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FSFE Yearly Report 2017


The yearly report of the Free Software Foundation Europe gives you a breakdown in one document of important things we have done and achieved during the last 12 months. Read on to find out about our activities, the campaigns we have run, the events we have visited or organised, the groups we have helped, and what resources we counted on to do it.

What we have done in 2017

Public Money, Public Code

In September, we launched our Public Money, Public Code campaign. The idea is simple: Software created using taxpayers' money should be available under a free licence for everybody.

To drive our campaign, we have set up a campaign siteand published an open letter that everyone can sign to support our demand. To boost virality and help everyone understand the benefits of public bodies publishing their source code under free licences, we made a video (Webpage / Download / Vimeo / YouTube) explaining the situation. So far it is available in English, German and French, with more languages to come.

This campaign is ongoing and still in its early stages. In fact, we intend to continue it well into 2019 at least, so as to raise awareness among candidates for the elections to the European Parliament. At the moment of writing, we have collected over 14,000 signatures of our open letter. Among the signatories are national representatives and European Parliament Members, and we have received endorsements from over 100 organisations and prominent players in the IT field, including security expert Edward Snowden.

Our goal is to get elected officials to commit to policy and legislations that make publicly funded software free software by default. To that effect, we contacted ~1000 candidates for the German Federal Parliament elections and asked the addressees to "implement legislation requiring that publicly financed software developed for public sector [...] be made publicly available under a Free and Open Source Software licence." from the candidates who contacted us that they support our claim, 19 are now members of parliament. Beside that the whole parliamentary group of the German Green party responded to our campaign in a public letter, stating their support for our demand.

We will keep raising awareness for our demand in upcoming elections. To help us, sign the open letter yourself, spread the word about the campaign and increase our funding.

Save Code Share

A new copyright proposal is currently being discussed by the EU co-legislators. Part of this proposal is Article 13, an item that will hamper our ability to collaborate with each other online. Article 13 mandates that all online hosting service providers must install an upload filter that blocks any works from being uploaded that may constitute a copyright violation and must monitor their users as well as actively seek possible copyright infringements. These fundamentally flawed filtering algorithms will ultimately decide what code developers should be allowed to share. Beside all the problems upload filters come with, there are no known filtering technologies that could accurately and reliably identify whether Free Software code is being shared in accordance with its terms and conditions.

To combat this legislation, we launched a website to Save Code Share in collaboration with Open Forum Europe. We aim to raise awareness of the topic and work to change the proposed legislation. We published a white paper to explain Article 13's impact on free software developers and communities, and an Open Letter that has already been signed by more than 6000 individuals, organisations and companies.

While the European Parliament prepares to vote on its main negotiating position regarding the EU copyright directive proposal in the beginning of 2018, several parliamentary committees have already issued their opinions on Article 13. Together with Open Forum Europe, we put pressure on the vote in Civil Liberties Committee that rejected the use of upload filters when it comes to hosting works online. Now, we have to make sure that the main parliamentary effort takes our concerns into consideration, and rejects Article 13 from its negotiating position with the co-legislators in the EU Council.

REUSE Initiative

Reuse logo
We launched our REUSE Initiative, which advocates best practices for conveying copyright and licence information for software in a standardised way which not only humans can read, but computers as well. This step can help to automate many of the processes involved in working with Free Software licences, especially for large software projects with many repositories.

The website hosts a video (Webpage / Download / Vimeo) that explains the three simple steps involved in making a project REUSE compliant. Developers will also find extra resources. To demonstrate the ease of making a project compliant in practice, we host a number of repositories] that are REUSE compliant.

Furthermore, the FSFE is writing and providing a tool that will help developers make their software REUSE compliant. The goal is to package the tool into the repositories of the most popular GNU/Linux distributions, so that the barriers for adoption are as low as possible.

Do you like what we are doing? Then become a supporter and help us to make a difference in 2018!

Free Software licences are just as important as free code. The Free Software movement would not survive without the legal documents that allow and enforce software to be freely shared and modified. The Legal and Licensing Workshop (LLW) is probably the most important Free Software event you have never heard of. It is aimed at the niche made up by legal experts and professionals that work with the legal system supporting Free Software.

