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Free Software Foundation

free software foundation, free software foundation europe
The Free Software Foundation FSF is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded by Richard Stallman on 4 October 1985 to support the free software movement, which promotes the universal freedom to study, distribute, create, and modify computer software, with the organization's preference for software being distributed under copyleft "share alike" terms, such as with its own GNU General Public License The FSF was incorporated in Massachusetts, USA, where it is also based

From its founding until the mid-1990s, FSF's funds were mostly used to employ software developers to write free software for the GNU Project Since the mid-1990s, the FSF's employees and volunteers have mostly worked on legal and structural issues for the free software movement and the free software community

Consistent with its goals, only free software is used on the FSF's computers


  • 1 History
  • 2 Current and ongoing activities
  • 3 High priority projects
  • 4 Hardware endorsements RYF
  • 5 Structure
    • 51 Board
    • 52 Voting
    • 53 Employment
    • 54 Membership
    • 55 Legal
    • 56 Financial
  • 6 Criticism
  • 7 Recognition
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links


The Free Software Foundation was founded in 1985 as a non-profit corporation supporting free software development It continued existing GNU projects such as the sale of manuals and tapes, and employed developers of the free software system Since then, it has continued these activities, as well as advocating for the free software movement The FSF is also the steward of several free software licenses, meaning it publishes them and has the ability to make revisions as needed

The FSF holds the copyrights on many pieces of the GNU system, such as GNU Compiler Collection As holder of these copyrights, it has the authority to enforce the copyleft requirements of the GNU General Public License GPL when copyright infringement occurs on that software

From 1991 until 2001, GPL enforcement was done informally, usually by Stallman himself, often with assistance from FSF's lawyer, Eben Moglen Typically, GPL violations during this time were cleared up by short email exchanges between Stallman and the violator In the interest of promoting copyleft assertiveness by software companies to the level that the FSF was already doing, in 2004 Harald Welte launched gpl-violationsorg

In late 2001, Bradley M Kuhn then Executive Director, with the assistance of Moglen, David Turner, and Peter T Brown, formalized these efforts into FSF's GPL Compliance Labs From 2002-2004, high-profile GPL enforcement cases, such as those against Linksys and OpenTV, became frequent

GPL enforcement and educational campaigns on GPL compliance was a major focus of the FSF's efforts during this period

In March 2003, SCO filed suit against IBM alleging that IBM's contributions to various free software, including FSF's GNU, violated SCO's rights While FSF was never a party to the lawsuit, FSF was subpoenaed on November 5, 2003 During 2003 and 2004, FSF put substantial advocacy effort into responding to the lawsuit and quelling its negative impact on the adoption and promotion of free software

From 2003 to 2005, FSF held legal seminars to explain the GPL and the surrounding law Usually taught by Bradley M Kuhn and Daniel Ravicher, these seminars offered CLE credit and were the first effort to give formal legal education on the GPL

In 2007, the FSF published the third version of the GNU General Public License after significant outside input

In December 2008, FSF filed a lawsuit against Cisco for using GPL-licensed components shipped with Linksys products Cisco was notified of the licensing issue in 2003 but Cisco repeatedly disregarded its obligations under the GPL In May 2009, FSF dropped the lawsuit when Cisco agreed to make a monetary donation to the FSF and appoint a Free Software Director to conduct continuous reviews of the company's license compliance practices

Current and ongoing activities

The GNU project The original purpose of the FSF was to promote the ideals of free software The organization developed the GNU operating system as an example of this GNU licenses The GNU General Public License GPL is a widely used license for free software projects The current version version 3 was released in June 2007 The FSF has also published the GNU Lesser General Public License LGPL, the GNU Free Documentation License GFDL, and the GNU Affero General Public License AGPL GNU Press The FSF's publishing department, responsible for "publishing affordable books on computer science using freely distributable licenses" The Free Software Directory This is a listing of software packages that have been verified as free software Each package entry contains 47 pieces of information such as the project's homepage, developers, programming language, etc The goals are to provide a search engine for free software, and to provide a cross-reference for users to check if a package has been verified as being free software FSF has received a small amount of funding from UNESCO for this project It is hoped that the directory can be translated into many languages in the future Maintaining the Free Software Definition FSF maintains many of the documents that define the free software movement Project hosting FSF hosts software development projects on its Savannah website h-node This is a listing of hardware and device drivers that have been verified as compatible with free software Advocacy FSF sponsors a number of campaigns against what it perceives as dangers to software freedom, including software patents, digital rights management which the FSF and others have re-termed "digital restrictions management", as part of its effort to highlight technologies that are "designed to take away and limit your rights," and user interface copyright Defective by Design is an FSF-initiated campaign against DRM It also has a campaign to promote Ogg+Vorbis, a free alternative to proprietary formats like MP3 and AAC FSF also sponsors free software projects it deems "high-priority" Annual awards "Award for the Advancement of Free Software" and "Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit"

