There’s a lot of discussion in the free culture movement about the two definitions of “free” that we use to describe our work. Summarized well by Wikipedia, the definitions are often described as:
- “Free as in beer”, or gratis, where those using free content or software don’t have to pay any money to do so; and
- “Free as in freedom”, or libre, where those using free content or software have the right to make derivative works.
What I find interesting are the suggestions to use the words gratis and libre to make this differentiation clear. The argument is that it’s necessary to borrow these words from French because there aren’t separate words in English that denote these different meanings of freedom.
Whatever flaws the English language may have, however, a stilted vocabulary is not among them. Rather than import more words, why not simply use ones we already have? Specifically, I suggest that free as in beer can be described as costless, and free as in freedom can be described as unencumbered. They’re accurate, unambiguous, and already present in English. Let’s use them!