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Licensing education resources

by Joshua Gay Contributions Published on Apr 02, 2015 05:35 PM

Much of the work done by the Free Software Foundation's Licensing & Compliance Lab is done on Until recently, if you visited a licensing-related page on, it was not clear that the page was actively maintained by FSF staff. However, now there is a small notice at the top of each page letting visitors know when a licensing page is maintained by FSF staff and how to support the ongoing development of this work. While making this update to the site, I spent some time looking at traffic statistics and site rankings to get a sense of just how popular the educational resources we publish are. I was pleasantly surprised with what I discovered.

On, the text of the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3) gets between a quarter and a half-million visitors each month. For approximately every ten visitors that retrieve a copy of GPLv3 from our site, we get one visitor to our GPL FAQ. There are literally hundreds of thousands of sites on the Web that link to the GPL FAQ and our dozens of resources such as manuals and textbooks. Our list of free distributions, and our license list all get traffic comparable to the FAQ. And for about every two visitors to the GPL FAQ, we get one visitor to our GPL How-to, which provides guidance on applying the terms of the GPL to one's own work.

Our GPL FAQ provides answers to over 160 questions, and our license list provides commentary and analysis on over 130 different licenses. In addition, we have dozens of resources that provide in-depth explanations of numerous topics. Some of these resources provide information that is useful to any number of individuals, such as our Guide to choosing a license, 1 our philosophy on copyleft,2 or our argument Why you shouldn't use the Lesser GPL for your next library.3 Other resources are just as useful, but more for specialists, such as GCC Runtime Library Exception Rationale and FAQ,4 or our detailed analysis on What does "the Program" mean in GPLv3?.5

Our extensive library of educational licensing resources was not created in a vacuum. For the most part, it was created in reaction to many thousands of questions we have fielded from individuals over the years. These are questions from programmers, lawyers, users, government employees, and business owners around the world.

We work hard to not only answer questions, but to also make ourselves and our resources as widely available to the public as we can.

Our licensing team consists of two full-time FSF staff as well as our president, executive director, and seven active volunteers.6 Further, we have the support of the Software Freedom Law Center, and we also collaborate frequently with important organizations such as the Software Freedom Conservancy.

Of course, not all of our resources and work are found on We have a number of resources hosted on, such as our blog at Much of our work is done via outreach and engagement, through speaking at conferences, or collaborating with other licensing organizations and legal professionals. In March 2014, we hosted a Seminar on GPL Enforcement and Legal Ethics. For more information about this and past seminars, including links to the educational materials created for the event by instructors Bradley Kuhn and Karen Sandler, visit

And, of course, you can help us accomplish even more. If you would like to join our licensing team as a volunteer or as an intern, then write to and tell us a bit about your background, both legal and with the free software community.

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