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FSFE Newsletter - August 2013
Proprietary companies ask European Commission to restrict business models
Because Android is Free Software and gratis, the non-free software competition cannot compete with it, therefore the market has less alternatives, thus the consumer suffers from this lack of competition. In a nutshell that is the argumentation of the so-called "Fair Search" coalition. Essentially they are asking the European Commission to favour a restrictive business model over a liberal one, which is exactly the opposite of what competition regulators should do in order to achieve a fair market.
Asking the European Commission to cripple Free Software in order to allow proprietary vendors to sell their locked-down systems is absurd. Therefore the FSFE has written a letter to the European Commission's competition authorities to refute the claims, and make it clear that Free Software is critical for a competitive IT market. In our letter we ask the European Commission to dismiss the "FairSearch" coalition's unfounded claims regarding predatory pricing, and not make them part of whatever steps it decides to take. For further information: our legal council Carlo Piana wrote a background article about this case.
Election software: source code available but not Free Software
Estonia has used Internet voting for general elections since 2005. Local activists have recently managed to convince Estonia's National Electoral Committee (NEC) to release source code for some of the software under a non-free licence, but this licence does not permit distribution of derivative works or commercial use and therefore is non-free. Besides "[i]mportant system components remain completely unknown to the general public. One of those components is the client side voting application that must be loaded and executed on the voter's computer," said Heiki Ojasild, Fellowship representative in the FSFE's General Assembly in our press release accompanying our open letter to NEC regarding the country's Internet voting system.
Similar in Norway: Paul Boddie reports about the Norwegian voting and the illusion of "Open Source", where the published software covers only "testing, reviewing or evaluating the code", restricts commercial purposes, and for a lot of things you need a "written approval" from the vendors.
NSA leaks motivates Free Software activists
For almost two decades the Free Software Foundations have been working for a society where the power over technology is distributed. We work for a world in which nobody can prevent others from learning how computers work. A world in which programmers can work with each other instead against each other. Nobody should be forced to use a certain kind of software without being able to adjust it to her own needs instead of adjusting herself to the software. Everybody should be able to audit software, to understand what a program does exactly and what happens to your data.
The Free Software movement wrote a lot of software which respects your privacy, including encryption and anonymisation software. The FSFE pushed for Open Standards to prevent monopolies by enabling different software to work with each other. We promote decentralised systems, so there is no single point in our infrastructure which has too much power and which enables you to store the data in a trusted enviroment.
It seems the NSA leaks of the last weeks have strengthened the Free Software community's will to continue fighting for our freedoms in a digital society. More people are listening to Free Software programmers and activists, more people demand Free Software solutions, more people are using Free Software to protect their privacy, and more people appreciate Free Software developer's work. E.g. Eva Galperin from EFF said in her keynote at KDE's conference akademy: "Help us Free Software, you are our last and only hope". She asked Free Software developers to build new products, and "save us"! And as you will see below, the Free Software movement will continue to do so.
Something completely different
- Privacy is a fundamental human right, and is central to maintaining democratic societies. The FSFE joined more than 100 other organisations in demanding that states respect human rights, and bring their surveillance apparatus under democratic control. More than one year in the making, the demands are now more relevant than ever. The FSFE also signed an Open Letter to stop surveillance, which calls for twelve political steps including the development and promotion of Free Software for digital self-defence.
- The FSFE commented on leaked documents which show how Microsoft is actively cooperating with the NSA.
- Together with the Open Rights Group we sent an open letter on transparency to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. Mr Schulz has recently been asked to produce a study on transparency within the Parliament. In our letter we are offering Mr Schulz our help in this effort and suggest several questions, e.g. if the Parliament would be obliged to publish the source code of the software it uses.
- News about Free Software in education are back: Guido Arnold summarised what happened in the education sector during April, May, and June. He also summarised the relevant parts of the UNESO conference World Summit on an Information Society (WSIS+10).
- Ubuntu is aiming to raise $32 million in crowdfunding to produce Ubuntu Edge, a mobile computer that can dual-boot between Android and Ubuntu GNU/Linux. Our sister organisation the FSF is asking the crucial question: Will Ubuntu Edge commit to using only Free Software?. Paul Boddie, Fellow and maintainer of Fellowship wiki, looked into the question if Ubuntu Edge is making things even harder for open hardware?
- Besides our sister organisation reports that the New Internationalist adopted the DRM-free label and over 50 others were added to the DRM-free Guide.
- From the public administrations: Students and teachers at 160 high schools in the Brussels Region have started to use Free Software like LibreOffice or Mozilla Thunderbird on PCs and tablets. Joinup reports that France's ministry of Agriculture extensively uses Free Software: For instance in 2012 it spent 174,000 euro on support for Free Software. Additionally news from France: Lucile wrote about the Zombie Free Software provision -- a Free Software law for France's higher education -- and how to contact politicians.
- For those amongst you giving talks at conferences: LWN now offers a handy calendar for call for papers.
- From the planet aggregation:
- Former FSFE president Georg Greve wrote a tetralogy about the Post PRISM society. He puts together what actually has been proven so far, what that means for society, what the implications for businesses around the world are, and takes a look at governments. He argues that any government should be able to answer the following question: What is your policy on a sovereign software supply and digital infrastructure? If that question cannot be answered, he suggests it is time to get to work. And soon.
- FSFE's president Karsten Gerloff wrote about what you can do to secure your communications, e.g. participating in politics,
- Werner Koch, author of GnuPG and FSFE GA member wrote about Gpg4win and the feds, commenting on a CT article which mentions GnuPG and claims that only a self compiled version is trustworthy.
- and Kevin Keijzer documented how he maintains his online privacy.
- Anonymisation hobbyist Jens Lechtenboerger explains how he selects Tor guard nodes under global surveillance, and also publishing code how he analysed the situation.
- A proposal for a new encrypted mobile messaging app called Hemlis received $125,000 in crowdfunding. It is good to see ambitious new software projects get support from the community when they are Free Software. Sam Tuke checks if this is really the case with Hemlis.
- Viktor Horvath published the video from his talk at FOSDEM about SlapOS a decentralised Free Software plattform.
- Lucile wrote about several examples of interesting uses of transparency policies, related to Free Software especially for France.
- News from Martin Gollowitzer's "Tracking for Freedom" project: he is now cycling with the pros.
- Mirko Böhm reports from his travel to Akademy and the Qt contributor summit. Together with Armijn Hemel he started a process to make defensive publications a routine part of the Qt release process,
- and Free Software activities in Munich have intensified. Christian Kalkhoff and the Munich group now bought a pavilion to be present at more and more public events (German).
Get active: Help with Crypto parties!
Crypto parties are getting more popular. They also attract funding from non-free software companies. One company offered money to crypto party organisers if they also mention non-free software (German). Good that a lot of FSFE's volunteers already support the organisers to help people install encryption software, and educate participants about Free Software.
In the Free Software community a lot of us understand how end-to-end encryption works. At the moment a lot of people new to Free Software want to use it themselves. If you have some time, either help some friends, colleagues, or search for local crypto parties and show others how to use GnuPG for e-mail encryption, OTR for encrypted chats, TOR to anonymise your online behaviour or programs like Jitsi to have encrypted audio and video communications.