Software Freedom in Europe 2022
We continuously work to promote Free Software in Europe. In 2022 we addressed technological sustainability, advocated in the DMA and AI act on European level, and defended Router Freedom in Europe – among other activities. To reach younger people, we organised a coding competition for teenagers and published a children's book on software freedom.
“Software Freedom in Europe” is the yearly report of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), your charity organisation which empowers people to control technology. Every year we refine our manifold activities to address the current needs of software freedom in Europe. This yearly report covers the FSFE activities from November 2021 to August 2022.
Global digitization has increased in the pandemic times and developments in the IT sector accelerated rapidly. The climate consequences of such a rapid growth are significant. The longevity of hardware and software is a central element of digital sustainability. With this in mind, we launched the Upcycling Android campaign, demonstrating that Free Software can help overcome software obsolescence. Our open letter to the EU legislators, calling for the right to install any software on any device, received over 100 signatures from tech companies and from digital rights and environmental organisations.
Meanwhile, new technologies reintroduce the question of ownership. Artificial intelligence increasingly determines aspects of our everyday life, from picking which content we see online to estimating the length of hospital stays. How are the results generated? As a society, we need to be able to track what input leads to each output and to evaluate the results. Free Software can make AI systems more transparent and trustworthy. The FSFE advocated in favor of Free Software in the Artificial Intelligence Act, with clear results. A European Parliament resolution on AI proclaims that public procurement should require Free Software.
Another critical challenge for our movement is that more and more devices prohibit us from running Free Software on them. As these restrictions often establish monopolistic practices, we were able to give our input to policy makers who created the Digital Markets Act. This was another win for software freedom: the Digital Markets Act enhances interoperability and control over personal data, while limiting monopolistic practices.
We address country-specific cases too. We submitted a position and formed a coalition to defend Router Freedom in Greece, and hosted a debate about Router Freedom in Austria.
We have always advocated for Free Software in public administrations, to allow knowledge sharing and innovation. After all, software created using taxpayers’ money should be released as Free Software. We run electoral activities asking political parties their stance on Free Software, and we share good practices from public entities which already use Free Software. In 2022, we interviewed Free Software developers in Sweden who created a digital school platform. The 'Public Money? Public Code!' brochure for public administrations was translated into Spanish and Italian, steps that were marked with dedicated events. We even created an application prototype to make public procurement more transparent. The application made it to the finals of the EU Datathon!
We acknowledge that developers have to deal with legal matters regarding copyright, patents, and trademarks. The FSFE continued providing legal support to Free Software projects, and published a new version of REUSE.
Looking into the future, it is clear that the software freedom movement can only thrive if younger generations join. Therefore, the FSFE introduced two new activities to appeal to the young people. We organised a hacking competition explicitly for teenagers to spark their interest and enthusiasm about technology and Free Software. Also we published a children's book narrating the adventures of developing Free Software.
We are grateful for all the successes we have had throughout these recent months, yet our real strength lies in our thriving community. Our volunteer translators make our message accessible throughout European language zones. Our local groups and country teams introduce people to Free Software and run local activities across Europe. Our newly formed Women's group empowers women and non-binary people to network on the cause of software freedom. And last but not least we started to be present again in person at events across Europe, letting people know about the benefits of software freedom.
We hope you enjoy reading our yearly report as much as we had the pleasure of writing it.
Your editor in representation of the whole team, Fani Partsafyllidou
Table of contents
- Software sustainability
- Upcycling Android
- ‘Public Money? Public Code!’
- Artificial Intelligence and Free Software
- Router Freedom: Keeping your gateway to the Internet free
- Device Neutrality: Regaining control over our devices
- Legal support for Free Software programs
- REUSE: Making licensing easier
- Youth Hacking 4 Freedom: A coding competition
- Children’s book: A tale of software, skateboards, and raspberry ice cream
- Free Software in Education
- What is Free Software? - Our work on public awareness
- The FOSDEM 2022 conference
- The FSFE e.V. association
- The FSFE community across Europe
- Our fully Free Software technical infrastructure
- Join the movement
In recent years, the FSFE has shed light on Free Software as a central aspect of technological sustainability. Software dictates how long and in what ways we are able to use and reuse hardware. With Free Software, users can replace software and operating systems in order to reuse, repurpose, repair, or upcycle hardware. With interoperable devices and open standards, technical infrastructures can be adapted efficiently and according to local needs. Only with free access to the source code of hardware, drivers, and tools can the right to repair be fully exercised.
Right now, the European Union is about to redefine the ecodesign of products in the internal market. Our goal is to make sure that the dedicated policies use Free Software to ensure a sustainable European technological sector. To this end in 2022 we provided several policy recommendations:
- Telecommunications sector: The FSFE answered a public consultation about the impact of the telecommunications sector on the environment. The right to install any software on any device, Free Software licensing, and device neutrality serve digital sustainability as well as being consumer protection measures. We contextualized our experience with Router Freedom, explaining that some regulatory approaches taken by policy makers had negative impact on sustainability by limiting freedom of terminal equipment and increasing e-waste.
