The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a 501(c)(3) 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, US, 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.
|Free Software Foundation|
|Motto||Free Software, Free Society|
|Formation||October 4, 1985|
|Type||501(c)(3) non-profit organization|
|Headquarters||Boston, Massachusetts, US|
|$1,373,645 in FY 2017|
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-violations.org.
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.
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 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.
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, 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 OpenOffice.org, and the GNOME desktop environment (see Java: Licensing).
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.
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.
Current board members:
Previous board members include:
The bylaws say who can vote for them.
The board can grant powers to the Voting Membership.
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. After forming the Software Freedom Law Center, Eben Moglen continued to serve as the FSF's general counsel until 2016.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Apple Public Source License (APSL) is the open-source and free software license under which Apple's Darwin operating system was released. A free and open-source software license was voluntarily adopted to further involve the community from which much of Darwin originated.
The first version of the Apple Public Source License was approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI). Version 2.0, released July 29, 2003, is also approved as a free software license by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) which finds it acceptable for developers to work on projects that are already covered by this license. However, the FSF recommends that developers should not release new projects under this license, because the partial copyleft is not compatible with the GNU General Public License and allows linking with files released entirely as proprietary software. The license does require that if any derivatives of the original source are released externally, their source should be made available; the Free Software Foundation compares this requirement to a similar one in its own GNU Affero General Public License.Many software releases from Apple have now been relicensed under the more liberal Apache License, such as the Bonjour Zeroconf stack.Bradley M. Kuhn
Bradley M. Kuhn (born 1973) is a free software activist from the United States.
Kuhn is currently President of the Software Freedom Conservancy, having previously been Executive Director. Until 2010 he was the FLOSS Community Liaison and Technology Director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC). He previously served as the Executive Director of Free Software Foundation (FSF) from 2001 until March 2005. He was elected to the FSF's board of directors in March 2010.He is best known for his efforts in GPL enforcement, both at FSF and SFLC, as the creator of FSF's license list, and as original author of the Affero General Public License. He has long been a proponent for non-profit structures for FLOSS development, and leads efforts in this direction through the Software Freedom Conservancy. He is a recipient of the 2012 O'Reilly Open Source Award.Comparison of Linux distributions
Technical variations of Linux distributions include support for different hardware devices and systems or software package configurations. Organizational differences may be motivated by historical reasons. Other criteria include security, including how quickly security upgrades are available; ease of package management; and number of packages available.
These tables compare each active and noteworthy distribution's latest stable release on wide-ranging objective criteria. It does not cover each operating system's subjective merits, branches marked as unstable or beta, nor compare Linux distributions with other operating systems.Comparison of free and open-source software licenses
This is a comparison of published free software licenses and open-source licenses. The comparison only covers software licenses with a linked article for details, approved by at least one expert group at the FSF, the OSI, the Debian project or the Fedora project. For a list of licenses not specifically intended for software, see List of free content licenses.Defective by Design
Defective by Design is an anti-DRM initiative by the Free Software Foundation. DRM technology, known as "digital rights management" technology by its supporters, restricts users' ability to freely use their purchased movies, music, literature, software, and hardware in ways they are accustomed to with ordinary non-restricted media (such as books and audio compact discs). As a result, DRM has been described as "digital restrictions management" or "digital restrictions mechanisms" by opponents.The philosophy of the initiative is that DRM is designed to be deliberately defective, to restrict the use of the product. This, they claim, cripples the future of digital freedom. The group aims to target "Big Media, unhelpful manufacturers, and DRM distributors" and to bring public awareness of the issue and increase participation in the initiative. It represents one of the first efforts of the Free Software Foundation to find common cause with mainstream social activists, and to encourage free software advocates to become socially involved. As of late 2006, the campaign was claiming over 12,000 registered members.In August 2018, GOG created an anti-DRM program called "FCK DRM". The homepage of the initiative offers links to the websites of Defective by Design, the EFF, Bandcamp, itch.io, Wikisource, Project Gutenberg and other projects that promote free software and free culture.Free Software Foundation Europe
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) was founded in 2001 to support all aspects of the free software movement in Europe. FSFE is a charitable registered association (eingetragener Verein) under German law, and has registered 'chapters' in several European countries. It is an official European sister organization of the US-based Free Software Foundation (FSF). FSF and FSFE are financially and legally separate entities.
FSFE believes that access to and control of software determines who may participate in a digital society. Therefore, the freedoms to use, copy, modify and redistribute software, as described in The Free Software Definition, are necessary for equal participation in the Information Age.Free Software Foundation Latin America
Free Software Foundation Latin America (FSFLA) is the Latin American sister organisation of the Free Software Foundation. It is the fourth sister organisation of FSF, after Free Software Foundation Europe and Free Software Foundation India. It was launched on November 23, 2005 in Rosario, Argentina.The founding general assembly of FSFLA elected Federico Heinz as President, Alexandre Oliva as Secretary and Beatriz Busaniche as Treasurer. The Administrative Council consisted of them as well as Enrique A. Chaparro, Mario M. Bonilla, Fernanda G. Weiden and Juan José Ciarlante.
