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Just what is Linux?

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Generally speaking, we use the very broad definition which says that Open Source software is that which is freely available. Unfortunately, that is often not enough of a definition, since there are many other issues besides availability. A more restrictive definition says that Open Source software includes the source code, thereby allowing anyone to make changes as they see fit. Here is the OFFICIAL definition from opensource.org.

Much Open Source software is covered by the GNU Public License, also known as the copyleft (versus copyright). This license outlines such things as ownership of copyright, plus the rights of both the software owner and the end user. Often, the end user will be allowed to modify and distribute the code, providing proper credit is given to the original author. Sometimes, you can create derivative work based on original software, and charge a fee for it, under certain circumstances. An extensive list of licenses can be found at opensource.org.

You will need to read the specific documentation that comes with each software package in order to determine how each piece of software is licensed. Some are more restrictive than others. There is even some discussion on the relative merits of various licensing schemes used for Open Source software.

The only commonality that all Open Source software has, however, is that you are free to acquire it.

If Open Source software is free, then why do I have to pay for it? Open Source software is "freely available," as already stated. This generally means that there are ways of acquiring it at no cost (other than an Internet connection, for example). It also generally means that other people can package it to sell, usually as long as the source code and appropriate copyright notices remain intact, but this varies.