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Software freedom in Europe 2018


"Software freedom in Europe" is the yearly report of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). In one document, it gives you a breakdown of important things the FSFE has done and achieved during the last 12 months. In the 2018 report, you will read about our electoral campaigns, our input on the European Union's copyright reform, and about our successful outreach in demanding publicly financed software be made publicly available under a Free Software licence. You will also get insights about the events we (co-)organised and about our community and groups that helped us with these achievements. Finally, we will display some numbers showing what resources we counted on, and giving an outlook for the next year.

About the Free Software Foundation Europe

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a charity that empowers people to control technology by enabling access to software and its source code. The rights to use, study, share, and improve this software are essential to guarantee equal participation in democracies of the 21st century.

We work for a world in which everyone has access to the source code of the software that runs in the products we own, or that is essential to the public infrastructure and services of the society we live in. Access to this code should be embedded in a legal environment where people are able to change technologies in a way that fulfills their needs - individually or collectively. Therefore, any software that is used to run public infrastructure or is publicly financed has to be made publicly available.

To shape the future this way, we help people to understand Free Software and its assets today. We would like everyone to understand the four freedoms to use, study, share and improve, and how these freedoms are essential to freedom in our society as a whole.

To help people understand our message, we use public campaigns and political lobbying, we provide expertise in talks and personal meetings, we set up informational booths and organise events, we produce promotion material and explanatory videos. To achieve our goals, we base our work and form our movement with the help of our community and friends, who ensure that our message gets out and is heard in as many diverse parts of our society as possible. We work in a transparent and cooperative way.

If you like to join our cause, contribute or support us financially.

Campaigns in 2018

Public Money? Public Code!

Why is software, created using taxpayers' money, not released as Free Software? We started raising this question with our "Public Money? Public Code!" campaign, and received a lot of international attention and support. At the time of writing more than 18.500 individuals and more than 150 organisations signed our open letter demanding that code paid for by the people should be available to the people. As another strong sign that now is the right time to ask for public code, we have found the first public administration to sign our open letter: the City Council of Barcelona.

On the other hand, little is known about how much public code is already a reality in many public administrations throughout Europe. To change this, we shed light on outstanding examples, to learn from each other and to put positive pressure on decision makers. We started a series of expert interviews in different areas to learn more about their experiences and their motivation, as well as their challenges: Francesca Bria, CTO of Barcelona, elaborates on how Free Software helps build a more democratic, inclusive and sustainable digital society; Elena Muñoz Salinero, who leads the Technology Transfer Centre of the Spanish Government, speaks about best practices between public administrations in the re-use of software solutions, by publishing code under Free Software licenses; and Timo Aarnio, GIS expert at National Land Survey of Finland which coordinates the development of Oskari, explains development practices under public funding within a network with over 38 organisations from both the public and private sector.

Francesca Bria - CTO Barcelona

As our next step, we are releasing a brochure with more than 20 pages to be used in the time before the European Parliament's election in mid-2019. The brochure is directed towards decision makers in politics and administrations: To help them understand Free Software, to explain the benefits of public code for democracy and IT security, and to point out the first steps to positively change procurement and legislation in favor of Free Software. We will not only use this brochure for the European Parliament's election, but also for distribution to decision-makers inside public institutions to help them understand the importance of Free Software in modernising our digital infrastructure. If you would like to support this and other "Public Money? Public Code!"-activities, sign the open letter and help us with your donation.

However, offering expertise to decision-makers is only one factor. It is just as important to apply pressure by raising awareness inside our society and offering people tools to explain the benefits of public code to each other. For the overall campaign's success, it is essential to empower activists and organisations from all over the world to become a part of this movement. One key to achieving this is to offer material and explanations in a person's mother tongue. Thanks to the priceless help of our outstanding volunteers, we have managed to translate the campaign website into 18 languages. The corresponding popular campaign video is dubbed into six different languages (English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Russian) and offers subtitles in a total of 15 languages. This way, we enable more than 1.5 billion people to learn about "Public Money, Public Code" in their language. 

