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FSF celebrates thirty-fifth anniversary with week of surprises and online event

by Zoe Kooyman Contributions Published on Oct 06, 2020 04:32 PM

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Tuesday, October 6, 2020 -- On October 4th, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) turned thirty-five years old, and is taking this week to celebrate. Activities will include the launch of a new FSF video, anniversary-themed artwork, and a livestreamed event with special guests from around the world.

On October 4, 1985, Harold Abelson, Robert J. Chassell, Richard M. Stallman, Gerald Jay Sussman, and Leonard H. Tower, Jr. incorporated the Free Software Foundation, Inc. In their application they wrote: "Our hope is to encourage members of the public to cooperate with each other by sharing software and other useful information. [...] In addition, the virtues of self-reliance and independent initiative will be furthered because users of our software will have the plans with which to repair or change it."

Free software gives every person the rights to run, change, share, and contribute to the software, and the FSF believes that these rights also help to support other fundamental rights like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to privacy. Since its incorporation, the encroachments on computer users that FSF founder Richard Stallman wrote about in his GNU Manifesto, published that same year, have not subsided.

The New Yorker published an article celebrating the Manifesto, and the Foundation's thirtieth birthday in 2015. They emphasized the visionary nature of the FSF's founding principles, and the ever-increasing encroachment of proprietary software:

"[...] if commercial entities were going to own the methods and technologies that controlled computers, then computer users would inevitably become beholden to those entities. This has come to pass, and in spades. Most computer users have become dependent on proprietary code provided by companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google, the use of which comes with conditions we may not condone or even know about, and can’t control; we have forfeited the freedom to adapt such code according to our needs, preferences, and personal ethics."

The FSF points to evidence that in the five years since, the problems have continued to get worse -- as the recent US antitrust hearings have shown, governments are still struggling to address the technological threats to fundamental freedoms.

Commenting on the birthday, and his time at the FSF, executive director John Sullivan said: "I've been fortunate to be a member of the FSF staff for almost half of these thirty-five years. Standing up to the biggest, most powerful companies and governments on the planet is exhausting work. In addition to the multiple generations of FSF staff and board members, I want to thank all of the community supporters -- activists, hackers, donors, volunteers -- who have stuck with us through the ups and downs, knowing the vital long-term importance of the FSF as a staunch protector of computer user freedom. We'll take a second to celebrate how far we've come, and then take that energy to keep moving forward."

FSF president Geoffrey Knauth also stressed the importance of individuals involved in defending computer user rights for all these years, and called for continued activism:

"It is you who are important, it is you who joined the effort to help the world see the virtues of free software, the dedication of its thousands of contributors and volunteers, the high quality of free software used every day around the world, and its sheer endurance and ability to find itself in widespread use even by those who were once fierce opponents to free software. Take that to heart, let's keep it going. Tell it to your children, and let's make sure your children have the freedoms you have achieved, and more."

To celebrate the thirty-fifth birthday, the FSF has announced a week full of surprises, including a video about the fundamental importance of software freedom; the release of anniversary-themed artwork, available on a T-shirt and poster, designed by illustrator and artist David Revoy; and, on Friday, October 9th, 2020, they will host an online event with guests from around the world. The online program goes from 12:00 EDT (16:00 UTC) until 17:00 EDT (21:00 UTC), and features, among other things, a session about federated social media and its moderation, and an interactive discussion with a range of international free software group organizers.

"There is no better way to celebrate this occasion than to call attention to the community members around the world who are at the center of the movement's past and future successes," says FSF program manager and event organizer Zoë Kooyman.

The FSF has sent out a call for free software supporters to send a celebratory two-minute video to the organization during this week, to be featured during the event. It also encourages people to take specific actions to protect their and others' freedoms.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to run, edit, share, contribute to, 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 https://fsf.org and https://gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at https://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

More information about the FSF, as well as important information for journalists and publishers, is at https://www.fsf.org/press.

Media Contacts

Zoë Kooyman
Program Manager
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942
campaigns@fsf.org

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