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EU Ecodesign: 38 organisations demand the right to access and to reuse hardware


The FSFE publishes an open letter, co-signed by 38 organisations and companies, to ask EU legislators for the right to install any software on any device, including full access to hardware. These rights support reusability and longevity of our devices. The alliance is composed of entities from environmental, economic, and technological sectors.

The European Union is about to redefine the ecodesign criteria for products in several legislative proposals, including the Sustainable Product Initiative, the Circular Electronics Initiative, and the Right to Repair. These proposals aim at extending the usage time of hardware and facilitating circular use of electronic devices. The current regulations date from 2009 and do not include any criteria regarding the design and licensing of software as an important factor for the sustainability of electronic products. Software directly influences how long consumers can keep using their devices.

The picture shows four icons, each representing one of the four demands from the open letter.

Nowadays, users who want to keep using their devices for a longer time, or to reuse their hardware in a creative way, face a wide range of software barriers: from obsolescence to an unexpected end-of-support, from spare part serialization to locked boot loaders. In practice, these artificial restrictions on using and reusing hardware are ultimately imposed by software. Neither consumers nor professional third-party services can overcome them, often simply due to the obscurity of proprietary software licensing models. Free Software licensing solves many of these issues and in this way becomes crucial for an eco-friendly design and the sustainability of hardware; this is the core message of an Open Letter published today by the Free Software Foundation Europe and co-signed by 37 European organisations and companies.

Among the initial signees are large repair unions as the European Right to Repair Campaign, the Round Table Repair, and the Netzwerk Reparatur Initiative - together representing hundreds of initiatives and associations of the European repair sector. Together with iFixit, Fairphone, Germanwatch, Open Source Business Alliance, Wikimedie DE, Digitalcourage, European Digital Rights Initiative, and more, they build an alliance of 38 organisations, that ask European legislators for a more sustainable digital economy by giving users the right to freely choose operating systems, software, and services. The letter divides this right into four core demands:

Universal right to install any software on any device

three gears in different colors and sizes integrate with each other, while one has the coding abbreviation  on it

Users must have the universal right to install and develop any operating system and software they want on any device. Legal, technical, or other obstacles to reusing these devices for any purpose must not be allowed.

Free choice of online service providers

a phone-like device out of which come three arrows, one to the left, one to the right and one straight ahead

Using certain hardware must not dictate which online services to use. The obligation to connect online services via Open Standards must empower users to choose services from diverse manufacturers, including self-hosted services or those hosted by any third party.

Interoperable and compatible devices

four different geometrical figures are connected via bridges

Using certain hardware must not dictate which other hardware to buy in order to keep those devices connected. Manufacturers must provide any data necessary to run a device in Open Standards format, allowing interoperability of devices. Artificial incompatibility of devices must not be allowed.

Publication of source code of drivers, tools, and interfaces

a phone like device looks like a lock that has been opened

Manufacturers must enable users to repurpose, replace, or repair any part of a device. This is only possible if users can access and reuse the source code of all necessary drivers, tools, and interfaces to run the device and its components. This means that the source code of tools, drivers, and interfaces of every piece of hardware within a device must be published under a Free Software licence.

The FSFE and 37 European organisations and companies stress the above demands as necessary for sustainable use and reuse of our hardware. Empowering users with the right to freely choose operating systems, software, and services will allow them to use and reuse their devices for a longer period.

The initial signatories of the open letter include civil society organisations from the environmental, economic, and technological sectors. Several companies support these demands as well, showing that a more sustainable digital society and economic growth are not contradictions. The list of these initial signees in alphabetical order is:

  1. /e/ Foundation
  2. Associação Nacional para o Software Livre (ANSOL)
  3. European Open Source Business Association (APELL)
  4. Back Market
  5. Barcelona Free Software Group
  6. Citizen D
  7. Deutscher Naturschutzring
  8. Digitalcourage
  9. Digitale Gesellschaft CH
  10. Document Foundation
  11. Environmental Coalition on Standards
  12. Epicenter.works
  13. European Digital Rights (EDRi)
  14. Elektronisk Forpost Norge
  15. European Right to Repair Campaign (repair.eu)
  16. Fairphone
  17. Forum InformatikerInnen für Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung e.V. (FifF)
  18. Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE)
  19. Germanwatch
  20. Greek Open Technologies Alliance (GFOSS)
  21. Heinlein Support
  22. iFixit
  23. KDE
  24. Mailbox.org
  25. Mouvement Ecologique
  26. Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU)
  27. Netzwerk Reparatur Initiativen
  28. Nextcloud
  29. Nitrokey
  30. Norwegian Unix User Group
  31. Oekozenter Pafendall
  32. Open Kowledge Foundation DE
  33. OPNTEC
  34. Open Source Business Alliance (OSBA)
  35. Runder Tisch Reparatur
  36. Shift
  37. Vrijschrift
  38. Wikimedia DE

Does your organisation or company support the users’ right to freely choose operating systems, software and services? Please reach us with an email to contact [at] fsfe [dot] org to sign the open letter and join the alliance.