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FSFE Newsletter - August 2013

Proprietary companies ask European Commission to restrict business models

Because Android is Free Software and gratis, the non-free software competition cannot compete with it, therefore the market has less alternatives, thus the consumer suffers from this lack of competition. In a nutshell that is the argumentation of the so-called "Fair Search" coalition. Essentially they are asking the European Commission to favour a restrictive business model over a liberal one, which is exactly the opposite of what competition regulators should do in order to achieve a fair market.

Asking the European Commission to cripple Free Software in order to allow proprietary vendors to sell their locked-down systems is absurd. Therefore the FSFE has written a letter to the European Commission's competition authorities to refute the claims, and make it clear that Free Software is critical for a competitive IT market. In our letter we ask the European Commission to dismiss the "FairSearch" coalition's unfounded claims regarding predatory pricing, and not make them part of whatever steps it decides to take. For further information: our legal council Carlo Piana wrote a background article about this case.

Election software: source code available but not Free Software

Estonia has used Internet voting for general elections since 2005. Local activists have recently managed to convince Estonia's National Electoral Committee (NEC) to release source code for some of the software under a non-free licence, but this licence does not permit distribution of derivative works or commercial use and therefore is non-free. Besides "[i]mportant system components remain completely unknown to the general public. One of those components is the client side voting application that must be loaded and executed on the voter's computer," said Heiki Ojasild, Fellowship representative in the FSFE's General Assembly in our press release accompanying our open letter to NEC regarding the country's Internet voting system.

Similar in Norway: Paul Boddie reports about the Norwegian voting and the illusion of "Open Source", where the published software covers only "testing, reviewing or evaluating the code", restricts commercial purposes, and for a lot of things you need a "written approval" from the vendors.

NSA leaks motivates Free Software activists

For almost two decades the Free Software Foundations have been working for a society where the power over technology is distributed. We work for a world in which nobody can prevent others from learning how computers work. A world in which programmers can work with each other instead against each other. Nobody should be forced to use a certain kind of software without being able to adjust it to her own needs instead of adjusting herself to the software. Everybody should be able to audit software, to understand what a program does exactly and what happens to your data.

The Free Software movement wrote a lot of software which respects your privacy, including encryption and anonymisation software. The FSFE pushed for Open Standards to prevent monopolies by enabling different software to work with each other. We promote decentralised systems, so there is no single point in our infrastructure which has too much power and which enables you to store the data in a trusted enviroment.

It seems the NSA leaks of the last weeks have strengthened the Free Software community's will to continue fighting for our freedoms in a digital society. More people are listening to Free Software programmers and activists, more people demand Free Software solutions, more people are using Free Software to protect their privacy, and more people appreciate Free Software developer's work. E.g. Eva Galperin from EFF said in her keynote at KDE's conference akademy: "Help us Free Software, you are our last and only hope". She asked Free Software developers to build new products, and "save us"! And as you will see below, the Free Software movement will continue to do so.

Something completely different

Get active: Help with Crypto parties!

Crypto parties are getting more popular. They also attract funding from non-free software companies. One company offered money to crypto party organisers if they also mention non-free software (German). Good that a lot of FSFE's volunteers already support the organisers to help people install encryption software, and educate participants about Free Software.

In the Free Software community a lot of us understand how end-to-end encryption works. At the moment a lot of people new to Free Software want to use it themselves. If you have some time, either help some friends, colleagues, or search for local crypto parties and show others how to use GnuPG for e-mail encryption, OTR for encrypted chats, TOR to anonymise your online behaviour or programs like Jitsi to have encrypted audio and video communications.

Thanks to all the Fellows and donors who enable our work,
Matthias Kirschner - FSFE

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