GNU Social Contract happenings

A lot of the discussion from the gnu-misc listserv has ended up producing a social contract that is under debate and is endorsed by several maintainers. Social contract hosted here: gnu:social-contract [Wiki for GNU Maintainers] reproduced below:

GNU Social Contract 1.0

These are the core commitments of the GNU Project, which creates and distributes a software system that respects users’ freedoms.

The GNU Project respects users’ freedoms

The GNU Project provides software that guarantees to all users the Four Essential Freedoms , without compromise:

  1. The freedom to run the program as they wish, for any purpose.

  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does their computing as they wish.

  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so they can help others.

  4. The freedom to distribute copies of their modified versions to others.

The GNU Project adopts policies that encourage and enable developers to actively defend user freedom. These policies include using copyleft licenses , designed to ensure that users’ freedoms cannot be stripped off, when appropriate.

Besides upholding the Four Essential Freedoms, the GNU Project pays attention to new threats to users’ freedom, and responds to them as they arise.

The GNU Project provides a consistent system

The GNU Project develops an operating system, the GNU System , as well as a set of applications. Each software component developed by the GNU Project is referred to as a GNU package . GNU package developers work together to ensure consistency across packages.

The GNU Project collaborates with the broader free software community

The GNU Project works together with other free software projects to advance its goals, and aims to extend the reach of the project beyond the GNU System.

The GNU Project welcomes contributions from all and everyone

The GNU Project commits to providing a harassment-free experience for all contributors. It wants to give everyone the opportunity of contributing to its efforts on any of the many tasks that require work. It welcomes all contributors, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, level of experience, or any other personal characteristics.

It appears that RMS has been contacting maintaners directly off list; insisting that this is not a GNU document and will never represent the GNU project. This email is reproduced on the gnu-misc listserv here: [address@hidden: What's GNU -- and what's not]

— Begin Message — Subject: What’s GNU – and what’s not Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2020 18:26:51 -0500
The GNU Project is sending this message to each GNU package

You may have recently received an email asking you to review a
document titled “GNU Social Contract” and then to endorse it or reject
it. It does not entirely accord with the GNU Project’s views. It was
created by some GNU participants who are trying to push changes
on the GNU Project.

The message also proposed to “define” what it means to be a “member of
GNU”, and cited a web page presented as a “wiki for GNU maintainers”,
It may have given the impression that they were doing all those things
on behalf of the GNU Project. That is not the case. The document,
wiki, and the proposed idea of “members” have no standing in the GNU
Project, which is not considering such steps. The use of a domain not
affiliated with GNU reflects this fact.

GNU package maintainers have committed to do work to maintain and add
to the GNU system, but not anything beyond that. We have never
pressed contributors to endorse the GNU Project philosophy, or any
other philosophical views, because people are welcome to contribute to
GNU regardless of their views.

To change that – to impose such requirements – would be radical,
gratuitous, and divisive, so the GNU Project is not entertaining the
idea. Likewise, we will not ask package maintainers to be “members”
instead of volunteers. If you contribute to GNU, you are already a
member of the GNU community.

The wiki that they set up “for GNU maintainers” represents them, not
the GNU Project. People are always free to publish what they think
the GNU Project should do, but should not presume it will be accepted
or followed by the GNU Project.

Dr Richard Stallman
Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (
Founder, Free Software Foundation (
Internet Hall-of-Famer (

— End Message —

Several maintaners continue to endorse the social contract. Most recently the lead dev of GnuPG and as far as I have seen they have not yet recanted.

1 Like

GnuPG has endorsed the social contract well after RMS let his displeasure with it be known. (Perhaps in spite of it?)

This might be one of the bigger more public facing packages too.