The Free Software Foundation has announced a "Corporate Patronage Program" to allow companies to support the work of the FSF. The members already include IBM, HP, Ada Core Technologies and MySQL. Maybe advogato people (who are working) can get their employers to join the program :-) Full announcement below:
FSF Announces Corporate Patronage Program
Following the highly successful launch of its Associate Membership
program, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) announced today its new
Corporate Patronage Program. According to FSF's Executive Director
Bradley M. Kuhn, "since its launch in late November, more than 950 people
have signed up as Associate Members of FSF. We are now offering a similar
opportunity to the community of businesses that use Free Software."
A number of FSF's existing corporate supporters have already signed up as
part of today's launch. They include companies of all sizes -- from
industry giants to small start-up ventures. They include: Ada Core
Technologies, ACT/Europe, Affero, Best Practical, Brainfood, Cyclades
Corporation, HP, IBM, MySQL, OEone Corporation and Penguin Computing.
"The freedom to create is at the core of innovation, and FSF fully embraces
this principle," said Marcio Saito, vice president of technology at Cyclades,
a data center fault management company that has built a global business on
GNU/Linux technology. "FSF is in the forefront of promoting users' freedom
to run, copy, distribute, study and change software and their work is to
FSF's Corporate Patrons can display the Patronage logo on their materials
and website, will be listed on FSF's Corporate Patronage website
(http://patron.fsf.org/), will receive two free hours of
consulting from FSF's GPL Compliance Lab, and will receive two
complementary passes to FSF-sponsored seminars.
"The FSF has been, and will continue to be, at the apex of the movement
to promote and defend free software ideals, " said Mårten Mickos,
CEO of MySQL AB. "MySQL has built a successful business on its GPL
software license, and applauds the FSF's efforts to defend the GPL against
license breaches and educate the world in the principles of free software.
We're pleased to extend our partnership with FSF as a corporate patron."
Patronage dues are on a sliding scale based on the number of employees at
a company, or at a particular division of a large company. Regardless of
the size of the company and the dues they pay, all participating companies
will receive the same benefits. The dues range from $500 for companies
with five or less employees to $10,000 for companies with over 10,000
Organizations or companies who wish to sign up as a Corporate Patron or
want to learn more about the Corporate Patronage Program are encouraged
to contact FSF.
IBM, AOL, Red Hat, Sun and many many others already have hundreds of free software developers on their pay-roll. And each of these cost at minimum 50k US$/year, or five times as much as the most expensive corporate sponsorship for FSF.
I suspect the patronage program is primarily seen as an easy and cheap way to publically say "thank you" for the nice software from the FSF, maybe initiated by the developers rather than the phb's, who just agree because the price is so low.
I'd like to think that it is also to support the FSF defence of the GPL (one of their primary activities these days), and their political work even if they don't agree with everything the FSF do. Corporations have traditionally no problem supporting political organization financially.
I attended the Free Software Foundation annual meeting a few weeks ago, and learned what they spend money on. Highlights include:
- GPL enforcement. This is a big portion of FSF's current costs; they convince over 100 companies/year to comply with the GPL, and the number is steadily growing. There's two levels to this process: the FSF tries to work things out quietly and constructively, and--if the violater insists copyright law doesn't apply to them--the FSF hauls in their incredibly good lawyers (who volunteer endless amounts of time).
- The Free Software Directory. This is a bit of an odd project. They directory only lists Free Software, and it's not (at the moment) the largest listing, though it does more license checking than anybody else. I don't think this project needs money, but it could really benefit from a good Perl hacker. The woman who runs this is a complete non-programmer, and she has no programmers currently helping her.
- Digital Speech Project. This project works to oppose the DMCA and other nasty laws. It's a broader-based political effort.
- Savannah. Svannah is a good hosting system (and it will become absolutely vital if SourceForge collapses), but it sucks up a lot of time and bandwidth to keep running. They'd love to hear from some volunteer sysadmins.
Interestingly enough, the FSF no longer spends money on the GNU project (as far as I can tell). They've concluded that other people are better at writing software, and have decided to focus on (1) nasty political threats like the DMCA and (2) providing legal and technical infrastructure for free software hackers. The FSF has a lot less money than they once did--those mainframe tape sales and occasional dotcom donations are gone--but they appear to be doing their best with what remains.
Generally speaking, I was quite happy with how the FSF is spending its money, and impressed by the regular staff, who are a pretty typical bunch of idealistic free software hackers. Stallman is, well, Stallman--which is both good and bad--but he's not the whole foundation. Kuhn and Moglen are smart, charming and very dedicated to free software, and they play roles as important as Stallman's.