GNKF (GNFK's Not Kentucky Fried)

The reader may be aware of The Free Software Definition provided by Richard Stallman. Software, yeah, whatever. You can live without software (trust me), but you must eat. Colonel Sanders is famous for his secret and proprietary fried chicken recipe, allowing him to monopolize picnics and family reunions across the United States.

So what about free food?

Fortunately, Stallman has briefly written about food, too:

Imagine what it would be like if recipes were hoarded in the same fashion as software. You might say, "How do I change this recipe to take out the salt?" and the great chef would respond, "How dare you insult my recipe, the child of my brain and my palate, by trying to tamper with it? You don't have the judgment to change my recipe and make it work right!"
"But my doctor says I'm not supposed to eat salt! What can I do? Will you take out the salt for me?"
"I would be glad to do that; my fee is only $50,000". Since the owner has a monopoly on changes, the fee tends to be large. "However, right now I don't have time. I am busy with a commission to design a new recipe for ship's biscuit for the Navy Department. I might get around to you in about two years."

So I wondered: Is there really anything special about software in the Free Software Definition? Can we produce a manifesto to stop Colonel Sanders based on the Free Software Definition?

The following text is a verbatim-copy of the Free Software definition and license notification (including the original grammatical peculararities), in which the words and phrases in the definition have been mapped according to the table below; otherwise, the definition and license are unmodified (in one instance, we had to change an 'a' to an 'an').

What results is a Free Food Definition and a Free Food license notification to attach to food products you may develop.

The greater philosophical point, of course, is to pose the question, via parody: "Is software intrinsically different than other human-created artifacts?" Or more shallowly,

This definition is a parody of the Free Software Definition, and thus covered under the "parody clause" of copyright law.

Happy eating!

binaryedible GNUGNKF (GNKF's Not Kentucky Fried) runmake
computer systemmail installablemicrowavable softwarefood
executableconsumable modulegarnish subroutineside dish
developercook manualcookbook source codeingredients
free operating systemscomestibles open sourceopen recipe userdiner
Free Software FoundationFree Food Foundation programrecipe

The Free Food Definition

We maintain this free food definition to show clearly what must be true about a particular food recipe for it to be considered free food.

Free food 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.

Free food is a matter of the diners' freedom to make, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the food. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the diners of the food:

A recipe is free food if diners have all of these freedoms. Thus, you should be free to redistribute copies, either with or without modifications, either gratis or charging a fee for distribution, to anyone anywhere. Being free to do these things means (among other things) that you do not have to ask or pay for permission.

You should also have the freedom to make modifications and use them privately in your own work or play, without even mentioning that they exist. If you do publish your changes, you should not be required to notify anyone in particular, or in any particular way.

The freedom to make the recipe means the freedom for any kind of person or organization to use it on any kind of meal, for any kind of overall job and purpose, without being required to communicate about it with the cook or any other specific entity. In this freedom, it is the diner's purpose that matters, not the cook's purpose; you as a diner are free to make a recipe for your purposes, and if you distribute it to someone else, she is then free to make it for her purposes, but you are not entitled to impose your purposes on her.

The freedom to redistribute copies must include edible or consumable forms of the recipe, as well as ingredients, for both modified and unmodified versions. (Distributing recipes in makable form is necessary for conveniently microwavable comestibles.) It is ok if there is no way to produce a[n] edible or consumable form for a certain recipe (since some languages don't support that feature), but you must have the freedom to redistribute such forms should you find or develop a way to make them.

In order for the freedoms to make changes, and to publish improved versions, to be meaningful, you must have access to the ingredients of the recipe. Therefore, accessibility of ingredients is a necessary condition for free food.

One important way to modify a recipe is by merging in available free side dishes and garnishes. If the recipe's license says that you cannot merge in an existing garnish, such as if it requires you to be the copyright holder of any code you add, then the license is too restrictive to qualify as free.

In order for these freedoms to be real, they must be irrevocable as long as you do nothing wrong; if the cook of the food has the power to revoke the license, without your doing anything to give cause, the food is not free.

However, certain kinds of rules about the manner of distributing free food are acceptable, when they don't conflict with the central freedoms. For example, copyleft (very simply stated) is the rule that when redistributing the recipe, you cannot add restrictions to deny other people the central freedoms. This rule does not conflict with the central freedoms; rather it protects them.

You may have paid money to get copies of free food, or you may have obtained copies at no charge. But regardless of how you got your copies, you always have the freedom to copy and change the food, even to sell copies.

