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Glossary of terms

Here are a list of terms you might be unfamiliar with but occur frequently in our work. If you have any suggestions on things we can add here, please reach out to info@sfconservancy.org

auditability

Ability to inspect the exact software running on a device. This includes version information, modifications and licensing information.

Bash

A very common utility for Linux-based systems. Bash was originally released under the General Public License version 2 (GPLv2), but newer versions of Bash are under version 3 (GPLv3). Descendants of both versions are utilized in the industry.

Complete Corresponding Source (CCS)

Informally, CCS is all of the technical materials and source code required to modify, run, and/or reinstall the software. The GPL and LGPL have a formal definitions for CCS, which is sometimes called "Corresponding Source."

copyleft / copyleft licensing

A kind of software licensing that leverages the restrictions of copyright, but with the intent to promote sharing (using copyright licensing to freely use and repair software). Software programs are copylefted when they utilize software with a copyleft license. These copyleft licenses are unique in that they seek to put large corporations, small companies, consumers, and hobbyists all on equal footing. The intention is for this to be achieved by granting everyone the exact same rights, permissions, and privileges to modify, improve, and/or include the software in their products.

copyleft compliance

When companies utilize copylefted software, they thereby agree to the terms associated with its use. By utilizing copylefted software when designing products, companies agreed to these terms, and so have both contractual and copyright obligations to take certain actions to ensure others have the same rights they did with regard to the software. When rights are respected, the sharing of software under copyleft licensing is a mutually beneficial approach, but many companies are not holding up their side of the bargain. A company is in compliance when it ensures that all of its customers have the same rights, permission, and ability that it has to improve that software and install their improvements onto a device. The best way a company can demonstrate its intent to be in full compliance is by creating a vibrant third-party marketplace for improved software.

end user

An end user is someone who winds up using the software. In the case of TVs, an end user is simply the person who uses the TV. (See also third-party beneficiaries of the GPL)

ethical technology

Technology that serves its users, rather than the corporations who profit from it. Ethical technology preserves and promotes the rights of those impacted by it. 

FOSS

Acronym for free and open source software (FOSS). See software freedom.

FOSS commons

The Digital Library of the Commons defines “commons” as “a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest”. The FOSS commons refers to a commons for free and open source software (FOSS). See also software freedom.

firmware

Software on embedded devices that is written for the purpose of operating the specific hardware of that device.

GNU tar

A copylefted program for storing large groups of files inside another file. Incredibly common and used ubiquitously.

General Public License (GPL)

A copyleft license that ensures end users the freedom to run, study, share, and modify the software. Often referred to as “the GPL.” Also known as GNU General Public License (GPL).

GPL’d software

Software that has been released under the terms of the GPL.

Linux kernel

A kernel is the heart of an operating system, which all computerized devices, like smart TVs, require in order to function. The Linux kernel is one of the most popular operating system kernels.

right-to-repair software

The ability to repair the software on your device in the same way you can repair the physical aspects of your tools. Software Freedom Conservancy asserts that this right is overlooked and needs additional legal protections (as the FTC has agreed with) to protect consumers. Software Freedom Conservancy focuses specifically on the right to software repair; other great organizations like the Repair Association focus on the right to hardware repair. The two rights go hand-in-hand in our modern world where nearly all electronic devices also have small computers inside them.

SamyGo project

A software project designed to improve the functionality of the software on Samsung TVs.

software (vs hardware)

An analogy is that ingredients and tools for cooking are hardware and the recipe is software. Both the physical components (computers, phones, TVs) and the ideas (software, programs, algorithms) are necessary.

software-based electronics devices

Devices like pacemakers have all the necessary hardware to beat your heart, but need the software to do it safely in a way that makes it useful. More and more devices are defined by their software, rather than the hardware (sensors, motors, radio, etc).

software freedom

The freedom of a user to run, study, (re)distribute, and (re)install (modified) versions of a piece of software. More generally, it is the idea that we are entitled to rights when using software and there should be equal protections for privacy and redistribution. The rights should treat everyone equally—big businesses and individual consumers and users alike.

source code

The human readable code written by people that gets turned into binary code that only a computer can understand.

specific performance

Fulfilling the requirements of a contract in exactly the way the contract specifies. When most contracts are disputed in court, the plaintiff expects to receive money, that they can use to remedy the harm that the other party caused them in not holding up their side of the deal. When a plaintiff seeks specific performance, they want something that money can’t replace.

third-party beneficiaries of the GPL

People who aren’t a party to a GPL agreement, but who would benefit from the contract if the parties to the GPL do as they promise under the agreement. An example of such a benefit might be the receipt of the source code of the GPL’d software. See also General Public License (GPL).

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