Free Software Foundation

Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a non-profit organization founded in 1985 by Richard Stallman to support the free software movement (free as in freedom), and in particular the GNU project.

From its founding until the mid-1990s FSF's funds were mostly used to employ software developers to write free software. Since the mid- to late 1990s there are now many companies and individuals writing free software, so FSF's employees and volunteers mostly work on legal and structural issues for the free software community.


Current work of FSF

GPL 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. As of January 2004, no one has yet taken FSF to court over a copyright dispute.
GNU Licenses 
The GNU GPL is the most widely used license for Free Software projects. The current version (version 2) was released in 1991 but FSF are working on a version 3. FSF have also published the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), and the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL).
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.
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 in to many languages in the future.
Maintaining the Free Software Definition 
FSF maintain 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 provide project hosting via their Savannah ( website.
FSF Award for the Advancement of Free Software 
An annual award.



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

  • Geoffery Knauth, Senior Software Engineer at SFA, Inc.
  • Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford University
  • Eben Moglen, Professor of Law and Legal History at Columbia University
  • Henri Poole, Founder of CivicActions, a grassroots campaign technology consulting firm.
  • Richard Stallman, Founder of FSF and the GNU Project, former maintainer of various GNU software, and coauthor of the GNU GPL, Versions 1 and 2
  • Gerald Sussman, Professor of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Other positions

Former employees

There are usually around 10 employees in the headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. The office is managed by Peter Brown.

Sister organisations

In 2001, Free Software Foundation Europe was founded in Germany to act as a "hub" for the Free Software organisations of Europe. In 2003, Free Software Foundation India was founded in Kerala. On 19 April 2001, The Free Software Foundation France was founded in France.

External links

cs:Free Software Foundation da:Free Software Foundation de:Free Software Foundation el:Ίδρυμα Ελεύθερου Λογισμικού es:Free Software Foundation eo:Free Software Foundation fr:Fondation pour le logiciel libre ko:자유 소프트웨어 재단 it:Free Software Foundation lb:Free Software Foundation hu:Free Software Foundation nl:Free Software Foundation ja:フリーソフトウェア財団 no:Free Software Foundation pl:Free Software Foundation pt:Free Software Foundation fi:Free Software Foundation sv:Free Software Foundation tl:Free Software Foundation zh:自由软件基金会


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