Matthew Garrett: Software Freedom Activist

This is part of our ongoing series on generous matching donors. Matthew Garrett is a security-focused developer and software freedom activist who received a Free Software Award for his work on Secure Boot, UEFI and the linux kernel in 2014. If you are not worried about the security of practically all your devices, it is only because you haven't seen Matthew speak about low-level vulnerabilities. Matthew and several other outstanding individuals are joining Private Internet Access and a big anonymous donor in offering $90K in matching funds to Conservancy for our continued work to provide both support for important free software and a clear voice in favor of community-driven licensing and governance practices.

FSF Licensing and Compliance Lab: 2018 and the future

We are currently running a fundraising drive to launch free software to new frontiers. Would you consider supporting the work of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and Licensing and Compliance team by becoming a member or making a donation today?

I am the current licensing and compliance manager for the FSF, though I've had several roles in my time here. The Lab handles all the free software licensing work for the FSF. Copyleft is the best legal tool we have for protecting the rights of users, and the Lab makes sure that tool is at full power by providing fundamental licensing education. From publishing articles and resources on free software licensing, to doing license compliance work for the GNU Project, to handling our certification programs like Respects Your Freedom, if there is a license involved, the Lab is on the case.

When I started working at the FSF part-time in 2008, the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3) was only a year old. Our Respects Your Freedom certification program didn't yet exist. The Free Software Directory wasn't yet a wiki that could be updated by the community at large. Things have changed a lot over the years, as has our ability to help users to understand and share freely licensed works. I'd like to take just a moment as 2018 draws to a close to look back on some of the great work we accomplished.

While the GPLv3 celebrated its tenth anniversary last year, there still remains a lot to be done in helping developers understand how to best use it and other GNU licenses. The Licensing and Compliance Lab, along with a team of volunteers, has for many years answered questions from the community. This year, we were delighted for Jake Glass to join the team as an intern, and are grateful for his help in improving licensing materials as well as answering questions from the community. The world of free software has grown so much over the past decade that we want to help make it as easy as possible to use free software and track the licenses in projects. Many organizations are developing tools to help tackle this issue, such as the Software Package Data Exchange (SPDX). But these tools are only useful if they are accurate and support best practices. Looking to improve the situation, we worked together with SPDX to make sure that their identifiers correctly reflected the licensing choices of developers. In 2018, we were happy to announce that SPDX updated their identifiers to differentiate between choosing only a specific version of a GNU license versus that version or any later version (e.g. GPLv3-only or GPLv3-or-any-later-version). This is just one example of our ongoing work interfacing with other organizations and projects in order to improve the culture of free software licensing for everyone.

This year also saw more growth in our Respects Your Freedom certification program. This program helps users to find hardware devices they can trust to respect their freedom and privacy. We were excited to add another laptop/tablet hybrid with the Minifree Libreboot X200 Tablet. While we have previously certified many Librebooted laptops, 2018 was the year we finally certified a device to help you Libreboot your own device: the Zerocat Chipflasher Board Edition 1. While we celebrate reaching thirty total certified devices, we are looking forward to even more exciting additions in the future, with over fifty devices currently working their way through certification. Watching this important program grow so fast from the beginning has been incredibly rewarding.

2018 also saw the return of our Continuing Legal Education seminars. While executive director John Sullivan and I give many licensing talks at conferences throughout the year geared towards a more general audience, these seminars are sessions meant for legal professionals and interested licensing geeks to dive deeply into their understanding of the GPL and to help people understand how the Principles of Community Oriented GPL Enforcement work. It's an opportunity to teach the law and history of free software, as well as to connect with legal practitioners from around the world. The last seminar prior to this was over four years ago, so we were long overdue to run another. Looking to the future, we plan on making these seminars a more regular occurrence.

The Free Software Directory saw a major milestone in the past year, surpassing 16,000 listed packages. We were also aided by the tech team interns, David Hedlund and Sonali Singhal. David is a long-time Directory volunteer who exemplifies the way that program grew and developed over the past decade. David long ago took a leadership role in updating and improving the Directory, and we were grateful that he was able to take a role as an intern to extend that work even further. Sonali was an Outreachy intern who was able to upgrade the software running the Directory itself. This important work helps keep the Directory running while putting us in a great place for the future. However, while we celebrate the accomplishments of this year, there's clearly a lot more work to be done in order to ensure that the Free Software Directory truly lists every free software package in existence.

