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.

Being consistent with its goals, only free software is used on all of the FSF's computers.[1]

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.
Campaigns 
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"

Structure

Membership

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

Founding Board of Directors

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

Notable former programmers

In alphabetical order:

Notable other former staff and employees

In alphabetical order:

Sister organizations

In:

Recognition

Notes and References

  1. Stallman, Richard M. (2002). Linux, GNU, and freedom (HTML). Philosophy of the GNU Project. GNU Project. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.
  2. Marsh, Ann (Jan/Feb 2002). What I Saw at the Revolution (HTML). Stanford Magazine. Stanford Alumni Association. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.
  3. Ars Electronica Center (2005). Digital Communities, Distinction, Free Software Foundation (HTML). Prix Ars Electronica. Ars Electronica Center. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.
  4. Free Software Foundation (2005). FSF honored with Prix Ars Electronica award. News Releases. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved on 2006-12-10.

See Also

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

External link