FSFE Newsletter - August 2015
Reply to EU consultation on copyright, patents, and trade secrets
Earlier this month, FSFE answered to the “Consultation on the respect of intellectual property in public procurement procedures”, initiated by the European Commission. According to Commission the initial purpose of the consultation was to “gather evidence, opinions and feedback regarding the respect of intellectual property rights and trade secrets in public procurement procedures”, and assess whether there is a need for a guide for public authorities in this regard.
In our answer, we restate several issues that need to be addressed in the overall topic of the consultation. For example on software patents we explained that it is impossible to procure software that is not violating any patents, and that the rights of copyright holders should not be devalued by third parties’ patents. In addition, FSFE argued that every publicly funded software should be published and distributed as Free Software by default, so that everyone can use the software for their own purposes and provide better services for public authorities in return.
How to deal with firmware restrictions
FSFE's goal is to ensure that the owners of IT devices are always in full and sole control of them. During the last years this fundamental principle is being challenged by such developments as UEFI “Secure Boot”, or the proprietary BIOS. This is low-level software that runs when you turn on your computer. It initialises the hardware and may be designed to restrict users to install software which is not “authorised” by the manufacturer. This development was also a topic in your editor's keynote at this year's Akademy in A Coruña/Spain, that gives an insight on how to resolve these manufactured restrictions.
One of the ways to counter those developments is alternative boot firmware. There are several ways to have the built-in proprietary firmware replaced with free analogues. Our fellow Kevin Keijzer explains in detail how to "set up a beaglebone black to flash Coreboot", and how to "flash Libreboot on an Lenovo X200 with a Raspberry Pi". Another fellow André Ockers explains in his blogpost how he got a Thinkpad T60p with Trisquel and Libreboot.
Beside working on free alternative boot firmware, we also have to look further into the future. We have to think about how to extend the ideas of Free Software to hardware. Richard Stallman wrote about this in his article "Why we need free digital hardware designs".
Something completely different
- On July 24-26, FSFE held its European Coordinators Meeting 2015 (ECM15) in Essen. Amongst many topics our coordinators discussed strategy, a proposal to restructure FSFE's community and communication, as well as our press and campaign work. For more information please read Erik Albers's blogpost.
- FSFE's education team updated their website. Have a look at it, give us feedback, or even better: join our education team to promote the use of Free Software in schools and universities.
- Your editor, Matthias Kirschner, was interviewed before Akademy. The interview is available on KDE's website. It covers questions about your editor's first GNU/Linux distribution, why he studied politics and management, how he got involved in FSFE, how Free Software is linked to the progress of society, as well as his involvement in wild first aid seminars. (Victorhck translated the interview into Spanish.)
- The European Commission published the legislation editor LEOS as Free Software. It can be used to draft and automatically process legal texts. Currently the software supports legal texts issued by the EC, yet can be extended to support other legislative processes.
- Two good developments in France: On one hand the French government has published templates to be used by procurement officers when requesting free software-based ICT solutions. The templates include Free Software procurement clauses that prompt developers to organise contributing code. On the other hand, France wants its public administration to prioritise ODF over Microsoft OOXML format (see an article in the Register).
- On 3 October 2015 the FSF celebrates its 30th birthday in Boston. That is a reason to celebrate. As their sister organisation, we invite you to organise small birthday parties around Europe, too. Let us know if you plan something, so we promote the celebration.
- From the planet aggregation:
- Riccardo Iaconelli wrote about WikiFM, a KDE project which aims to bring free and open knowledge to the world, in the form of textbooks and course notes. It is aimed at students, researchers and continuous learners, with manuals and content ranging from basic calculus to “Designing with QML” (already used by High Energy Physics Software Foundation).
- Daniel Pocock explains howto record live events with your mobile phone and a lapel microphone.
- Guido Arnold reported on Galicia introducing over 50 000 students to free software, and a school in Spain switching to using Ubuntu/Linux for its desktop PCs in class rooms and offices.
Get active: Contribute to our static website generator
Since 2002 FSFE is using a static website generator for our web presence. The first version was written by Jonas Öberg, who is now FSFE's Executive Director. Last month we introduced an updated version to the test instance of our website. In his blog post, FSFE's webmaster Paul Hänsch summarises its new features, and limitations. So if you are interested to improve FSFE's web presence on a technical level, read this and get in contact with our web team.