I'm pretty new to the GNU-Friends community and I'm happy to be one of its members :)
The purpose of this short message is to sensitize you to the fact that the Free Software Fundation's legal statutes aren't avalaible on the net yet. As a free software activist, I do find this situation very dangerous because the FSF is actually the holder of the copyrights of the GPL'ed softwares. Then, what would be the issue if the FSF get corrupted by one of its members...
Any comment ?
By "legal statutes", I presume the questioner means the various governing documents (Charter, By-Laws, etc.) of FSF. The reasons that these aren't available online are much more mundane than most people know. All our documents were filed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts back in 1985 when the FSF was founded. As you might guess, they were done on typewriters, and no one has had the time and inclination to type or scan them in, proofread them, and put them up for Internet consumption.
The documents are publicly available from the Commonwealth, and I'd be happy to provide anyone with a copy if (s)he would like to go through the effort to make them electronically available.
Meanwhile, the key point that the questioner raises is concerning something that, in fact, does not have to do very much with our governing documents. The key question seems to be the future of FSF's copyrights on GPL'ed software. The problem is addressed primarily in the agreements in our copyright assignment papers. When someone assigns copyright to the FSF, they enter into a contract with the FSF. As with any contract, both sides make some promises. Here is a quote from our "new program" assignment form that shows some of the the things that FSF promises to do:
The Foundation promises that all distribution of the Program, or of any work "based on the Program", that takes place under the control of the Foundation or its agents or assignees, shall be on terms that explicitly and perpetually permit anyone possessing a copy of the work to which the terms apply, and possessing accurate notice of these terms, to redistribute copies of the work to anyone on the same terms. These terms shall not restrict which members of the public copies may be distributed to. These terms shall not require a member of the public to pay any royalty to the Foundation or to anyone else for any permitted use of the work they apply to, or to communicate with the Foundation or its agents in any way either when redistribution is performed or on any other occasion.
The Foundation promises that any program "based on the Program" offered to the public by the Foundation or its agents or assignees shall be offered in the form of machine-readable source code, in addition to any other forms of the Foundation's choosing. However, the Foundation is free to choose at its convenience the media of distribution for machine-readable source code.
Note that this language looks very much like the Free Software Definition. In each of our copyright assignment contracts, we promise the assignor that we will perpetually, as long as we exist, make that software available as Free Software.
In concrete terms, this protects us from even the worst Science Fiction fantasy future. Suppose a powerful proprietary software company covertly replaces the Board of Directors, senior staff, lawyers, and anyone else with some decision-making power with look-alike clones bent on destroying software freedom. In that case, even if the clones want to, they cannot break all these promises that FSF has made to copyright assignors. If the promises are broken, the copyright assignors could sue the FSF for breech of contract, and they would surely win.
I hope that clears up the questioner's concerns.
Bradley M. Kuhn Executive Director, Free Software Foundation