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The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a non-profit corporation founded by Richard Stallman on 4 October 1985 to support the free software movement, a copyleft-based movement which aims to promote the universal freedom to distribute and modify computer software. The FSF is incorporated in Massachusettsmarker, USAmarker.

From its founding until the mid-1980s, 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 FSF's computers.

GPL enforcement

The FSF holds the copyrights on various essential pieces of the GNU system, such as GNU Compiler Collection. As copyright holder, it has exclusive authority to enforce the GNU General Public License (GPL) when copyright infringement occurs on that software. While other copyright holders of other software systems adopted the GPL as their license, FSF was the only organization to regularly assert its copyright interests on software so licensed until Harald Welte launched gpl-violations.org 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.

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

In December 2008 FSF filed a lawsuit against Cisco for using GPL-licensed components shipped with Linksys. 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.

SCO lawsuit

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

Legal seminars

From 2003 to 2005, FSF held legal seminars to explain the GPL and the law around it. 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.

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 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 UNESCOmarker 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 their Savannah website.


Political campaigns
FSF sponsors a number of campaigns against what it perceives as dangers to software freedom, including software patents, digital rights management (which the FSF has re-termed "digital restrictions management", as part of their effort to highlight their view that such technologies are "designed to take away and limit your rights,") and user interface copyright. Defective by Design is an FSF-initiated campaign against DRM. They also have a campaign to promote Ogg+Vorbis, a free alternative to proprietary formats like MP3 and AAC. They also sponsor some free software projects that are deemed to be "high-priority".


Annual awards: "Award for the Advancement of Free Software" and "Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit"


High priority projects

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."

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).

Recognition



Structure

The FSF's board of directors is:



Previous board members include:



The FSF Board of Directors is elected by the Voting Membership, whose powers include at least this are outlined in the by-laws:

There are currently no known documents available that indicate the composition of the FSF's Voting Membership.

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, Massachusettsmarker.

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.

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.

See also



Free Software Foundations

References

  1. FSF Bulletin 3 notes that a seminar led by Kuhn and Ravicher occurred on 2003-08-08
  2. An FSF press release again notes Kuhn and Ravicher to teach the seminars in January 2004.
  3. The first GNU's Bulletin ( ), indicates this list of people as round[ing] out FSF's board of directors.
  4. 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.
  5. The FSF annual filings with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 2002 ( ) 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.
  6. 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 in July 28, 2000; usually, new directors are elected at annual meetings.
  7. Moglen announced his intention to resign in his blog ( ). The resignation likely occurred at the 2007 annual meeting of the directors; the exact date of that meeting is unknown.
  8. The site member.fsf.org first appears in the Internet Archive in December 2002, and that site lists the date of the launch as 25 November 2002.
  9. Kuhn has an FSF-generated member link that identifies him as the first member on his web page.


External links




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