Hi Mike,

On Thu, 2020-01-16 at 21:48 -0500, Mike Gerwitz wrote:
> Yes, this is what I meant.  I've volunteered in an administrative role
> for the GNU Project for a number of years now---with the authority to
> appoint comaintainers to existing packages---and never has the FSF
> attempted to exercise any type of control over GNU's governance.
> FSF does have authority over things we delegate to them entirely, such as
> copyright assignments and trademark enforcement; system administration;
> and such.  But that doesn't give them authority over our other procedures.

Of course, if we got into a "fight" with the FSF that would be pretty
bad. I don't think anybody wants that. It would be outrageous. But that
the FSF never needed to explicitly use their authority doesn't mean
they don't have the final responsibility over the GNU project. And that
isn't a bad thing. We need each other.

The FSF is our legal guardian, without the FSF GNU just wouldn't exist.
And the FSF is a public charity, which means we can rely on them to
function according to their mission. And their mission is basically our
mission too! Except that theirs is broader and more philosophical and
ours is focused on actually producing Free Software through working on
the GNU operating system. 

When we release the software we produced collectively the FSF takes on
some liability. And we should be really glad they do. As a GNU
Maintainer I have had some interesting discussions years back with
people at "big corp" who warned me that I should be really sure that
what I was releasing was "correct" because the consequences for me and
my employer might not be pleasant if I wasn't (which was double awkward
because they confused who my employer was just because I was the
maintainer that accepted patches from others who worked for that
employer...) It was really nice that I had the backing of the FSF (who
actually had arranged some discussions with legal counsel to make sure
we did know what we were doing) and could say that they should contact
the FSF if they had any "legal concerns" about the GNU package for
which I was responsible. But that does mean the FSF has to be sure we
don't do totally stupid things. They cannot take on unlimited
liability. So they do have a responsibility to monitor our processes.

Also given that they are a public charity they have a responsibility to
make sure the activities they support are fair, actually support their
mission and are for the public good (they cannot "enrich" individuals).
So again, they do have ultimate responsibility over our procedures.

> I've had a personal relationship with a number of people at the FSF over
> the years, including John Sullivan, and I've never gotten the impression
> that they had desire to exercise control over GNU.  In fact, a current
> FSF employee is a GNU maintainer, and that employee is treated the same
> as any other maintainer.

Sure. The GNU Classpath maintainer before me was also an FSF employee
and I have always had good relations with various FSF staff members. I
don't believe any of them wants to exercise control. They all feel
really responsible for the GNU project. And they just want to work
together with, enable and empower the GNU volunteers who make it all

Given the new situation we just need to figure out how to do that.
Hopefully the questions we sent the FSF will clarify how we can proceed
with that.



Reply via email to