In 2006, Beatriz Busaniche, Enrique A. Chaparro, Federico Heinz, Juan José Ciarlante and Mario M. Bonilla left the FSFLA's Council. After that the original directives were modified to the current ones. A new position of “Observer of the Council” was created in the organisation to allow other important people in the free software community to participate, observe and advise the Council.The current members of the Council are Alexandre Oliva, Andres Ricardo Castelblanco, Exal de Jesus Garcia Carrillo, Octavio Rossell, Oscar Valenzuela, J. Esteban Saavedra L., Luis Alberto Guzmán García, Quiliro Ordóñez and Tomás Solar Castro.The actual Observers of the Council group is formed by Richard Stallman, Georg Greve, Adriano Rafael Gomes, Franco Iacomella, Alejandro Forero Cuervo, Alvaro Fuentes, Anahuac de Paula Gil, Christiano Anderson, Eder L. Marques, Elkin Botero, J. Esteban Saavedra L., Fabianne Balvedi, Felipe Augusto van de Wiel, Nagarjuna G., Glauber de Oliveira Costa, Gustavo Sverzut Barbieri, Henrique de Andrade, Harold Rivas, Jansen Sena, Marcelo Zunino, Mario Bonilla, Daniel Yucra, NIIBE Yutaka, Beatriz Busaniche, Octavio H. Ruiz Cervera, Omar Kaminski, and Roberto Salomon.Free Software Foundation anti-Windows campaigns
Free Software Foundation anti-Windows campaigns are the events targeted against a line of Microsoft Windows operating systems. They are paralleling the Defective by Design campaign against digital rights management technologies, but they instead target Microsoft's operating systems instead of DRM itself.Free Software Foundation of India
The Free Software Foundation of India (FSFI) Is an Indian sister organisation to the US-based Free Software Foundation. It was founded in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), the capital of Kerala in 2001, as a non-profit Company. The FSFI advocates to promote the use and development of free software in India. This includes educating people about free software, including how it can help the economy of a developing country like India. FSF India regards non-free software as not a solution, but a problem to be solved. Free software is sometimes locally called swatantra software in India.
In 2003, after meeting with FSF founder Richard Stallman, the President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam urged Indian computer scientists and professionals to use free and open-source software in research and development.Free software
Free software or libre software is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute it and any adapted versions. Free software is a matter of liberty, not price: users—individually or in cooperation with computer programmers—are free to do what they want with their copies of a free software (including profiting from them) regardless of how much is paid to obtain the program. Computer programs are deemed free insofar as they give users (not just the developer) ultimate control over the first, thereby allowing them to control what their devices are programmed to do.The right to study and modify a computer program entails that source code—the preferred format for making changes—be made available to users of that program. While this is often called 'access to source code' or 'public availability', the Free Software Foundation recommends against thinking in those terms, because it might give the impression that users have an obligation (as opposed to a right) to give non-users a copy of the program.
Although the term free software had already been used loosely in the past, Richard Stallman is credited with tying it to the sense under discussion and starting the free-software movement in 1983, when he launched the GNU Project: a collaborative effort to create a freedom-respecting operating system, and to revive the spirit of cooperation once prevalent among hackers during the early days of computing.GNU
GNU (listen) is an operating system and an extensive collection of computer software. GNU is composed wholly of free software, most of which is licensed under the GNU Project's own General Public License (GPL).
GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix!", chosen because GNU's design is Unix-like, but differs from Unix by being free software and containing no Unix code.
The GNU project includes an operating system kernel, GNU HURD, which was the original focus of the Free Software Foundation (FSF).
However, given the Hurd kernel's status as not yet production-ready, non-GNU kernels, most popularly the Linux kernel, can also be used with GNU software. The combination of GNU and Linux has become ubiquitous to the point that the duo is often referred to as just "Linux" in short, or, less frequently, GNU/Linux. (see the GNU/Linux naming controversy)
Richard Stallman, the founder of the project, views GNU as a "technical means to a social end". Relatedly Lawrence Lessig states in his introduction to the second edition of Stallman's book Free Software, Free Society that in it Stallman has written about "the social aspects of software and how Free Software can create community and social justice".GNU Affero General Public License
The GNU Affero General Public License is a free, copyleft license published by the Free Software Foundation in November 2007, and based on the GNU General Public License, version 3 and the Affero General Public License.
The Free Software Foundation has recommended that the GNU AGPLv3 be considered for any software that will commonly be run over a network. The Open Source Initiative approved the GNU AGPLv3 as an open source license in March 2008 after the company Funambol submitted it for consideration through its CEO Fabrizio Capobianco.GNU General Public License
The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or GPL) is a widely used free software license, which guarantees end users the freedom to run, study, share and modify the software. The license was originally written by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU Project, and grants the recipients of a computer program the rights of the Free Software Definition. The GPL is a copyleft license, which means that derivative work can only be distributed under the same license terms. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD licenses and the MIT License are widely used examples. GPL was the first copyleft license for general use.
