How to promote free software

Xavi Drudis Ferran xdrudis at
Sun Dec 1 21:46:33 UTC 2002

El Sun, Dec 01, 2002 at 05:40:55PM +0100, Niall Douglas deia:
> On 1 Dec 2002 at 17:05, Onno Timmerman wrote:
> > I keep bouncing against the same problem. (ignorance)
> > 1. Access to these EU politicians. 
> > 2. When I explain the problems they react as if a fish saw for the
> > first time a cow. 3. They keep wandering about profits, protecting
> > intellectual nonsense and the small man. 
> > 
> > In short software is alien to most politicians. And free software is
> > for them something like freeware or something very confusing. However
> > some arguments I think are working. 
> > 

Agreed. My experience (with some at least, it really varies a lot
depending on who you talk to) is that they don't know what software
is.  They ask things like "so linux is software, is it?. Is software
an industry or it isn't?". Then there's also people who can't tell a
patent from a trademark or intellecual property from industrial
property, and think patents are a weaker protection than copyright
because they last shorter. It's like speaking about anti-gravitation
shoes or something. It is not serious sometimes, but usually you have
only half an hour or an hour to explain it all to them, and you spend
it on background because even getting enough to present the issues.

And then there are some who call you home the very night you send a
generic mail to them asking what can they do about it.

My advice is never ever generalise. You can find all kind of people.

And usually damage to free software is a good argument. Just not by
itself. There is that problem of proswpat people intentionally
spreading FUD about it is only "open source" fanatics against swpats,
but anyway, some politicians do care about free software. But it
depends who you are.  I speak for a GNU/Linux user group, so I need to
speak of free software at least to justify our interest in it. If you
speak for a company, a labor union, a consumers group or a political
group, or a university you may have other motivations and may be
perfectly credible without naming free software.

> > 1. Speaking off freedom. Explaining to the point what free software is
> > and what it does. It makes left politicians wonder about it. 2. The
> > difference between rich country’s and developing country’s in patent
> > law. 3. Pointing out that they are destroying small initiative and
> > backing Microsoft & co. No I don't like MS bashing however it can help
> > to give a politician a feeling that action should be done.

That sounds very good for left politicians (and then only those who are 
somewhat socially inclined, not the ones that simply call tehmself left).

My view is patents are absurd, a contradiction. Logics lets you 
deduce anything from a contradiction, and that's why you can find 
all sort of terrible consequences from software patents. You won't 
have time to explain them all, so concentrate on the ones that are 
most likely to hit the person you're talking about, and just pass 
over or mention slightly the rest (you never know).
> I would have a thought a pamphlet sent round regularly to each MEP 
> would be a great help here. Very simply, it should say:
> Software Patents in Europe =
> 1. Damage to the European Software Industry
> 2. Damage to the European Economy
> 3. Damage to European ability to compete internationally
> 4. Damage to Europe's ability to innovate

Err... it's a happy coincidence, I was just in the process of
uploading one, by colleagues at Caliu will be in in a couple of hours possibly. For
now we only have Catalan and Spanish (thanks to Alfons Corretti). More
translations are wellcome. 

It is not exactly what you were saying, but close to it. The problem 
is we wanted to keep it in one DIN A4 sheet and it is now too summarized, 
maybe hard to understand because it's too condensed. But I really can't 
think of a very good explanation in so little space. There are links 
to web material, so they're hopefully get intrigued and read.
But it is not really adressed to MEPs, but to the general public. 
Not that this makes any difference if you want to talk to the general 
MEP :).

> Confusing them with complex arguments is not the way. If you take as 
> an example the cannabis legalisation movement, they have done a great 
> job in making very complex and circular arguments into four or six 
> bullet points. When politicians read the above, they will think "lost 
> votes" and will do the needful.

Oh dear!. It is enough to have people wrongly identify Eurolinux 
with free software only, if they start associating opponents of 
swpat with cannabis smokers, it'll be too much. 

Just joking. I understood your point. It is just that it is not 
as easy to summarize as it seems. Really. 

> Alas however, as far as I understand the voting rules, it means that 
> France is equally as powerful as Romania so while we may be able to 
> persuade rich politicians whose country does not need the MS and IBM 
> purse opened, for those poorer it may be nigh impossible. Hence my 
> original point in other emails that we need an alternative business 
> model with fat profits. Sad but true!

I don't agree. IMHO you don't seem to be much aware of the codecision 
procedure. Romania does not vote, and France, Germany. Italy and UK 
have the highest weight in the qualified majority votes in the Council. 
The problem at the Council is that the member state send as negotiators
people from their patent offices, not neutral politicians. 

See (it's in Catalan, 
but at least the pseudocode at the end should be understandable to all).
There is also links to institutions and the EP MEP database, if you need 
it, by the way.

And I simply can't make much sense of your quest for funding blue-sky
free projects. I tend to attribute some of the poor state of computing
to overemphasis on blue-sky technology instead of down to heart
solutions.  And I can't see how innovation should not be present in
software since it is the only way to compete (the only way of not
having to innovate is by having a monopoly, and free software is a
much more competitive market).  But in general that thread and my own
opinion has too many axioms from personal experience, so I won't keep
on it. At least until we get a level playing field were free software
can compete with propietary or your third model, I see no reason for
me to discuss the relative advantages of those. And stopping swpats is
the first step towards that level playing field. In that we all seem to 

> I would be willing to cooperate with someone here with experience in 
> getting stuff to MEP's with regard to producing just such a pamphlet. 
> I am unfortunately unemployed for more than nine months now, so I 
> could not afford the production or distribution costs past my own 
> time (well not till I get a job again anyway!) :(

You are free to elaborate such a panphlet, or modify ours, but if you
want a list of other helpful tasks to do, see or if you can read Catalan (if you
can read a couple of Romance language you can probably read them all)

And of course anybody helping agaisnt swpats, will find good background

Xavi Drudis Ferran
xdrudis at

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