High priority projects

gNewSense is a distribution officially supported by the FSF

The FSF maintains a list of "high priority projects" to which the Foundation claims that "there is a vital need to draw the free software community's attention" The FSF considers these projects "important because computer users are continually being seduced into using non-free software, because there is no adequate free replacement"

Current high priority tasks include reverse engineering proprietary firmware; reversible debugging in GNU Debugger; developing automatic transcription and video editing software, Gnash, GNU Octave, Coreboot, drivers for network routers and creating replacements for Skype, Google Earth, OpenDWG libraries, BitTorrent Sync and Oracle Forms

Previous projects highlighted as needing work included the Free Java implementations, GNU Classpath, and GNU Compiler for Java, which ensure compatibility for the Java part of OpenOfficeorg, and the GNOME desktop environment see Java: Licensing

The effort has been criticized by Michael Larabel for either not instigating active development or for being slow at the work being done, even after certain projects were added to the list

Hardware endorsements RYF

See also: Open-source hardware, Coreboot, and Libreboot

The FSF maintains a "Respects Your Freedom" RYF hardware certification program To be granted certification, a product must use 100% Free Software, allow user installation of modified software, be free of back doors and conform with several other requirements

Currently, a total of eight products have been granted the certification, including three laptops, a 3D printer, a wireless router, and three USB interface wireless adapters

The eight certified products are:

  • The Libreboot X200 laptop
  • The Libreboot X60 laptop formerly known as the Gluglug X60
  • Aleph Objects, Inc LulzBot 3D printers
  • The ThinkPenguin TPE-NWIFIROUTER Wireless-N Broadband Router
  • The ThinkPenguin TPE-N150USB Wireless N USB
  • The ThinkPenguin TPE-N150USBL Wireless USB adapter
  • The Tehnoetic wireless USB adapter for GNU/Linux-libre TET-N150
  • The Taurinus X200 laptop by Libiquity



The FSF's board of governors includes amongst themselves professors at leading universities, senior engineers, and founders A few high-profile activists, and software businessmen are admitted as well Currently on the board there is one high-profile activist, and one world-class, software-campaign strategist Windows 95, et al There was once a majorly contributing programmer Mono and Gnome and businessman who lost favor badly Founders are also major software developers of the free software in the Gnu Project

John Sullivan is the current FSF Executive Director Previous members that occupied the position were Peter T Brown 2005–2010 and Bradley M Kuhn 2001–2005

Current board members:

  • Hal Abelson, Founding member, Professor of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology served from inception until March 5, 1998, and rejoined circa 2005
  • Geoffery Knauth, Senior Software Engineer at SFA, Inc served since October 23, 1997
  • Henry Poole, Founder of CivicActions, a grassroots campaign technology consulting firm served since December 12, 2002
  • Richard Stallman, Founding President, launched the GNU project, author of the GNU General Public License served as President since inception
  • Gerald Jay Sussman, Professor of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology served since inception
  • Benjamin Mako Hill, assistant professor at the University of Washington served since July 25, 2007
  • Bradley Kuhn, Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy and FSF's former Executive Director served since March 25, 2010
  • Matthew Garrett, software developer served since October 16, 2014
  • Kat Walsh, copyright and technology attorney, free culture and free software advocate, and former chair of the Wikimedia Foundation

Previous board members include:

  • Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford University served from March 28, 2004 until 2008
  • Robert J Chassell, Founding Treasurer, as well as a Founding Director served from inception until June 3, 1997
  • Len Tower Jr, Founding member, served until September 2, 1997
  • Miguel de Icaza served from August 1999 until February 25, 2002
  • Eben Moglen served from July 28, 2000 until 2007


The FSF Articles of Organization state that the Board of Directors are elected

The bylaws say who can vote for them

The Board can grant powers to the Voting Membership


At any given time, there are usually around a dozen employees Most, but not all, work at the FSF headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts


On November 25, 2002, the FSF launched the FSF Associate Membership program for individuals Bradley M Kuhn FSF Executive Director, 2001–2005 launched the program and also signed up as the first Associate Member

Associate members hold a purely honorary and funding support role to the FSF


Eben Moglen and Dan Ravicher previously served individually as pro bono legal counsel to the FSF Since the forming of the Software Freedom Law Center, legal services to the FSF are provided by that organization


Most of the FSF funding comes from patrons and members Revenue streams also come from free-software-related compliance labs, job postings, published works, and a web store FSF offers speakers and seminars for pay, and all FSF projects accept donations

Revenues fund free-software programs and campaigns, while cash is invested conservatively in socially responsible investing The financial strategy is designed to maintain the Foundation's long-term future through economic stability

The FSF is a tax-exempt organization and posts annual IRS Form 990 filings online


Linus Torvalds has criticized FSF for using GPLv3 as a weapon in the fight against DRM Torvalds argues that the issue of DRM and that of a software license should be treated as two separate issues

On June 16, 2010, Joe Brockmeier, a journalist at Linux Magazine, criticized the Defective by Design campaign by the FSF as "negative" and "juvenile" and not being adequate for providing users with "credible alternatives" to proprietary software FSF responded to this criticism by saying "that there is a fundamental difference between speaking out against policies or actions and smear campaigns", and "that if one is taking an ethical position, it is justified, and often necessary, to not only speak about the benefits of freedom but against acts of dispossession and disenfranchisement"


The free software movement has become recognized as a global cultural movement, and the Free Software Foundation has become recognized as an industry player in software, publishing, economics, jurisprudence, politics, and other cultural realms

Key players and industries that have made honorific mention and awards include:

  • 1999: Linus Torvalds for Open Source Computing
  • 2001: GNU Project received the USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award for "the ubiquity, breadth, and quality of its freely available redistributable and modifiable software, which has enabled a generation of research and commercial development"
  • 2005: Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction in the category of "Digital Communities"

See also

  • Free software portal
  • Defective by Design
  • Digital rights
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Free software movement
  • Free Software Foundation Europe
  • Free Software Foundation of India
  • Hardware restrictions
  • League for Programming Freedom
  • LibrePlanet


