Skip to content, sitemap or skip to search.

Personal tools
Join now
You are here: Home givingguide

2013 Holiday Giving Guide

by Zak Rogoff Contributions Published on Nov 20, 2013 05:10 PM

Are you giving your loved ones holiday gifts they can use freely, or gifts which put someone else in 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 iPad. If the recipient of your gift is as unlucky as one woman last 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, GNOME Foundation and Free Software 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.)

To make a really big splash, get some friends together, print the PDF version of the Giving Guide and hand it out near a local store that sells DRM-encumbered products. Be sure to take photos! Send us photos and any questions at

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
  • Break the cycle of forced upgrades and planned obsolescence
  • Comes with all the software you need and an easy software manager to find more. You can also give the gift of free software in general, without an entirely new operating system.
  • Visit to download the gift of GNU/Linux and help your friends and family set up their new OS. If you know someone who wants to run a fully free GNU/Linux distribution, but depends on proprietary wifi, one of the adapters in the Respects Your Freedom certification program can help.
Windows 8
  • Proprietary software that profits from controlling how you use your computer
  • Invades privacy and exposes personal data to Microsoft, the NSA, and other malicious attackers
  • 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 TAZ 2.0 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 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

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

Project Gutenberg greater than Amazon Kindle
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, and Amazon uses DRM to maintain their monopoly
  • 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

Mobile OS: You should have control over the computer in your pocket

Replicant greater than iOS
  • Fully free software mobile OS based on Android
  • Supported devices include both phones and tablets
  • Used devices can be purchased, so your dollars won't go to proprietary OS companies.
  • Get more life out of your phone or tablet--avoid planned obsolescence.
  • Go to to learn more
iOS by Apple
  • iOS is a fully proprietary operating system, giving Apple ultimate control over devices running it
  • Apple uses DRM to block competing software.
  • The company claims to take away your freedom .

Online storage: Who owns your personal files?

LeastAuthority greater than Google Drive
Least Authority
  • Based on Tahoe-LAFS, a free software, verifiably secure, decentralized, fault-tolerant, peer-to-peer distributed data store & file system
  • Guarantees that only those you grant access to may view your data
  • Client side encryption to prevent snooping unlike Google Drive, Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Ubuntu One.
  • Go to to learn more
Google Drive
  • Requires granting Google a virtually unlimited license to any public data, and also having your public and personal data mined for ads
  • Data may be accessed by Google and intelligence agencies
  • Puts a 3rd party company in charge of your data

Media hosting: Who owns your personal files?

Media Goblin greater than YouTube
  • Soon-to-be federated to allow decentralized sharing
  • Supports free video formats
  • Ability to choose a copyleft license
  • Source files can be attached to an upload
  • Go to to learn how to use it and see a list of public instances.
  • Uses proprietary Adobe Flash player and patent-encumbered H.264
  • Implements DRM to control access to videos by device and region
  • Imposes advertising on your uploads and polices copyright harshly

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.
Retrieved from

Astounding Stories by FSF is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
Retrieved from

The logo is public domain but is a registered trademark.

Replicant by Paul Kocialkowski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
Retrieved from

The iOS logo is a registered trademark.

The Least Authority logo is copyright Least Authority Enterprises.

The Google Drive logo is public domain but may be subject to trademark laws.

The Media Goblin graphic is public domain.

The YouTube logo is public domain but may be subject to trademark laws.

Document Actions

The FSF is a charity with a worldwide mission to advance software freedom — learn about our history and work. is powered by:


Send your feedback on our translations and new translations of pages to