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.
Consistent with its goals, the FSF aims to use only free software on its own computers.
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.
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.
GPL enforcement and educational campaigns on GPL compliance was a major focus of the FSF's efforts during this period.
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.
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.
This is a listing of software packages that 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[by whom?] that the directory can be translated into many languages in the future.
An abbreviation for "Hardware-Node", the h-node website lists hardware and device drivers that have been verified as compatible with free software. It is user-edited and volunteer supported with hardware entries tested by users before publication.
FSF sponsors a number of campaigns against what it perceives as dangers to software freedom, including software patents, digital rights management (which the FSF and others have re-termed "digital restrictions management", as part of its effort to highlight technologies that are "designed to take away and limit your rights,") and user interface copyright. Defective by Design is an FSF-initiated campaign against DRM. It also has a campaign to promote Ogg+Vorbis, a free alternative to proprietary formats like MP3 and AAC. FSF also sponsors free software projects it deems "high-priority".
gNewSense is a distribution officially supported by the FSF
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."
The effort has been criticized by Michael Larabel for either not instigating active development or for being slow at the work being done, even after certain projects were added to the list.
Hardware endorsements (RYF)
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.
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.
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.
Defective by Design
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."
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Key players and industries that have made honorific mention and awards include:
2001: GNU Project received the USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award for "the ubiquity, breadth, and quality of its freely available redistributable and modifiable software, which has enabled a generation of research and commercial development".
^Larabel, Michael (2012-04-22). "Many FSF Priority Projects Still Not Progressing". Phoronix. Retrieved . 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.
^ abcThe first GNU's Bulletin ("GNU'S Bulletin, Volume 1, No.1". Free Software Foundation. February 1986. Retrieved .), indicates this list of people as round[ing] out FSF's board of directors.
^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.
^The FSF annual filings with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 2002 ("2002 Annual Report for Free Software Foundation, Inc"(PDF). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 2002-12-17. Retrieved .) 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.
^The FSF annual filings with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 1999 and
2000 show that Moglen was not on the board on November 1, 1999, and was as of November 1, 2000, so he clearly joined sometime between those dates. Those documents further indicate that the 2000 annual meeting occurred on July 28, 2000; usually, new directors are elected at annual meetings.
^Moglen announced his intention to resign in his blog (Moglen, Eben (2007-04-23). "And Now ... Life After GPLv3". Retrieved .). The resignation likely occurred at the 2007 annual meeting of the directors; the exact date of that meeting is unknown.
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 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. "FSF Membership Page, as of 2002-12-20". The Internet Archive. 2002-12-20. Archived from the original on 2002-12-20. Retrieved .
^Kuhn has an FSF-generated member link that identifies him as the first member on his web page. "Homepage of Bradley M. Kuhn". Bradley M. Kuhn. 2008-01-05. Retrieved .
^Larabel, Michael (2013-01-24). "FSF Wastes Away Another "High Priority" Project". Phoronix. Archived from the original on 2016-11-09. Retrieved . Both LibreCAD and FreeCAD both want to use LibreDWG and have patches available for supporting the DWG file format library, but can't integrate them. The programs have dependencies on the popular GPLv2 license while the Free Software Foundation will only let LibreDWG be licensed for GPLv3 use, not GPLv2.