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Updated: 7 hours 15 min ago

FSF celebrates thirty-fifth anniversary with week of surprises and online event

Tuesday 6th of October 2020 09:11:02 PM

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Tuesday, October 6, 2020 -- On October 4th, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) turned thirty-five years old, and is taking this week to celebrate. Activities will include the launch of a new FSF video, anniversary-themed artwork, and a livestreamed event with special guests from around the world.

On October 4, 1985, Harold Abelson, Robert J. Chassell, Richard M. Stallman, Gerald Jay Sussman, and Leonard H. Tower, Jr. incorporated the Free Software Foundation, Inc. In their application they wrote: "Our hope is to encourage members of the public to cooperate with each other by sharing software and other useful information. [...] In addition, the virtues of self-reliance and independent initiative will be furthered because users of our software will have the plans with which to repair or change it."

Free software gives every person the rights to run, change, share, and contribute to the software, and the FSF believes that these rights also help to support other fundamental rights like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to privacy. Since its incorporation, the encroachments on computer users that FSF founder Richard Stallman wrote about in his GNU Manifesto, published that same year, have not subsided.

The New Yorker published an article celebrating the Manifesto, and the Foundation's thirtieth birthday in 2015. They emphasized the visionary nature of the FSF's founding principles, and the ever-increasing encroachment of proprietary software:

"[...] if commercial entities were going to own the methods and technologies that controlled computers, then computer users would inevitably become beholden to those entities. This has come to pass, and in spades. Most computer users have become dependent on proprietary code provided by companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google, the use of which comes with conditions we may not condone or even know about, and can’t control; we have forfeited the freedom to adapt such code according to our needs, preferences, and personal ethics."

The FSF points to evidence that in the five years since, the problems have continued to get worse -- as the recent US antitrust hearings have shown, governments are still struggling to address the technological threats to fundamental freedoms.

Commenting on the birthday, and his time at the FSF, executive director John Sullivan said: "I've been fortunate to be a member of the FSF staff for almost half of these thirty-five years. Standing up to the biggest, most powerful companies and governments on the planet is exhausting work. In addition to the multiple generations of FSF staff and board members, I want to thank all of the community supporters -- activists, hackers, donors, volunteers -- who have stuck with us through the ups and downs, knowing the vital long-term importance of the FSF as a staunch protector of computer user freedom. We'll take a second to celebrate how far we've come, and then take that energy to keep moving forward."

FSF president Geoffrey Knauth also stressed the importance of individuals involved in defending computer user rights for all these years, and called for continued activism:

"It is you who are important, it is you who joined the effort to help the world see the virtues of free software, the dedication of its thousands of contributors and volunteers, the high quality of free software used every day around the world, and its sheer endurance and ability to find itself in widespread use even by those who were once fierce opponents to free software. Take that to heart, let's keep it going. Tell it to your children, and let's make sure your children have the freedoms you have achieved, and more."

To celebrate the thirty-fifth birthday, the FSF has announced a week full of surprises, including a video about the fundamental importance of software freedom; the release of anniversary-themed artwork, available on a T-shirt and poster, designed by illustrator and artist David Revoy; and, on Friday, October 9th, 2020, they will host an online event with guests from around the world. The online program goes from 12:00 EDT (16:00 UTC) until 17:00 EDT (21:00 UTC), and features, among other things, a session about federated social media and its moderation, and an interactive discussion with a range of international free software group organizers.

"There is no better way to celebrate this occasion than to call attention to the community members around the world who are at the center of the movement's past and future successes," says FSF program manager and event organizer Zoë Kooyman.

The FSF has sent out a call for free software supporters to send a celebratory two-minute video to the organization during this week, to be featured during the event. It also encourages people to take specific actions to protect their and others' freedoms.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to run, edit, share, contribute to, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at https://fsf.org and https://gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at https://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

More information about the FSF, as well as important information for journalists and publishers, is at https://www.fsf.org/press.

Media Contacts

Zoë Kooyman
Program Manager
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942
campaigns@fsf.org

Geoffrey Knauth elected Free Software Foundation president; Odile Bénassy joins the board

Wednesday 5th of August 2020 08:20:00 PM

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Wednesday, August 5th, 2020 -- The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today announced the addition of a new director to its board, and the election of a new president.

Long-time free software activist and developer Odile Bénassy, known especially for her work promoting free software in France, was elected to the FSF's board of directors. Geoffrey Knauth, who has served on the FSF's board for over twenty years, was elected president.

On her election, Bénassy said, "I'm happy and proud to accept FSF's invitation to be part of the board. I want to help keep steady the principles of free software, and the philosophical values around it. Free software counts among what the world badly needs nowadays."

Knauth welcomed Bénassy, saying, "I am delighted that Odile Bénassy has agreed to become a director of the FSF, FSF's first director from Europe. Odile is a mathematics educator, researcher, software engineer, and leader of the GNU Edu project. She has been advocating for and developing free software for more than twenty years."

FSF's executive director, John Sullivan, added, "Being on the FSF's board of directors means first and foremost standing as a guardian for free software and the associated user freedoms. With such a long track record, Odile has shown herself to be someone FSF members and supporters can count on. I'm really looking forward to working with her, and I'm excited to see all the ways she'll help the FSF be better and stronger."

Describing his approach to his new position as president, Knauth posted a statement which begins, "The FSF board chose me at this moment as a servant leader to help the community focus on our shared dedication to protect and grow software that respects our freedoms. It is also important to protect and grow the diverse membership of the community. It is through our diversity of backgrounds and opinions that we have creativity, perspective, intellectual strength and rigor."

The full list of FSF board members and officers can be found at https://www.fsf.org/about/staff-and-board.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at https://fsf.org and https://gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at https://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

More information about the FSF, as well as important information for journalists and publishers, is at https://www.fsf.org/press.

Media Contacts

John Sullivan
Executive Director
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942
campaigns@fsf.org

Geoffrey Knauth Photo Copyright ©2020 Geoffrey Knauth and used with permission. Odile Bénassy Photo Copyright ©2020 Odile Bénassy and used with permission.

Updated 2020-08-07: Knauth has served on the FSF board for over twenty years, not thirty.