In 2017 we held the workshop's 10th edition in Barcelona. For us this is a landmark because we have managed to get the top legal experts from a wide variety of communities, public institutions and industries travel from all over the world to come together in an event like no other in the Free Software sector. This year's LLW compliance track was all about the tools used to enforce licences and how companies can support them.

Free Software in public administrations was another important topic discussed during the event. The aim was to discover ways of how public administrations could be more transparent and more responsible with the funds when financing the development of software. The ideas legal professionals walked away with will deeply affect society as a whole.

Fiduciary Licence Agreement 2.0

The FSFE acknowledges that the licensing of code has been well served by Free Software licences, but managing rights and content within a project over long periods of time is still a complex issue. To fix this, the FSFE has drafted the Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA), a well-balanced contributor agreement which gives the trustee, responsible for managing the rights within a Free Software project, power and responsibility to make sure the contributed software always remains free and open. This ensures that the project, together with all the respective contributors, are protected against any misuse of power by a new copyright holder.

This year we have updated the Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA) to version 2.0 which now also covers patents, and has been reworded to be compatible with more jurisdictions and to be easier to read.

We have joined forces with ContributorAgreements.org and integrated the FLA-2.0 into its Copyright Licensing Agreement (CLA) chooser/generator. This makes the use of the FLA easier both for projects and for developers

R2D2 with IloveFS

FLA 2.0 makes it easier to ensure that contributed software always remains free.

European Free Software Policy Meeting

Apart from travelling with our booth to the community's favourite event, the day before the opening of FOSDEM, we hosted the second European Free Software Policy Meeting. We met with Sebastian Raible, parliamentary assistant to Julia Reda, MP of the EU for the German Pirate party; Pierre Damas, Head of Sector, Digital Services at the Directorate General of Information Technologies of the European Commission; Jaana Sahk-Labi from the Estonian Permanent Representation to the EU; Laurent Joubert from the French government; and members of other Free Software advocating organisations.

Together we discussed the progress of the Free and Open Source Software Audit (or FOSSA) programme, some of the Commission's plans for updating its Open Source Software Strategy, and national projects to promote Free Software in public administration and businesses.

Ask your candidates

The FSFE's community participated in the political campaigns during the Dutch general elections, the state of North-Rhine Westphalia as well as the German federal elections.

Our team from the Netherlands developed freedomvote.nl to give voters orientation on internet policies and Free Software. A similar tool was developed by the FSFE together with a "Free Knowledge Coalition" for the German federal elections; the "Digital-o-Mat". This tool made it into the news of multiple national media agencies as well as the public television and attracted tens of thousands of visitors to inform themselves about internet policy topics and Free Software.We also asked political parties in the German elections about their position on Free Software in our "Ask your candidates" campaign-framework.

Do you like what we are doing? Then become a supporter and help us to make a difference in 2018!

New git hosting service: git.fsfe.org

Sharing knowledge and collaboration are two of the core principle in the Free Software society. To encourage both, This year, the FSFE opened a Git hosting service for our supporters with Gitea as a web interface.

By visiting git.fsfe.org, you can share and collaborate on a platform that fully respects your freedoms. Using the graphical web interface, you can open issue reports for bugs or feature requests. git.fsfe.org can host individual projects; complex multi-project repositories for organisations, or act as a mirror for another Git repository hosted elsewhere, like on GitHub or GitLab.

FreedomBox Install Fest in the FSFE Village

FreedomBox Install Fest in the FSFE Village during SHA 2017.

Investigate Europe

We supported a network of journalists to uncover the degree at which Europe's public infrastructure is dependent on proprietary software from one single provider: Microsoft. Published in 13 newspapers, magazines and online media outlets in nine different languages, the report laid bare how one company has a stranglehold on our public institutions and the negative impact this has on our budgets and freedoms. The FSFE provided the investigative journalists with leads, data and testimonials we had accumulated over years and that served as the backbone to the story.

LiMux: A Lighthouse goes Dark

This year Munich's new mayor, Dieter Reiter, a self-confessed "fan of Microsoft", went out of his way to undermine the work carried out by the administration to migrate away from their proprietary IT framework and pushed for a return to proprietary software on all levels. The FSFE president Matthias Kirschner explained the background to this decision in several talks, for example at the openSUSE Conference 2017 in May, with the intent of spreading insight and awareness to other organisations and Free Software advocates.