Public Money? Public Code! campaign logo
Get "Public Money? Public Code!" stickers, card and poster helping you spread the word!

Free Software in the European Union's Copyright Directive

One of the most controversial policy topics in the European Union 2018 was, and still is, the harmonisation of copyright with a new copyright directive. At the time of writing, and after two years of intense debates, the copyright reform is getting close to the final straight. For the well-being of software freedom, one of the most important debates was around Article 13.

Article 13 of the European Union's current copyright directive proposal can seriously hamper collaborative software development, and especially Free Software, by imposing the use of mandatory upload filters and monitoring of their users.  As a result of this proposal, Free Software code-hosting platforms and public code repositories can be arbitrarily removed online. 

After a long and intense debate that we accompanied with our Save Code Share campaign, and after collecting more than 14.000 signatories for our open letter to avoid any negative impact for Free Software, we obtained some limited exclusion for Free Software in the text of the European Parliament's directive. With amendment 143 and 150 of the current copyright reform proposal, we now have at least an exclusion for “open source software developing platforms (..) within the meaning of this Directive”. However, the council proposed this exclusion to only be valid for “non-commercial open source software developing platforms”.

MEP Julia Reda receives more than 11.000 signatures against the dangerous impact of Article 13 from the FSFE's policy coordinator Polina Malaja.

Since the beginning of October the European Parliament and the Council have been in the Trialogue in which we keep raising our voices and demanding for an appropriated exception of commercial as well as non-commercial Free Software in the upcoming Copyright Reform package. Most likely, this debate will continue until the beginning of next year, so if you have not yet done so, back our demand and help keep a healthy environment for Free Software development by signing our open letter or helping us finanicially

The REUSE Initiative

The FSFE aims to support developers by helping them understand the legal implications of reusing a given piece of Free Software, and how to comply with these legal requirements by adding copyright and license information. To achieve this, the FSFE has embarked on our REUSE Initiative, which introduces a set of best practices for license information in ways that not only humans can read, but computers as well, helping to automate licensing. These guidelines have been in place since December 2017, and FSFE is proud to have contributed them under CC-0 licensing terms to the OpenChain Curriculum, a project that helps companies understand best practices supporting their compliance efforts.

In September, the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano published a study that was funded by the FSFE in order for us to better understand the impact of the REUSE Initiative, and how it could be improved upon. Researchers analyzed a set of GitHub projects and the extent to which they respect REUSE guidelines, discovering that compliance is currently lackluster. While this can be attributed to the relatively recent availability of our guidelines, the study also found them overly complex. Accordingly, the next step by the REUSE Initiative to provide support to developers in their efforts to include license information will be to further simplify the guidelines and to provide additional tools for developers, which can include, for example, the so-called “flight rules” developed by IDM-Südtirol. The FSFE is eager to work with partners from industry and research to improve these guidelines in order to see increased compliance in the future, and greatly appreciates all feedback that can help us make this a reality.

The FSFE helped Investigate Europe, an independent journalistic team, to better understand concepts and benefits of Free Software and brought them in contact with experts from our network for their research for the TV documentary "Microsoft-Software: Safe for Europe?".

Electoral campaigns

At the FSFE, we believe that Free Software and Open Standards should be a topic in all elections, be they on a European, national, regional, or local level. To influence the discourse and the agenda pre-election in favour of Free Software, we run electoral campaigns, where we collect and highlight information about the candidates and political parties who participate, and shed light on how they stand on Free Software. This practice can assist voters who care about Free Software and Open Standards with their voting decisions, by allowing them to understand which candidates support our cause towards a free society. After the elections, we will stay in contact with decision-makers and those who are committed to raising their voices for Free Software.

