Free Software Foundation

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Free Software Foundation
Free Software Foundation logo
Type: NGO and Non-profit Foundation
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Key people: Richard Stallman, Eben Moglen, Henri Poole, Gerry Sussman, Hal Abelson, Benjamin Mako Hill
Fields: Software Freedom
Services: GNU Project, GPL, LGPL, GFDL, see below

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a non-profit corporation founded on October 4, 1985 [1] by Richard Stallman to support the free software movement ("free" as in "freedom"), and in particular the GNU Project. The FSF is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, United States of America.

From its founding until the mid-1990s, FSF's funds were mostly used to employ software developers to write free software. Since the mid-1990s there are more and more companies and individuals writing free software, so FSF's employees and volunteers mostly work on legal and structural issues for the free software movement and the free software community.

Being consistent with its goals, only free software is used on all of the FSF's computers.[2]



[edit] Current work of FSF

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 the most 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), and the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL).
GNU License Enforcement 
FSF has the resources and the will to enforce the GPL and other GNU licenses, but only for software for which it owns the copyrights; GPL'd software owned by others must be defended by its owners, since the FSF has no legal standing to enforce the GPL for them. FSF handles around 50 GPL violations per year and tries to bring the other party into compliance without involving the courts.
Guardian of copyrights 
FSF holds the copyrights to most GNU software and some non-GNU free software. They require copyright assignment papers from each contributor to GNU packages so that they can defend the software in court if a dispute arises, and so that if there is a need to change the license of a work, it can be done without having to contact all contributors that have ever worked on the software.
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 which 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.
Legal Education 
FSF hold seminars about legal aspects of using the GPL, and offers a consultancy service for lawyers.
Project Hosting 
FSF hosts software development projects on their Savannah website.
FSF sponsors a number of campaigns against what it perceives as dangers to software freedom, including software patents, Digital Restrictions Management, and user interface copyright. Defective by Design is an FSF-initiated campaign against DRM. They also have a campaign to promote Ogg, a free alternative to proprietary formats like MP3 and AAC.
Annual awards 
"Award for the Advancement of Free Software" and "Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit"

[edit] History

[edit] GPL Enforcement

The FSF holds the copyrights on various essential pieces of the GNU system, such as GCC. As copyright holder, it has exclusive authority to enforce the GPL when copyright infringement occurs on that software. While other copyright holders of other software systems adopted the GPL as their license, the FSF was the only organization to regularly assert its copyright interests on GPL'd software (until Harald Welte launched in 2004).

From 1991 until 2001, GPL enforcement was done informally, usually by Stallman himself, often with assistance with FSF's lawyer, Eben Moglen. Typically, GPL violations during this time were cleared up by short email exchanges between Stallman and the violator.

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 [3][4][5]. GPL enforcement and educational campaigns on GPL compliance[6][7] was a major focus of the FSF's efforts during this period.

[edit] SCO Lawsuit

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[8]. During 2003 and 2004, FSF put substantial advocacy effort into responding to the law suit and quelling its negative impact on the adoption and promotion of free software[9].

[edit] Structure

[edit] Membership

[edit] Associate Members

On November 25, 2002 the FSF launched the FSF Associate Membership program for individuals[10]. In March 2005 they had over 3400 associate members.[citation needed]

[edit] Corporate Patrons

On March 5, 2003 they launched a Corporate Patron program for commercial entities.[citation needed] As of April 2004, they have 45 corporate patrons.[citation needed]

[edit] Voting Members

FSF is governed by a voting membership that sets the number of directors and elects them to office. Traditionally, the FSF voting membership is a superset of the Board of Directors. The current voting members are (in alphabetical order):

Richard M Stallman
Richard M Stallman

[edit] Board of Directors

[edit] Current Board of Directors

[edit] Founding Board of Directors[11]

[edit] Other former members of the Board of Directors

[edit] Staff and Employees

Some of the Free Software Foundation staff, both current and past, are unpaid volunteers. At any given time, there are usually around a dozen employees.[citation needed] Most, but not all, work at the FSF headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.

[edit] Legal Representation

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.

[edit] Sister organizations


[edit] Recognition

[edit] References

  1. ^ Articles of Incorporation, Free Software Foundation. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1985-10-04). Retrieved on 2007-08-11.
  2. ^ Stallman, Richard M. (2002). Linux, GNU, and freedom (HTML). Philosophy of the GNU Project. GNU Project. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.
  3. ^ Meeker, Heather (2005-06-28). The Legend of Linksys. Retrieved on 2007-08-11.
  4. ^ Gillmor, Dan (2003-05-21). GPL Legal Battle Coming?. (a division of the San Jose Mercury News). Retrieved on 2007-08-11.
  5. ^ Turner, David; Bradley M. Kuhn (2003-09-29). Linksys/Cisco GPL Violations. Retrieved on 2007-08-11.
  6. ^ Kennedy, Dennis (2004-01-11). A Great Learning Opportunity for Software Lawyers - Upcoming GPL Seminar. Retrieved on 2007-08-11.
  7. ^ Lord, Timothy (2003-07-18). Seminar On Details Of The GPL And Related Licenses. Slashdot. Retrieved on 2007-08-11.
  8. ^ Heise, Mark (2003-11-05). SCO Subpoena of FSF (PDF). Free Software Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-08-11.
  9. ^ Kuhn, Bradley (2004-05-18). The SCO Subpoena of FSF. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-08-11.
  10. ^ The site 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). Retrieved on 2007-08-11.).
  11. ^ The first GNU's Bulletin (GNU'S Bulletin, Volume 1, No.1. Free Software Foundation (February 1986). Retrieved on 2007-08-11.), indicates this list of people as round[ing] out FSF's board of directors.
  12. ^ The FSF annual filings with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 1998 (1998 Annual Report for Free Software Foundation, Inc. (PDF). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (2002-06-05). Retrieved on 2007-08-11.) and 1999 (1999 Annual Report for Free Software Foundation, Inc. (PDF). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (2002-06-05). Retrieved on 2007-08-11.) 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.
  13. ^ 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 on 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.
  14. ^ The FSF annual filings with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 1999 (1999 Annual Report for Free Software Foundation, Inc. (PDF). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (2002-06-05). Retrieved on 2007-08-11.) and 2000 (2000 Annual Report for Free Software Foundation, Inc. (PDF). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (2004-02-13). Retrieved on 2007-08-11.) 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 in July 28, 2000; usually, new directors are elected at annual meetings.
  15. ^ Moglen announced his intention to resign in his blog (Moglen, Eben (2007-04-23). And Now … Life After GPLv3. Retrieved on 2007-08-11.). The resignation likely occurred at the 2007 annual meeting of the directors; the exact date of that meeting is unknown.
  16. ^ Marsh, Ann (Jan/Feb 2002). What I Saw at the Revolution (HTML). Stanford Magazine. Stanford Alumni Association. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.
  17. ^ Ars Electronica Center (2005). Digital Communities, Distinction, Free Software Foundation (HTML). Prix Ars Electronica. Ars Electronica Center. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.
  18. ^ Free Software Foundation (2005). FSF honored with Prix Ars Electronica award. News Releases. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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