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You are here: Home FSF News FSF, Conservancy publish principles for community-oriented GPL enforcement

FSF, Conservancy publish principles for community-oriented GPL enforcement

by Joshua Gay Contributions Published on Oct 01, 2015 12:04 PM
BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Thursday, October 1st, 2015 -- The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today announced publication of "The Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement," co-authored with the Software Freedom Conservancy. The document lays out the principles that both organizations follow when they receive reports that a company is violating copyleft terms like the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL).

The FSF and Conservancy each lead worldwide efforts to ensure compliance with the GPL family of licenses. The principles they follow are designed to make copyleft license enforcement first and foremost serve the goal of protecting user freedom, which includes assisting companies to correctly distribute free software. This means carefully verifying violation reports, approaching companies privately rather than publicly shaming them, treating legal action as a last resort, and never prioritizing financial gain over defending the freedom of users.

"GPL enforcement is mostly an educational process working with people who have made honest mistakes, but it must be undertaken with care and thoughtfulness. Our goal is not to punish or censure violators, but to help them come into compliance. Abiding by these principles aids our work in bringing about that outcome," said FSF's licensing and compliance manager, Joshua Gay.

The FSF does license enforcement for programs that are part of the GNU Project, when their copyright is assigned to the FSF, and actively encourages developers to apply for their programs to become part of GNU. License violations can be reported by email following the instructions at

"These principles have guided our efforts in defending the rights of computer users since at least 2001. We wanted to collect them and write them down in one place both to bust some myths about our GNU GPL enforcement work, and to help other individuals and organizations get started with their own processes," said FSF's executive director, John Sullivan.

Conservancy has also released an announcement and will host the document on its website.

Conservancy's executive director Karen Sandler will be joining FSF licensing & compliance manager Joshua Gay and FSF copyright and licensing associate Donald R. Robertson, III, on Saturday, October 3rd for the User Freedom Summit in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they will be running a workshop session titled Community Licensing Education & Outreach.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at and, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA. More information about the FSF, as well as important information for journalists and publishers, is at

About the GNU Operating System and Linux

Richard Stallman announced in September 1983 the plan to develop a free software Unix-like operating system called GNU. GNU is the only operating system developed specifically for the sake of users' freedom. See In 1992, the essential components of GNU were complete, except for one, the kernel. When in 1992 the kernel Linux was re-released under the GNU GPL, making it free software, the combination of GNU and Linux formed a complete free operating system, which made it possible for the first time to run a PC without non-free software. This combination is the GNU/Linux system. For more explanation, see

Media Contacts

Joshua Gay
Licensing & Compliance Manager
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942

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