- Sustainable products: The FSFE submitted feedback to the European Commission about the Sustainable Products Initiative, a proposal for a regulation that will revise the Ecodesign Directive. Nowadays, most electronic devices, in particular phones and tablets, can be reused and upgraded by installing a Free Software operating system on them. In order to establish the universal right to install any software on any device we proposed several improvements to the text of the Initiative.
- Device Neutrality: We worked on the upcoming EU legislation targeting redefining the current ecodesign criteria for environmentally friendly products. In preparation, we provided an in-depth study on software sustainability and its interplay with device neutrality. More on this concept in its own chapter.
- Sustainable consumption: The FSFE participated in the consultation about the European Commission’s ‘Sustainable consumption of goods’ initiative. Within our feedback we highlighted that in order to extend the usage lifetime of devices, two factors are key: the universal right to install any software on any device and the publication of source code of drivers, tools, and interfaces.
Collaboration: The FSFE decided to join the organising committee of the upcoming Bits & Bäume (‘Bits and Trees’) conference. We congratulated Okular, a Free Software universal document reader that was awarded the Blue Angel ecolabel for being an energy-efficient PDF reader.
“There are so many reasons to repurpose a device and to use open technologies: right of ownership, learning, innovation, resource conservation, environmental concerns, providing access to technology, experimentation, system integration... pick yours.”Pedro Alcántara Martín from Tarsis, signee of the open letter for the right to install any software on any device.
In November 2021, the FSFE launched the Upcycling Android initiative, highlighting phones as a poster-child of software obsolescence and correspondingly unnecessary e-waste. The initiative helps people to flash their phones with Free Software operating systems and promotes the right for every user to install any software on any device.
The initiative offers workshops, develops policy recommendations, and receives a lot of attention. Erik Albers tells the thrilling story of the Upcycling Android campaign in a podcast episode with Bonnie Mehring.
Open letter: The EU is redefining their ecodesign criteria in effect for environmentally friendly electronics. After several months of internal discussion and external feedback, the FSFE provided input to this process by publishing an open letter about “The right to install any software on any device”. We published the letter in April. Since then, more than 100 entities have signed the letter, including the Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), EDRi – European Digital Rights, the European Right to Repair Campaign, and Fairphone. It speaks volumes that tech companies, right to repair initiatives, and environmental organisations support the right to install any software on any device. Volunteers translated the letter into 9 languages: Catalan, German, Greek, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish.
Video: Taking Android phones as example, we created a video that explains in a nutshell the problem of software obsolescence and relates to it increasing e-waste and resource scarcity. The video continues with showing how Free Software can help overcome artificial obsolescence and help save the climate at the same time.
Phones DIY: How can people get a Free Software phone? To make things easier, we offered a community-led wiki page listing Free Software operating systems and phone devices that come with Free Software operating systems pre-installed. We introduced Plasma Mobile, including how it is developed and how to get it, by interviewing Bhushan Shah, a Plasma Mobile developer. We presented the software development of the Librem 5 phone and of Phosh, the popular graphical environment for GNU/Linux phones, in an interview with one of Phosh’s main developers, Guido Günther.
Outreach: The FSFE presented the necessity of Free Software for digital sustainability, at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, at the Digital Social Summit (recorded, in German), and in a panel of experts organised by Fairphone on Sustainable software for phones that last (recorded). On November 2021, the FSFE participated in the SFSCon by organising a sustainability track with a phone flashing workshop and five talks (recorded, EN):
- 4 principles for a sustainable digital society, by Erik Albers
- Measuring the Sustainability of AI, by Anne Mollen
- Sustainable Software & Blauer Engel Eco-Certification, by Joseph P. De Veaugh-Geiss
- Software Heritage, by Stefano Zacchiroli
- The role of software for our Right to Repair, by Ugo Vallauri
‘Public Money? Public Code!’
"I wish the FSFE to keep up the good work, keep spreading the word of the advantages of Free Software, and keep pushing for more just regulations on political level such as the Public Money? Public Code! campaign."Lyudmila Vaseva, software developer at ctrl.alt.coop eG. Interview in January 2022
Software created using taxpayers’ money should be released as Free Software. The FSFE actively campaigns for ‘Public Money? Public Code!’ in the EU and several countries in Europe. We advocate to include Free Software in the EU legislation. We run electoral activities asking political parties their stance on Free Software. We showcase good practices from public entities which already use Free Software. We translate our material into several languages and hold events presenting ‘Public Money? Public Code!’ around Europe. We even created an application prototype to make public procurement more transparent; it attained the finals of the EU Datathon!
Digital Rights: The European Union is in the process of discussing the Declaration of Digital Rights and Principles. The European Parliament agreed on a common text recognising Free Software as a way to ensure transparency in algorithms and artificial intelligence. The FSFE keeps monitoring the ongoing inter-institutional dialogue trying to make sure that the Parliament proposal remains.
Germany: In November 2021, the newly formed German government agreed with the FSFE's ‘Public Money? Public Code!’ demand and declared it as one of their aims. The coalition agreement set digitisation as a priority and Free Software as a secure and transparent solution. This decision was an important development for the Free Software movement in Germany.
However, 100 days into the new German government in office, no action had been taken. The FSFE called upon the government to follow its own plans.
Consequently, together with other actors, the FSFE demanded that the German government should include digital sovereignty in the 2022 federal budget. In an open letter (DE), the signatories urge the government groups in the German Parliament, the “Bundestag”, to start implementing their plans regarding Free Software usage.
