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The GNU Operating System, Free Software, Free Society

Founded in 1983, GNU (pronounced guh-noo, like "canoe") is an organization which develops a free software operating system, the GNU system. This system is qualified as Unix-like in that it works much the way that Unix does, but is built as free software and does not contain any Unix code. (Giving rise to the recursive acronym for GNU as meaning "GNU's Not Unix").

The GNU operating system is developed under the "GNU Project," with programs released by the project being called GNU packages of GNU programs. The basic components of the GNU operating system include the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), the GNU Binary Utilities (binutils), the GNU C library (glibc) and the GNU Core Utilities (coreutils). The GNU system is often combined with the Linux kernel to form the GNU/Linux system, often called simply "Linux." Components of the GNU system are also used by a variety of non-Linux operating systems, including the Macintosh Operating System, known as "OS X", FreeBSD, and OpenSolaris.

In addition to the GNU system, GNU is known as a fierce proponent for free software, claiming, " 'Free software' is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of 'free' as in 'free speech', not as in 'free beer'." Included in their ideas of free software are the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.

GNU Licenses

As part of their free software movement, GNU developed several free licenses allowing for the release of software and documentation for their works and derivatives. While written for GNU, the General Public License (GPL), Lesser General Public License (LGPL), and GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) have found use in various unrelated projects as well and are among the earliest available licenses for freely distributing and sharing software and documentation.

  • General Public License (GPL) -- Used by most GNU programs and, according to, by more than half of all free software packages. Any licensee who adheres to the terms and conditions of the license is granted right to modify the work as well as copy or distribute for commercial or non-commercial purposes both the work and the derivative version. The GPL also includes and understanding that any of the work or it's derivatives must not impose "further restrictions on the rights granted by the GPL," ensuring that the work and it's derivations maintain the GPL as well as forbidding distribution of the software under an non-disclosure agreement or similar contract.
  • Lesser General Public License (LGPL) -- Is used by a few of the GNU libraries. According to, this license was formerly known as "the Library GPL" but the name was changed, as the former name often left an impression that all libraries should be included under the LGPL, which GNU and the Free Software Federation believe should be left to the programmer's choice depending on the situation.
  • GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) -- is designed for use on a manual, textbook or other document to assure that it can be copied, distributed, modified and used commercially or non-commercially as a counterpart to the GPL. Commercial copies of documentation produced in large quantities (over 100) are allowed in the GFDL on the condition that the original document or source code be made available to the work's recipient. While this was originally designed for software documentation purposes, the GFDL can and is used for a variety of text-based works, regardless of subject matter. The most common place outside of the GNU that the GFDL is uses in Wikipedia, the GFDL is the license used for all their content.
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GNU Licenses and AboutUs

Like several other wikis, most notably Wikipedia, AboutUs provides it's content under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), which allows users to copy, distribute, modified used commercially or non-commercially our content.

Unlike Wikipedia, we also operate our content under the Creative Commons By-Sa (By attribution, Share-alike) license which allows for content to be modified, changed, built upon and distributed so long as a) the work's creator(s) and AboutUs are credited for the work and b) that these licensing attributes be also carried onto derivative works.

What this means -- Generally, we believe that the only restrictions we present are in ways to protect our community of readers and writers and their freedoms to use and reuse content. Feel free to copy, redistribute and modify for commercial and non-commercial purposes, so long as AboutUs and any other creators continue to be attributed. As a nice aside, by complying with the GFDL, we believe that content from other sites like Wikipedia can be used on AboutUs (although due to the differences in the two wikis, generating original content or only using snippets of Wikipedia articles is preferred). For more information see AboutUs:Copyrights and Thoughts On Licensing.




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