FSFE Finance

E L Tonkin py7elt at bath.ac.uk
Thu Jul 26 18:52:15 UTC 2001


Just wanted to make a couple of points concerning FSFE finances and

To address João's point (hostile takeovers):

On 24 Jul 2001, João Miguel Neves wrote:

> I've also noticed that you've never watched a "hostile takeover" in this
> kind of organization. I've not been so fortunate. The technique is
> simple, you get a lot of your "friends" to join the organization and
> then get democratically ellected to the board of the organizations.
> Tell me how do you protect yourself from this scenario? Every protection
> I've thought about I've also found either a easy work-around or that it
> made joining so difficult that it would never any member. This was the
> kind of protective measure FSF and FSFE decided to take.

Are you a member of the Association for Computing Machinery? 

Do you suppose that with membership of the ACM comes rights to alter the
constitution of the association? In fact, you can be a voting member, an
associate member, a student member, or be awarded 'ACM Fellow'
status to recognise and honour outstanding achievement in CS/IT.  

Another example: I'm a member of the Institute of Physics. It means I pay
them some money, get a copy of Physics World through the door every two,
three months, and get to put a few extra initials after my title. It does
mean I have some limited rights - if they wanted to make a decision that
was purely cosmetic, I suspect they might ask us to vote. I doubt that
they make proton-accelerator sized decisions by majority vote.

If you like, don't consider it as opening membership of the FSF(E) up to
anybody who wants to pay. Instead, think of it as a subscription to 'Free
Software Quarterly' (or whatever). 

Unless refined somewhat, FSF(E) membership by payment would be something
of a joke anyway. I mean, even after opening up membership there'd be two
ways to get any official association with the FSF(E) 

1) Become a staff member/founder (unlikely)
2) Pay money

What about all those people out there who invest their thought, time,
effort, energy, resources, and possibly even money into producing work
under the GPL? Do they deserve to have some kind of separate

One possible refinement is to implement the steps below:

Basic membership: the would-be member pays the FSF(E) money for nothing
but maybe an occasional newsletter and the right to boast about their
support for Free Software. This is generic to many charities out there.

Next, you (damn well ought to) offer something for those who
write/actively support Free Software, "Developer Membership" or whatever.
Since these people are already giving time, I see no reason why you should
necessarily expect money from them. At the risk of sounding like a
Slashdot poster, demanding money for Free Software Foundation membership
sucks. Lots of dot-com people are currently unemployed and in any case
couldn't afford it.

If you want to give away lifetime membership of the FSFE for writing the
next Killer App, then you can think up yet another form of membership,
which maybe would bear more actual weight as a 'qualification'. 'FSFE

Then there's actual FSFE member status which frankly is so small you could
dismiss it as experimental error, and probably it should stay that way for
the very reasons João gave ;-)

As a separate issue, I should add that asking for membership dues requires
that you are very careful with the money you receive. 


// OLDSIG "All bad art is the result of good intentions." - Oscar Wilde 

/* START NEWSIG */ Processor: (n.) a device for converting sense to
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