FSFE Newsletter - June 2013
German Bundestag trying to get rid of software patents
No Free Software programmer wants them but unfortunately they are still granted: software patents. They monopolise ideas about software, so programmers cannot use them. In April the German Parliament (the 'Bundestag') has introduced a joint motion against software patents. It urges the German government to take steps to limit the granting of patents on computer programs. After the first hearing in Parliament, your editor was invited as an external expert to the legal committee meeting on May 13th.
Before the meeting FSFE was asked to submit a written statement (PDF in German) which explained that: programming tools are easily available to everyone and don't require much investment; programmers learn to code by reading existing source code; the hard part of software development is the concrete implementation; copyright is enough to protect implementations; most products include hundreds of programs; that these same programs are used in a huge number of products; that Free Software is used to develop Free and non-free software; that Free Software is especially vulnerable to malicious patenting activity as its source code is available; challenging software patents costs a lot of time and money which many programmers and software companies do not have; the incentive of patents in software innovation is highly questionable and that programmers either have to ignore software patents or stop programming. In his oral statement at the hearing your editor explained programming methods to the politicians.
During the meeting the vast majority of the 9 invited experts were in favour of the motion. Now there will be a second meeting of the committee and then, on the 6th of June, Parliament will vote upon the motion.
Why do some companies dislike their customers?
May the 3rd was the International Day Against DRM. To mark the occasion Erik Albers wrote an article about Digital and physical restrictions on your own device (thanks to Framasoft, there is also a French translation). He highlighted how companies and resellers take control over our software and hardware and in doing so, take away our freedom.
Discussion on this topic continued at the Berlin Linuxtag. FSFE invited speakers for the "Reclaim your device" track. The track gave examples of how we can take back control over our software and therefore our devices. Beside that, the Linuxtag organisers chose FSFE's speaker as keynote, so Benjamin Mako Hill gave a speech about anti-features -- deliberately crippled technology (see German press article "antifeatures -- Free Software against paternalism"). Mako argue that the anti-features issue makes a good framework within which to explain the practical advantage of Free Software, and from his experience your editor fully agrees.
Illegal procurement favouring Microsoft stopped in court
FSFE's goal is that Free Software companies can compete with non-free software companies on an equal basis. That's why we started an initiative to advance fair public procurement in Finland, which has already looked at 300+ procurement notices.
In related news, the administrative court of Almada, Portugal, recently declared a 550,000 Euro contract between Microsoft and the municipality of Almada to be illegal. (see our press release). In this example, the technical specifications of the competition launched by the municipality prevented any company other than Microsoft and their partners from being capable of fulfilling the contract criteria. This ruling clarifies that a widely used procurement procedure is illegal: because it names Microsoft products instead of their general functional and technical requirements. FSFE welcomes the court's decision, and calls on other European national courts to continue to systematically annul similarly discriminatory contracts.
Something completely different
- As reported in the last edition W3C wants to implement usage controls on the web. The EFF have published a formal objection (which we urge you to read and distribute) to the HTML working group draft charter.
- There is also some discussion about how Google's new VP8 patent license influences Free Software. On one hand, Simon Phipps from Open Source Initiative (OSI) argued that each user wishing to benefit from the agreement has to enter into a contract with Google, and that this is a problem for Free Software initiatives. On the other hand, Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) argues that the VP8 cross-license draft is compatible with Free Software licensing.
- Current intern Lucile organised FSFE's booth at Toulouse Hacker Space Factory, in southern France. She said: "I enjoyed this event especially as most people there didn’t know anything about FSFE, and quite a few didn’t know much about Free Software in general. Talking to people who are not yet convinced is a great pleasure and in this case, very productive".
- The French Free Software organisation April has reported that the French Senate demands that the public service for digital education prioritises Free Software and open formats.