  1. ^ "Corporations Division Entity Summary for ID Number: 042888848" Secretary of Commonwealth of Massachusetts Retrieved 2014-10-04 
  2. ^ a b "2014 Free Software Foundation IRS Form 990" PDF Retrieved 24 November 2015 
  3. ^ "Staff of the Free Software Foundation" Retrieved 2015-01-24 
  4. ^ "Free software is a matter of liberty, not price" Free Software Foundation Retrieved 2012-07-22 
  5. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions about the GNU Licenses" Free Software Foundation Retrieved 2012-07-22 
  6. ^ "What Is Copyleft" Free Software Foundation Retrieved 2012-07-22 
  7. ^ "FREE SOFTWARE FOUNDATION, INC Summary Screen" The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Secretary of the Commonwealth, Corporations Division Retrieved 2009-04-06 
  8. ^ Stallman, Richard M 2002 "Linux, GNU, and freedom" Philosophy of the GNU Project GNU Project Retrieved 2006-12-10 
  9. ^ "The GNU Project" Free Software Foundation Retrieved June 24, 2012 
  10. ^ "Licenses" Free Software Foundation Retrieved June 24, 2012 
  11. ^ Meeker, Heather 2005-06-28 "The Legend of Linksys" Archived from the original on 2009-04-19 Retrieved 2007-08-11  Hosted on the Wayback machine
  12. ^ Gillmor, Dan 2003-05-21 "GPL Legal Battle Coming" SiliconValleycom a division of the San Jose Mercury News Archived from the original on 2003-05-24 Retrieved 2007-08-11 
  13. ^ Turner, David; Bradley M Kuhn 2003-09-29 "Linksys/Cisco GPL Violations" LWNnet Retrieved 2007-08-11 
  14. ^ Kennedy, Dennis 2004-01-11 "A Great Learning Opportunity for Software Lawyers — Upcoming GPL Seminar" Archived from the original on 2007-09-28 Retrieved 2007-08-11 
  15. ^ Lord, Timothy 2003-07-18 "Seminar On Details Of The GPL And Related Licenses" Slashdot Retrieved 2007-08-11 
  16. ^ Heise, Mark 2003-11-05 "SCO Subpoena of FSF" PDF Free Software Foundation Retrieved 2007-08-11 
  17. ^ Kuhn, Bradley 2004-05-18 "The SCO Subpoena of FSF" Free Software Foundation Retrieved 2007-08-11 
  18. ^ a b "FSF To Host Free Software Licensing Seminars and Discussions on SCO v IBM in New York" Gnuorg Retrieved 2011-08-30 
  19. ^ "Seminar On Details Of The GPL And Related Licenses" 2003-07-18 Retrieved 2008-07-04 
  20. ^ FSF Bulletin 3 notes that a seminar led by Kuhn and Ravicher occurred on 2003-08-08Free Software Foundation June 2003 "FSF Bulletin — Issue No2 - June 2003" Free Software Foundation Retrieved 2008-07-04 
  21. ^ John Sullivan 2005-08-25 "FSF Seminar in NYC on September 28" Free Software Foundation Retrieved 2008-07-04 
  22. ^ "GNU General Public License" Retrieved 15 June 2012 
  23. ^ "gplv3fsforg comments for discussion draft 4" 
  24. ^ Paul, Ryan 2007-12-13 "Free Software Foundation lawsuit against Cisco a first" Arstechnicacom Retrieved 2008-12-11 
  25. ^ Paul, Ryan 2009-05-21 "Cisco settles FSF GPL lawsuit, appoints compliance officer" Arstechnicacom Retrieved 2009-10-06 
  26. ^ "GNU Press -- Published Documentation" Free Software Foundation, Inc Archived from the original on 2005-11-25 
  27. ^ List of books published in GNU Press home site
  28. ^ FSF and Debian join forces to help free software users find the hardware they need
  29. ^ FSFとDebianがGNU/Linuxハードウェア情報サイトh-nodeorgを共同支援
  30. ^ Hardware-Node Database
  31. ^ STROSS, RANDALL January 14, 2007 "Want an iPhone Beware the iHandcuffs" The New York Times Retrieved 26 May 2014 
  32. ^ "Digital Restrictions Management and Treacherous Computing" Free Software Foundation September 18, 2006 Retrieved 2007-12-17 
  33. ^ a b c "High Priority Free Software Projects" Free Software Foundation Retrieved January 4, 2009 
  34. ^ Larabel, Michael 2011-10-15 "The Sad State Of FSF's High Priority Projects" Phoronix Retrieved 2014-12-29 Long story short, being on the Free Software Foundation's high priority list really doesn't mean much with some of these "important" projects not even being actively developed or even discussed 
  35. ^ Larabel, Michael 2012-04-22 "Many FSF Priority Projects Still Not Progressing" Phoronix Retrieved 2014-12-29 Most of the projects are basically not going anywhere Many of them at the time were not really advancing in their goals, haven't had releases in a while, or coding hasn't even started It's been more than a half-year and still there's no significant work towards clearing many of projects from the FSF list  
  36. ^ Josh Gay Jan 27, 2012 "Respects Your Freedom hardware certification requirements" Free Software Foundation Retrieved 4 February 2014 
  37. ^ Gay, Joshua Oct 9, 2012 "Respects Your Freedom hardware product certification" Free Software Foundation Retrieved 30 October 2015 
  38. ^ a b c The first GNU's Bulletin "GNU'S Bulletin, Volume 1, No1" Free Software Foundation February 1986 Retrieved 2007-08-11 , indicates this list of people as round out FSF's board of directors
  39. ^ "Bradley Kuhn Joins the FSF Board" 2010-03-25 Retrieved 2010-03-26 
  40. ^ "Matthew Garrett joins Free Software Foundation board of directors" Free Software Foundation 16 October 2014 Retrieved 22 January 2015 
  41. ^ "Kat Walsh joins FSF board of directors" fsforg Free Software Foundation, Inc 21 March 2015 Retrieved 22 March 2015 
  42. ^ The FSF annual filings with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 1998 and 1999 show that De Icaza was not on the board on 1998-11-01 and was as of 1999-11-01, so he clearly joined sometime between those dates Those documents further indicate that the 1999 Annual meeting occurred in August; usually, new directors are elected at annual meetings
  43. ^ The FSF annual filings with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 2002 "2002 Annual Report for Free Software Foundation, Inc" PDF The Commonwealth of Massachusetts 2002-12-17 Retrieved 2007-08-11  show that De Icaza has left the board Changes to board composition are usually made at the annual meeting; which occurred on February 25, 2002
  44. ^ The FSF annual filings with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 1999 and 2000 show that Moglen was not on the board on 1999-11-01 and was as of 2000-11-01, so he clearly joined sometime between those dates Those documents further indicate that the 2000 Annual meeting occurred on July 28, 2000; usually, new directors are elected at annual meetings
  45. ^ Moglen announced his intention to resign in his blog Moglen, Eben 2007-04-23 "And Now Life After GPLv3" Retrieved 2007-08-11  The resignation likely occurred at the 2007 annual meeting of the directors; the exact date of that meeting is unknown
  46. ^

