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FSF Licensing & Compliance Team

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Feb 10, 2005 04:06 PM
For over 20 years the FSF Licensing & Compliance Team has been the preeminent resource of free licensing for free software developers.

Education & Support

We have a number of online resources as well as community-based and paid support.

See our licensing recommendations, analysis, and FAQ:

I must say that the vast majority of my questions have been answered by the thorough FAQs included around the FSF Web site. I needed them, for example, when I helped someone correctly GPL their software in under 10 minutes in time for a competition deadline! Thank you for all the resources you already provide.

Keep up to date with the latest licensing issues by visiting our Licensing and Compliance blog, or subscribe to the Licensing and Compliance Blog RSS feed RSS

You can also subscribe to a mailing list which only announces updates related to FSF licensing materials.

Have a question that you couldn’t find the answer to? For general free software licensing questions please email And of course, we would love any feedback you can provide -- good or bad! Our team of licensing volunteers are committed to answering questions and providing quality educational resources to the free software community. If your question is about developing proprietary software, then receiving an answer is contingent on payment of a fee.

Copyright & Compliance

  • The Free Software Foundation holds the copyright to many GNU packages, such as GCC and GNU Emacs. When hackers contribute to these projects, we ask that they assign their copyright to enable us to enforce the license. Visit our Contributor's FAQ guide to learn more about the process and read our article FSF Copyright Handling to better understand why we take this approach. For any questions about assigning to the FSF, please contact us at
  • Free software is everywhere these days, inside our computers, phones, and even televisions. With so much free software being distributed every day, we have to remain vigilant against potential violations. You can help to make sure that free software is always free by reporting violations to our compliance team.
  • The FSF can only enforce the license on works to which we hold the copyright, but we can still help bring about compliance even when the copyright lies elsewhere. If you need help with enforcement, please don’t hesitate to contact us at
  • Many copyright holders seek monetary damages when their license is violated. We do not — we only want violators to come back into compliance, and help repair any harm done to the free software community by their past actions. Because of that, we contact violators directly, and negotiate a strategy with them that best accomplishes those goals. We follow the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement in all our compliance matters.
Become an FSF Corporate Patron

One of the benefits of becoming a Corporate Patron of the FSF is that you receive two complimentary hours of licensing and/or GPL consultation from the FSF's Compliance Team (with a reduced rate for further consultation).
To sign up as a patron, please write to

Verification & Certification

  • Fully free GNU/Linux Distributions. These distributions meet our guidelines for a fully free distro, and are fully committed to keeping their distributions free.
  • You can help keep those distributions free and earn a GNU Buck by filing a bug regarding a licensing issue in one of our endorsed distributions and sending an email to
  • The Free Software Directory is our community curated listing of over 16,000 free software packages. A great resource for finding and promoting software that respects its users.
  • The "Respects Your Freedom" (RYF) certification program encourages the creation and sale of hardware that will do as much as possible to respect your freedom and your privacy, and will ensure that you have control over your device.
  • Looking to buy hardware that works well with free software? Check out h-node, a community run project to catalog how well different pieces of hardware work with fully free software.

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