FSFE Newsletter - July 2015
FSFE pokes the European Commission on its transparency commitment
While looking into the Digital Single Market (DSM) package, our president Karsten Gerloff noticed that the EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger neglected to publish his recent meetings with lobbyists. So Karsten reminded the Commission about their transparency commitment. Meanwhile Oettinger's Head of Cabinet, Michael Hager, explained that a long-term sickness leave in the cabinet has led to a delay in publishing the meetings, and they updated the lists of meetings.
But it turned out Karsten was not the only one interested in Oettinger's meetings. A few days after Karsten's reminder the Spiegel and other media published news stories about it. According to Spiegel Online’s figures, 90% of the Commissioner’s meetings were with corporate representatives, business organisations, consultancies and law firms. Only 3% of his meetings were with NGOs. Of the top ten organisations he’s meeting with, seven are telecoms companies, most of whom are staunchly opposed to net neutrality.
Without the EU's transparency commitment, it would have been almost impossible to research this. This shows how important such transparency commitments are and it shows how important it is that organisations and individuals actually monitor such publications. Furthermore we hope that from now on Oettinger better balances his meetings, so he hears different sides of an issue, and can make an informed decision.
TiSA: intransparent treaty might prevent digital sovereignty
Nowadays countries start to demand the source code for software they procure. If they sign the currently negotiated Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) they might be forbidden to continue doing so.
End of May, a draft of TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement) was leaked. TiSA is yet another international agreement, like the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), or the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). It is apparently negotiated by 51 countries including the EU. In the section “Transfer or Access to Source Code” the leaked version prevents countries to give priority to Free Software:
No Party may require the transfer of, or access to, source code of software owned by a person of another Party, as a condition of providing services related to such software in its territory.
For purposes of this Article, software subject to paragraph 1 is limited to mass-market software, and does not include software used for critical infrastructure.
We believe that a trade agreement should not force signatory countries to give up control over their IT infrastructure for decades to come. On the contrary, companies should provide the source code if the public administrations demands it, as well as the corresponding rights to use the software for any purpose, to share the software with others, as well as to adapt the software for their own needs without anyone else's permission.
Something completely different
- Copyright directive: In an important step towards modernising the EU's copyright laws, the Legal Affairs committee of the European Parliament adopted a report on the Copyright Directive by MEP Julia Reda. FSFE, which provided input to the MEPs of the Legal Affairs committee ahead of the vote, views the adopted report as largely positive. The European Parliament is scheduled to hold a plenary vote on 9 July 2015 on the subject.
- Education: The German state of Saxony-Anhalt is forcing their pupils to use a variety of Microsoft services by making it mandatory for every public school. The plan was arranged by the Minister of Finance without knowledge of neither the data protection officer, nor the ministry of education. Erik Albers wrote about that (in German) and afterwards Fellows in Saxony filed a petition against this procedure, which everybody – also outside Saxony-Anhalt – can sign and promote.
- FSFE Internal: About two years ago, Karsten Gerloff decided that he would eventually move on from his role as FSFE’s president. FSFE has been preparing the leadership transition ever since. As he wrote in his blog post June was the last month for him actively handling operations at FSFE. Karsten currently takes two months of parental leave, and at FSFE’s General Assembly in September, FSFE's General Assembly will elect his successor.
- Events: Our active volunteer Guido Arnold was giving a keynote “Free Software in Education” at the 22nd DORS/CLUC in Zagreb, and Franz Gratzer reports from the FSFE's booth at Veganmania. This vegan festival in Vienna lasted for four days, with 70 organisations and companies having booths there.
- From the planet aggregation:
- In his series “Three steps towards more privacy on the Net” Jens Lechtenbörger explains how to setup Firefox with Tor/Orbot on Android.
- Imagine you want to install GNU/Linux on ~10 old computers, and all you have is a slow 10kb/s internet connection. Max Mehl faced this problem and wrote “splitDL”, a small Bash script which splits huge files into several smaller ones and downloads them.
- Timo Jyrinki takes a look at the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition (2015) which is shipped with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.
- Daniel Pocock documents how to use Blender for video editing with the included non-linear video editing system.
- And Erik Albers writes how he learned to love the NASA.
Get active: Tell us about active groups in Europe
There are many groups in Europe who do advocacy and lobby work for software freedom. Some have done this work for many years, some just started doing it. Unfortunately often they do not know from each other's existence, and therefore cannot benefit from a knowledge exchange.
We want to make sure the FSFE does not overlook other Free Software activities in Europe, so we can learn from each other and improve our way of empowering more users to control their technology. That is why this month we ask you to tell us about the active groups working for software freedom in Europe.