In 2018, the FSFE ran an Ask Your Candidates campaign in the forefront of the Italian elections by sending a set of questions to the participating political parties and publishing their answers afterwards. These questions aimed to clarify the various parties' positions on the use of Free Software in public administrations, a subject already present in Italian jurisprudence by way of Article 68 and Article 69 of the Code of the Digital Administration.

In conclusion, all parties and candidates that answered the questions - Movimento 5 Stelle, Liberi e Uguali, Partito Democratico and Potere al Popolo - have claimed to be in favour of the adoption and the extended use of Free Software and open formats in public administration as well as in public education. In the running legislation period, the FSFE Italy will use this information to observe the government on whether they are delievering on their promises.

I Love Free Software Day 2018

Every year on February 14th, we celebrate "I Love Free Software Day", a day to say thank you to the contributors of the various Free Software you love: developers, translators, designers, testers, or documentation writers, of huge or smaller software projects. Again, all around the globe the message of 'I love Free Software' (#ilovefs) was spread on mass and social media, in communities and between people.

I Love Free Software Day 2018

We counted hundreds of messages on social media, as well as private and corporate blogs. Messages full of love declarations, sweetened with photos and artwork dedicated to the countless people out there contributing to Free Software every day, be it in the form of code, translations, documentation, community work, design, or management of projects. Thank you very much for having shared your love once more!

This year, to monitor the online popularity of the day's celebration, our intern Jan Weymeirsch wrote a scraper in GNU R to scrape trending data from social media and published it as a Free Software tool. We used this scraper to compile results about the quantity of toots and tweets using the hashtag #ilovefs and analysed their corresponding metadata as well. We then used this data to create a word-board that showed which Free Software had been the most popular that users were sharing the love with.

I Love Free Software Day 2018

Again, there have just been too many  outstanding love declarations by individuals and organisations to be listed here. If you are interested in more details, read this year's report and do not miss #IloveFS-day in 2019!

If you would like to keep up to date throughout the year and read good news about Free Software and the people behind it, subscribe to our newsletter and if you would like to help us spread the love about Free Software, support us financially.

Events we organised and participated in

The FSFE participates in public events to spread the message of Free Software. We are organising more and more successful events on our own, and extending our presence at events organised by others. In 2018 we participated with informative booths and talks at more than 40 events in ten European Countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Sweden).

In July, we combined our annual community meeting with the FSFE's presence at the Libre Software Meeting (aka Rencontres Mondiales du Logiciel Libre) in Strasbourg, France. The Libre Software Meeting is a community-driven Free Software meeting in France, and the FSFE had the chance to run its own freedom-related track during the conference. Our community meeting is the annual event to bring together our community across Europe for a weekend to discuss and set the FSFE's agenda for the months to come. 

In April, the FSFE led its annual Free Software Legal and Licensing Workshop (LLW), a 3-day conference in Barcelona, Spain, and a meeting point for world-leading legal experts to remove legal barriers for Free Software adoption, as well as to debate issues and best practices surrounding Free Software licences. In 2018, an estimated 120 legal experts enjoyed an unprecedented amount of parallel tracks and interactive sessions designed to dive into the most contentious topics in the legal world of Free Software.

In January, the FSFE partnered up again with Open Forum Europe for the third edition of the European Free Software Policy Meeting in Brussels, at the heart of European decision-making. The aim of the meeting was to shed light on topics important for Free Software in public policy all over Europe, and to exchange experience for policy action within different regions to help political decision-makers understand how software freedom is related to other freedoms in our society, as well as the economic impact of Free Software. This year, 17 different groups were represented at the European Free Software Policy Meeting, from national Free Software groups to public sector representatives and international organisations.

Booth at the FSFE assembly during 34C3

In the days before New Year's Eve, the FSFE aligned with European Digital Rights (EDRi) and other friends to form a Cluster “Rights & Freedoms” at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress, one of the largest community-driven technology-events in the world. This cluster offered a stage with a full-time programme about digital rights and the FSFE Assembly forms an integral part of this program with our own Free Software track.

If you would like to support our community in participating throughout events in Europe, please consider supporting us financially.

