[Ilugc] Free Software User Groups
ramanraj.k at gmail.com
Tue Dec 6 10:08:18 IST 2005
Rick Moen has written an excellent and useful user group HOWTO at:
What follows is about how free software user groups could be organised
locally in Tamil Nadu. I wrote most of it sometime back, and the only
thing I could add is, it may be worthwhile to register marks associated
with the fsug, if that is perceived as important for the sake of
identity. Though "Linux" is a generic word, I would suggest organisers
to choose a name that is more general like "fsug" as part of the name so
that the scope is as wide as possible to include discussions about
Linux, GNU, FreeBSD or the others.
There is a proposal to allow Limited Liability Partnerships in India,
that could function like companies under the ROC, and this may suit some
but they would have to wait for the law to crystallise. For now:
Typically, we may classify FSUGs into three categories.
#1: FSUG's Structured within an Institution
Many colleges already have an internet presence, and it is very easy
to run web servers, mailing list servers, ftp, wiki, cvs etc with
minimal effort. Free Software tools like the GNU Mailman, Apache Web
Server, Wikimedia, CVS etc could be installed to set up the bare needs
for setting up a FSUG. It needs only one Admin and a few volunteers
to keep things going.
ILUGC and many of the FSUGs operating from colleges at present follow
this style, and it is the least cumbersome and most beneficial general
purpose model, that works well from within an institutional framework.
PostgreSQL, NetBSD and others originated from such an environment.
#2: Informal FSUGs maintained by small groups of individuals, ngo's
and other orgs:
The vast majority of FSUGs have virtual existence, using mailing list
facilities offered by Yahoo, Google, Savannah, SourceForge etc. It
costs nothing to create a FSUG from these sites, and these FSUGs play
a major role in spreading the use of Free Software in pockets where
there no other help is conceivable. If you are the lone GNU/Linux
user in your locality, you may think of starting a FSUG for your
#3: FSUGs Registered as a Society/Co-operative Society/Non-profit
Legal formalities are the hall-mark of these entities, making it
suitable for only dedicated Free Software enthusiasts who will be
required to interact with statutory authorities to maintain and run
the organisation and may also need to take assistance from
professionals like auditors, lawyers and other experts.
Groups interested in building specialised computer programs,
supercomputers, community kiosks, community wiki, specialised fs
distributions or doing other tasks that involve some investment, would
need to orgranise a framework that can service the ends.
It is very difficult to generalise, but the simplest way to legally
organise a FSUG is to register it as a Society, under the Tamil Nadu
Societies Registration Act, 1975.
A very brief introduction to how Societies are created, maintained and
Any society which has for its object the promotion of education,
literature, science, religion, charity, social reform, art, crafts,
cottage industries, athletics, sports (including indoor games),
recreation, public health, social service, cultural activities, the
diffusion of useful knowledge or such other useful objects within the
State Legislative domain *may* be registered under the Tamil Nadu
Societies Registration Act.
Societies with not less than 20 members or whose annual gross income
or expenditure is not less than Rs.10,000/- need to be compulsorily
registered. For the purpose of registration, the society would need to
file its memorandum specifying the name of the society, the objects of
the society, the names, addresses and occupations of the members of
the committee; and the byelaws of the society. Every registered
Society shall keep a Registered Office, keep a board (also in Tamil :)
outside its RO, maintain a register containing the names, addresses
and occupation of its members (that is open to inspection during
business hours), have a committee of not less than three members to
manage its affairs whose term is not to be more than three years and
are appointed at a meeting by a resolution of a majority of members,
keep books of accounts audited by an auditor, file prescribed forms
before the Registrar. Under bye-laws, members may be required to pay
Atleast one AGM shall be conducted every year after notice to members,
and minutes shall be maintained and filed.
The society may sue and be sued, members guilty of arrears or
embezzelment may be dealt with as strangers.
Two or more societies may be amalgamated or a society may divide into
two or more with approval of Registrar.
A Society may be wound up, but after satisfaction of all debts and
liabilities, the remainder shall *not* be paid to members of the
society, but shall be given to some other registered society having
the same or similar objects (that can be determined by a special
resolution of the society itself).
FSUGs organised as Registered Societies in India:
1) Pune GNU/Linux Users Group [PLUG}
At their "About us" page:
Pune GNU/Linux Users Group or PLUG is a voluntary, not-for-profit
organization. registered under the Indian Societies Act, 1860.Our
registration no. is MH/238/2003/Pune. We are also registered as a
Public Trust having registration no. F19273.
2) Linux-Delhi.org says that they are in the process of getting
registered as a Society. Check out their societification page at
NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies
www.nasscom.org <http://www.nasscom.org> ) is organised as a Society but
it is yet to become
seriously involved with the free software movement. When Free
Software becomes more widely recognised and appreciated, NASSCOM would
necessarily get transformed and may become a nodal point for Free
Software User Groups.
Non-profit Companies and Co-operative societies are even more formal,
and discussing them would make this post much more longer ;) Free
Software Foundation of India ( www.gnu.org.in <http://www.gnu.org.in> )
is registered as a
non-profit company under the Companies Act, with office at Trivandrum.
In Tamil Nadu, the co-operative movement has been successful, and it
may be worth trying out this model, say to build supercomputers or to
subsidise computer based goodies. One of the largest organisations
has an annual turnover of more than Rs. 80 Crores. If any group is
seriously interested in dedicating themselves in this line, it could
benefit the masses in very tangible ways.
Unlike the above not-for-profit entities, if groups are looking for
ways of earning private profit from Free Software, they would organise
themselves as consultants, service providers, run proprietary
concerns, form partnerships, pvt/public limited companies, and other
types of associations with clear objectives to earn profit.
Generally, providing custom services are the main business of
for-profit organisations, but they invariably extend support to
not-for-profit organisations through donations and offer other kinds
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