    Article II, Sec 1 - Number, Election and Qualification: The present members of the corporation shall constitute the voting members Thereafter the voting members annually at its annual meeting shall fix the number of voting members and shall elect the number of voting members so fixed At any special or regular meeting, the voting members then in office may increase the number of voting members and elect new voting members to complete the number so fixed; or they may decrease the number of voting members, but only to eliminate vacancies caused by the death, resignation, removal or disqualification of one or more voting members

    — Amended By-laws, Nov 25, 2002, Free Software Foundation, Inc
  47. ^

    In addition to the right to elect Directors as provided in the bylaws and such other powers and rights as may be vested in them by law, these Articles of Organization or the bylaws, the Voting Members shall have such other powers and rights as the Directors may designate

    — Amended By-laws, Nov 25, 2002, Free Software Foundation, Inc
  48. ^ a b "Amended Bylaws" PDF Free Software Foundation Retrieved 24 January 2015 
  49. ^ "Meet the staff of the Free Software Foundation" 
  50. ^ "Certificate of Change of Principal Office" PDF The Commonwealth of Massachusetts 2005-05-26 Retrieved 2008-07-04 
  51. ^ The site memberfsforg first appears in the Internet Archive in December 2002, and that site lists the date of the launch as 25 November 2002 "FSF Membership Page, as of 2002-12-20" The Internet Archive 2002-12-20 Archived from the original on 2002-12-20 Retrieved 2007-08-11 
  52. ^ Kuhn has an FSF-generated member link that identifies him as the first member on his web page "Homepage of Bradley M Kuhn" Bradley M Kuhn 2008-01-05 Retrieved 2008-01-05 
  53. ^ Stallman, Richard "About the GNU Project" Gnu Project FSF Retrieved 18 May 2014 
  54. ^ à 21:00 "Original version" LinuxFrorg Retrieved 2011-08-29 
  55. ^ "The Party of Gno" Retrieved 2010-06-22 
  56. ^ In defense of negativity — Free Software Foundation — working together for free software https://wwwfsforg Retrieved on 2013-07-17
  57. ^ Marsh, Ann Jan–Feb 2002 "What I Saw at the Revolution" Stanford Magazine Stanford Alumni Association Retrieved 2006-12-10 
  58. ^ "USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award "The Flame"" USENIX Retrieved 2007-12-05 
  59. ^ Free Software Foundation 2005 "FSF honored with Prix Ars Electronica award" News Releases Free Software Foundation Retrieved 2006-12-10 

External links

  • Official website
  • LibrePlanet

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