Even as 2018 demonstrates how much the size of our job grew in the past decade, the size of our team hasn't quite kept the same pace. When I started, there were just one and a half staff members dedicated to licensing at the FSF -- Brett Smith was the licensing and compliance manager at the time, and I was working with him part-time. I later moved to full time, and since then the team has stayed at just two staff members working with a team of paid and pro bono attorneys. Just think: we've expanded many programs, and created whole new ones, while still maintaining all the other programs of the Compliance Lab with just two staff. It's really a testament to what we can accomplish. Looking back over the past ten years fills me with pride, but also awe at the size of the job in front of us.

Reviewing past accomplishments always makes one think of challenges not yet met. We have to keep expanding and improving our work, if we want the next ten years to be as successful. But as always, that depends in large part on you. None of what we've done would have been possible without your support, and nothing that we hope for in the future will happen without your help. Will you build the foundation for the next great expansion?

The Licensing and Compliance team's work is fueled primarily by donors and associate members of the FSF. We are asking you to become an associate member or make a donation to the FSF to support our work expanding to new frontiers over the next year. Membership costs as little as $10 per month ($5 per month for students). Membership comes with benefits, and if you join by the end of 2018, you can choose to receive an enamel pin set, so you can wear your free software pride on your sleeve wherever you go.

Donald Robertson, III
Licensing and Compliance Manager

Copyleft Conf Venue Announced!

We are excited to announce the venue we'll be using for Copyleft Conf. The one day event will take place in downtown Brussels at DigitYser, Boulevard d’Anvers 40, 1000 Bruxelles. The venue is a bit northeast of Grande Place. Participants can choose to walk, take the train to the Yser stop or use one of Brussels' many buses.

Copyleft compliance misconception #2: Anyone can easily fix the incomplete source releases that companies provide

As Conservancy's FLOSS License Compliance Engineer, I receive many reports of copyleft noncompliance every week, and the people reporting them are often rightly concerned that the compliance issues are not fixed quickly. These issues often arise on devices such as media players, Android phones, broadband routers, and even vehicles. In each case there is some copylefted software that a user wishes to inspect or modify (which is their right, according to both the license and the morality of software freedom) but they are unable to, due to noncompliance. Usually, those who understand software observe noncompliance as a real-world, practical problem of incomplete (or entirely missing) source code and build information.

FSF adds Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre to list of endorsed GNU/Linux distributions

hyperbola logo

The FSF's list showcases GNU/Linux operating system distributions whose developers have made a commitment to follow its Guidelines for Free System Distributions. Each one includes and endorses exclusively free "as in freedom" software.

After a thorough vetting process, the FSF concluded that Hyperbola, a long-term support simplicity-focused distribution based on Arch GNU/Linux, meets these criteria.

"In a world where proprietary operating systems continually up the ante in terms of the abuse they heap on their users, adding another distribution to the list of fully free systems is a welcome development. Hyperbola represents another safe home for users looking for complete control over their own computing," said John Sullivan, FSF's executive director.

"Hyperbola is a fully free distribution based on Arch snapshots and Debian development without nonfree software, documentation, or any type of support for the installation or execution of nonfree software. Unlike Arch, which is a rolling release distribution, Hyperbola is a long-term one focused on stability and security inspired from Debian and Devuan," said André Silva, Hyperbola co-founder and developer.

FSF's licensing and compliance manager, Donald Robertson, added, "It was a pleasure working with the team behind Hyperbola throughout this process. They really go above and beyond in terms of looking out for the rights of their users. "

Hyperbola joins a growing list of distributions that users can trust. More information about Hyperbola, and how volunteers can get involved, is available at

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to run, edit, share, and contribute to 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 nonfree software. This combination is the GNU/Linux system. For more explanation, see

Media Contacts

Donald Robertson, III
Licensing & Compliance Manager
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942

Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre logo, Copyright 2017-2018 Hyperbola Project released under the CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.

Support software freedom: Shop the GNU Press

This autumn is a great time to visit the GNU Press Shop, the online store that promotes software freedom with every T-shirt, every button, and every two socks. We are always busy improving and expanding our selection of documentation, cool stickers, and garments as attractive as they are useful. There can be little doubt that every hacker, coder, and software freedom enthusiast you know devoutly wishes for a gift from the GNU Press Shop to help them upgrade their skills and spread the word about software freedom far, wide, and often. In case you haven't visited since last year, here's what's brand new in 2018:

  • An updated 18th Edition of the perennially-popular GNU Emacs Manual: an invaluable reference to the many, many, many functions of the world's most useful text editor. Order it by itself, or as part of the "All Things Emacs" bundle!

  • For a lighter read, we have returned to availability Free As In Freedom 2.0,the biography of Free Software Foundation (FSF) founder and president Richard M. Stallman (RMS), written by Sam Williams and annotated by RMS himself. At the FSF we always encourage you to study the source directly, and biography is no exception. Autographed copies of this book are available for dedicated free software enthusiasts!