German regional administrations: An association of nine administrations have jointly modernised their administrations, based on Free Software. Re@di – regional.digital is an inter-communal cooperation of nine southern German cities. Their common needs are met through synergy effects in collaborative development. In our interview, Alexander Gabriel and Eduard Itrich highlighted that the administrations could use their resources cost-efficiently thanks to cooperation and sharing Free Software.
Italy: Our Translators team translated the ‘Public Money? Public Code!’ brochure into Italian. Friends of the team kindly proofread the brochure. Then, volunteers organised a tour presenting the ‘Public Money? Public code!’ campaign in Italy starting with Bologna and Trento (recorded, IT with EN subtitles) and will present it in Caltanissetta.
In Trento the event focused on Free Software in Education. In Bologna the event focused on ‘Public Money? Public Code!’ efforts. Members of the local government attended. Three concrete proposals emerged from this event: Coderdojos in public schools, local Coding Gyms, and a public hearing to bring the topic of ‘Public Money? Public Code!’ to the town council.
Spain: Volunteers translated the ‘Public Money? Public Code!’ brochure into Spanish. To share this good news we organised an event dedicated to our Spanish speaking community. We had the participation of experts from GNUHealth, Lliurex, Pica Pica HackLab, Linkat, and KDE. All the talks are recorded (ES).
France: The FSFE participated in a workshop on data protection and Free Software organised by the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) in the context of the Open Government initiative. The development of privacy-respecting technologies was the main topic. For scalability, education on ethics and Free Software in engineering and IT schools was proposed. A potential certification for privacy-respecting technologies would create a gatekeeper position, which is undesirable.
Winning prototype: The FSFE created an application prototype which made it to the EU Datathon finals. The program TEDective aspires to connect publicly available tendering and company data and to allow analysis of this data. The goal is to allow citizens and experts to monitor suspicious market activity of public interest. The project idea has been a success and made it to the top three out of 26 entries in the ‘transparency in public procurement’ challenge of the EU Datathon 2022. Our team has now been invited to further develop and present the project in Brussels.
Outreach: Naming a few of our outreach activities,
the FSFE gave a ‘Public Money? Public Code!’ workshop at the esLibre
conference in Vigo, Spain, as well as at the rC3 conference. The goal
was to encourage attendees to contact their own administrations to
demand public code in the public sector
. The FSFE
presented the role Free Software played during the corona crisis at
conference (recorded, EN) in Vigo, Spain, at SFSCon
conference (recorded, EN) in Bolzano, Italy and online in GnuHealthCon21.
We also explained why innovation needs Free Software at make-it.saarl in Saarbrücken,
Artificial Intelligence and Free Software
"Keep advocating for software freedom especially at EU level and public sector. Institutional changes can and must be achieved."Matti Lammi, System Specialist at ETLA Economic Research. Interview in January 2022.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be more verifiable, trustworthy, and innovative with Free Software. Transparency in AI technologies is necessary to test them, evaluate their results, and improve them. The FSFE involves experts in the field of AI, makes policy recommendations, and advocates in AI-related legislation in the European Union.
Policy recommendations: The FSFE analysed how AI can be more verifiable, trustworthy, innovative with Free Software, and made policy recommendations. The use of Free Software in AI technologies has the potential to increase their adoption by reducing the level of technical knowledge that is necessary to use AI. An existing algorithm that can be re-used benefits the whole research ecosystem. In this regard, public research and educational institutions inventing, using, or procuring AI systems shall publish those, including a description, version history, and the source code in a public register.
EU Legislation: The FSFE is following the AI Act to ensure Free Software is included. In the effort of adopting digital policies aligned with people’s fundamental rights, the European Parliament is in the process of finding a position on the legal framework for the development and use of AI technologies.
The European Parliament passed a resolution on AI with a huge majority. According to the resolution, public procurement should require Free Software, where appropriate, with the goal to encourage cross-border collaboration. The Parliament acknowledges that Free Software can enhance investments and boost innovation in AI technologies in the EU. The FSFE urged the Parliament to transfer its own position into the AI regulation.
Expert interview: Our interview with Vincent Lequertier, researcher of artificial intelligence for healthcare, unravels cutting edge topics such as the possibility of AI obtaining the legal right to claim copyright.
Outreach: The FSFE presented the status of Free Software and artificial intelligence in the European Union during the OW2 (recorded) and OSCAL (recorded) conferences, and analysed the challenges of ethical AI in KIDD-Fachkonferenz.
Router Freedom: Keeping your gateway to the Internet free
“Router freedom is essential for end-users to remain autonomous in their capacity to access the Internet, employing devices and Free Software they trust for security, privacy and data protection. Users should not be tied down to any particular router or modem package for internet access. The FSFE should continue to campaign for Router Freedom and to collaborate with national digital rights and Free and Open Source Software organizations in order to achieve a neutral, safe and healthy internet”Kostas Papadimas, GFOSS. Greece
Routers and modems are gateways to the Internet. Being able to control these devices is key not only to software freedom but also to security, privacy, and energy consumption. 2022 has been an active year with several positive developments and new challenges. We saw regulators putting forward laws safeguarding this freedom for end-users, internet service providers (ISPs) being forced to comply with the law, and coalitions of organisations and volunteers working together to demand this right from policy makers. On the other side, fiber connections (FTTx) represent a regulatory challenge for the future.
