imposing proprietary restrictions on the use of a program,” depending on what you mean.
See Selling Free Software for more discussion of this issue.
The term “software industry” encourages people to imagine that software is always developed by a sort of factory and then delivered to consumers. The free software community shows this is not the case. Software businesses exist, and various businesses develop free and/or non-free software, but those that develop free software are not like factories.
The term “industry” is being used as propaganda by advocates of software patents. They call software development “industry” and then try to argue that this means it should be subject to patent monopolies. The European Parliament, rejecting software patents in 2003, voted to define “industry” as “automated production of material goods”.
“Trusted computing” is the proponents name for a scheme to redesign computers so that application developers can trust your computer to obey them instead of you. For their point of view, it is “trusted”. From your point of view, it is “treacherous”.
Please don't use the term “vendor” to refer generally to anyone that develops or packages a software package. Many programs are developed in order to sell copies, and their developers are therefore their vendors; this includes some free software packages. However, many programs are developed by volunteers or organizations which do not intend to sell copies. These developers are not vendors. Likewise, only some of the packagers of GNU/Linux distributions are vendors.
Also note Categories of Free Software. (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/categories.html)
________________________________________ This essay is published in Free Software, Free Society: The Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman (http://shop.fsf.org/product/free-software-free-society).
Original Source: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html
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