FSFE Newsletter - November 2010
This edition explains how we counter the lobby work of proprietary organisations at the European level, what we do at the United Nations level to inform more people about the dangers of software patents, what we are doing to get rid of non-free software advertisement on public websites, and what you can do to make a change.
Beside that the Document Foundation was formed to take care of the development of Libre Office. More and more organisations raise awareness about government spendings on non-free software, like the parlamentarian group Digital Sustainability in Switzerland and our associated organisation ANSOL in Portugal (Portuguese). The Austrian Fellows asked the political parties in Vienna about their stance on Free Software related issues, the Fellowship interviews started again with a new interview with Leena Simon, Karsten gave a talk about "Power and Freedom" at Tedx which was recorded (bittorent), and I (Matthias) informed the listeners of Dradio Wissen about Free Software licenses (German).
Facts against BSA's fictions on Open Standards
Open Standards are always a hot topic in Brussels. Where Open Standards go, Free Software can easily follow. That's why we're pushing for Open Standards in the rules and recommendations that the European Commission makes for public bodies across Europe. For example we document the changes of EU's new interoperability recommendations ( European Interoperability Framework), we publish analysis, and with Document Freedom Day we raise awareness for the topic in a wider public.
But not everyone out there likes Open Standards. The Business Software Alliance (BSA), a lobby group for proprietary software, is pressuring the European Commission to remove the last traces of support for Open Standards from the latest version of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF).
We obtained a copy of a letter sent to the Commission by the BSA. We analysed their arguments and explained why their claims are false, and why Open Standards are key to interoperability and competition in the European software market. In short we dealt with the following points:
- Restriction-free patent licensing opens up participation and promotes innovation
- The example standards cited by the BSA are irrelevant to the software field
- (F)RAND licensing in software standards is unfair and discriminatory
- The BSA's letter to the Commission isn't supported by its own membership, much less by the software industry as a whole
- (F)RAND is incompatible with the most widely used Free Software licenses
- Restriction-free specifications will promote standardisation, competition and interoperability
We sent a letter with those arguments to the European Commission to support Open Standards and interoperability, and informed the press about it. Although this topic is quite complex, several media outlets picked it up. You might especially be interested in an article by Glyn Moody about "A (Final) Few Words on FRAND Licensing".
WIPO - Fighting software patents at WIPO
But why wait until we have to deal with topics at the European level? We always try to fix them at the root, so we work in some committees of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). From October 11-15, WIPO's Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) had its 15th session. We participate there because the committee discusses questions related to patents and standards.
Our main goals in the committee are to convince WIPO member states and WIPO staff that software should not be patentable, explain to them the relation between standards and patents from the perspective of Free Software, and make them understand how rules must be shaped so that their countries can get the most out of Free Software.
In our most important statement "Statement on the relation between standards and patents at WIPO SCP/15" we explain why software standards must be implementable in any software or business model, including those based on Free Software. We argued that when patents are included in software standards, they need to be licensed in a manner that does not restrict their implementation in any way. Besides the absence of any other restriction, that means royalty-free licensing to any party implementing the standard.
PDFreaders: 2162 public websites advertise non-free software
One month, one campaign, one goal: getting rid of non-free software advertisements on public websites. In four weeks, we received reports concerning 2162 European institutions who advertise non free PDFreaders. Apart from the 305 activists who participated to the search, 1500 individuals, 46 businesses and 38 organisations signed our Petition For The Removal Of Proprietary Software Advertising On Public Websites. Now that the hunt is over, it's time to chase up those websites which encourage visitors to jeopardise their freedom. It's time to stamp out the ads!
Highly motivated volunteers searched the internet for public websites that advertise for non-free software and reported 2162 institutions. Some of them, like Massimo Barbieri and Lucas Bickel individually reported more than 350! Alessandro Albini, Rainer Schmitz, and Павел Харитонов (Pavel Kharitonov) also made a remarkable contribution in reporting around 50 institutions each.
But we will not stop with a list of institutions. In the coming weeks, we will send letters to the institutions to draw their attention to their unfair advertising. In the name of the signatories of the petition, we will ask the institutions to either remove any recommendation for non-free software from their website, or give a choice of several programs.
Get active: stamp out the ads!
Wherever you are, whatever time you have, you can contribute to the removal of non-free software adverts on public website. The amazing work of the ads hunters and our translators has laid a firm foundation for the next phase. Now it is up to you to enable us to get things done. You can make a difference! Help us to translate the letter into missing languages or donate to the PDF readers campaign fund to help cover the 1600 EUR for postage and the extra costs of administration to deliver the messages throughout Europe. Help us stamp out the ads!