We work, with growing success, with regulators to make them understand that Router Freedom should be consolidated in legislation. In 2022 we worked on several issues/challenges, ranging from multi-stakeholder initiatives to bilateral cooperation with regulators and strategic support from partner organisations in Europe.
Freeing fiber connections: The deployment of fiber networks in Europe has posed regulatory challenges for policy makers. Deciding whether end-users can use their terminal equipment for their internet connection has a direct impact on divergent interests of consumer protection authorities versus large telecom operators. Major ISPs seek to cover their investments in the deployment of new-generation networks at the expense of end-users who suffer from commercial practices that restrict their legitimate rights to exercise digital freedoms.
In 2022, we have been collaborating with regulators to develop better policies that take the interests of end-users into consideration. We shared our concerns with regulators planning to exclude Fiber to the Home constructions (FTTH) from Router Freedom, as well as with those who still are analysing the fiber market. We also contextualized the regulatory issues of Router Freedom for the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) from the perspective of the sustainability of the telecom sector. During all these processes we have been counting on support of several network specialists who have been volunteering to study, research, and share their opinions with us.
Greece: The FSFE assisted a coalition of organisations in Greece to help provide feedback to the Greek regulator on the upcoming legislation that will consolidate Router Freedom in the country. We highlighted in our position the importance of securing this freedom for all kinds of networks, including DSL, coaxial, and FTTH. Our position (EN), (EL) was supported by key stakeholders in the field of digital rights, consumer protection, and business representation. The FSFE country team Greece helped in the translation.
Austria: The FSFE and the Alliance of Telecommunication Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE), organised an online session (recorded, DE) where key stakeholders debated the future perspectives of Router Freedom in Austria. Although industry representatives raised concerns about the integrity of the networks and user experience, the majority of stakeholders agreed on the advantages of having Router Freedom secured in the legislation.
Italy: Italian volunteers and our partner organisation Modem Libero have collaborated with us in monitoring the regulatory panorama in the country, especially in regard to FTTx and related antitrust issues.
The Netherlands: The FSFE country team Netherlands held preparatory meetings for the upcoming reform of the telecommunications law in Belgium and started coordinating efforts with partner organisations for potential actions. They also have been following the enforcement of Router Freedom rules in the Netherlands.
Survey: Internet users from all over Europe have been participating in our Router Freedom survey, sharing their experience with ISPs, reporting problems and issues, and providing their opinion on relevant issues for freedom of terminal equipment. The results of the survey will be published at the beginning of 2023.
Infographics: Volunteers have translated our new Router Freedom infographics into Dutch (1,2), Italian (1,2), French (1,2), and Greek (1,2). Groups of volunteers were active in Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
Device Neutrality: Regaining control over our devices
Code is law, as Lawrence Lessig put it. Therefore Free Software and open standards are necessary for human freedom. Our freedom is threatened by patents, copy-prevention schemes, locked-down devices and spying. To counter these threats I support the FSFE's campaigning for open standards, information security and device sovereignty, and against ever more onerous copyright laws.Björn Persson (Software Engineer)
Have you ever noticed that the number of devices you are using daily is continuously growing, but it is ever harder to run Free Software on them? This is not only your personal impression, but a fact: large device manufacturers, vendors and system providers are increasingly locking devices down, restricting end-users’ freedoms.
The FSFE kicked off the Device Neutrality initiative to promote strategies for regaining control over devices. In 2022 we dedicated efforts to get Device Neutrality in the EU legislation.
Digital Markets Act: Since 2021, the EU has been elaborating a comprehensive piece of legislation to regulate large digital platforms. We have dedicated efforts to include Device Neutrality in the new law and collaborated with policy makers in the European Parliament. The Digital Markets Act is an important advance for setting several anti-monopoly obligations that impact software freedom, interoperability, and control over personal data.
After many iterations and amendments, the European Parliament adopted the Digital Markets Act by 642 votes in favour, 8 votes against, and 46 abstentions. With this vote, the principle of Device Neutrality is introduced. At the same time, the Parliament missed the chance to introduce strong requirements for interoperability based on Open Standards. As a summary of our involvement, we have prepared an analysis on how Free Software is a crucial element for the law’s implementation.
Although Device Neutrality in the legislation is a major first step, the law’s enforcement will be challenging, and will require close monitoring from civil society. Free Software and Open Standards are key factors for proper implementation of Device Neutrality in Europe.
Radio Equipment Directive: The FSFE is on guard about a Radio Lockdown Directive. The EU Radio Equipment Directive may make it impossible to install a custom piece of software on most radio devices. This affects, for example, WiFi routers, phones, and embedded devices. The regulation requires hardware manufacturers to implement a barrier that disallows users to install any software which has not been certified by them. Unfortunately we cannot report major new developments of the last year. The European Commission, in particular DG GROW (the department responsible for the internal market and industry), does not share information about the current state of the Delegated Act that is to be prepared. Even the results of the last consultation in 2020 are not public yet. We are continuing to monitor the situation and we are ready to act on the next development. The topic is too important to ignore.
