Why free software is important, even for non-programmers

I'm not a programmer, why should I care about free software? You may have heard this sort of question, and it's a valid one. However, in this page I will explain why, dear !programmer, free software is important for you.

It's for your friends' and relatives' sake

The free software movement was founded on the principle that you should be able to help your neighbours, and not betray them. Non-disclosure agreements, which kept programmers work on proprietary software and not share the software with their peers, goes against the principle of helping your neighbours. It's against humanity.

But how does this relate to me, you might say. I don't need the code, and there are proprietary software that allows you to do redistribution, albeit verbatim, non-commercial, and only binaries. Well consider this: what if your friend wants, or need those freedoms? Maybe they need the source code so that they can compile it in some obscure system they have. They might even have to make modifications in order to build it on their system (which would violate the verbatim clause). Or they might want to share that said software to their own friends and family, and want to compensate the cost of distribution (which would violate the non-commercial clause). They should be able to enjoy those freedoms as well, and as a good friend or family relative, you should let them.

It's beneficial for your small business

Instead of having to pay for extraorbitant amounts of money for some software you use for your business, as well as the cost of their support service, why not use a free replacement? Not necessarily free as in gratis (though most free software is), but free as in freedom. By using free software, you have more options when you need help, such as:

Of course you can still pay for official or unofficial (and if you do, you encourage healthier competition in the free market) support, if they exist. Whatever option you choose, you (and your friend, if you opted for the second or third options) are giving back to the community, and making that software better. It's a win-win situation! You can't achieve that in proprietary software.

By using free software, you keep small businesses alive. And imagine if we all used free software: software monopolies like Microsoft wouldn't exist today, and everyone competes in the free market in a fairer and healthier way, for the public good.

Your politics love free software

There's a reason people from the left and right political spectrum love free software. Communists and socialists believe that free software maintains your independence from the so-called "bourgeoisie". And it's privacy-respecting, which they need. Liberals, conservatives, and libertarians love free software because it's like freedom of speech; everyone should be able to use software freely just like how they can speak freely. Anarchists love free software because they don't have to rely on hiearchy and the authority of developers.

Software freedom is nonpartisan. It may even help in uniting us in the basis of humanity, rather than dividing ourselves in petty differences.

Speaking of privacy...

You want to maintain your privacy

A number of people have become more privacy-conscious after Edward Snowden revealed the huge network of global surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency. Privacy has never been more important than ever.

The first step to regain back your privacy is to use free software, and only free software. Why? Because free software allows you to verify via source code whether that software truly does respect your privacy. You can't do the verification yourself? Let your friend, as well as a community of vigilant programmers do the job for you.

There have been several revelations of proprietary software violating your privacy, with the Windows operating system being the most notorious. I will let you search them yourself. What about free software? Very rare. And if there were, they're most likely unintentional, and quickly fixed. If intentional or not fixed, the software is forked. You can't do this in proprietary software.

Government transparency

Transparency in government is very important. If your government depends on proprietary software, they can't be transparent, even if they want to. The people loses, because they can't audit the government they elected. You need to emphasize the importance of free software, for the sake of your country.

Free software prevents these problems. And as a bonus, it's cheaper for the government too, allowing them to spend the savings on other public projects.