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.
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 they publish them and have the ability to make revisions as needed.
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.
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 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 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.
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".
The FSF maintains a "Respects Your Freedom 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.
Currently, a total of four products have been granted the certification:
The Gluglug X60 laptop
Aleph Objects, Inc. LulzBot 3D printers
The ThinkPenquin TPE-N150USB Wireless N USB Adapter
The FSF Board of Directors is elected by the Voting Membership, whose powers include at least this are outlined in the by-laws:
In addition to the right to elect Directors as provided in the by-laws and such other powers and rights as may be vested in them by law, these Articles of Organization or the by-laws, the Voting Members shall have such other powers and rights as the Directors may designate.
—Articles of Amendment, Free Software Foundation, Inc.
There are currently no known documents available that indicate the composition of the FSF's Voting Membership.
John Sullivan is the current FSF Executive Director. Previous members that occupied the position were Peter Brown (2005–2010) and Bradley M. Kuhn (2001–2005).
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.
Linus Torvalds has criticized FSF for using GPLv3 as a weapon in their fight against DRM. Torvalds argues that the issue of DRM and that of a software license should be treated as two separate issues.
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."
^FSF Bulletin 3 notes that a seminar led by Kuhn and Ravicher occurred on 2003-08-08Free Software Foundation (June 2003). "FSF Bulletin — Issue No.2 - June 2003". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2008-07-04.
^ abcThe first GNU's Bulletin ("GNU'S Bulletin, Volume 1, No.1". Free Software Foundation. February 1986. Retrieved 2007-08-11.), 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 2007-08-11.) 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 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 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 2007-08-11.). The resignation likely occurred at the 2007 annual meeting of the directors; the exact date of that meeting is unknown.
^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 2007-08-11.
^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 2008-01-05.