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You are here: Home FSF News GNU ethical criteria for code repositories emphasize privacy, freedom, and copyleft

GNU ethical criteria for code repositories emphasize privacy, freedom, and copyleft

by Zak Rogoff Contributions Published on Oct 16, 2015 10:14 AM
BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Friday, October 16th, 2015 -- Today the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project announced the first version of criteria for evaluating services that host free software source code repositories for distribution and collaborative development. Developed with the leadership of Richard Stallman and GNU volunteers, the criteria provide a framework for code repositories to ensure that they respect their users in a manner consonant with the values of the free software movement, and for users to hold these crucial institutions accountable.

The criteria emphasize protection of privacy (including accessibility through the Tor network), functionality without nonfree JavaScript, compatibility with copyleft licensing and philosophy, and equal treatment of all users' traffic.

Published on, the criteria are directed at services hosting parts of the GNU operating system, but they're recommended for anyone who wants to use a service for publicly hosting free source code (and optionally, executable programs as well). Moving forward, the GNU community and the FSF will update the criteria in response to technological and social changes in the landscape of code hosting.

Ethical code hosting is directly important for users of free software, not just developers. Repositories usually provide Web sites with downloadable executable programs compiled from the code they host, and are thus a popular way for users to receive up-to-date copies of free software. The sites also host issue trackers, which users employ to submit bug reports and provide feedback to developers.

Because they are central to free software in so many ways, the practices of code hosting services have ripples into much of the world of free software, and software in general. Some prominent code hosting services are currently in flux. Gitorious, a code hosting service preferred by many free software developers, was recently assimilated into the up-and-coming Gitlab. SourceForge, a code hosting service that has been central to the free software community for decades, has lost credibility in recent years because of its inclusion of intrusive and deceptive advertising in its Web site and download system.

Skilled volunteers have been working in recent weeks on evaluations of the repository services Github, Gitlab, SourceForge, GNU Savannah, and more, which the FSF intends to publish soon. The FSF calls on developers to use code hosting services that score at least acceptable per the criteria, and for everyone who cares about free software to share these criteria with the administrators of hosting sites. To discuss the criteria, please use the libreplanet-discuss community mailing list. To contribute to the evaluation process or ask the maintainers questions, use the instructions on the criteria page.

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

Zak Rogoff
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Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942 x31

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