Public Awareness: We shared the concept of Device Neutrality with several communities and venues to get feedback and inputs so we could provide valuable insights for policy makers. We presented the concept at FOSDEM 2022, and debated it at OW2 2022 (recorded). We talked with legal folk at LLW 2022 and shared insights with the OSCAL community.
Legal support for Free Software programs
"NGI0 not only made it possible to pursue our goals by supplying funding. I was approached a number of times by professionals whom I learned to respect for their knowledge. [We received] concrete support, ranging from security to usability, internationalisation, licensing, and copyrighting, and putting what we do in a perspective of inclusiveness and diversity. Their help will go a long way to improve our products and I am sure to seek out other partners to the NGI0 project before we are done.”Joop Ringelberg, Perspectives-core Project
Programs often come with legal questions, and the FSFE is here to help Free Software programs. We answer licensing questions, we provide technical support to make licensing easier, we provide legal education materials on Free Software, and we organise an annual conference. Since 2008, the FSFE has organised the annual Free Software Legal and Licensing Workshop (LLW) for the FSFE’s Legal Network. It is a conference for legal experts in the field of Free Software to debate over issues and share best practices surrounding Free Software licenses.
Answering licensing questions: The FSFE runs a team for License Questions, composed of several volunteer legal experts from around Europe who continuously help projects and individuals with topics concerning Free Software licensing. Anyone who has a question about Free Software licensing can reach out to the group with an to firstname.lastname@example.org. This year, we helped many members of the public with answering basic license questions, mainly with the help of our online FAQ resource.
Next Generation Internet Zero (NGI0): The FSFE continued its activities in the European Commission’s NGI0 initiative this year, and will wrap up its activities when the project comes to a close at the end of 2022. Thus far, we have worked with almost 300 participating software projects to aid them by providing recommendations to achieve REUSE compliance, as well as assisting with any legal and licensing questions that they may have.
The goal of this NGI0 initiative is to provide support to developing software technologies that can help to improve the internet into a platform that facilitates and supports transparency, human rights, and democracy. The FSFE is involved specifically in two NGI0 actions: NGI0 PET, which supports software projects that support privacy and enhancing trust online, and NGI0 Discovery, which supports software projects that improve user ability to search and discover information online.
Legal and Licensing Workshop: The 2022 edition of the LLW was originally planned to take place in Gothenburg, Sweden. But during the planning process the decision was made to take the conference online once again, due to uncertainties about COVID-19. Although holding the LLW online again was not ideal, we nevertheless were pleased to organize a successful event over the course of 5 weeks in April and May with the help of many of our Legal Network volunteers. All talks organized were held by default under the Chatham House Rule, and included discussions on topics such as the Netfilter v. McHardy settlement in Germany, the ongoing Software Freedom Conservancy v. Vizio lawsuit in the USA, emerging trends in the use of Free Software in Open Science, and other timely and relevant subjects.
Legal Education Day: Understanding the legal matters and complying with legal obligations can become a burden sometimes. That is the reason why we were happy to organize the first Legal Education Day (LED). We provided basic legal education on the legal context of Free Software: copyright law and the concept of copyleft. Useful topics for software developers followed, such as license compatibility, trademarks, and containers. We plan to repeat LED next year.
New European Commission Projects: This year, we also participated in the drafting and submission of three additional European Commission projects that were planned to start by the end of 2022: NGI0 Zooom, NGI0 Entrust, and NGI0 Review. Despite a long submission process and waiting period, we were pleased that all three projects were approved, and that we will be participating in them in a similar capacity to our work in NGI0. This means that we will continue to provide legal support for a wide range of software from all over Europe, when work for these approved projects begins at the end of the year.
Similar to our existing activities with the NGI0 initiative, the FSFE will be a member of a joint consortium of organizations that provide support to software developments that participate in these European Commission projects. Our primary role would be to provide assistance with their legal and licensing needs, primarily through our REUSE specifications.
Public Awareness: The FSFE gave an online lecture on Software Law and Free Software licences at the Humboldt University of Berlin focusing on conceptual introductions to licensing and copyleft.
REUSE: Making licensing easier
"Regarding REUSE, we have learnt a lot. We realise that the idea behind REUSE is simple, clear, and powerful… Nowadays, Free Software projects become more and more complicated, and many components/files of a single project have different license/copyright information. REUSE helps a lot on tracking the status of this information in our project.”Xianjun Jiao, OpenWifi Project
Free Software is created by developers, and comes as everything between small projects and huge corporate suites. Releasing code while granting its users the four freedoms should be simple, but third-party components might come with a variety of available Free Software licenses and thus create some burden.
With REUSE we try to make all of this easier for everyone: individual developers, users, businesses, and re-users. REUSE is a set of best practices and tools with the goal to describe the copyright and licensing information of all files in a repository in a pragmatic and sustainable way. On a large scale, this makes Free Software more transparent and safer to re-use.
New REUSE version: We released version 1.0.0 of the REUSE helper tool that makes the initial adoption of the best practices in a repository more comfortable. Thanks to our awesome volunteers and external contributors to the project, we aim for even more features and simplifications for developers.
