FSFE Newsletter - October 2015
FSFE elections and other news from Bucharest
At this year's General Assembly in Bucharest, the FSFE elected a new leadership team for the next two years. Reinhard Müller will continue his role as Financial Officer while your editor will assume the role as President, with Alessandro Rubini filling in as Vice-President. Alessandro is an electronic engineer working on device drivers and embedded systems. He was one of the first members of the FSFE and recently joined again to support us in our work. The FSFE's former President, Karsten Gerloff welcomed the change and wrote about his future steps.
The city of Bucharest was already warming up to Free Software several weeks before the FSFE's arrival, as Romanian public administrations were invited by Rogentos Linux User Group to test out two GNU/Linux-distributions. This is a first step towards more awareness for software freedom in the country's public administration. After the General Assembly, we discussed this news and further collaboration with Free Software contributors from Romania, especially with our friends from Fundația Ceata, the Romanian foundation for Free Software and Free Culture. We found out that they are looking for skilled designers to contribute their ideas for a new logo for the foundation. So any graphic artists out there who are willing to flex their muscles for a good cause can find more information on their call for submissions page.
FSFE’s evaluation of the EU Parliament copyright report
In July, the European Parliament adopted its recommendations for copyright reform initially drafted by MEP Julia Reda, and the FSFE released its assessment of the final report that was approved in the Parliament after considerable amount of amendments. While some improvements exist in the Parliament's final report over current legislation, there are enough problems that it should be reconsidered, especially in regards to Free Software. In particular, the report fails to adequately address Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) that can still hinder the use of works that fall under copyright exceptions, and it does not provide a possibility for software developers to contribute their works directly to the public domain.
In the next step, the Commission will publish their proposal on copyright reform sometime before the end of 2015. We ask the Commission to take the copyright reform even further and ensure that no exception to copyright should be ever limited by technological restrictions, to provide for a fully harmonised set of exceptions, and to publish all works that are publicly funded under a Free Software licence.
Tidying up PDFreaders
While wrapping up our PDFreaders campaign it is worthy to highlight a few success stories in particular. Our German Coordinator, Max Mehl, blogged about the success of the campaign in German government. In fact, the campaign was so successful, the German "Migration Guide" now includes a titbit about us, saying "If PDF documents are provided publicly authorities shall no longer only recommend Adobe Acrobat Reader for displaying them, but for example use the HTML templates provided by the FSFE on their websites for downloading alternative PDF readers", as well as recommending officials to expand to Free Software as viable alternatives.
The FSFE helped to bring out the best in Free Software PDF readers for the private sector as well. Our very own Polina Malaja was able to catch up with our former PDFreaders campaign coordinator, Hannes Hauswedell, about his conversation with Google back in 2011 about releasing Pdfium software as Free Software. Finally in 2014, Hannes's request came to fruition. Now, we are not saying our campaign caused the Pdfium release, but we would like to think our campaign played a part in it.
Something completely different
- FSFE Switzerland, in cooperation with the Swiss Open Systems User Group, sent out hundreds of letters to different political candidates asking them to participate in their online questionnaire, Freedomvote, as a way to collect candidates' opinions of various digital issues that are sometimes overlooked like e-voting, open data, Free Software, and data security. The results were posted online for citizens to make more informed decisions about who they will vote for on election day on 18 October.
- Paul Boddie interviews FSFE Fellow Nico Rikken from the Netherlands. Nico's background is in electrical engineering, and he provides insight into open hardware and education policy amongst other things.
- On 1 September the Parisian High Court reaffirmed that software patents are illegal in Europe under the European Patent Convention. However, this success comes only as a silver lining, considering that the plaintiff in this case was actually granted a patent from the European Patent Office.
- According to Felix Greve's PhD thesis, the German constitution requires vendor-neutral ICT standards to ensure interoperability in public administration and elsewhere. The current lack of interoperability rules are a major barrier to the country’s uptake of Free Software.
- FSF certified Taurinus X200 laptop to respect users' freedom. It also removes Intel's Management Engine (ME) which is a secret and proprietary software that allows remote access to the computer over a network, changing and upgrading the BIOS configuration, or wiping the disk. ME has full access to the computer with a wide functionality and could be a very useful security measure, but only if the owner of the device has the ability to control it.
- Public Administration: The UK government publishes an authoritative ODF guide about integration of ODF with enterprise software in public procurement, the Italian military is switching to LibreOffice and ODF making it Europe’s second largest LibreOffice implementation, at the Debian Conference "DebConf15" the city of Munich showed that they are a major contributor to Free Software by sharing software solutions and best practices, and Open Forum Europe's Karel De Vriendt provided insight into the thinking behind European Commission's call for tender concerning Microsoft products that will further increase the vendor lock-in in public IT sector.
- From the planet aggregation:
- Daniel Pocock argues that the only way to avoid scandals like the one with VW in the future is to ensure everyone's freedom to see and modify the source code in the equipment that controls our lives.
- Dominic Hopf (now an official intergalactic diplomat) and new Fellow Pascal Wittmann, organised a booth at a Software Freedom Day (SFD) event in Kiel and gave a presentation about F-Droid.
- On a wet day in Frankfurt, the FSFE booth made a splash among visitors at the annual Rotlintstraßenfest who were eager to learn more about software freedom. Guido Arnold provides more details on this popular outdoor event.
- Meanwhile FSFE Fellow Michael Stehmann summarised his SFD experience in Cologne (in German).
- Our Executive Director Jonas Öberg gave a rundown on the logistics behind running a successful event.
- Carsten Agger was busy organising the LibreOffice Hackfest in Aarhus.
- Tobias Platen criticises just how allegedly "free" Purism Librem computers actually are.
- André Ockers explains how concerned citizens in the Netherlands convinced a Dutch government agency to use an Open Document format, and
- Paul Boddie asks "Random Questions" about the Fairphone's source code availability".
Get Active: Nominate people and projects for the Free Software Award
Often users do not realise that they are using Free Software. Sometimes we need to explicitly state that fact. For instance the new upgrade of WordPress includes a tab with a reference to the GNU General Public License and the four freedoms of Free Software, explicitly informing the Wordpress community about the importance of freedom underlying their software.
However, very often a lot of amazing Free Software developers and projects out there do not get the recognition they deserve. Right now the FSF is accepting nominations for the 18th annual Free Software Awards for people and projects who have improved the world using Free Software. There are two awards, one for people who have advanced the movement, and another for a project that has fulfilled a crucial societal need through the use of Free Software. Please submit your nominations until 1 November.