The FSFE Community

In the FSFE's community, we appreciate all the people who help us on different levels with their respective skills on our path towards a society where users are in control of their technology. With this in mind in 2018, some ten thousand people, from Europe and beyond, are supporting the FSFE by spreading our word, signing our open letters about Public Money? Public Code! and Save Code Share, subscribing to our newsletter  and mailing lists, and joining our public discussions about Free Software and FSFE. 

For those who feel inspired by the FSFE and would like to help keep the FSFE running with their official support, we offer a supporter programme, previously known as the Fellowship programme. The supporter programme includes a financial contribution to the FSFE and is crucial to our success. Joining the supporters program is as easy as any online transaction and it is said to bring good karma!

Last but not least, the FSFE is proud to have highly motivated people around Europe, without whose help the FSFE could not operate in the size and outreach that we have. These volunteers work in the core of our activities and are an integral part of our community. Some of them come together in our European Core Team, others coordinate our country or local groups, and countless volunteers run FSFE booths and give talks. They help spreading our promotional material as well as telling friends, families and colleagues about Free Software in Europe. All of them shape the FSFE community. If you would like to become an integral part of our community read about how you can contribute.

Community members at the FSFE booth during LSM / RMLL 2018

Code of Conduct and the CARE team

Disagreement and possible conflicts are part of any debate in every community. This is not inherently bad; quite the opposite, in the FSFE's community, we understand differences of opinions to be fundamental in the democratic process, and important to shape the directions of a community-driven organisation like the FSFE. But no matter the dispute at stake, all participants should at all times feel at ease to participate and express their opinion, and to do so without fearing any form of attack, reprisal, or harassment.

It has always been an aim for our community to offer a friendly and peaceful environment for every participant at the FSFE's events and in its infrastructure, online and offline. Since last year, we have officially codified this in our Code of Conduct. To further ensure its availability and enforcement, we created a CARE team at the beginning of this year. Whenever you encounter a situation in which our Code of Conduct was breached, do not hesitate to get in touch with our central CARE team.

Code of Conduct

Staffers and team

In the beginning of the year, Jonas Öberg left his position as the Executive Director, and later also Polina Malaja, our former Policy Analyst and Legal Coordinator. On the other hand, Max Mehl works full-time for FSFE since January, Francesca Indorato started in February as our new office assistant and, in August, Alexander Sander joined our team as the FSFE's new EU public policy programme manager. At the beginning of October, Galina Mancheva and Gabriel Ku Wei Bin joined us as project managers. In total, the FSFE will employ seven full-time staffers and one part-time employee at the end of 2018. In addition, we constantly have two internship positions in parallel that support our work. Throughout the year, our interns have been: Alexandra Busch, George Brooke-Smith, Jan Weymeirsch and Vincent Lequertier

As another addition to our team in 2018, it will be possible to undertake Federal Volunteer Service ("Bundesfreiwilligendienst") at the FSFE. 

The association and its members

Formally, the FSFE is an association with charity status, registered in Germany. The charity is governed by its formal members who are responsible for planning, budgeting, setting the agenda, as well as electing and recalling the Executive Council and the Financial Officer. We have seen a growth of members with the general assembly in 2017 and welcome as new members since then: Amandine Cryptie, Polina Malaja, Ulrike Sliwinski, Jan-Christoph Borchardt, Max Mehl, Erik Albers and Florian Snow. Daniel Pocock resigned as a member. Currently, the FSFE e.V. has 28 members.

Daily operations are run by the Executive Council. This year, our long-time financial officer Reinhard Müller stepped down from his position after more than 10 years, and Patrick Ohnewein has been elected to take over the position. Reinhard continues to be a contributor to the FSFE in our technical backend and frontend, in particular as the lead organiser of the FSFE's biggest annual booth at FOSDEM. 