Implementations: Obviously, the best standard is irrelevant if it remains unused. This is why we assist projects with understanding their current licensing and copyright situation and making it transparent via REUSE. A prominent example is cURL, an universally-known tool for transferring network data, which became officially REUSE compliant in July 2022. We are continuing this effort, e.g. with the GNUHealth project whose team decided to adopt REUSE for all their components. Please feel free to reach out to projects you would like to be REUSE compliant, and spread the word!
Outreach: The FSFE presented the REUSE activity and the importance of licensing metadata in Free Software on several occasions. We gave presentations at the Upstream (recorded) event, at the esLibre conference (recorded, in Spanish) in Vigo, Spain, and at the OpenExpoEurope2022 conference in Madrid, Spain. We also presented REUSE at the Weizenbaum conference in Berlin, a venue dedicated to interventions for open digital futures, at FrOSCon (recorded, EN) in St. August, Germany, and at SFSCon (recorded, EN) in Bolzano, Italy.
Youth Hacking 4 Freedom: A coding competition
“Taking part in this competition was personally a big step as before it I have never ever programmed something and I did not have knowledge to do so. During the project I learned a lot more about programming concepts, how can I implement the modules and generally the programming language Python.”Ekaterina, one of the winners of the competition
The coding competition Youth Hacking 4 Freedom is a new initiative of the FSFE. Our goal is to make more young people aware of Free Software by encouraging them to tinker and experiment with technology. It is a chance for young people to discuss and network with important people in the fields of computer science and Free Software. The winners are rewarded with a trip to Brussels and a cash prize, which might turn into an investment for their own project. The first year of the competition was a success with wide participation and well-made winning projects.
Participation: We had the pleasure to receive many interesting and inspiring projects from all around Europe. Over a hundred people aged 13 to 19 from 25 countries registered for the competition, making it a truly pan-European event.
Coding period: The participants had five months to come up with a Free Software project. 35 of them submitted a project to the jury.
Jury: An independent jury evaluated the submitted projects. The jury members excel in software development and are deeply involved in the Free Software movement.
Six Winners: The winning programs offer sign language transcription, a smart table robot, a personal assistant, a music tutorial, file sharing, and a homework manager. Of course, all Free Software.
Children’s book: A tale of software, skateboards, and raspberry ice cream
"A rousing tale of self-reliance, community, and standing up to bullies...software freedom is human freedom!"Cory Doctorow, Sci-Fi Author
In November 2021 O’Reilly published our book “Ada & Zangemann – A Tale of Software, Skateboards, and Raspberry Ice Cream” (in German) under a Creative Commons license. A children’s book for young and old readers, ‘Ada & Zangemann’ is a fun and educational tale.
The author, Matthias Kirschner, President of the FSFE, conveys to readers, young and old, the importance of common ownership of software, and even the basics of more complex topics around it. Sandra Brandstätter brings the characters to life with her beautiful illustrations. It quickly sold out at the publisher O'Reilly, right before the holiday season, and received good reviews. In June 2022 we distributed a non-profit Ukrainian translation of the book.
Book Donations: After the publication of Ada & Zangemann, we asked our German-speaking community to bring copies of the book to public libraries for children who cannot afford it or have not heard of it. The response was overwhelming: over 60 books were donated to libraries in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
Reviews: ‘Ada & Zangemann’ received a good rating by EKZ-group, the organisation reviewing new publications for public libraries in Germany and Austria. Therefore the book was recommended to be added to public libraries. The review characterised Ada & Zangemann as “attractively illustrated by S. Brandstätter, […] didactically well structured and very suitable as a basis for discussion”. Among other magazines, the book received positive reviews in the technological magazines Linux Magazine and Golem.
Kirschner’s book introduces readers young and old to the power and peril of software. It also highlights the accelerating effects of sharing software freely – creating conditions for direct and indirect collaboration which can be a metaphor for the conduct of science. Behind it all is a backdrop of ethics of knowledge sharing upon which the arc of human history rides.Vint Cerf, Computer Scientist, one of the inventors of the Internet
Ukrainian version: The FSFE translated ‘Ada & Zangemann’ into Ukrainian, giving a freely available e-book and donating 2,750 copies of the book to public institutions and non-governmental organisations all around Europe which further distributed them to refugee children from Ukraine and to public libraries.
Outreach: The FSFE reached out to the younger generation with author readings of the book: in a hackerspace bus at re:publica in Berlin, in a large cinema room filled with over 150 third-graders in Offenburg, in a public library in Cologne, online at Chemnitzer Linux-Tage, online at Wintercongress (recorded, DE), and three readings in school classes in Berlin and two in South Germany. The author participated in podcast episodes at Open source couch (DE) and GNU/Linux (DE).
Free Software in Education
Free Software has many practical advantages for businesses, education and the public sector, but most importantly it should be considered as a human right. I became a supporter of the FSFE to help make that point - why Free Software is so important for a lively democratic society and for every one of us.Erik Grun
Students should learn information technology concepts instead of just learning how to use products of proprietary software companies. Free Software helps students understand technology and specifically coding. Also, with Free Software development students can learn the value of collaboratively working together for a common good. These are just some of the reasons why students should learn using Free Software and educational institutes should use Free Software too. This year we had several activities showing the importance of Free Software in education in several countries.
