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 without restriction. 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 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.
GPL enforcement Edit
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 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.
SCO lawsuit Edit
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.
Legal seminars Edit
From 2003-2005, 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 eduction on the GPL.  
Current and ongoing activitiesEdit
- 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 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.
- 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 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 sponsor also 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 Edit
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, ensuring compatibility for the Java part of OpenOffice.org, (see Java (Sun)#Licensing), and the GNOME desktop environment.
- 1999: Linus Torvalds Award for Open Source Computing
- 2005: Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction in the category of "Digital Communities"
The FSF's board of directors is:
- Hal Abelson, Founding member, Professor of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (served from inception until March 5, 1998, and rejoined circa 2005)
- Geoffery Knauth, Senior Software Engineer at SFA, Inc. (served since October 23, 1997)
- Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford University (served since March 28, 2004)
- Henry Poole, Founder of CivicActions, a grassroots campaign technology consulting firm. (served since December 12, 2002)
- Richard Stallman, Founding President, lauched the GNU project, author of the GNU General Public License (served as President since inception)
- Gerald Sussman, Professor of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (served since inception)
- Benjamin Mako Hill, graduate student at the MIT Media Lab. (served since July 25, 2007)
Previous board members include:
- Robert J. Chassell, Founding Treasurer, as well as a Founding Director (served from inception until June 3, 1997)
- Gerald Sussman, Founding member
- Len Tower Jr., Founding member, served until September 2, 1997
- Miguel de Icaza (served from August 1999 until February 25, 2002.)
- Eben Moglen (served from July 28, 2000 until 2007)
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.Template:Fact Most, but not all, work at the FSF headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.
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.
Sister organizations Edit
- Free Software Foundation Europe, founded in 2001.
- Free Software Foundation India, founded in 2003.
- Free Software Foundation Latin America, founded in 2005.
See also Edit
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