How to promote free software

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope at
Tue Dec 3 00:59:25 UTC 2002

On 1 Dec 2002 at 22:46, Xavi Drudis Ferran wrote:

> > 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 :).

Your page is nice, but it's too wordy. I'd suggest the four top items 
I previously said, followed by forceful stuff like:

"If you enact software patents, you will send X million euro out of 
the European economy every year"

"If you enact software patents, you will put X thousand software 
engineers out of work"

"If you enact software patents, European software will be directly 
controlled from the US"

etc. You'll need cold hard figures for the above. I suggest the FSF 
finds a university and has some research done. Again, the pro-
cannabis lobby use all these techniques and one by one European 
countries are loosening their laws, despite heavy resistence from 

> 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. 

Well you can see what I've done above. If you read any first year 
psychology textbook, you'll quickly see what works best in getting a 
message across. The main rules are (i) keep it simple and attention 
grabbing (ii) repeat it as often as you can and (iii) be ready for 
more detail if more in-depth questions are asked.

I'd also get someone around Brussels to make an appointment with each 
senior MEP to talk about the danger of software patents (pointless 
seeing them all, they tend to follow a few senior figures). I'd write 
a letter to each European software house getting them to write 
letters to a list of select government officials. I'd also write 
letters to the broadsheets in each country most read by politicians 
trying to get articles published about the dangers.

All of this stuff is bread and butter lobbying. You can be guaranteed 
Microsoft and IBM both pay people to do all this - indeed I think MS 
sinks several million a year into it.

> > 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.

Really? Well that's fantastic then. The UK needs hitting and hitting 
hard since it has like 50% of the EU's IT industry. I think Germany 
and France are anti, not sure about Italy.

> 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.

Not wanting to dishearten you, but web pages preach to the already 
converted. They don't affect MEP's - only letters, faxes, meetings 
and general old-fashioned lobbying do that.

If you look at something like you'll see plenty 
of resources including lists of MP's and their contact details and 
constituent surgery times. Also there's fill in forms, templates for 
letters to newspapers, a "primer" so you can teach someone all they 
need to know quickly etc.

> 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. 

I think you're confusing the low quality in much blue-sky work with 
something inherent but I do see your point that new technology 
automatically means more unfamiliarity and hence poor modification 

> 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 agree.

Yup, agreed!

> 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)

I live in Spain so I have some Spanish, but I found myself struggling 
with the above. Since everyone here can read English well enough to 
translate into their own languages, I'd suggest starting with an 
English version and once it's perfect translating from there.

I'll get to it eventually. I may be unemployed, but I'm also 
extremely busy. I've drawn up my idea of an improved proprietary 
model which I'll publish within the next hour so I'll get to software 
patents eventually.

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

Yep, already know that. It's too technical for MEP's though.


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