  • Looking for something with even more "aura" than an autographed book? New and improved glossy photos of RMS have been staged, shot, and printed by none other than FSF chief technology officer Ruben Rodriguez, and signed by RMS. I'll ship one to you carefully packed so it arrives pristine and ready to be framed.

  • This is also a banner year if you enjoy software freedom and beverages. We have made available a limited number of mugs originally issued by the League for Programming Freedom, a fellow software freedom advocacy organization, in the year 1991. If a less venerable drinking vessel suits your needs, check out the new Emacs "Auto-Fill Mode" mug -- another constituent of the "All Things Emacs" bundle!

  • Behold: A new gnu. We've printed one of our longest-running T-shirts in a new color: you can now wear the GNU Head shirt in Heather Mauve, a color we find flatters just about everyone. The remaining blue and grey shirts are the last of their kind -- get them before they're gone!

  • 2018 was the year of the sticker at the GNU Press Shop: you can now order several of our iconic sticker designs by the fistful. The Emacs logo and "There Is No Cloud" designs have been hot items in 2018 -- and the Bash logo and vintage Emacs icon stickers are brand new. Stickers get seen: there's no more efficient way to raise awareness of software freedom.

That's what's new and exciting this fall at the GNU Press Shop. If you read this blog all the way through you are of course very eager to order all the items in it -- and you can! By becoming an FSF member, you support the mission of the FSF, help push free software to new frontiers, help us reach our goal of 400 new members by the end of the year, and of course receive a 20% discount at the GNU Press Shop. This means, for instance, if you are starting a free software manual book club and tea drinking society, the fifth member of your club can be outfitted with books and mug gratis.

Last but not least: if you need your GNU Press Shop orders to arrive on time for Christmas gift-giving, please place your order no later than December 20! For all GNU Press shop inquiries, email me at This includes, but is not limited to, inquiries about shipping, sizing, inventory, past and future products, and anything else that's on your mind. Stay tuned for more excellent GNU Press products to come!

Introducing Hrishikesh Barman, intern with the FSF tech team

Hello everyone! My name is Hrishikesh Barman, and I am a third-year computer science undergraduate student. Growing up, I had an inclination towards computer networks, and in my first year at college I got started with programming properly. Eventually, I got introduced to free software, and it always gave me immense pleasure to be a small part of a bigger project by contributing to it. I realized that tech is made for the people (the society) and not the other way around, and users should have software freedom.

I came to know about the FSF through a documentary about Aaron Swartz. I greatly appreciated the FSF's ideas and was intrigued to be a part of it, so when I got the mail that I've been selected as a fall tech intern it was truly a great moment for me. The interview process was very smooth and friendly. I am being mentored by Ian, Andrew, and Ruben from the tech team. I am really psyched about the campaigns and the tech things happening at the FSF.

As a remote tech intern, I will be researching monitoring systems, alerting systems, and LibreJS. The main way of communication with the team so far is through IRC and emails. In my first week of the internship, and as an initial task, I was asked to write this blog post and start learning related technologies so as to draft my work plan.

The monitoring and alerting system project is about making fewer alerts for issues that aren't important, and more alerts for issues that are more important. The FSF runs over 100 virtual machines and a dozen servers. It will be very interesting and informative to learn about the current setup of Nagios and Munin at the FSF, and explore Prometheus. This will enable the tech team to have better insights into the software they run and the hardware it runs on.

GNU LibreJS is a browser add-on that blocks nonfree nontrivial JavaScript, while allowing JavaScript that is free or trivial. The first thing that I did was to make my personal blog LibreJS compatible. I am looking for issues that I can work on.

I am still learning how the FSF uses Nagios, but so far it is going well. The best part about interning at the FSF in my opinion is that it helps both ways, I learn and improve my skills and at the same time help the FSF achieve its goals. I'm looking forward to an amazing time and learning experience.

Interested in interning for the Free Software Foundation? The application period for spring 2019 internships is open until December 23, 2018 -- see details here.

The FSFE needs you to continue spreading software freedom in Europe!

The FSFE needs you to continue spreading software freedom in Europe!

Since 2001 the Free Software Foundation Europe empowers software users to exert control over the technology that is so deeply involved in every aspect of our lives today. As a non-profit organisation, our work is backed by the continuous and generous contributions of our supporters. From public campaigns to policy monitoring, from removing legal barriers to helping organisations in understanding how Free Software contributes to freedom, transparency, and self-determination, our supporters have helped to finance our work.