Along with The Document Foundation, KDE, and OSBA, we campaigned to keep Free Software in the city of Munich. We reached out to all members of the city council prior to the public hearing and we sent a call for action to our German speaking supporters, asking them to get in contact with politicians. The reaction was phenomenal. During the public hearing, politicians quoted some of our questions, and said that they had never received as much input from citizens and the press before. Unfortunately, all this public pressure did not alter their decision to transition away from LiMux, Microsoft Exchange had been phased in during the talks, and the decision to switch back to proprietary software has been taken.

IloveFS -  PMPC

Taking the "Public Money? Public Code!" campaign out onto the streets of Berlin.

Although this is sad to see, we should use this as an opportunity to evaluate the LiMux case, and see what we -- as the Free Software Community can learn from it -- for future migrations in the public administration. In his talks Matthias raised questions to support an evaluation by the Free Software community.

Do you like what we are doing? Then become a supporter and help us to make a difference in 2018!

FSFE's 2017 in numbers

Having precise data will help you visualise what resources we use to carry out our activities. With that in mind, the next section reduces FSFE's 2017 to figures and numbers. (As a sidenote: A lot of the data in this section, for example the number from our budget, refers to 2016 because it only became available when 2016 was over, that is, in 2017.)

Booth, events and PR

The FSFE has attended no less than 75 events in the last twelve months. The events we attended were of all sizes, from meetups organised by local Free Software groups, to big fairs set up by public institutions and industries, to outdoor non-profit camps. Many take our representatives all over Europe and, in the last year, the FSFE has attended events in 13 countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Albania, Austria, Sweden, Portugal, Belgium, Greece and the USA. Apart from speaking and listening to others speak, we also set up our booth at 15 venues.

The FSFE village during SHA Camp 2017 in the Netherlands.

The FSFE village during SHA Camp 2017 in the Netherlands.

At our booth you can also get stickers, flyers and balloons. These promote Free Software, warn about clouds, advise on using free formats, and so on. In fact, you don't have to visit our booth to get your hands on these goodies: you can ask us yourself for a boxful for your own event at no cost. In the last 12 months we have sent out 233 boxes for the recipient. Since we are talking about rather big boxes, this amounts to literally thousands of stickers, flyers and other goodies.


In 2017 we got the final data for the 2016 budget and can reveal now that, over the last four years, FSFE's income came to between 350,000 and 450,000 euros, but in 2016 the amount went up to nearly 650,000 euros, which was a nice surprise. That is over a 45% increase with regard to 2015. Most of the growth can be attributed to extraordinary donations from our generous sponsors (up by over 83%), including an inheritance from a person who wants to stay anonymous, but the supporters contributions have also increased and have done so every year, not even flagging in the worst of the economic crisis.

That said, at the FSFE we try to be as a frugal as possible and, although costs went up a bit in 2016, the increase didn't reach 9% with regard to 2015. The biggest costs in 2016 were in our efforts to increase public awareness, where we spent 142,965 euros; our basic infrastructure costs that includes among other things our personell and office costs for management and administration where we spent 130,082 euros and our legal work where we spent 117,336 euros.

FSFE's costs in recent years.

FSFE's revenues in recent years.

Proportionally, the biggest growth in costs happened in the Merchandising department, which grew 16%, from 32,142 euros in 2015 to 37,464 euros in 2016. This is in line with the amount of merchandising we gave and sold to our friends and followers, which increased by 13% from 2015. This is good news, since, as our main aim for merchandising is to spread our message as far and wide as possible, this shows that year after year, the number of people that are made aware of our campaigns and activities grows.

Our best selling garment is without a doubt the black "There is no cloud..." T-shirt. So far in 2017 we have sold 450 of this smart and relevant item of clothing. But clothes are far from the only kind of merchandising the FSFE distributes.

The people behind FSFE

Beyond events and numbers, FSFE is about the people that make up our community. In this sections we would like to introduce you to our community and some of our members that too often don't get all the credit they deserve.

Attendees of FSFE community meeting 2017.

Do you like what we are doing? Then become a supporter and help us to make a difference in 2018!