Stockholm: We interviewed two major contributors behind Öppna skolplattformen (‘Open school platform’), the functional and secure Free Software alternative to the proprietary school platform (‘Skolplattformen’). Parents spotted irregularities and security issues in the €100 million publicly funded proprietary platform. When they proceeded to fix the flaws themselves, the city of Stockholm took legal measures against the developers.
Netherlands: Students should not have to use proprietary software to participate in the educational process. The FSFE joined the Dutch coalition ‘Fair Digital Education’ supporting privacy-respecting solutions involving Free Software in schools.
Barcelona: The FSFE joined the Democratic Digitalisation conference and gave input in a panel about the importance of Free Software. The FSFE noted that public funds should not be allocated to make education dependent on Big Tech.
Berlin: The local group Berlin has monthly online meetings dedicated to Free Software in Education.
Zurich: The FSFE local group Zurich works on ‘Lernen wie die profis’, a campaign presenting the available Free Software tools that are suitable for classrooms. This year the group focused on the outreach of the campaign.
What is Free Software? - Our work on public awareness
“The FSFE does great work to further software freedom locally, nationally and in the EU and I enjoy the podcast and the News RSS so it felt natural to become a supporter. I also want to be more involved with the free software community.”Einar Mostad, English teacher, musician, IT student.
To make software freedom a widespread reality, people need to know what Free Software is. We constantly work on public awareness, explaining Free Software to new audiences.
Videos: We published a short video in English and in German: ‘What is Free Software (Open Source)?’. We explained the complex topic of software freedom in under three minutes. This can help a new audience grasp the importance of Free Software.
I Love Free Software Day: One more time, on 14 February, people around the world celebrated the “I Love Free Software Day” by thanking all the people who contribute to software freedom throughout the year. On that day, as in previous years, #ilovefs has been number one in the Fediverse network with over 47.000 mentions and over 20 thousand users talking about their love for Free Software. Numerous Free Software organisations, and, among others, DINUM, the Interministerial Digital Directorate of France, spread the thank you message.
This year’s I Love Free Software Day was gaming-themed. For the first time, we held a dedicated event for IloveFS: in our two-hour event the FSFE hosted four speakers who took us into the world of Free Software games. (recorded: Veloren, Flare, Vassal, Wild Jams). Roughly 60 people joined the event. Afterwards, participants were invited to play Veloren together, making the afternoon a ton of fun.
Podcasts: The FSFE continued the Software Freedom Podcasts throughout the year. We interviewed Stanislas Dolcini, a developer of 0 A.D. Empires Ascendant, a Free Software real-time strategy game of ancient warfare. Next was Elektra Wagenrad, one of the original developers of the B.A.T.M.A.N. protocol and of the Mesh Potato project, who presented these initiatives in a podcast episode. And, as mentioned earlier, Erik Albers presented the Upcycling Android campaign.
Promotional material: The FSFE offers promotional material at no cost to people who want to spread the message of software freedom. This year we enriched our collection with stickers for Upcycling Android, Router Freedom, and Ada and Zangemann. We sent out 324 promotional packages for free to 23 countries, so that those who are interested could use the promotional materials and distribute them. We also offer a collection of merchandise so that people can show their affiliation to the FSFE. Try them out!
The FOSDEM 2022 conference
Europe's most prominent annual Free Software conference, FOSDEM, once more happened as an online event. We used the event to exchange opinions and chat with people from the Free Software community. We raised awareness on wider issues that impact our movement in the Legal and Policy Devroom.
Policy Devroom: The FSFE co-hosted the Legal and Policy Issues Devroom in FOSDEM, together with Karen Sandler and Bradley M. Kuhn from Software Freedom Conservancy and Richard Fontana from Red Hat. The talks, which are all recorded, covered:
- How to teach OSS licenses and compliances at a university, by Masafumi Ohta;
- A globally unified governance framework for Open Source, by Christopher Klooz;
- Open Source, Interoperability and the Digital Markets Act, by Vittorio Bertola;
- Why Device Neutrality is important for Free Software, by Lucas Lasota;
- Why the pandemic could help FOSS, but was a win for proprietary software, by Italo Vignoli; and
- closing remarks by the organisers: Bradley M. Kuhn, Karen Sandler, Richard Fontana, Max Mehl, and Alexander Sander.
Booth: For first-time visitors, we provided a shiny virtual booth presence on the FOSDEM website, showcasing the FSFE and our most notable developments in recent months.
The FSFE e.V. association
General Assembly: The General Assembly of the FSFE met for its annual meeting on 26 November 2021. During the meeting the attendees discussed long term strategies and challenges for promoting software freedom and held elections for the FSFE Council. Matthias Kirschner, Heiki Lõhmus, and Patrick Ohnewein were re-elected for two years to the positions of President, Vice-President, and Financial Officer respectively.
The FSFE community across Europe
Many people all over Europe support the use of Free Software and act to promote it. The FSFE helps the Free Software community around Europe to take action and stay up to date. Our community is organised in local groups, country teams, and thematic groups. The local groups and country teams discuss local issues and often create local initiatives. Every action undertaken by the FSFE becomes stronger thanks to our volunteers who spread our message across Europe.
Aarhus: The Aarhus local group was relaunched after seven years with the aim to raise awareness of Free Software in Denmark. The group decided to focus on outreach and ‘Public Money? Public Code!’ topics.
