Proposals for the new GNU/FSF relationship


As volunteers for the GNU Project we are happy that the FSF provides GNU with services like fiscal sponsorship, technical infrastructure, promotion, copyright assignment, and volunteer management. And we note that the FSF is looking for feedback on this relationship going forward:

FSF and GNU:

To that end we have held discussions with other GNU maintainers, developers and other contributors, drafting a GNU mission statement and social contract, identifying stakeholders, delegation models and consensus based decision making. We would like to share some of the things we believe should happen to improve the shared understanding of the relationship for the future of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project.


We believe GNU leadership includes the GNU maintainers who should have this discussion together with the FSF. That way, the FSF can support the GNU Project as a whole.

More generally, we think it is time for the GNU Project to collectively define its governance structure, in a way that includes all stakeholders, and that the FSF should facilitate this process.

responsibility and delegation

We recognize that as the fiscal sponsor of the GNU project, the FSF is ultimately responsible for how GNU uses FSF-supported resources: the web site, mailing lists, earmarked financial accounts, sysadmin support, and so on. However, as the FSF is an organization that is more focused on advocacy than the day-to-day details of software production, we expect that the FSF delegates its responsibility for how GNU resources are allocated and used to the GNU project. The FSF should be supportive of requests from GNU maintainers for FSF-supported resources.

web site

The web site at is currently run by a team of volunteers, the GNU webmasters, according to the procedures described at

We would like to increase transparency on how the web site is run and changed, notably by using a publicly visible tool rather than the currently-used private ticket system.

We understand that traditionally the FSF has used the domain not just for the GNU project, but also to facilitate other programs of the FSF. We would like to see a better separation between pages maintained by GNU volunteers and FSF staff maintained pages for other FSF programs.

Specifically we like to give pages maintained by the FSF Licensing and Compliance Lab like the Free Software Definition, License List, Free System Distribution Guidelines and other FSF Compliance programs on which the larger Free Software community relies a special status or redirect them to the domain.

We would also like to discuss which (historical) FSF/GNU Philosophy pages could be better maintained by the FSF License Education program or the FSF Education and Outreach program.

domain names

The domain and its sub-domains are administrated by FSF employees. Upon request, they can delegate sub-domains, such as,,, etc.

We think the procedure for GNU maintainers to make use of sub-domains should be documented.

allocation of resources

The FSF provides hardware and sysadmin work time to support the GNU Project. We would like to have a clear procedure to request such support—e.g., a procedure by which developers of a GNU package could ask for a virtual machine (VM).

collecting donations on behalf of GNU

The FSF acts as fiscal sponsor of several GNU packages as part of its Working Together for Free Software Fund. We think this action is very welcome and should continue and we would appreciate a clear, documented and transparent procedure for GNU packages to join the Working Together for Free Software Fund.


We hope that the FSF, as the holder of the GNU trademark, will continue to use this trademark in a responsible manner in support of the GNU Project and GNU packages. We would like to see a public trademark policy guideline for GNU.


We think the FSF and the GNU Project should take advantage of recent changes in the FSF leadership to clarify their relation. Furthermore, we would like that relation to be as transparent as possible: procedures should be publicly documented, requests and replies should be logged and visible at least to members of the GNU Project, ownership of the various GNU resources should also be publicly documented.


Ludovic Courtès, Andy Wingo, Carlos O’Donell, Andreas Enge and Mark Wielaard