FSF’s Free Software Gang almost included FreeBSD


The footer of the GNU website includes this friendly graphic inviting you to meet the Free Software Gang:

Free Software Gang graphc

Look closely and you can make out Beastie, the BSD mascot and basis of the FreeBSD logo, peeking out behind the GNU. And on the left you can see Puffy, the unmistakeable logo of OpenBSD.

(I don’t see NetBSD or DragonFly BSD anywhere, but let’s pretend the latter is buzzing around an orange flag atop the Inkscape mountain. They can always ride on an illumos phoenix to get there).

We may have our disagreements about licensing, but anything that fosters collaboration is a good thing. Linux benefits from some of FreeBSD’s userland and utilities, everyone uses OpenSSH from the OpenBSD project, and desktop BSD users like me run GPL’d window managers or desktop environments.

The Free Software Gang page lists the following under Operating Systems and Friends:

  • Gecko
  • GNU
  • KDE
  • Linux
  • Nautilus

Notice anything missing? Xfce and LXQt aside, of course.

Refusing to mention or link to the BSDs, despite padding out their own graphic with their logos, strikes me as a tad disingenuous. The Free Software Foundation consider their licences free and compatible with the GPL.

For an FSF site so preoccupied with licencing and software freedom, they literally violated—if only in spirit—the only clause in the modern BSD/ISC licence, which requires attribution. I’ve come to expect that more and more; free software either means GPL, or GTFO. Which is a shame, for the reasons stated earlier in this post.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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