Software Freedom Conservancy

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Karen Sandler was a featured speaker at Abstractions 2019

Photo by Zach Harris, licensed CC BY

Taking Control of the Technology that Makes Us Vulnerable

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 is especially important for people who are already marginalized. Everyone must be able to choose software that doesn’t spy on them, software that can be tailored to their needs and software that respects its users. Software Freedom Conservancy makes this possible by helping create more free software, promoting diversity, defending copyleft, and advocating for software freedom.

Conservancy is growing the ideological side of the free software movement. Sign up as a Supporter today and contribute to these important efforts!

We’re a creative, responsive, and resourceful organization. We work on 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. We fight for users and developers alike, including fighting to protect your privacy with federal agencies in the US.

A student developing software with MicroBlocks

Photo by Jen Lavalle, licensed CC BY

Growth of the software freedom movement

In order for free software to succeed, we must make sure our movement is inclusive to all. We need to inspire developers that are new to software freedom and new even to coding. We need non-coding contributors and learners of all ages for our software to be an effective and resilient alternative to proprietary software. We need to make sure that many perspectives are enshrined in our software design and execution. We love helping our member projects as they run conferences and outreach programs.

Outreachy brings people who are subject to systemic bias or underrepresented in tech into free software via paid internships. MicroBlocks is a new programming language that enables kids and lifelong learners to start building toys or tools right away. Teaching Open Source collects and advises on curricula that help college students understand open source development and its legal underpinnings. North Bay Python is a community-driven conference serving local Python developers—including beginners. The longevity of the free software movement depends on our collective ability to bring in new contributors.

Supporting Alternatives to Proprietary Software

Funding Development Work: In 2019 so far, our member projects paid 21 different people for FOSS contributions. Collectively, our projects, including Common Workflow Language, Godot, Microblocks, Outreachy (not including the intern payments), phpMyAdmin, Reproducible Builds, Selenium and Teaching Open Source paid contributors almost half a million dollars 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.

Facilitating FOSS Conferences: Regular face-to-face collaboration remains essential for projects like ours that do nearly all their work remotely. We and our projects ran a dozen conferences and 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. For example we reimbursed over $100,000 just in travel and other conference expenses to over 100 different individuals.

FIXME

Photo by Leslie Hawthorn, licensed CC BY-SA

Defending Free Software with Practical Initiatives

Compliance work: We work to raise awareness around compliance, teach companies how to best undertake compliance and we call out bad faith compliance efforts. This year we wrapped up the VMware suit in Germany. While we did not achieve an unequivocal win in the legal proceedings, VMware agreed to bring the matter to a close by removing the non-complying code. We are proud to have helped Christoph Hellwig bring the suit and are please to see the galvanizing impact and increasing general understanding around copyleft license compliance. We continue our work in this area. In the last year alone we sent out 21 new requests for complete and corresponding source. We’ve seen that a substantial portion of these have resulted in improved source candidates and expect to continue these conversations in the new year.

A Voice for Users: We speak out on the most important current issues in software freedom to make sure that the public’s interests are respresented. If you attended a FOSS conference in 2019, odds are you saw Conservancy there. Over the year we’ve spoken or presented 20 times at conferences around the world, delivering 9 keynotes. We also restarted the Free as in Freedom podcast, publishing 11 shows after a long hiatus. 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.

First Ever Copyleft Conf! On February 4th, 2019, we held the first ever Copyleft Conf—an event that helped make GPL compliance and copyleft licensing approachable. We provided a place to talk about the future of copyleft; where else it might impactfully be applied, how it might evolve as technology changes and how it could best serve the next generation of users and developers.

The 2019 event was so successful that we’re doing it again in 2020, in an even larger space. This year’s event will also be a friendly, welcoming space where new folks and more experienced folks can begin to bridge some gaps and learn together. We look forward to continuing the community conversation about copyleft with you in the new year!

Supporting Conservancy is an investment in the future of software freedom. We support the production of free software for users, initiatives to diversify our communities and we push forward on the critical licensing issues that affect projects’ ability to provide great software to people. Join as a Conservancy Supporter today to bring free software to even more people!

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Our privacy policy was last updated 25 May 2018.