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Software Freedom Conservancy, Inc.
137 MONTAGUE ST STE 380
BROOKLYN, NY 11201-3548 USA
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Conservancy is currently home to almost fifty member projects.
Molly de Blanc announced her plans to provide a donation match along with other Supporters at LinuxConfAu 2018.
Representatives from many different Conservancy member projects gathered at the GSoC mentor summit 2018. Photo by Josh Simmons.
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Software freedom is critical to many of today’s most pressing social issues, but it is only effective when FOSS is for everyone—no matter what their background is, what technology they’re using, or whether or not a company funds their project. Software Freedom Conservancy makes this possible by helping create more free software, promoting diversity, defending copyleft, and advocating for software freedom. We’re a creative, responsive, and resourceful organization. We work with practical and impactful solutions. We help FOSS projects grow while maintaining independence from corporate sponsors and business trade associations. We introduce people to software freedom through the lens of today’s new technology questions, and we raise and address the newest questions facing the FOSS community.
This work is too big for any single project to tackle, and we cannot do it without your help. Sign up as a Supporter today and contribute to these important efforts!
Helping our member projects grow
As a charitable home for projects, some people think all we do is manage a bank account for our member projects. In fact, the services we provide are much more comprehensive than that, and doing this work for all our member projects means we serve as a force multiplier for everyone.
We pay people to work on FOSS. In 2018, our member projects paid 104 different people for FOSS contributions. Collectively, our projects, including Buildbot, Godot, LibreHealth Outreachy, phpMyAdmin, Selenium and Sugar, paid contributors over $557,887 for everything from project organization to software development to translation. In all these cases, Conservancy handles most of the administration, including contract negotiation, legal compliance, work review, payments, and tax reporting.
We helped Clojars establish the Clojurists Together grant program, pooling together $38,755 from 184 donors. The program has already funded 6 grants totaling $27,000.
We help run FOSS conferences. We helped our projects run 7 conferences and 3 hackfests—negotiating and spending thousands of dollars to make each of these conferences a success. Our experience with vendors, hotels and travel visas helps streamline much of the routine work so our projects can get back to doing what they’re good at. We reimbursed $98,803 in travel and other conference expenses to 91 different individuals. Regular face-to-face collaboration remains essential for projects like ours that do nearly all their work remotely; these events and funding make that possible.
Many organizations do work like this occasionally, or for a few specific projects. For us, it’s the core of what we do, and we do it for projects of all sizes. That experience helps us do it more efficiently, and do it better for everyone. Lessons we learn working on one project benefit all of our members. We also follow IRS rules and other important policies to ensure that reasonable amounts are spent on these activities.
Supporting new projects
We are constantly talking to free software projects about joining Conservancy, and 2018 has been an exciting year for new members. Some projects that have joined us recently are tools that help developers build more free software: Reproducible Builds, Racket, Xapian and Common Workflow Language. Others are working to share free software with new people and folks who aren’t primarily developers, like Backdrop CMS, Houdini and MicroBlocks. Free software needs all kinds of projects and so we’re happy to help them all grow to the next level that’s right for each.
While onboarding our projects we often work with them to overcome obstacles that may hinder the long-term success of the project. We often help core teams design stable governance that maximizes the public good of the software project. Sometimes we do even more: for example, we helped Houdini vet their new name and drafted an additional permission to AGPL that handles some details unique to the project. In 2018, Conservancy received over 100 hours of pro bono legal assistance from a group of excellent lawyers who recognize the importance of Conservancy’s work. We also spent over $50,000 looking after the legal needs of our new and existing projects; negotiating contracts, defending their trademarks and helping them navigate complex legal licensing situations.
In order to support more projects, we’ve been building internal infrastructure to help us work more efficiently. We deployed a ticket system that automatically tracks reimbursement requests, payments, and invoices, so no transaction for our projects ever gets lost or forgotten. We also deployed more self-service tools internally, so all of our staff can get more work done themselves without blockers.
Bringing on new member projects and helping them with all of the services we offer is the most efficient way for us to advance FOSS. The only thing that delays our ability to take on even more is lack of funding for more staff time to fulfill our promises to all of our projects. Conservancy Supporters help make that possible, giving us the confidence to welcome more projects. The more our Supporters contribute, the more we can do for the software freedom community.
Advocacy for today’s issues
If you attended a FOSS conference in 2018, odds are you saw Conservancy there. Over the year we’ve spoken or presented at almost 30 conferences around the world, delivering 8 keynotes. We talk about a range of important issues, including copyleft compliance, outreach to underrepresented people, FOSS in regulated devices like medical devices and automobiles, and the risks of too much corporate control over our projects and communities.
We’re not just merely giving talks, either. We often attend conferences to have a two-way conversation, building awareness and spurring action on issues that might be little-known but are critically important to our communities. We have booths at many of these conferences to give us valuable discussion time with current member projects and help recruit new ones. Our talks lead to results you can see like our license enforcement principles which for-profit companies have begun to consider seriously; Tesla taking its first small step towards GPL compliance; and launching a brand new conference dedicated to copyleft, CopyleftConf, that will take place in Brussels in February after FOSDEM.
We speak out on the most important current issues in software freedom to make sure that the public’s interests are respresented. From participating in prominent cases as they go through the courts (such as the amicus brief in the Cisco v. Arista case), to publishing analysis about important news items as they occur (like MongoDB’s relicensing and IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat). We also stand strong for the principles we believe in and make sure everyone knows why, as you can see in our CopyleftConf Code of Conduct.
Supporting Conservancy is an investment in the future of FOSS. It enables us to bring on more member projects, to provide newly needed services to all of them and to push forward on the issues that affect us all. Join as a Supporter today to bring that work to even more people!
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