This phrase has been famous from all the time when people used to get confused between Gratis and Libre.
There’s a huge difference between both of them with a minute difference line. This is as ironical as I’ll be explaining about the quote “free as in beer Vs free as in speech”. Being in the field of software development I’ll try to correlate with that.
Gratis is a freeware which means the software is licensed free of charge for regular use, the developer gets a minimal or no monetary compensation at all. Freeware is one of the earliest and basic forms of software.
Whereas Libre is open-source or free and open-source software (commonly termed as FOSS). With enhancement and revolution in the software industry, advance license schemes developers got the freedom of code sharing, modifying and redistributing but it may/may not be free of cost.
So now, it becomes easy to explain free as in beer(Gratis) Vs free as in speech(Libre) after having the understanding of freeware and FOSS.
Here the word “free” in both of them has the behavior of polymorphism. In freeware, the word “free” means “free of cost” and in FOSS it means “liberty”.
For suppose you use a freeware(“free as in beer”) means that you can use it for free which sounds nice. But you can’t see it’s implementation, you can’t make its copies, you can’t customize/modify it in accordance with you. But at the same place, if you avail a FOSS( “free as in speech”), that might not be free but it gives you the freedom to get the source code, to modify/customize it as you want and you can even redistribute it.
One more important thing about FOSS( “free as in speech”) is that you can sell it as “free as in speech” which means it might have some charges but you can’t bind the other person to redistribute it for “free”(free of cost).
If someone wants to conclude the above thing, it simply defines as you can enjoy your free beer for which you don’t have to pay but it never means freedom. On the other hand, free speech is the right or freedom that may/may not cost you but it facilitates you to enjoy it all, modify it and redistribute to others the way you prefer.