Become a supporter of the FSFE

On the European level, 2019 will be a particularly crucial year for software freedom and technological rights that will need your support. The EU Copyright Directive currently moving its way through formal Trilogue discussions threatens to impede the free flow of online information and enact onerous new legal barriers for Free Software developers. The looming elections for the EU Parliament in May will seat politicians with the legislative power to impact the Free Software movement in Europe for the next five years.

To help them get started, we are releasing a comprehensive policy brochure as part of our "Public Money? Public Code!" campaign, which will be used to provide candidates for the EU elections in Spring 2019 with background information about the benefits of Free Software for the public sector. We will also hand over our signatures from individuals and organisations in Europe in our "Public Money? Public Code!" open letter, and continue our movement to demand that code paid for by the people should be freely available to the people.

And of course, in 2019 the FSFE will again use public awareness campaigns and political lobbying, provide our expertise, and produce promotional material and explanatory videos, to bring our community to diverse events in Europe and let them talk about the freedom of software. To achieve our goals, we base our work and form our movement with the help of our community and friends, who ensure that our message gets out and is heard in as many diverse parts of our society as possible.

You can directly help us to master these upcoming challenges in 2019 by becoming a supporter of the FSFE. Any amount that you give will be greatly appreciated. Your contribution makes a huge impact today, tomorrow, and ongoing!

Help spread software freedom in Europe

If you would like to know more about the FSFE’s ongoing work, our 2018 yearly report gives you a better and more detailed understanding of the projects that we are presently involved in, which projects we want to realise in 2019, and what we have accomplished over the past year.

Support FSFE, join the Fellowship
Make a one time donation

Register today for LibrePlanet 2019!

The free software community spans the entire world, with supporters in nearly every corner of the globe, busily coding, tinkering, and spreading the word about the growing importance of controlling our computing. The Internet provides us with many great tools to share the latest news and advances, but ultimately, there’s nothing quite like meeting in person at the LibrePlanet conference! At LibrePlanet, you can meet other developers, activists, policy experts, students, and more, to make connections and help us strategize the future of free software.


LibrePlanet 2019 is only four months away, on March 23-24, here in the Greater Boston area. We’re already in high gear here at the Free Software Foundation (FSF): we’ve secured four amazing keynote speakers, and we’re hard at work putting together an exciting schedule. Session topics will include:

  • Free software activism;

  • Practical and creative applications of free software;

  • Case studies;

  • Legal and compliance issues;

  • Fighting surveillance and defending our privacy; and much more!

LibrePlanet 2019's theme is "Trailblazing Free Software." In 1983, the free software movement was born with the announcement of the GNU Project. FSF founder Richard Stallman saw the dangers of proprietary code from the beginning: when code was kept secret from users, they would be controlled by the technology they used, instead of vice versa. In contrast, free software emphasized a community-oriented philosophy of sharing code freely, enabling people to understand how the programs they used worked, to build off of each other's code, to pay it forward by sharing their own code, and to create useful software that treated users fairly.

LibrePlanet boasts three days of free software activities, starting with a Friday night party at the FSF office in Boston. Saturday and Sunday are packed with conference sessions, lectures, workshops, lightning talks, and a party. To attend LibrePlanet, simply register online. Registration is gratis for FSF members, and $90 for both days or $60 for one day for non-members.

See you in March!

Introducing Lei Zhao, intern with the FSF tech team

My name is Lei Zhao, and I often stylize it as Leei Jaw. I am one of the fall interns for the FSF tech team.

I first became aware of free software in the sense of freedom at the age of 19. I encountered free software even earlier, but it took some time to appreciate the free/libre aspect of free software.

I'm working on making changes to GitLab to improve the license selection for new projects. As written in the article, For Clarity's Sake, Please Don't Say “Licensed under GNU GPL 2”!:

"When sites such as GitHub invite developers to choose “GPL 3” or “GPL 2” among other license options, and don't raise the issue of future versions, this leads thousands of developers to leave their code's licensing unclear. Asking those users to choose between “only” and “or later” would lead them to make their code's licensing clear. It also provides an opportunity to explain how the latter choice avoids future incompatibility."

GitLab has the same problem, but it is free software, so I'm working to change that. This is the first time I've participated in such a large project, and I am very excited.

I learned my first programming language, Pascal, in high school. Then Python, Java, C/C++, Scala, JavaScript, SQL, and Lisp. The language I've used most often is Python, since it is the language I used for my past jobs. My primary editor is Emacs.

In my spare time, I like listening to music, and playing the guitar. When I have spare money, I enjoy driving recreational go-karts.

Interested in interning for the Free Software Foundation? The application period for spring 2019 internships is open until December 23, 2018 -- see details here.