Conservancy's Copyleft Compliance Projects

As existing donors and sustainers know, the Software Freedom Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity registered in New York, and Conservancy helps people take control of their computing by growing the software freedom movement, supporting community-driven alternatives to proprietary software, and defending free software with practical initiatives. Conservancy accomplishes these goals with various initiatives, including defending and upholding the rights of software users and consumers under copyleft licenses, such as the GPL.

Free and open source software (FOSS) is everywhere and in everything; yet our software freedom is constantly eroded. With the help of its volunteers, member projects, and staff, Conservancy stands up for users' software freedom via its copyleft compliance work.

Conservancy's primary work in copyleft compliance currently focuses on our Strategic GPL Enforcement Initiative. This initiative, launched in October 2020, represents the culmination of nearly 15 years of compliance work of Conservancy spanning ten different fiscally sponsored projects, past lawsuits against more than a dozen defendants, and hundreds of non-litigation compliance actions.

For these many years, Conservancy has always given the benefit of the doubt to companies who exploited our good nature and ultimately simply ignore the rights of users and consumers. In that time, the compliance industrial complex has risen to a multi-million-dollar industry — selling (mostly proprietary) products, services, and consulting to companies. Yet, these compliance efforts ignore consistently the most essential promise of copyleft — the complete, Corresponding Source and “the scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable”.

We encourage our sustainers and software freedom enthusiasts everywhere to read our detailed strategic plan for GPL enforcement and its companion project, our Firmware Liberation Project.

Compliance Relationship to Fiscally Sponsored Projects

Historically, Conservancy was well-known for its ongoing license compliance efforts on behalf of its BusyBox member project. Today, Conservancy does semi-regular compliance work for its BusyBox, Git, Inkscape, Mercurial, Samba, QEMU and Wine member projects. If you are a copyright holder in any member project of Conservancy, please contact the project's leadership committtee, via <> for more information on getting involved in compliance efforts in that project.

GPL Compliance Project For Linux Developers

In May 2012, Conservancy launched the GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers, which handles compliance and enforcement activities on behalf of more than a dozen Linux copyright holders.

The GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers is comprised of copyright holders in the kernel, Linux, who have contributed to Linux under its license, the GPLv2. These copyright holders have formally asked Conservancy to engage in compliance efforts for their copyrights in the Linux kernel. In addition, some developers have directly assigned their copyrights on Linux to Conservancy, so Conservancy also enforces the GPL on Linux via its own copyrights in Linux.

Linux copyright holders who wish to assign copyright to or sign an enforcement agreement with Conservancy should contact <>. In 2016, Conservancy made public the template agreements used as part of this project; both the non-anonymous and anonymous versions are available. However, please do not sign these unilaterally without contacting and discussing with <> first.

The Debian Copyright Aggregation Project

In August 2015, Conservancy announced the Debian Copyright Aggregation Project. This project allows Debian contributors to assign copyrights to Conservancy, or sign enforcement agreements allowing Conservancy to enforce Free and Open Source (FOSS) licenses on their behalf. Many Debian contributors have chosen each of these options already, and more continue to join.

Debian contributors who wish to assign copyright to or sign an enforcement agreement with Conservancy should contact <>.

Conservancy's Commitment to Copyleft License Compliance

Conservancy is dedicated to encouraging all users of software to comply with Free Software licenses. Toward this goal, in its compliance efforts, Conservancy helps distributors of Free Software in a friendly spirit of cooperation and participation. In this spirit, Conservancy has co-published, with the Free Software Foundation (FSF), the principles that both organizations follow in their compliance efforts.

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