The Free software Foundation and the GNU Project

    1. The FSF
    2. The GPL
    3. The GNU Project
    4. Pour en savoir plus
    5. La GNU General Public License (Licence Publique Générale GNU)


The FSF (Free Software Foundation) was founded in the early eighties by Richard M. Stallman, researcher at MIT's Artificial Intelligence laboratory. The foundation's objective is to develop free software. That is software that you can freely copy, use, modify, and redistribute as you wish. The only condition is that the source code of these programs must be freely available on demand.

It is important to understand that the term Free in Free Software Foundation does not refer to price, but to freedom. These programs can be bought and sold, but there is always a legal way to obtain them gratis.


The GPL (General Public License) specifies the conditions under which all GNU software is ditributed. The LGPL (Library General Public License) was the corresponding license used for sub-program libraries (please see Why you shouldn't use the Library GPL for your next library for an explanation). The GNU Lesser General Public License is the new replacement for the LGPL.

Roughly, these licenses specify that GNU software may be copied, modified, and redistributed in any manner as long as the source code remains freely available.

The main advantage of software distributed under these conditions is that if you wish to improve the program, you may; and you may redistribute your new and improved version. Thus, everyone benefits. This leads to programs of excellent quality, written by dozens of different people.

The GNU Project

The FSF's GNU (GNU is not Unix) Project's objective is to develop a complete operating system, distributed under the conditions of the GPL. This operating system uses some UNIX concepts, but is not UNIX. Richard Stallman started this project on his own right after he founded the FSF. The first part of the project was to program the editor with which he could then program the rest of the software. That editor is the now famous GNU Emacs. He then wrote a C compiler to compile his operating system. That would be the famous GCC. Since then, many people have joined him to write all sorts of programs. The operating system itself, known as HURD, has recently become available.

In addition to the main GNU programs, there are GNU versions of most of the UNIX utilitaires. The GNU versions are often more powerful and reliable than their proprietary counterparts.

Pour en savoir plus

Pour informer le public de l'état du projet GNU, la FSF publie deux fois par an un bulletin d'information (le GNU Bulletin). Ce bulletin parait en janvier et juin de chaque année; il est en autres distribué via le forum de discussions gnu.announce. Il est également disponible sur le serveur Web de gnu.

Texte repris du Guide UNIX + Réseaux de Marc Schaefer.

La GNU General Public License (Licence Publique Générale GNU)

English translation by Katixa Rybalka.