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FSFE: 20 years of empowering people to control technology


Marking twenty years of the FSFE, we highlight the importance of software freedom in Europe and important accomplishments since 2001. We shed light on our community with a birthday page where you can find community interviews and videos. People are invited to celebrate with us and share their own stories.

Long before the first smartphone was introduced, it was evident to the FSFE's founders that it is the people who should be in control of technology and not vice versa. In 2001, Free Software experts around Europe therefore created the Free Software Foundation Europe. 20 years later, we successfully concentrate our daily work on three main pillars to help software freedom thrive in Europe: public awareness, policy advocacy, and legal support.

Some highlights of the last 20 years

In 2021, the FSFE looks back on a successful history with major successes in the public, legal, and policy fields. For example in 2005, when our intense campaigning and collaboration with other organisations persuaded the European Parliament to vote against Software Patents. Or two years later, when the European Court of Justice aligned with the FSFE, requiring Microsoft to publish interoperability information. During that time, we saw that it was needed to help Free Software developers by clarifying the legal aspects of their work, such as the enforcement in case of license violations. This led to the FSFE starting to work with Free Software legal advocates and practitioners for legal initiatives in 2006.

Meanwhile, the FSFE facilitates the world's largest professional network on legal issues related to Free Software, by providing an online platform as well as in-person events for network members to discuss and share information on licensing issues and best practices. In 2017, we also created the highly successful REUSE initiative to provide a set of recommendations that make licensing Free Software projects easier for developers. REUSE has been adopted by well known projects such as the German Corona Warn App and the KDE.

Since its founding, the FSFE has been committed to running public campaigns and helping people to understand the benefits of Free Software. As early as 2012, we helped users to overcome software restrictions in their phones with the launch of our 'Free Your Android' campaign. Two years earlier we introduced "I Love Free Software Day" which is celebrated around the globe every year on 14 February. In 2017, we launched the extraordinarily successful 'Public Money? Public Code!' campaign, convincing several public administrations to change their IT strategy. The accompanying open letter has been signed by over 200 civil society organisations, 31.000 individuals, and several public administrations like the city of Barcelona and the Swedish JobTech Development center.

FSFE20 campaign: handing over the mic to our community

Of course, all these accomplishments can only give a glimpse of the impact of the FSFE and our activities in the last 20 years. They do not tell how all these successes are the result of our large community that we can rely on. To at least shed light on some of them we created the FSFE20 campaign this year, where we hand over the mic to our community.

We have contacted people who paved the way of the FSFE since its beginning, such as long term contributors and past staffers. In a series of interviews we discuss the progress of the FSFE as well as technological topics. Every person who is involved in the FSFE has unique memories, expertise, and hopes for the future. They are all part of the story of 20 Years FSFE.

So far we interviewed Georg Greve, founder president of the FSFE; Reinhard Müller, long-term volunteer and former Financial Officer of the FSFE; Fernanda Weiden, former Vice President of FSFE and founding member of FSF Latin America; and Torsten Grote, Free Software developer and long time volunteer in the FSFE.

And this is just the beginning. We will conduct several more interviews to shed light on 20 Years FSFE. In addition, this autumn we want to publish another dedicated birthday page whose content is entirely made from our community contributions. You will find more on this and the interviews on our birthday page! Besides these interviews, you will also find a birthday video from science-fiction author Cory Doctorow and one by our current president Matthias Kirschner alongside information on how people can join the celebrations.

A message to you from our President Matthias Kirschner

Although technology is ever-changing, our values have been consistent throughout the last twenty years. The core of our work is, in a nutshell: educating people on the nature of Free Software, highlighting its political implications, and simplifying its legal preconditions. Matthias Kirschner, President of the FSFE since 2015, explains this in his own words in a short video.

Celebrate with us!

This autumn we want to publish another dedicated birthday page whose content is entirely made from your contributions. This is the time for you to join in! Would you like to share your thoughts about your time with the FSFE? You can answer our interview questions. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Other ways you can join our celebration are to send us FSFE pictures from the past, or to create a birthday video and share your wishes for the future. Find out how to share your memories in our birthday page. To cherish this anniversary we also produced something commemorative. Show off your long lasting dedication to Free Software by having an 'FSFE since 2001' sticker on your laptop.