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2012 Holiday Giving Guide

by Libby Reinish and Zak Rogoff Contributions Published on Nov 26, 2012 11:54 AM

Are you giving your loved ones holiday gifts they can use freely, or something a company will control?

Electronics are popular gifts for the holidays, but people often overlook the restrictions that manufacturers slip under the wrapping paper. Companies like Microsoft and Apple can and will use Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) to prevent your loved ones from sharing apps on the laptop you got them or remixing the songs on their expensive new iPod. If the recipient of your gift is as unlucky as one woman this year, Amazon might even block all the books on their Kindle and refuse to explain why. Companies want us to accept this kind of intrusive control, but when you think about, it's unethical (and annoying!).

Give freely

The good news is, for every device that uses DRM or has a remote "kill switch" like the Kindle, ethical companies have made a better one that doesn't, one that your loved ones will be free to enjoy however they wish. Here's a list of these smarter gifts, compared with their more well-known, but more restrictive alternatives. While you're reading, please remember that donating to a charity in your friend or family member's name is at least as meaningful as buying them an electronic device. Some of our favorite charities are the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, Wikimedia Foundation, Software Freedom Conservancy, Software Freedom Law Center, and GNOME Foundation.

The Free Software Foundation's Holiday Giving Guide

The gifts in the left column respect your freedom much more than those in the right column.

Please share the Giving Guide with your friends and family members, especially those that might give you presents! (We're using the hashtag #givefreely.)

Operating System: Give the gift of free, flexible, and ethical computing

Trisquel greater than Windows 8
Trisquel GNU/Linux
  • Completely free operating system: transparent and modifiable
  • Support community development
  • Break the cycle of forced upgrades and planned obsolescence
  • Visit to download the gift of GNU/Linux
Windows 8
  • Proprietary software that profits from controlling how you use your computer
  • Invades privacy and exposes personal data to Microsoft and to malicious attacks
  • Dependent on mandatory upgrades and devices that don't support older versions of Windows

3D Printing: Give the maker in your life a 3D printer that promotes innovation, or buy one for yourself and 3D print all your presents this year!

Lulzbot greater than Makerbot Replicator 2
Lulzbot AO-100 3D printer
  • Respects Your Freedom certified by the Free Software Foundation
  • Powered by free software, making 3D printing more accessible and encouraging innovation
  • Learn more about the Lulzbot at
Makerbot Replicator 2
  • MakerWare software is proprietary, restricting freedom and stifling innovation
  • Hardware patents threaten free printers like the Lulzbot
  • Recently announced an increasingly proprietary approach, further distancing itself from the free software community

Gift Cards: Giving a gift card this season? Give one that has benefits the recipient can keep.

FSF USB membership card greater than iTunes gift card
FSF Membership Card
  • Join with over 3,000 active members and become part of a community working to make a better world built on free software
  • Enjoy a host of member benefits including free admission to the LibrePlanet conference
  • Membership donations are tax-deductible in the US
  • Get your gift membership today at
  • For a smaller gift, donate in a friend's name at
iTunes Card
  • The iTunes store uses DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) on everything it sells except music to control what you can do with your purchases
  • Apple claims (wrongly) that you don't actually own anything you buy from the iTunes store
  • Requires proprietary software to use, including to download DRM-free music

Laptops: Give a top-of-the-line laptop that comes with fewer strings attached

ThinkPenguin GNU/Linux Notebook greater than Macbook Pro
ThinkPenguin GNU/Linux Notebook
  • Free software compatible wifi and 3D-accelerated graphics chipsets--run any fully free GNU/Linux distribution you choose
  • Comes preinstalled with free software for a no-hassle experience
  • This laptop is not fully free--it uses proprietary boot firmware. However, this laptop is one of the most freedom supporting models currently available.
  • Choose up to Intel i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 480GB solid state hard drive, and 15.6" screen
  • Visit and to shop for fully free GNU/Linux compatible laptops
Macbook Pro
  • Runs on proprietary software that restricts the user's freedoms
  • Apple's App Store uses DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) to restrict what you can do with your purchases
  • Planned obsolescence: business model forces you to buy new devices frequently
  • More limited specs: Maxes out at 8gb memory, a 512gb solid state hard drive (or 1T 5400 rpm hard drive), and up to 15.4" screen

Ebooks: The readers in your life deserve digital libraries that won't disappear on them

Project Gutenberg greater than Amazon
Project Gutenberg
  • The original purveyor of DRM-free eBooks
  • Enjoy the freedom to read your ebooks on any device
  • All of the ebooks on Project Gutenberg, including classics like Peter Pan and Huck Finn, are gratis
  • Pick out the perfect books for the whole family at or from other DRM-free ebooks sites
  • Amazon can remotely block or delete individual ebooks or your entire library with no warning or explanation (they've done it before--read about it here).
  • DRM prevents you from sharing your favorite books with friends
  • Amazon claims you don't actually own or control your ebooks
  • Thanks to DRM, you won't be able to transfer your books to any other reader

If you have ideas for more gifts that can be given freely, submit your recommendations to our growing page at


This page is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Lulzbot by FSF is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
Based on a work at

Replicator 2 by FSF is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.
Based on a work at

FSF USB membership card by FSF is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
Based on a work at

iTunes gift card by FSF is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
Based on a work at

ThinkPenguin with GNU by FSF is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
Based on a work at

Macbook Pro PSD by andrew-gw is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
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Astounding Stories by FSF is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
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