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FSFE Newsletter - July 2010

This edition covers Neelie Kroes' statement about Open Standards, the Free Software discussion in Saxony (Germany), and the relicensing of WebM to be GPL compatible, and asks you all to keep in touch with your politicians about Free Software issues.

Beside that, FSFE's strategic decision making body, the General Assembly (GA) , met in Bozen, Italy. The various outcomes of this meeting will become apparent in the next months and years. On the operational side we organised Fellowship meetings in Tampere (Finland), Göteburg (Sweden), Paris, Lille (France), Berlin, Düsseldorf, Siegen, (Germany), as well as a Fellowship jabber meeting about ACTA. Stian published a new Fellowship interview with David Reyes Samblas Martinez, in which he answers questions on hardware manufacturing, e-learning and Free Software politics.

"Proprietary technology is a waste of money"

No, this is not a quote from someone out of the Free Software community. As Karsten reported in his article it was Neelie Kroes, European Commission’s vice president, who commented at the Open Forum Europe (OFE) meeting in Brussels on 10 June. She also said that:

"Many authorities have found themselves unintentionally locked into proprietary technology for decades. After a certain point that original choice becomes so ingrained that alternatives risk being systematically ignored, no matter what the potential benefits. This is a waste of public money that most public bodies can no longer afford."

Kroes also backed up our definition of Open Standards. She made clear that "truly open" standards "do not come with any constraints for implementers". This is important as it means that programmers can implement a standard in Free Software; Microsoft and others have been trying to convince the Commission that a standard is "open" even if it cannot be implemented in Free Software. These developments are good news - please share them!

"Free" State of Saxony argues against Free Software

Already in May German politicians had a discussion about Free Software in the Free State of Saxony's state parliament. I (Matthias) published an analysis about this discussion (in German). The state government talks about strategic reasons against Free Software, but does not name any of them. The CDU and the FDP say they do not want to influence the market. On the other hand the state government educates all their pupils with software from a monopolist and advertises Adobe's proprietary software on their websites. In their tenders they do not ask for Free Software, but complain that there are too few Free Software service providers and programs. Beside that they use the term "market standards" against Free Software.

That such discussions happen in parliament are a very good sign. They mean that politicians have to think about Free Software, and that we can all enter discussion with politicians about Free Software, too. That is why we asked people from Saxony to send their politicians feedback on the discussion, and to write them what they liked about the discussion and ask questions like ‘when politicians talk about strategic reasons against Free Software, what are these reasons?’. The speech by Neelie Kroes quoted above is also something that you can point politicians to.

Free Video Formats / Software licenses

In May, Google Updated the license for their WebM project to make it GPL-compatible. As explained in the last issue WebM is important so users do not have to install the non-free flash plugins anymore, but have a free video format to play and encode videos.

WebM was already Free Software, as the rightsholders stated in the licence that users have the freedom to use, study, share, and improve it. The problem was that its license was not compatible with the GNU General Public License (GPL).

There are a lot of Free Software licenses, but the GNU GPL is the most famous Free Software copyleft license and is used by a large percentage of Free Software. It ensures the four freedoms and adds the condition that those freedoms remain intact in further distribution of the software.

If people use the same licence or at least GPL-compatible licences, then programmers can exchange code freely, and easily, so programmers do not have to reinvent the wheel again but can use already existing code. That is why it is so important that programmers use the GNU AGPL, GPL, LGPL, or a compatible Free Software license for their software. There is also an article by David Wheeler which is worth reading, why you should make your software GPL compatible, like WebM does now.

Get active: Support us gathering speeches about Free Software

Our mission is to explain the concept of Free Software to as many people as possible. This month the German team had a booth at the GNU/Linuxtag in Berlin and explained Free Software to all the different visitors, gave interviews and speeches about "Freedom in the cloud" and common misunderstandings about Free Software. Depending on the audience you should use slightly modified explanations. To support Free Software supporters, we are providing links to video and audio files, as well as transcripts of speeches.

As Fellow you automatically have an account there, but you can just register for a guest account and help us to make those pages a good resource for people who want to learn from others how to best explain the benefits of software freedom.

Matthias Kirschner- FSFE

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