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FSFE Newsletter - June 2013

German Bundestag trying to get rid of software patents

No Free Software programmer wants them but unfortunately they are still granted: software patents. They monopolise ideas about software, so programmers cannot use them. In April the German Parliament (the 'Bundestag') has introduced a joint motion against software patents. It urges the German government to take steps to limit the granting of patents on computer programs. After the first hearing in Parliament, your editor was invited as an external expert to the legal committee meeting on May 13th.

Before the meeting FSFE was asked to submit a written statement (PDF in German) which explained that: programming tools are easily available to everyone and don't require much investment; programmers learn to code by reading existing source code; the hard part of software development is the concrete implementation; copyright is enough to protect implementations; most products include hundreds of programs; that these same programs are used in a huge number of products; that Free Software is used to develop Free and non-free software; that Free Software is especially vulnerable to malicious patenting activity as its source code is available; challenging software patents costs a lot of time and money which many programmers and software companies do not have; the incentive of patents in software innovation is highly questionable and that programmers either have to ignore software patents or stop programming. In his oral statement at the hearing your editor explained programming methods to the politicians.

During the meeting the vast majority of the 9 invited experts were in favour of the motion. Now there will be a second meeting of the committee and then, on the 6th of June, Parliament will vote upon the motion.

Why do some companies dislike their customers?

May the 3rd was the International Day Against DRM. To mark the occasion Erik Albers wrote an article about Digital and physical restrictions on your own device (thanks to Framasoft, there is also a French translation). He highlighted how companies and resellers take control over our software and hardware and in doing so, take away our freedom.

Discussion on this topic continued at the Berlin Linuxtag. FSFE invited speakers for the "Reclaim your device" track. The track gave examples of how we can take back control over our software and therefore our devices. Beside that, the Linuxtag organisers chose FSFE's speaker as keynote, so Benjamin Mako Hill gave a speech about anti-features -- deliberately crippled technology (see German press article "antifeatures -- Free Software against paternalism"). Mako argue that the anti-features issue makes a good framework within which to explain the practical advantage of Free Software, and from his experience your editor fully agrees.

Illegal procurement favouring Microsoft stopped in court

FSFE's goal is that Free Software companies can compete with non-free software companies on an equal basis. That's why we started an initiative to advance fair public procurement in Finland, which has already looked at 300+ procurement notices.

In related news, the administrative court of Almada, Portugal, recently declared a 550,000 Euro contract between Microsoft and the municipality of Almada to be illegal. (see our press release). In this example, the technical specifications of the competition launched by the municipality prevented any company other than Microsoft and their partners from being capable of fulfilling the contract criteria. This ruling clarifies that a widely used procurement procedure is illegal: because it names Microsoft products instead of their general functional and technical requirements. FSFE welcomes the court's decision, and calls on other European national courts to continue to systematically annul similarly discriminatory contracts.

Something completely different

Get active: Report warranty problems after rooting!

After our widely spread analysis about the rooting of devices, the German Association for Consumer Protection (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband) is now working on this topic (German), too. They are looking for people who had problems with warranty after rooting their devices. So if you bought a product in Germany, rooted it and have problems with warranty report it and forward it to our legal working group. Of course we are still interested in your experiences in other countries, so please continue to send them to the same address.

Thanks to all the Fellows and donors who enable our work,
Matthias Kirschner - FSFE

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