- Other news from the Europeans public administration by Joinup include Tariq Rashid from the IT Reform group at the UK Cabinet, who says that Free Software solutions helps public administrations to regain their power as consumers. Spain's Extremadura are starting to switch 40,000 government PCs to Free Software, and over 36,000 students, teachers and staffers are using a Free Software groupware in Switzerland.
- Single-board computers are computers delivered as one circuit board that are powerful enough to run a real operating system. Our sister organisation the FSF has created a new resource page for single-board computers.
- On May 14.-17., Matija Suklje and Karsten Gerloff participated in Croatia's largest Free Software conference, Open Systems Days / Croatian Linux Users Convention - DORS/CLUC. The conference was opened by Croatia's President Ivo Josipović who said about the Free Software community: "What you are doing is something good, creative and innovative!"
- It does not happen often that your opponents make a strong case for you. So journalist Glyn Moody was very grateful that the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has made a cogently case for free software in its report.
- From the planet aggregation:
- Hugo Roy writes about Google discontinuing Google Talk and asks weather Google can keep its promise from their terms of services and give XMPP users a way out?
- He also checked out who is tracking him online more: Google or Facebook?
- With Daniel Pocock we have a new active blogger on the planet. He wrote about "The BBC and a confused concept of what is free and open", how the British Telecom attacks Free Software with patent demands, is scouting Switzerland for Debian's annual conference, and about the quickest way to try WebRTC and see it working.
- Besides after FSFE press release about MSN messenger and Skype Daniel Pocock writes how Debian can rescue Skype users.
- While Nikos described how to hack a Firefox OS developer phone, Thomas Koch asked what others think about the FairPhone. Replies on the planet came from Paul Boddie, Jens Leuchtenbörger,
- 58.1 km at 24.0 km/h for Freedom: Reducing weight and further Free Software. Since Martin Gollowitzer likes to go cycling every now and then (especially when the weather is fine), he would like to combine this sport with fundraising. See his first track record.
- After being mentioned in one of the last newsletter, the one-button audiobook player by Michael Clemens is now featured in new book. The co-author said "I particularly like the way it’s really improving someone’s quality of life, by making it possible for your [Michael] wife’s grandmother to listen to audiobooks."
- Fellowship representative Nikos Roussous wrote about his attendance of the Libre Graphics Meeting (LGM), which is an annual gathering for the discussion of Free Software used for design, illustration, typography, lay-out, art, photography, publishing, cartography, animation and video.
- Timo Jyrinki wrote about how to have a network from your laptop to an Android device over USB, about the current state of Qt 5 in Debian and Ubuntu, and world domination.
- Michael Stehmann from the German FSFE team participated in an event in the Parliament from Nordrhein-Westfalen, you can read more about it in his blog. Beside this Michael also gave a seminar at the Fachhochschule Düsseldorf about Free Software, and a presentation at the PythonCamp 2013 in Cologne about Free Software and its licenses (all in German).
- First it should be done "like Facebook", afterwards all the features should be removed. Read Michael Kesper's "Make it like Facebook…or not?! Or: From Wordpress to Drupal".
- Anna Morris from the DFD campaign team wrote about how to process photos in a batch using ImageMagick and Converseen.
- FSFE's vice president wonders to gnome or not to gnome.
- Isabel Drost reported about many talks including the first keynote at ApacheConNA.
- Björn Schießle writes about the new ownCloud encryption app, which is now using AES encryption, and
- Fellow Jens Leuchtenbörger translated the article "The Tangled Web We Have Woven—Seeking to protect the fundamental privacy of network interactions," by Eben Moglen into German.
Get active: Report warranty problems after rooting!
After our widely spread analysis about the rooting of devices, the German Association for Consumer Protection (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband) is now working on this topic (German), too. They are looking for people who had problems with warranty after rooting their devices. So if you bought a product in Germany, rooted it and have problems with warranty report it and forward it to our legal working group. Of course we are still interested in your experiences in other countries, so please continue to send them to the same address.