In 2018, the General Assembly also approved the removal of the "Fellowship seats". In future, access to membership of the FSFE shall be facilitated through the normal membership procedures for active FSFE contributors. The FSFE believes that encouraging active contributors to become GA members, without the downsides of the elections, is a better way to achieve our mission.

Participants at the FSFE's general assembly 2018.

Budgets and expenses

As soon as we have the final numbers for 2018, you will find them on our funds list. On a general note, we are always eager to increase our financial independence with an increase of individual supporters instead of major donors. We expect around one third of our budget in 2018 to be covered by our financial supporter program. Apart from the basic costs to run our infrastructure, we have the highest expenses in Policy, Public Outreach, and Legal. Currently, our biggest campaign is Public Money? Public Code!. The financial part of our Public Outreach covers the production and distribution of PR material, merchandise and the FSFE's presence at various Free Software events.

Promotion material

The FSFE empowers people to promote digital freedom in the real world by offering a large set of promotion material. You can find inspiration about the 100 freedoms of Free Software and why There is no Cloud, just other people's computers, or leaflets to help you explain Free Software, Email encryption, the dangers of DRM and how to Free Your Android. You can also find postcards, posters and stickers of our Public Money? Public Code! and I love Free Software campaign. Order your own material now and help us to spread the word!

In the last 12 months, we sent out 751 promotion orders around the world. This means literally thousands of stickers, leaflets, and posters have been given out to people, who are interested or are even hearing about Free Software for the first time . If you would like to support us in this direct action, consider supporting us financially or consider a donation along with your personal PR material order. The right leaflet at the right time to the right person can be the start of long-lasting change. 


Besides promotion material, the FSFE sells clothes, bags, baby bibs, and magnets as merchandise items. This year, we have newly released a "100 Freedoms of Free Software" shirt, a "There is no Cloud just other people's computers" magnet, and a "Public Money? Public Code!" bag

Looking forward into 2019

2019 will be another exciting year for software freedom and the Free Software Foundation Europe. On the European level, the FSFE will start the year by further explaining to actors, who are involved in the copyright reform, that Free Software can always be commercial as well as non-commercial, thereby removing barriers for Free Software in Europe. Later in the year, and still before the European Parliament's elections, we will get in contact with the candidates running for office and explain to them the benefits of "Public Money? Public Code!". In parallel, we will raise our voices in the debate about the next European Framework Research Programme, called "Horizon Europe", to ensure that releasing publicly financed software under free licenses becomes an integral part of "Horizon Europe", as well as a general condition for publicly financed science inside the European Union.

On the member states level, there will be elections in many European countries, such as in Switzerland, Albania, Netherlands, Greece, and Spain. We want to accompany as many of them as possible with electoral campaigns to make sure political decision makers understand how Free Software contributes to freedom, transparency, self-determination, as well as economic well-being, and that they vote accordingly in future. 

To bring more Free Software to small and medium-sized enterprises and its employees, we are part of FOSS4SMEs. Together with our partners, we are going to create e-learning courses for managers and workers to teach them about the origins and benefits of software freedom. Our goal is that SMEs can make an informed decision and, if SMEs want to use or develop software, that Free Software is their preferred choice. Stay tuned for first releases in 2019!

Preparations are already running for our annual legal conference "Legal Licensing Workshop" (LLW), as well as for our hackathons and annual community meeting. And, besides our own events, we will of course be present again at various Free Software related events, from FOSDEM to the Chaos Communication Camp. 

Last but not least, in 2019 the FSFE will again use public awareness campaigns and political lobbying, provide our expertise, and produce promotion material and explanatory videos. To achieve our goals, we base our work and form our movement with the help of our community and friends, who ensure that our message gets out and is heard in as many diverse parts of our society as possible. 

If you would like to join our cause, contribute or support us financially

On this occasion, we like to send a big thank you to our community: all the contributors, as well as our financial supporters, and donors who made the work of the FSFE possible during the last 12 months.

Thank you!

Your Free Software Foundation Europe

FSFE supporters at the community meeting 2018 in Strasbourg, France.