FSFE Newsletter - February 2013
Unitary fail for our society
We want software as a tool to help society. Software patents are a threat to this as they add legal and financial risks to software development and distribution by giving the patent holders legal power to completely prohibit software developers from using patented ideas.
In December the European Parliament has adopted a proposal to create a patent with unitary effect for Europe (henceforth the "unitary patent"). In adopting the proposal, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) chose to disregard intense criticism of the proposal from all sides of the debate. Already before the vote patent lawyers, legal experts, SMEs and civil society groups such as FFII as well as FSFE all voiced their concerns to MEPs. With the adoption, the European Parliament has given up part of its power to shape Europe's innovation policy. That power will instead fall to the European Patent Office (EPO), which has a track record of awarding monopoly powers on the widest possible range of subject matter.
According to the European Parliament's website, "the international agreement creating a unified patent court will enter into force on 1 January 2014 or after thirteen contracting states ratify it, provided that UK, France and Germany are among them. With your ongoing help, FSFE will continue to inform companies and politicians about the danger of software patents.
Italy does not want Free Software users as teachers
Pupils, as well as teachers, must have the possibility to use Free Software at school. Unfortunately, many of the IT questions on the questionnaire used to evaluate prospective teachers in Italy focus on a single proprietary operating system and software exclusively available on that system. The practice discriminates against Free Software users wishing to become teachers. Our Italian team filed a legal complaint to the Italian Ministry of Education about that. In association with AsSoLi, Wikimedia Italia, the Free Software User Group Italia, the Associazione per l'Informazione Geografica Libera (GFoss.it), the Italian Linux Society, LibreItalia and 38 other groups we explain that the country's Ministry of Education is putting Free Software at an unfair disadvantage.
In addition to the ongoing work in Italy, FSFE's education team did more in 2012 than ever before to promote the use of Free Software in schools and universities. Guido Arnold summarised the team's work and its plans for 2013.
Don't look back in anger!
At least there should be no reason for FSFE's work in 2012. Read our annual report to find out what we achieved, how we did it, and what lies ahead for 2013. We thank all of our Fellows, donors and sponsors for making our work possible! If you like what you read please also donate as a Fellow of FSFE.
Something completely different
- Open Standards: The 2013 DFD posters arrived and volunteers all over the world, including our new Fellowship group in Munich, are starting to prepare this year's edition of the event. In 2012 we had 54 events in 23 countries and in 19 world languages, all of them about Open Standards. One of the many topics will again be web video and audio. We would like to raise awareness for HTML5 video players like Wikipedia's new one. If you have experience with this, please get in contact with us.
- Fellowship interview: One of the most active DFD volunteers, Anna Morris, tells us why everyone should have a Free Software buddy to keep them on the right path when problems are abundant, be proud of them when they have learned something new, and help them contribute to more and better to Free Software. We all have something to give!
- FSFE helping VLC to play Blu-ray. The Video Lan Client (VLC) is the world's most widely used Free Software player. For a long time its developers have wanted to enable playing Blu-ray discs. They have asked Hadopi, France's copyright authority, over one year ago for legal guidance on how to handle the digital restrictions management (DRM), but the copyright authority is yet to come up with an answer. At an event organised by the French Ministry of Economy, Karsten Gerloff supported the VLC developers criticising France's strict interpretation of copyright which badly hinders Free Software hackers.
- Public Administrations: Microsoft paid HP for a study about the City of Munich's use of Free Software. Their result is that the Free Software solutions cost millions of Euros more than Microsoft's solutions. Munich refutes the claims of the unpublished study, and several others criticised the study. On the other hand, there are good news: in the Swiss city Bern, the majority in the city council wants to switch to Free Software, and the Basque government has started a public Free Software repository to facilitate reuse.
- "Free software advocates must return to their ultimate goal of freeing people, not software", writes Benjamin Mako Hill in his article "Freedom for Users, Not for Software". It was published in the book "Wealth of the Commons: A World Beyond Market and State". The German version of the book (PDF) also includes an article about Free Software in the German Foreign Office.
- FSFE on air: In the last weeks Torsten Grote gave a radio interview about distributed systems, whereas Erik Albers and Matthias Kirschner talked about Ubuntu Phone. Together with other interviews, they are available on the Fellowship wiki's audio page.
- From the planet aggregation:
- Women in the Free Software community: "Right now, we're unfortunately too far from that to just ignore the whole problem and wait for it to go away on its own." writes Tonnerre in his article Gender Liberalism: what got us here won't get us there.
- Hugo started the "PatentBS series". Number one covers: "Abolishing software patents would harm Free Software".
- Fellowship representative Nikos Roussos reports from a small hackathon at Athens Hackerspace. Around 40 developers showed up, learning about Mozilla's new effort to liberate the mobile ecosystem through Open Web Apps and Firefox OS.
- What should you keep in mind when writing an e-mail? Matija highlighted some articles about e-mail netiquette. For FSFE interns, we also summarised this topic some time ago in a brief e-mail guide.
- Paul Boddie looks into microcontrollers. He wrote "Why the Raspberry Pi isn't the new BBC Micro (and perhaps shouldn't be, either)".
- Michael Kesper has to use Microsoft Windows at work. He published a blog post on why Windows 8 is a big step backwards in all categories.
- How can you embed metadata for license and attribution requirements in digital works, making it easier to share them? Jonas Öberg is offering to supervise a paid bachelor or master thesis on this subject.
- Hannes continues sharing his Android experiences with us. Read why using the Linux kernel can be a pain when you come from the BSD-world and why he misses a proper e-mail client.
- Michael Clemens published his first software project from 1992 written in BASIC 2.0 on his good old C64.
Get active: You love Free Software? Show it!
As in the previous years, for February 14th we ask you to show your love to people involved in Free Software, and who's work you admire.
For example, prepare a "love letter" telling the developers of a certain program, why you love what they do, send us a quote and a picture, use one of the banners or buttons made by Markus Meier on your website, blog (like your editor did), profile pages, and motivate others to participate in the "I love Free Software" day. Thanks to Markus and Erik we also have ilovefs posters and flyers available. You can pick them up at FSFE booths or order FSFE promotion material (soon updated with other new material).
All the Fellows among you also have the e-mail forwarding firstname.lastname@example.org, in addition to their @fsfe.org one.