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FSFE Newsletter - October 2010
In this edition we discuss the misleading term "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms" (FRAND), we explain what we are doing about centralised computer systems and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), and update you on our current campaign to end non-free software commercials by public institutions.
FSFE celebrated Software Freedom Day with a variety of local events and activities. We organised talks and booths in Berlin, Bonn, Hamburg, Cologne, Offenburg (Germany), Zurich (Switzerland), and The Hague (Netherlands). With our activities we reached new audiences, and explained to them why Free Software will become as important as freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.
Why FRAND excludes Free Software
We asked European Free Software businesses to participate in a survey of business attitudes towards the acceptability of including patents in industry standards. A major theme in the survey was whether patents that cover standards should be licensed royalty-free (as W3C recommends), or whether they should instead be licensed under so-called "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms" (FRAND).
FRAND is a misnomer as the terms are often unfair, unreasonable, and highly discriminatory, particularly for Free Software. In reality FRAND is only fair and reasonable to a small circle of the most powerful software companies.
Paying royalties of 0.000001 Cent per copy to implement a standard might look fair at the first sight, but such a fee would make it impossible to distribute a program as Free Software. Free Software safeguards the right to share with others. Therefore,Ya when Free Software companies sell their software they cannot know how many people will eventually end up using it. It becomes impossible to estimate the total amount of royalties owed to patent owners; Free Software businesses will be unable to compete with their proprietary competitors and Free Software as a whole would be undermined.
We encouraged Free Software companies to respond to this survey, so that their views were heard and the interests of Free Software were represented in the study's results. Unfortunately the implicit assumptions of the survey were biased towards large corporations with dedicated 'standardisation employees' dedicated to providing detailed information. We received feedback that it was very difficult and sometimes impossible for small and medium sized companies to fill out the questionnaire. We will highlight this fact as well as our general criticism in the forthcoming process, as we have done in the past.
Cloudy Internet Governance Forum
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a global policy discussion forum of the United Nations, established as an outcome of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). We are constantly following the IGF to ensure that policy discussions will not endanger digital freedom in general and Free Software in particular. Karsten attended the Forum in Vilnius, Lithuania and presented his talk "Data in the cloud: Where do Open Standards fit in".
He drew attention to potential solutions to the threats of cloud computing, including the possibility of users operating their own easy to administer, always connected servers, which could offer preconfigured web, mail, jabber, and microblogging services. He also discussed YaCy, GNU Social, Angel Applications and other Free Software programs which present decentralised alternatives to dominant proprietary services.
We are currently working on ways to encourage wider use of applications which use distributed models, so that control of the software is also distributed amongst users. As a result we have integrated Yacy, the distributed search engine into our website and are now testing its results. YaCy's lead developer Michael Christen will be speaking at our track of talks 'Divide and Reconquer: regaining control of our communications' at FSCONS, which focuses on issues of centralisation of key Internet services.
Non-free software commercials presented by public institutions
Each day public institutions advertise non-free software on their websites. They link to non-free software PDF readers and thereby recommend that their visitors use non-free software. Non-free software harms our society, and it is particularly inappropriate for public institutions to unnecessarily endorse it. Some public institutions go as far as stating that it is only possible to view their PDF files with the proprietary reader that they recommend, which is simply false. Many Free Software PDF readers exist and provide users with a clear choice over which reader they wish to use.
To raise awareness of this behaviour we started a new PDF readers campaign, and began collecting reports of infringing institutions, and petition signatures agreeing that this practice should be changed.
Adverts for gratis non-free PDF readers readers are nonetheless adverts for non-free software, and because of this we do not include them on pdfreaders.org. Public websites should not list them either as promoting one proprietary reader over another reader gives an unfair advantage, and supports the existence of software monopolies.
Since 13 September, volunteers from all over the world helped us with the campaign. At the time of writing they submitted over 1369 occurences of advertisement for 39 countries. 762 individuals, 20 organisations and 21 businesses signed the "Petition For The Removal Of Proprietary Software Advertising On Public Websites". Amazingly the campaign website is available in 10, the petition page in 11, and pdfreaders.org in 18 languages.
This month we ask you to support our PDFreaders campaign:
- Find and report advertisements for non-free software on websites belonging to public institutions.
- Sign our Petition For The Removal Of Proprietary Software Advertising On Public Websites.
- Translate the websites about this campaign into your language.
- Find out if it is illegal for the public institutions to give unfair advertising to particular companies in your country and inform us about it.
- Find out and inform us how much money it would cost in your country to get an online advertisement on websites comparable to the public institutions which contain the advertisement.
- Inform others about the campaign and what they can do to help.
Matthias Kirschner- FSFE