Free Software Foundation
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The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a non-profit corporation founded in October 1985 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.
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.
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 2) was released in 1991 but FSF is working on version 3. FSF have 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.
- Annual awards
- "Award for the Advancement of Free Software" and "Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit"
On November 25, 2002 the FSF launched the FSF Associate Membership program for individuals. In March 2005 they had over 3400 associate members.
On March 5, 2003 they launched a Corporate Patron program for commercial entities. As of April 2004, they have 45 corporate patrons.
Board of Directors
Current Board of Directors
- Geoffery Knauth, Senior Software Engineer at SFA, Inc.
- Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford University
- Eben Moglen, Professor of Law and Legal History at Columbia University
- Henri Poole, Founder of CivicActions, a grassroots campaign technology consulting firm.
- Richard Stallman, Founder of FSF and the GNU Project, Founding President, former maintainer of various GNU software, and principal author of the GNU GPL, Versions 1 and 2
- Gerald Sussman, Professor of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Founding Board of Directors
- Richard Stallman
- Hal Abelson, Professor of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Robert J. Chassell, Founding Director and Founding Treasurer
- Gerald Sussman
- Len Tower Jr.
Former members of the Board of Directors
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. Most, but not all, work at the FSF headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.
Notable current staff and employees
- Richard Stallman, President and founder of the Free Software Foundation. RMS is not paid by the FSF (see Richard Stallman#Personal life).
- Peter T. Brown, Executive Director (was GPL Compliance Manager and Controller until February 2005)
- Eben Moglen, General Counsel
- Dan Ravicher, Senior Counsel
Notable former programmers
In alphabetical order:
- Jonathan Arcenaux, GNU hacker, GNU Emacs
- Jim Blandy, GNU hacker, GNU Emacs version 19
- Jay Fenlason, GNU hacker, sed. Fenlason wrote the original version of the computer game hack as a high school student.
- Brian Fox, GNU hacker, Bash
- Tom Lord, GNU hacker, GNU arch, sed, regular expression engine, GNU Oleo features
- Roland McGrath, GNU hacker, GNU Libc, GNU Make, GNU Hurd
- Ian Murdock, GNU hacker and Debian Project founder.
- Len Tower Jr., GCC, GNU diff, who became a Founding Director. Tower was an employee of the Zimmer Foundation assigned to work with the FSF.
Notable other former staff and employees
In alphabetical order:
- Robert J. Chassell, Founding Director and Treasurer, GNU documentation hacker
- Bradley M. Kuhn, Assistant to Stallman (2000-2001), Executive Director (2001-2005)
- Prof. Masayuki Ida, Vice President for Japan (late 1990s)
- Peter Salus, Vice President (mid/late 1990s)
- Etienne Suvasa, GNU illustrator
- Melissa Weisshaus, GNU documentation hacker
- 2001, Free Software Foundation Europe was founded in Germany to act as a "hub" for the Free Software organisations of Europe.
- 2003, Free Software Foundation India was founded in Kerala.
- 2005, it was announced that work is in progress to set up a Free Software Foundation Latin America.
- 1999: Linus Torvalds Award for Open Source Computing
- 2005: Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction in the category of "Digital Communities"
Notes and References
- Stallman, Richard M. (2002). Linux, GNU, and freedom (HTML). Philosophy of the GNU Project. GNU Project. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.
- Marsh, Ann (Jan/Feb 2002). What I Saw at the Revolution (HTML). Stanford Magazine. Stanford Alumni Association. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.
- Ars Electronica Center (2005). Digital Communities, Distinction, Free Software Foundation (HTML). Prix Ars Electronica. Ars Electronica Center. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.
- Free Software Foundation (2005). FSF honored with Prix Ars Electronica award. News Releases. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.
- The Free Software Foundation web site