Berlin: The local group Berlin has monthly in-person meetings. The group participated in the FSFE booth in the Open House event of the German Federal Ministry of Environment. Volunteers were on the spot during the event, explaining Free Software to the audience. They presented upcycled Android phones and explained how Free Software can help overcome software obsolescence.
Barcelona: The Free Software Barcelona group had the first in-person event since 2020.
Hamburg: The local group Hamburg has monthly in-person meetings.
Netherlands: The FSFE country team the Netherlands influenced policy on the digital identity system in the Netherlands, offered advice to the Dutch Ministry of Internal Affairs, and provided a great number of translations from English to Dutch.
An important topic for the country team is the Dutch government’s Free Software strategy. The team finds the increased dependency on DigID, the Dutch digital identity app, worrying. The team members managed to achieve some political gains through joint community efforts. They called upon parliament to prevent big-tech lock-in through authentication services for governmental usage. The Dutch community sent letters and emails together with other organisations. In the end it resulted in concrete motions by parliament for analogue alternatives and basing the solutions on Free Software. Although the motions did not correct the authentication process, they were a concrete action as a response to volunteer efforts. Also the FSFE Netherlands country team advised the Dutch Ministry of Internal Affairs (Binnenlandse Zaken, BZK) about adopting and publishing Free Software.
Finally, as always, the group was very active in translating this year: Dutch has the greatest number of new translated pages in 2022 (59), not counting the updated ones. Dutch is reaching German in the total number of translated pages in the FSFE website: Dutch 1351, German 1482. Quite a race.
For everybody interested, the FSFE country team the Netherlands runs monthly online meetings. The team met in person in the Netherlands Linux Users meeting, organised an FSFE booth in the NLLGG meeting in Utrecht, and was present at the Public Spaces conference. Overall, it is worth noting that the growth of the Dutch community was an iterative process based on learning and feedback, according to one of the coordinators, Nico Rikken.
Translators: We want to abolish every barrier to software freedom, including the linguistic one. Many volunteers in the FSFE translators team make our message accessible to people across Europe. In August we published the first pages translated into Turkish: our general page about Free Software and why Democracy requires Free Software. The FSFE Translators team met to share advice on how to translate the FSFE pages. The meeting offered instructions for using Git and webpreview. At the end the participants played charades. Overall in the last year we published 363 reports of news and events in English and hundreds of translations. Among the most prominent languages were Italian (306 pages), Dutch (160 pages), Spanish (92 pages), German (85 pages) and French (37 pages).
Vienna: The FSFE local group Vienna had an information booth at the Veganmania street festival.
Women: The FSFE Women team runs monthly online meetings. This year, the group met for the first time in person in Berlin. During their regular meetings in June the team had an introduction to content management systems, having three guests from CMS Garden. In August, members of the group met at one of Germany’s largest GNU/Linux conferences, FrOSCon in St. Augustin, and participated at the FSFE booth.
Our fully Free Software technical infrastructure
The FSFE's technical infrastructure is in better shape than ever before. It provides digital sovereignty and privacy to our organisation, the FSFE's employees, and volunteers as well as to other users of our services as we use fully Free Software on our own bare metal servers. All services run in some sort of virtualisation: 43 virtual machines are distributed over different data centres. We recently upgraded our monitoring system, which is now based on Icinga2, using it for 51 hosts and 747 services that are continuously checked. This year we enriched our technical infrastructure with three new features:
- We created ‘Docker2Caddy’ a Python application for the FSFE infrastructure to automate reverse proxies for Docker containers.
- We created our own Peertube instance, media.fsfe.org, to share our videos on a Free Software platform.
- The FSFE officially opened the gates to its new Matrix server. All FSFE supporters and volunteers can create their own Matrix accounts.
Knowledge sharing: We presented our technical infrastructure in an article. The article inspired other organisations in the civil society to strive for similar goals as dependencies on proprietary service providers are more and more recognised as the severe problem they are. This is why we are increasingly often asked to share our experiences, best practices, and feedback. However, as for all technology, our infrastructure is neither perfect nor complete. Our system administrators face a number of interesting challenges that will keep them busy aside from the routine tasks. We would like to thank them as well as the numerous Free Software projects we depend on for their contributions to software freedom!
Accessibility: Our website consciously avoids practices that hinder accessibility, but there is still room for improvement. This year we improved our consistency in adding alternative text for images, and added a specific reminder in Git flagging each time a contributor fails to add alternative text.
Join the movement
“The FSFE is inclusive and puts the learning perspective at the heart of its mission. So I hope it thrives for many years to come, inspiring people like it inspired me. GNUtopia here we come!”George Brooke-Smith, Risk Management specialist in KPMG. Interview in January 2022.
The FSFE would be nothing without its contributors. And it would be so much more with you! There are many ways you can contribute: support us financially, join a local group, participate in our events to meet like-minded people. Translate our articles, or offer technical support to the organisation. Subscribe to our Newsletter to stay in touch.
Become a supporter: Advocating for freedom costs money and we depend on people like you to support us. We guarantee that all support is used to foster software freedom in Europe a little more each day, step by step, bit by bit for the next decades.
With your help we can keep on defending software freedom. Thank you for your trust, your support, and your ideas.