How much does freedom influence your life?

December 9th, 2004

Dear Reader,

how much does freedom influence your life?

We -- the the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) -- believe that freedom substantially influences all parts of our lives from economy, which would be impossible without freedom, to society, which depends upon freedom to uphold our cultural and social values. That is why freedom is priceless to us and we work hard for freedom in the digital society.

Being a non-profit organisation, much work is done by volunteers, but not everything can be done that way. Working for something as priceless as freedom does have a cost. That is why we would like you to support our work, which we want to convince you of in this letter.

The struggle over who controls the digital world is happening today and is fought with technology, law and money:

  1. Technological means: What began with the vendor lock-in effect of proprietary formats shall now be extended and perfected with technologies such as "Digital Rights Management" (DRM) and "Trusted Computing" (TC).

    Computer users, be they companies, people or governments, lose control over their data, which is locked away in formats they have no power over and for which only their vendor determines what is allowed and what is restricted.

  2. Legal means: Due to intensive lobbying, the TRIPS agreement came to pass and is now administrated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), one of the United Nations agencies. This agreement is the reason for the "European Copyright Directive" (EUCD) and its ideology also found its way into the "IPR Enforcement Directive" (IPRED).

    While seemingly unrelated at first, the EUCD has found its way into most national laws in the EU and introduces legal grounds against "circumvention of technical protection measures."

    In other words: It makes it illegal for you to open the box into which your vendor has locked away your data.

  3. Monetary means: The European Commission antitrust ruling against Microsoft was one of the most spectacular antitrust cases, also because it contained the largest fine in European antitrust history, roughly 500 million Euro.

    Microsoft is trying to overthrow that ruling in European Court and has been soliciting supporters of the European Commission into withdrawing their support, namely SUN, Novell and the CCIA.

    Although the antitrust fine may have broken all records, the money Microsoft has spent on these activities is already several times that amount. Should Microsoft succeed with this strategy, it seems unlikely that the Commission would be able to successfully pursue antitrust measures against Microsoft ever again.

These are three of the areas the Free Software Foundation Europe is working on. We build awareness for the dangers of DRM and TC, which we believe are more adequately called "Digital Restriction Management" and "Treacherous Computing," and work on keeping Free Software able to provide alternatives which preserves your freedom to access your data.

We have been actively working at the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) [1] and just become observer at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) [2] , which we seek to change and where we work with others to challenge TRIPS.

And finally, we are third party in the case of Microsoft against the European Commission in front of the European Court [3] where much of the EC case now rests upon us and the Samba Team that we represent.

Samba [4] is the last remaining interoperable solution and competition in the workgroup server market and we intend to defend its right to compete with Microsoft so you will be able to still have an alternative in the future.

These are just some of the activities we are working on to make sure that you will retain your economic and social freedom in the digital society -- more projects can be found on our web page. [5]

Being a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, we are working on these issues independently, neutrally and solely dedicated to Free Software as in freedom. [6]

That work is supported by companies and people [7] who wish to see their freedom upheld and we hope that you will be among them, too. [8]

Best regards,

Georg Greve
President
Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE)
http://fsfe.org

[1] http://fsfe.org/campaigns/wsis/

[2] http://fsfe.org/activities/wipo/

[3] http://fsfe.org/activities/ms-vs-eu/

[4] http://www.samba.org

[5] http://fsfe.org/projects

[6] http://fsfe.org/about

[7] http://fsfe.org/donate/thankgnus.en.html

[8] http://fsfe.org/donate/donate.en.html