Freeware is software that is provided gratis i.e. without cost, but without source or the freedoms like modification and redistributing those modifications.

If freeware is being actively distributed by its authors, do users have the right to reproduce and redistribute without changes? For example, do software download websites have the right to host/mirror freeware downloads, or is this done with permission from the authors (whether implicit or explicit)? If the author wishes to cease distribution, are they within their rights to ask redistributors to also cease?

By contrast, free/open licenses grant the irrevocable right to redistribution. Even non-free licenses like CC-BY-ND still allow redistribution, provided that no modifications or derivations are made. Without such a license, is redistribution still allowed?

  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is about freeware which is proprietary software; nothing relevant to Free/Libre/Opensource software.
    – Pandya
    Jun 30 '15 at 16:13
  • 1
    Just to mention that asking possibly law-related questions may lead to bad/inaccurate advices being given by users based on their opinion or incompetence on the matter and/or applicable jurisdiction. So all answers given to such questions should be used more as guides, rather than something which is legally correct Jun 30 '15 at 16:19
  • May Freely redistributable software help.
    – Pandya
    Jun 30 '15 at 16:28
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    I believe this question is on topic because it will help distinguish "free as in beer" and "free as in speech". Many people conflate free software with freeware. Jun 30 '15 at 23:41
  • I'm voting to close because I think it's too broad: the term "freeware" covers a very wide range of distribution permissions.
    – Mark
    Jul 2 '15 at 2:39

The term "Freeware" is not well-defined. Some authors are OK with people redistributing their work unchanged, others are not. Check the license restrictions of the work in question.

Possible reasons why authors would not want people to redistribute their software:

  • They offer the software for free download only to draw attention to their website and any other content it has (ads, for example).
  • They want to make sure that any copies which are offered are indeed unchanged and not infected with malware. Sure, doing that would be a breach of the "unchanged" restriction, but when you can find copies of the software everywhere it gets hard to make sure that every single website which offers it plays fair.
  • They want to have the power to stop distribution at any time for whatever reason. Even when the license conditions do allow them to revoke the permission for distribution, enforcing this quickly when the software is already widely distributed is a logistic problem because all distributors must be notified and must be cooperative.

As freeware never got defined as a term like free software or open source. The common usage always includes that it is free of charge. That doesn't include that it can be downloaded from somewhere else except the "official" sources. So it depends on the product in question, how it turns out.

But in practice, I cannot name one case (but Stephen Kitt can, look at the comments), in which redistribution for free is restricted. I would look for the license or a statement of the author in any case before mirroring, just to be on the safe side.

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    There are quite a few cases where distribution is restricted, either to the original download sites ("exclusive" freeware re-releases of old games for example, I think GTA and GTA2 were limited in this way) or to the original form of distribution (you're allowed to redistribute the software, but only in its original archive; this used to be enforces with signed self-extracting ARJ or ZIP archives). Jun 30 '15 at 14:48
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    Sometimes people offer their software gratis with the purpose to draw attention to their website and other software they have to offer. Any mirrors on 3rd party websites would then be counter-productive and likely be a target for legal actions.
    – Philipp
    Jun 30 '15 at 16:00

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