Lino is sustainably free software

Lino makes sense only if you believe that software must be free. Lino is more than just “free” or “open-source” software: we call it sustainably free. This is the only way to avoid vendor lock-in because it makes it legally impossible.

Lino is a proof of the concept that professional software development leads to better results when governed by a product carrier who fosters sharing. We believe that the future belongs to Sustainably Free Software. We want Lino to be available to everybody forever.

Glossary of free software

software product

An intellectual work consisting of a set of source files that may, after having been compiled, run on a computer to make it provide a given set of functionalities.

The legal or natural person who wrote the source files of a software product and published them. Modified or unmodified copies of the source files may be used only with permission of the copyright holder who usually specifies a license to regulate how his work may be used.

vendor lock-in

The situation of a customer who has become dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to switching to another vendor without substantial costs or other obstacles.

proprietary software

Software that is published under a license that reserves to its copyright holder the right of sharing the software or derivative work.

Open-source software

Software for which the customer is given permission to consult the source code. This does not necessarily mean Free Software.

Free Software

Software that is published by its copyright holder under a license that permits and encourages sharing of the software or derivative work.

Do not mix up Free Software with freeware (a proprietary software work that is distributed without fee).

Sustainably Free Software

Software that is developed and maintained using a business model that fosters sharing and refuses limiting any usage right for their derived work.

Software licenses are either free of proprietary. Free software licenses are either permissive or protective.

proprietary license

A license where the copyright holder reserves all usage rights of the source code to themselves, including maintenance and derived work.

free software license

A license where the copyright holder explicitly gives away all usage rights under certain conditions.

permissive Free Software license

A Free Software license that sets minimal requirements about how the software or derivative work may be redistributed.

An example is the BSD License.

protective Free Software license

A Free Software license that requires redistribution of derivative work to be licensed under the same license.

An example is the GNU General Public License..

Why software should be free

There are a few aspects of software business you might care about even if you are not a software developer:

  • As an end user you actually are an important contributor in the software development process. Most business models make you pay for getting support, but in reality it should be the opposite: when you have a problem with a software product, then its owners should be thankful that you take the time of explaining them your problem. Every support request increases the value of their product.

  • Using a software product makes you depend on its owner. The owner decides which features to include in new versions and which versions the continue to maintain. The owner decides about the price to pay. The owner has motivation to bind you to their product.

How can Lino help me to avoid vendor lock-in?

Sustainably free software

Using free instead proprietary software is like living in your own house instead of living in a rented one. It has advantages and disadvantages. As a house owner you have more rights, but you also have more responsibilities.

While Free Software becomes more and more popular, it gets increasingly misused by players who still rely on some proprietary part for generating revenue.

  • They gain control over the usage rights on some part of the product like an installer or a front end.

  • They use a liberal free license, which leaves them the legal back door of switching to a proprietary license when the product has acquired enough popularity.

When such attempts are disclosed, they lead to a free (but weakened) fork in the best case, or to the death of the product in the worst case.

A legally free software product may become non-free when one of its components is non-free. Documentation is an important part of a software product. An otherwise free product is not sustainable when documentation and expert knowledge about it is controlled by a single entity.


This page explains why we are proud to say that Lino is not just “free” but sustainably free.

Lino can be used by anybody and forever to write a new application or host an existing one. You can do the work yourself or delegate it to a service provider of your choice.