Free Software Foundation

non-profit organization for support for the free software movement

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 movement which tries to promote the universal freedom to distribute and modify computer software without restriction. The FSF was started in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, United States of America.

Free Software Foundation
MottoFree Software, Free Society
TypeNGO and Non profit
Legal statusFoundation
HeadquartersBoston, MA
Region served
Private individuals and corporate patrons
AffiliationsSoftware Freedom Law Center

From its founding (when it started) until the 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


The FSF holds the copyrights on many important pieces of the GNU system, such as the GCC. As a copyright holder, it has the power to enforce the GNU General Public License (GPL) when copyright infringement occurs on that software. While other copyright holders of other software systems used the GPL as their license, FSF was the only organization to regularly assert its copyright interests on software licensed under the GPL until Harald Welte created in 2004.

In late 2001, Bradley M. Kuhn (then Executive Director), with the help of Moglen, David Turner, and Peter T. Brown, turned 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.[1][2][3] GPL enforcement and educational campaigns on GPL compliance was a major focus of the FSF's efforts during this period.[4][5]

SCO lawsuit


In March 2003, SCO filed suit against IBM alleging(saying) that IBM's contributions to some 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.[6] During 2003 and 2004, FSF put a lot of advocacy effort into responding to the lawsuit and removing its negative impact on the adoption and promotion of free software.[7][8]

Current and ongoing activities

The GNU project
The original purpose of the FSF was to promote the ideals of free software. The organization created the GNU operating system as an example of this.
GNU licenses
The GNU General Public License (GPL) is a popular 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 are free software. Each package entry contains 47 pieces of information such as the project's homepage, developers and programming language.
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 thinks as dangers to software freedom, including software patents, digital rights management (which the FSF has called "digital restrictions management", as part of their effort to highlight their view that such technologies are "designed to take away and limit your rights,"[9]) and user interface copyright. Defective by Design is an FSF 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


The FSF maintains a list of "high priority projects" where the Foundation says that "there is a vital need to draw the free software community's attention".[10] The FSF says these projects are"important because computer users are continually being seduced into using non-free software, because there is no adequate free replacement."



Sister organizations



  1. Meeker, Heather (2005-06-28). "The Legend of Linksys". Archived from the original on 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  2. Gillmor, Dan (2003-05-21). "GPL Legal Battle Coming?". (a division of the San Jose Mercury News). Archived from the original on 2003-05-24. Retrieved 2007-08-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  3. Turner, David; Bradley M. Kuhn (2003-09-29). "Linksys/Cisco GPL Violations". Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  4. Kennedy, Dennis (2004-01-11). "A Great Learning Opportunity for Software Lawyers - Upcoming GPL Seminar". Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  5. Lord, Timothy (2003-07-18). "Seminar on Details of the GPL and Related Licenses". Slashdot. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  6. Heise, Mark (2003-11-05). "SCO Subpoena of FSF" (PDF). Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  7. Kuhn, Bradley (2004-05-18). "The SCO Subpoena of FSF". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  8. Free Software Foundation (2004-01-02). "FSF To Host Free Software Licensing Seminars and Discussions on SCO v. IBM in New York". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2008-07-04.
  9. "Digital Restrictions Management and Treacherous Computing". Free Software Foundation. September 18, 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
  10. "High Priority Free Software Projects".
  11. Marsh, Ann (Feb 2002) [Jan/Feb]. "What I Saw at the Revolution". Stanford Magazine. Stanford Alumni Association. Archived from the original (HTML) on 2005-12-14. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  12. Ars Electronica Center (2005). "Digital Communities, Distinction, Free Software Foundation". Prix Ars Electronica. Ars Electronica Center. Archived from the original (HTML) on 2007-02-23. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  13. Free Software Foundation (2005). "FSF honored with Prix Ars Electronica award". News Releases. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2006-12-10.

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