On the questions about goals raised by E L Tonkin

Georg C. F. Greve greve at gnu.org
Fri May 11 20:05:48 UTC 2001

Hi guys,

 || On Wed, 9 May 2001 18:33:28 +0100 (BST)
 || E L Tonkin <py7elt at bath.ac.uk> wrote: 

 elt> ...

 elt> Otherwise, I'd rather see a bunch of annoyed answers leading to
 elt> a six-week thread war, than I would a sort of stunned
 elt> silence... Or have we elsewhere, previously, discussed the
 elt> points that came up?

Parts of it have been discussed, but it doesn't matter.

It is true that we have been stunned into silence a bit, but this was
mostly due to a complete overload... each of us handles a lot of mail
normally already and adding 40k a day to that is somewhat tough.

Still nothing has been forgotten or not been seen and I'll try to
answer some of these questions now.

I could probably say that we indeed plan to do all the things you were
listing and these were several of the reasons why we feel the FSF
Europe is needed, but I'll try to answer them in detail... :)

 elt> Stuff like

 elt> * what /are/ the short-term aims of the fsfe? Establishing GPL
 elt> for each country, first? Then what?

Yes, making the GPL more bullet-proof for each European country and
keeping it that way is one of our tasks. 

 elt> * What about long-term aims?

In the very long run we want to change the system in a way that it'll
work in favor of free software and to ensure the existance of free

 elt> * Is the FSFE structure good enough? What's wrong with it? What
 elt> do we need to fix? What about the sub-FSF chapters? Do geeks
 elt> really fit into a hierarchy? (hint: no)

We believe the structure we have found is actually very good and so
far we haven't seen anything that would promise better
results. Anarchy may work on a small level in some cases (and it is
definitely preferrable there), but for something as big as a
Europe-wide movement, a structure is needed.

More about this in different post. 

 elt> * Policy on finances, financial gain, industry freebies... 

Well. As a charitable organization according to German law we are
forbidden to make a profit from the FSF Europe ourselves. We can earn
money for the FSF Europe, but that money *has* to be used to further
the goals of Free Software *only*.

 elt> * Exact structure of the FSFE, granted that those in power have
 elt> absolute authority. How 'reachable' an organisation should the
 elt> FSFE be? What do you do if you have this Great Idea you want to
 elt> put before them? The FSFE need to listen, or they'll end up out
 elt> of touch...

Absolutely. The reason why we created all these interfaces into the
FSF Europe is that we want people to take part and be
involved. Currently I'm not aware of any other organization above the
local level that discusses its internals as openly as the FSF Europe

 elt> * What about your average idiot, who thinks Windows is
 elt> complicated? I am sorry to say it, but we've been working on it
 elt> for several years and we STILL don't have a version of GNU/Linux
 elt> that installs and /does stuff/ painlessly. Is that an FSF(E)
 elt> problem? Do we care about Software For Your Average Idiot? or do
 elt> we tell them to go hang?... or do we grit our teeth, take a copy
 elt> of The Inmates Are Running The Asylum, and work out what they
 elt> /do/ need?

If someone had a concrete idea how to make free software easier to
use/install or how to get it spread more effectively, helping this
(whichever way help would be needed) would be a task of the FSF
Europe, yes. Also we might try to start such a project... it very much
depends on the single case. 

But in general it can be said that this would be an area of the FSF

 elt> * Directing software development. IMHO the things that GNU/Linux
 elt> currently needs ought to be defined, decided upon, and
 elt> integrated into Debian or whatever. No doubt Debian think this
 elt> too, and are busy doing it. Is this at all a FSF(E) problem?

Yes. Although we of course can't and don't want to tell Debian what to
do, we'll definitely try to develop the technical vision beyond what
we have today.

 elt> * What about community? Does the FSFE have interest in getting
 elt> into establishing any LUG-style initiatives?

Probably more like "GNU User Groups," but yes. Where no suitable
associated organization (see posting about structure) exists, we'll
help the locals creating it. If there are already established
well-working organizations, this would probably be waste of time.

 elt> * If the free software community, what about trade union stuff,
 elt> people being forced to sign NDAs then getting hobbled by them in
 elt> their free software work? What about working out reasonable NDAs
 elt> in the spirit of the GPL? (NDA==Non Disclosure Agreement)

Good idea. Yeah, this would *definitely* be a thing to do for the FSFE.

 elt> * How about tracking evil DMCA-style laws in each country?
 elt> That's an FSFE issue. Who does it? What do you do if you want to
 elt> contribute info?

The legal aspect is very important. We expect to spend a reasonable
part of our money on legal fees, because if we miss what's going on,
free software might be illegal tomorrow.

An example: in Germany a professor wanted to stop the evil record
companies from ripping off young musicians. So he proposed a law that
would *forbid* to give away copyrighted material without proper
compensation. Since free software is (according to German law) a gift,
it would become illegal then.

The professor and the politicians hadn't even *thought* about free
software when thinking about this, but hadn't we been working closely
together with some lawyers and started raising the point, we might
have found ourselves in a BAD situation soon.

Together with the lawyers we have suggested a change that'll make an
exception for free software and it looks favorable right now... so
everything is under control.

But keeping an eye out for that sort of thing is *definitely* a task
of the FSF Europe.

 elt> * To repeat myself once more, what about the whole damn woman
 elt> issue? (And /be/ political, people, would you? This is a
 elt> discussion list. If you think it's all a non-issue, say so)

What about it? We'd be happy to see more females involved in
software. We haven't planned anything to this extent but it might be
possibly that we'll try to encourage it at some point.

 elt> * What about stuff like legal defence, patents, all that? Does
 elt> the FSFE get into all that? How much?

See above. Yes, we are definitely getting into this, because this is
one of the areas where you need a recognized organization that people
take seriously. The FSF Europe will try to provide that.

 elt> * How about stuff like DVD regionality, and blah? Would the FSFE
 elt> consider working out which countries having region-free DVD is
 elt> legal in, to be part of their job? True, it's hardware, but it's
 elt> ABOUT the freedom of individuals, and DeCSS is about software. I
 elt> consider this to be a place that /somebody/ has to work in, if
 elt> the word 'free' is to continue having meaning.

If we have a good idea how to approach this, we'd definitely get

 elt> I noticed earlier that somebody has a .sig file asking what
 elt> they'll do when their child asks them where they were when
 elt> freedom of speech was taken away from the Internet. Well, that
 elt> day is more or less here. Idiot companies are verging on the
 elt> side of total corporate paranoia, attempting control of every
 elt> media file out there. True, they won't stop the determined,
 elt> but...

Exactly. And we decided we want to tell our children: "We organized
ourselves to work against it and tell people with a unified voice that
we will not accept this!"


Georg C. F. Greve                                       <greve at gnu.org>
Free Software Foundation Europe	                 (http://fsfeurope.org)
Brave GNU World	                           (http://brave-gnu-world.org)
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