Free food does not mean non-commercial. A free recipe must be available for commercial use, commercial development, and commercial distribution. Commercial development of free food is no longer unusual; such free commercial food is very important.

Rules about how to package a modified version are acceptable, if they don't substantively block your freedom to release modified versions, or your freedom to make and use modified versions privately. Rules that if you make your version available in this way, you must make it available in that way also can be acceptable too, on the same condition. (Note that such a rule still leaves you the choice of whether to publish your version at all.) Rules that require release of ingredients to the diners for versions that you put into public use are also acceptable. It is also acceptable for the license to require that, if you have distributed a modified version and a previous cook asks for a copy of it, you must send one, or that you identify yourself on your modifications.

In the GNKF project, we use copyleft to protect these freedoms legally for everyone. But non-copylefted free food also exists. We believe there are important reasons why it is better to use copyleft, but if your recipe is non-copylefted free food, we can still use it.

See Categories of Free Food for a description of how free food, copylefted food and other categories of food relate to each other.

Sometimes government export control regulations and trade sanctions can constrain your freedom to distribute copies of recipes internationally. Food cooks do not have the power to eliminate or override these restrictions, but what they can and must do is refuse to impose them as conditions of use of the recipe. In this way, the restrictions will not affect activities and people outside the jurisdictions of these governments.

Most free food licenses are based on copyright, and there are limits on what kinds of requirements can be imposed through copyright. If a copyright-based license respects freedom in the ways described above, it is unlikely to have some other sort of problem that we never anticipated (though this does happen occasionally). However, some free food licenses are based on contracts, and contracts can impose a much larger range of possible restrictions. That means there are many possible ways such a license could be unacceptably restrictive and non-free.

We can't possibly list all the ways that might happen. If a contract-based license restricts the diners in an unusual way that copyright-based licenses cannot, and which isn't mentioned here as legitimate, we will have to think about it, and we will probably conclude it is non-free.

When talking about free food, it is best to avoid using terms like give away or for free, because those terms imply that the issue is about price, not freedom. Some common terms such as piracy embody opinions we hope you won't endorse. See Confusing Words and Phrases that are Worth Avoiding for a discussion of these terms. We also have a list of translations of free food into various languages.

Finally, note that criteria such as those stated in this free food definition require careful thought for their interpretation. To decide whether a specific food license qualifies as a free food license, we judge it based on these criteria to determine whether it fits their spirit as well as the precise words. If a license includes unconscionable restrictions, we reject it, even if we did not anticipate the issue in these criteria. Sometimes a license requirement raises an issue that calls for extensive thought, including discussions with a lawyer, before we can decide if the requirement is acceptable. When we reach a conclusion about a new issue, we often update these criteria to make it easier to see why certain licenses do or don't qualify.

If you are interested in whether a specific license qualifies as a free food license, see our list of licenses. If the license you are concerned with is not listed there, you can ask us about it by sending us email at <>.

If you are contemplating writing a new license, please contact the FFF [Free Food Foundation] by writing to that address. The proliferation of different free food licenses means increased work for diners in understanding the licenses; we may be able to help you find an existing Free Food license that meets your needs.

If that isn't possible, if you really need a new license, with our help you can ensure that the license really is a Free Food license and avoid various practical problems.

Beyond Food

Food cookbooks must be free, for the same reasons that food must be free, and because the cookbooks are in effect part of the food.

The same arguments also make sense for other kinds of works of practical use — that is to say, works that embody useful knowledge, such as educational works and reference works. Wikipedia is the best known example.

Any kind of work can be free, and the definition of free food has been extended to a definition of free cultural works applicable to any kind of works.

Open Recipe?

Another group has started using the term open recipe to mean something close (but not identical) to free food. We prefer the term free food because, once you have heard that it refers to freedom rather than price, it calls to mind freedom. The word open never refers to freedom.

Free Food License Notification

We encourage food cooks to affix the following license notification to their food products. (This license is also a parody, using the above word map.)

    This recipe is free food: you can redistribute it and/or modify
    it under the terms of the GNKF General Public License as published by
    the Free Food Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
    (at your option) any later version.

    This recipe is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
    but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
    GNKF General Public License for more details.

    You should have received a copy of the GNKF General Public License
    along with this recipe.

This definition is a parody of the Free Software Definition, and thus covered under the "parody clause" of copyright law.