Our community

There are 5 full time employees at the FSFE: Ulrike Sliwinski is our Office Manager and the person you are most likely to talk to if your phone our office; Polina Malaja is the coordinator of the legal team and our Policy Analyst; Erik Albers is our communications and community coordinator; Jonas Öberg is the FSFE's executive director; and, finally, there's Matthias Kirschner who is the president. We also employ 1 part-time employee: Max Mehl, who is our program manager and deputy coordinator of translations. This team is joined by interns for three or more months to work on specific projects and help out in general as well as occasional contractors for specific tasks. This year our interns have been: Olga Gkotsopoulou, Fernando Sanjurjo, Erik da Silva, Jonke Suhr, Carmen Bianca Bakker and Kristi Progri.

The Executive Council is the body that actually executes the wishes of the members. Currently, there are 4 members in the Council: Matthias Kirschner (President), Jonas Öberg (Executive Director), Patrick Ohnewein (Financial Officer) and Heiki Lõhmus (Vice President and Translations Coordinator).

The FSFE's formal members are responsible for planning, budgeting, setting the agenda and electing and recalling of the Executive Council and the Financial Officer. During 2017, we counted on 28 members, including the the 2 prior presidents, Georg Greve and Karsten Gerloff, and the 4 members of the Executive Council.

Then we have our European Core Team, consisting of the formal members plus another 15 individuals from all over Europe, and they are the people that carry out the day-to-day tasks of the organisation on a voluntary or paid basis on core issues and coordinate the many volunteers that support Free Software.

Finally we have the all important supporters. Supporters are sympathisers that have decided to officially support the FSFE by joining our supporter program. During 2017 we surpassed the 1,600 mark and now have supporters in more than 40 countries around the world, including most European countries as well as the Unites States and Australia.

Introducing some of our individuals

Reinhard Müller

Reinhard Müller

Reinhard is from Lustenau, Vorarlberg, in Austria and has been part of the FSFE for over more than 10 years. Reinhard has always carried out anonymous, often ungrateful tasks that don't get much visibility, but, without which, the FSFE would grind to a halt.

He started out maintaining the FSFE's website, coordinating the translation team and taking care of the Fellowship database. Then, from 2007 to 2017, he took over the financial side as FSFE's official Financial Officer. In that role, Reinhard has done everything related to managing the Foundation's money, from okaying invoices, to filing out our taxes.

However, that hasn't made Reinhard an antisocial hermit, always poring over dusty books with ink-stained fingers. Quite the contrary: if there is something Reinhard enjoys more than columns and columns of figures it is direct contact with people at events. Reinhard loves participating in fairs and tradeshows at the FSFE booth. Next time you are at Linuxtage or FOSDEM, be sure to come by and say hello. You may get lucky and witness Reinhard's legendary T-shirt folding capabilities in action and live. Something worth beholding.

Ulrike Sliwinski

Ulrike Sliwinski

But, talking of booth service and merchandise, if there is one person you can always rely on to get you sweaters and stickers, that is Ulrike. Ulrike joined the FSFE as an office assistant in 2014 on part-time contract. When we realised how much she brought to the job, we quickly asked her to become our full time office manager.

Ulrike, as Reinhard, carries out tasks that are largely invisible to the outside world, but without which the FSFE simply wouldn't be able to run. If you phone the FSFE up for any reason, it will probably be Ulrike who solves your problem. If you ask for one of our boxes of stickers and flyers for you event, it is Ulrike who packs it and sends it off.

Ulrike has been described by some of her colleagues as the "personification of German efficiency" and as someone who will not leave a task alone until it is completed to her entire satisfaction. But Ulrike is also kind, helpful and friendly, making her the perfect host for our office and booth.

André Ockers

André Ockers

One of the FSFE's main missions is to raise awareness among the general public, in companies, in the public sector, and among politicians. Stating the obvious, the first step towards effectively raising awareness, is putting out your messages in the language of your target audience.

That is where people like André come in. André translates most, if not all, FSFE's output into Dutch, and he does so unprompted. André translated more than 80% of FSFE's site into Dutch, and you can expect him to have a translation of every news item or press release we put out within eight hours.

André represents all of those selfless heroes that year in and year out help us reach people of all countries in their native languages.

At the end

We like to send a big big thank you out to our community, all the countless volunteers, supporters and donors who who made the work of FSFE possible in 2017. Your contributions are priceless and we do our best to keep the good work going in 2018.

If you like what we are doing, join the FSFE as a supporter and help us working for Free Software!

Your Free Software Foundation Europe

FSFE in action!
(Picture CC-BY-SA 2.0 by Julie Missbutterflies)