First of all, I will define what I mean with free software, before I start to say why free software is better. By free software, I mean software that is “free as in freedom of speach, not as in free beer”. There is four essential freedoms (as published from FSF):
- Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
- Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
- Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
- Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.
I think that software that respects the users freedoms is better than software that only is gratis. Of course you can get many programs, that is free in the matter of liberty for free and in the matter of price. I am assuming that you have a computer with internet access, so that this could be gratis; some examples would be Trisquel, a GNU/Linux operating system, LibreOffice, an office suite and Bash, a command-line shell, to name a few.
I have been mailing with a friend quite much lately about this issue. We have had quite much discussions about what is of the most weight; if it would be the price (gratis software) or if it would be the freedom. Free software, as I define it, would always guarantee that you can help your neighbors, and probably their granny. But this you cannot do with a program that is gratis; you must have the permission from the copyright holder(s) to give a copy to your neighbor and their granny.
Of course, there are people who would think that gratis is good, because no one would be left outside without the programme. But the real problem would be the permission from the copyright holder(s). You must hold a permission from them to use the program. This is granted and guaranteed by a free license, such as GPL (for an example).
And I think that programmers would be thankful if you gave them some money for the time that they have spent making the program. I know that I would, and by GPL amongs other licenses that is approved free software licenses this would be ok. It would also be ok for you to make a copy to all of your computers and your friends if you would have bought the license to use the programme.
Please, feel free to comment about this!