FSFE finances (was: Logo timeline)

E L Tonkin py7elt at bath.ac.uk
Wed May 9 14:30:48 UTC 2001

On Wed, 9 May 2001, Bernhard Reiter wrote:

> On Wed, May 09, 2001 at 02:02:42PM +0100, Marc Eberhard wrote:
> > Otherwise arguments like Jos' will come up
> > again and again. I think, it is right to ask for transparency
> > here, because the whole money issue is a very sensible point for
> > many hackers, who donate their free time for free software
> > projects. 
> This is true.

Actually, you'd still be open to arguments like Jos', unless the FSFE was
run so strictly that absolutely nobody ever got anything positive out of
it ;-)

Part of it is a matter of viewpoint, and too subjective to be removed by
realities like charity status... are there really no perks of the job
available only to that Privileged Few of official committee members or
whatever? Couldn't you find that offensive if you weren't in that
committee yourself? 

One of the differences between the FSF and most charities is that,
frankly, there's a lot of rich companies interested in Free Software, who
correctly or otherwise see the FSF(E) as part of the answer.

Whereas, if you're a spokesperson for Ringwood Abandoned Cat's Home or the
Westwood Homeless Shelter Project, you're living in a different set of
circumstances. And you're not associating yourself (even accidentally;
like I said, FSF people are usually very nice) with other peoples' work.

Put like that, it would appear that Alice and Bob, Your Average Hackers,
are the only people performing charitable actions. Which is wrong. The
FSF's major contribution has probably been the production of the GPL and
the publicity that surrounds it. Ideally, peoples' use of that licence is
a separate issue. If Alice wants to perform a charitable action of her
own, that licence lets her do so...

At best, and as most people here probably see it, the FSFE is an
invaluable service to hackers. But it's probably worth trying to make
sense on precisely what that service is.

For example: my current project, a Flash-generating GUI. I can release it
under the GPL because it's based on GPL libraries; that's probably all the
input the FSF has on this software....

In which case, one supposes that the FSFE aren't responsible for free
software, but for the legal internationalisation of the FSF licence that
defines GPL'd software, in which case they'd better be very specific about
this. A lot of companies may have difficulty seeing the difference, which
is a bit of a problem.

You know, people, I think that the FSF might even suffer from the fact
that it's a lot of things to a lot of people. It offers a philosophy, a
way of life, freedom, camaraderie - and a software licence. That's a lot
of stuff to get right. And we spend our days fighting about the logo (!)


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