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You are here: Home Bulletins 2019 Spring What "Respects Your Freedom" is for, and what it isn't

What "Respects Your Freedom" is for, and what it isn't

by Donald Robertson Contributions Published on Jun 13, 2019 04:19 PM

Retailers who meet the FSF's criteria for protecting the rights of users – verified by a rigorous review process – can gain certification under our Respects Your Freedom (RYF) program for particular devices they sell. Once they gain certification, they are able to use the RYF certification mark in association with those certified devices. You can think of the certification mark as being like a trademark, in that it is a name and logo that helps inform users about the products that bear it. But rather than referring to either everything a company sells or a product no matter where it is sold, the mark refers to specific products as sold by a specific retailer. The RYF mark on a device means that the user knows that the device comes with freedom inside, and that the point of purchase is also freedom-respecting.

Sometimes people get confused as to what RYF means exactly. One point of confusion is around it being a "hardware" certification program. RYF only refers to devices that are sold by the particular retailer who gained certification for that device. You can find a list certifications at fsf.org/ryf. On that list, you will find that there are several companies that offer the same hardware, and those devices will even come with basically the same software. But each retailer had to go through certification for their version of the device. That is because we don't certify hardware, we certify a retailer's process of delivering that device in a way that respects the user.

If a different company comes along and offers the same hardware, then that is not automatically an RYF-certified device, because that retailer has not received certification. Their Web site may require proprietary JavaScript in order to make a purchase or review support information. They could add other nonfree software to the device, or steer users toward nonfree software in connection with the product. In order to make sure that users get the freedom they deserve, we need to review how the particular retailer actually offers the device. So even though a different retailer might offer exactly the same hardware, it is not guaranteed to respect your rights as a user.

In the same vein, you could Libreboot your own device, and load it up with a fully free GNU/Linux distribution like Trisquel. But even though your machine would have all the freedom that you need, it still wouldn't be an RYF-certified device.

The retailers in the RYF certification program work very hard to find and root out freedom-related issues for their devices. And in order to gain certification, they each promise to continue that hard work, and to fix any problems that may arise. It is more than just "hardware that works with free software" (for that, you should check out h-node.org): it is dedication on the part of the retailer to protect their users. As the program continues to grow, and more retailers start working for users instead of against them, you can support that work by supporting those retailers who are up to the task of gaining RYF certification for the products they sell. And keep an eye out for RYF's new and improved Web site, coming soon!

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