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Proposals for the new GNU/FSF relationship

From: Mark Wielaard
Subject: Proposals for the new GNU/FSF relationship
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 2019 10:39:26 +0100

As volunteers for the GNU Project we are happy that the FSF provides GNU
with services like fiscal sponsorship, technical infrastructure,
promotion, copyright assignment, and volunteer management.  And we note
that the FSF is looking for feedback on this relationship going forward:

To that end we have held discussions with other GNU maintainers,
developers and other contributors, drafting a GNU mission statement and
social contract, identifying stakeholders, delegation models and
consensus based decision making.  We would like to share some of the things we
believe should happen to improve the shared understanding of the
relationship for the future of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU

* leadership

We believe GNU leadership includes the GNU maintainers who should have
this discussion together with the FSF.  That way, the FSF can support
the GNU Project as a whole.

More generally, we think it is time for the GNU Project to collectively
define its governance structure, in a way that includes all
stakeholders, and that the FSF should facilitate this process.

* responsibility and delegation

We recognize that as the fiscal sponsor of the GNU project, the FSF is
ultimately responsible for how GNU uses FSF-supported resources: the web
site, mailing lists, earmarked financial accounts, sysadmin support, and
so on.  However, as the FSF is an organization that is more focused on
advocacy than the day-to-day details of software production, we expect
that the FSF delegates its responsibility for how GNU resources are
allocated and used to the GNU project.  The FSF should be supportive of
requests from GNU maintainers for FSF-supported resources.

* web site

The web site at is currently run by a team of volunteers, the GNU
webmasters, according to the procedures described at

We would like to increase transparency on how the web site is run and
changed, notably by using a publicly visible tool rather than the
currently-used private ticket system.

We understand that traditionally the FSF has used the domain
not just for the GNU project, but also to facilitate other programs of
the FSF.  We would like to see a better separation between pages
maintained by GNU volunteers and FSF staff maintained pages for other
FSF programs.

Specifically we like to give pages maintained by the FSF Licensing and
Compliance Lab like the Free Software Definition, License List, Free
System Distribution Guidelines and other FSF Compliance programs on
which the larger Free Software community relies a special status or
redirect them to the domain.

We would also like to discuss which (historical) FSF/GNU Philosophy
could be better maintained by the FSF License Education program or the
FSF Education and Outreach program.

* domain names

The domain and its sub-domains are administrated by FSF
employees.  Upon request, they can delegate sub-domains, such as,,, etc.

We think the procedure for GNU maintainers to make use of sub-domains
should be documented.

* allocation of resources

The FSF provides hardware and sysadmin work time to support the GNU
Project.  We would like to have a clear procedure to request such
support—e.g., a procedure by which developers of a GNU package could ask
for a virtual machine (VM).

* collecting donations on behalf of GNU

The FSF acts as fiscal sponsor of several GNU packages as part of its
Working Together for Free Software Fund

We think this action is very welcome and should continue and we would
appreciate a clear, documented and transparent procedure for GNU packages
to join the Working Together for Free Software Fund.

* trademark

We hope that the FSF, as the holder of the GNU trademark, will continue
to use this trademark in a responsible manner in support of the GNU
Project and GNU packages.  We would like to see a public trademark
policy guideline for GNU.

* transparency

We think the FSF and the GNU Project should take advantage of recent
changes in the FSF leadership to clarify their relation.  Furthermore,
we would like that relation to be as transparent as possible: procedures
should be publicly documented, requests and replies should be logged and
visible at least to members of the GNU Project, ownership of the various
GNU resources should also be publicly documented.


  - Ludovic Courtès
  - Andy Wingo
  - Carlos O'Donell
  - Andreas Enge
  - Mark Wielaard

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