Historically, the GPL license family has been one of the most popular software licenses in the free and open-source software domain. Prominent free software programs licensed under the GPL include the Linux kernel and the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC). David A. Wheeler argues that the copyleft provided by the GPL was crucial to the success of Linux-based systems, giving the programmers who contributed to the kernel the assurance that their work would benefit the whole world and remain free, rather than being exploited by software companies that would not have to give anything back to the community.In 2007, the third version of the license (GNU GPLv3) was released to address some perceived problems with the second version (GNU GPLv2) that were discovered during its long-time usage. To keep the license up to date, the GPL license includes an optional "any later version" clause, allowing users to choose between the original terms or the terms in new versions as updated by the FSF. Developers can omit it when licensing their software; for instance the Linux kernel is licensed under GPLv2 without the "any later version" clause.GNU Manifesto
The GNU Manifesto was written by Richard Stallman and published in March 1985 in Dr. Dobb's Journal of Software Tools as an explanation of goals of the GNU Project, and as a call for support and participation in developing GNU, a free software computer operating system. It is held in high regard within the free software movement as a fundamental philosophical source.The full text is included with GNU software such as Emacs, and is publicly available.GNU Project
The GNU Project ( (listen)) is a free-software, mass-collaboration project, first announced on September 27, 1983 by Richard Stallman at MIT. Its aim is to give computer users freedom and control in their use of their computers and computing devices, by collaboratively developing and providing software that is based on the following freedom rights: users are free to run the software, share it (copy, distribute), study it and modify it. GNU software guarantees these freedom-rights legally (via its license), and is therefore free software; the use of the word "free" always being taken to refer to freedom.
In order to ensure that the entire software of a computer grants its users all freedom rights (use, share, study, modify), even the most fundamental and important part, the operating system (including all its numerous utility programs), needed to be free software. According to its manifesto, the founding goal of the project was to build a free operating system and, if possible, "everything useful that normally comes with a Unix system so that one could get along without any software that is not free." Stallman decided to call this operating system GNU (a recursive acronym meaning "GNU's not Unix"), basing its design on that of Unix, a proprietary operating system. Development was initiated in January 1984. In 1991, the Linux kernel appeared, developed outside the GNU project by Linus Torvalds, and in December 1992 it was made available under version 2 of the GNU General Public License. Combined with the operating system utilities already developed by the GNU project, it allowed for the first operating system that was free software, commonly known as Linux.The project's current work includes software development, awareness building, political campaigning and sharing of the new material.Nagarjuna G.
Nagarjuna G. (Nagarjuna Gadiraju) works in the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India. His major research interests include Science Education, Cognitive Science, History and Philosophy of Science and Structure and Dynamics of Knowledge. As an activist he focuses on promoting free knowledge and free
software and serves as the chairperson of Free Software Foundation of India.Python Software Foundation License
The Python Software Foundation License (PSFL) is a BSD-style, permissive free software license which is compatible with the GNU General Public License (GPL). Its primary use is for distribution of the Python project software. Unlike the GPL the Python license is not a copyleft license, and allows modified versions to be distributed without source code. The PSFL is listed as approved on both FSF's approved licenses list, and OSI's approved licenses list.
Earlier versions of Python were under the Python License, which is incompatible with the GPL. The reason given for this incompatibility by Free Software Foundation was that "this Python license is governed by the laws of the 'State of Virginia', in the USA", and the GPL does not permit this.The year that Python's creator Guido van Rossum changed the license to fix this incompatibility, he was awarded the Free Software Foundation Award for the Advancement of Free Software.The Free Software Definition
The Free Software Definition written by Richard Stallman and published by Free Software Foundation (FSF), defines free software as being software that ensures that the end users have freedom in using, studying, sharing and modifying that software. The term "free" is used in the sense of "free speech," not of "free of charge." The earliest-known publication of the definition was in the February 1986 edition of the now-discontinued GNU's Bulletin publication of FSF. The canonical source for the document is in the philosophy section of the GNU Project website. As of April 2008, it is published there in 39 languages. FSF publishes a list of licences which meet this definition.William John Sullivan
William John Sullivan (more commonly known as John Sullivan) (born December 6, 1976) is a software freedom activist, hacker, and writer. John is currently executive director of the Free Software Foundation, where he has worked since early 2003. He is also a speaker and webmaster for the GNU Project. He also maintains the Plannermode and delicious-el packages for the GNU Emacs text editor.
Active in both the free software and free culture communities, Sullivan has a BA in philosophy from Michigan State University and an MFA in Writing and Poetics. In college, Sullivan was a successful policy debater, reaching finals of CEDA Nationals and the semifinals of the National Debate Tournament.Until 2007, John was the main contact behind the Defective by Design, BadVista and Play Ogg campaigns. He also served as the chief-webmaster for the GNU Project, until July 2006.He has served as Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation since 2011.