Software Freedom Conservancy

Free Software Foundation Honors Conservancy's Policy Fellow

Bradley M. Kuhn wins FSF's Award for the Advancement of Free Software for His Copyleft Advocacy & Enforcement

March 22, 2021

Bradley M. Kuhn, Policy Fellow and Hacker-in-Residence at Software Freedom Conservancy, on Saturday night received the Free Software Foundation's annual award for the Advancement of Free Software. This unique FSF award is currently the only award given for individual achievements in software freedom activism. Bradley received this award in his very first year of eligibility.

In his acceptance speech, Bradley gave advice to software freedom activists, noting that all should follow a few simple principles: take care in the words they choose in their communications, be prepared to speak truth to power (both to powerful proprietary software companies and to other Free Software leaders), stubbornly refuse to use or develop proprietary software, and find ways to bolster and coordinate with other important social justice causes, such as those that seek to ameliorate systemic bias and combat climate change.

John Sullivan, Executive Director of the FSF, presented Bradley with this prestigious award. After the ceremony, John noted: “Bradley earned FSF's Award for the Advancement of Free Software for many contributions, but most importantly, his tireless and absolutely necessary work on copyleft education and principled, community-oriented GPL enforcement. Bradley has done more for GPL compliance than anyone. He continues that work with Conservancy and the 2017 winner of this award, Karen Sandler. These awards show both FSF's appreciation for what they've already done and our support as they continue standing up for our software freedoms.”

Bradley expressed gratitude for the hundreds of individuals who have helped him in his lifelong activism for software freedom — thanking in particular Larry Wall — creator of Perl and inaugural winner of this same award. In the Perl community that Larry founded, Bradley learned the value of FOSS collaboration and software sharing. After the award ceremony, Conservancy hosted a virtual reception open to the public via Big Blue Button (a FOSS alternative to Zoom and other proprietary video chat platforms). A mix of longtime software freedom luminaries as well as newcomers joined to congratulate Bradley, and express the positive impact he has had on the movement and their lives personally. “My paramount goal is always to make a real difference for the better, and it is heartwarming to know that so many of you appreciate my work”, Bradley responded in the final toast of the evening while choking back tears.

Bradley also acknowledged that his work in collaboration with Conservancy's Executive Director, Karen Sandler, has allowed them “to achieve accomplishments in Free Software that neither of [them] could achieve working alone”. While thrilled to receive this individual honor, Bradley views his collaboration with Karen and Conservancy's staff as an excellent example of how software freedom activism is bigger than any single individual's achievements or views. Bradley added: “we succeed with the best results for the future of software freedom when we work together, set aside personal ambition, and reject cult of personality.”

Bradley joins many winners of FSF's awards associated with Conservancy. In addition to Karen, Deb Nicholson (who volunteered on our Project Evaluation Committee from 2014-2020 and was employed our Director of Community Operations from early 2018 until late 2020) won this award in 2019. Outreachy (a diversity initiative for FOSS projects and a Conservancy member project) received FSF's Award for Project of Social Benefit in 2014. Finally, Outreachy graduate Clarissa Lima Borges, received the first Outstanding New Free Software Contributor Award last year.

Also honored with other FSF awards on Saturday were: Alyssa Rosenzweig, a developer who leads the important Panfrost project (receiving the Outstanding New Free Software Contributor Award), and the CiviCRM project (receiving the Award for Project of Social Benefit). Conservancy also congratulates Alyssa and CiviCRM on their well-deserved awards.

(Note: The award winners were not informed that other announcements were planned by the FSF leadership on the day following the award ceremony.)

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