Feedback appreciated for "There is no Free Software company - But!"

André Ockers ao at
Wed Dec 28 21:09:19 UTC 2016

Dear Matthias and list,

Op 15-11-16 om 18:28 schreef Matthias Kirschner:
> While more people demanded Free Software, we also saw more companies claiming
> something is Free Software or Open Source Software although it is not. This
> behaviour – also called *"openwashing"* is nothing special for Free Software,
> some companies also claim something is "organic" or "fair-trade" although it is
> not. 
In other sectors, labels on websites link to organisations with a list
of recognized products and services to prevent abuse.

> As the attempts to get a trademark for "Open Source" failed, it is
> difficult to legally prevent companies from calling something "Free Software"
> or "Open Source Software" although it does neither comply with the Free
> Software definition by the Free Software Foundation nor with the Open Source
> definition by the Open Source Initiative.
On the other hand, the GPL and the LGPL are copyright by FSF, aren't they?

> During our last meeting of the FSFE's General Assembly we came to the
> conclusion that there was a flaw in our thinking and that it does not make
> sense to think about "Free Software companies". In hindsight it might look
> obvious, but for me the discussion was an eye opener, and I have the feeling
> that was a huge step for software freedom.
The consumer pays for product or service. It can be Free Software or not
Free Software.

> One problem preventing a wider spread of software freedom identified there was
> that Free Software is being undermined by companies that abuse the positive
> brand recognition of Free Software / Open Source by "openwashing" themselves.
> Sometimes they offer products that do not even have a Free Software version.
> This penalises companies and groups that aim to work within the principles of
> Free Software and damages the recognition of Free Software / Open Source in the
> market. The consequence is reduced confidence in Free Software, fewer
> developers working on it, fewer companies providing it, and less Free Software
> being written in favour of proprietary models.
Could giving companies the chance to use a recognized label that says
the product or service complies with GPL or LGPL, linked back to FSF and
FSFE's websites, be helpfull?

> One thought was to run "test cases" to evaluate how good an offer is on the
> Free Software scale.  Something like a regular bulletin about best and worst
> practice. We could look at a business activities and study it according to the
> criteria below, evaluate it, making that evaluation and its conclusions public.
> That way we can help to build customer awareness about software freedom. Here
> is a first idea for a scale:
This is going to cost serious resources.

Best regards,

André Ockers
Fellow, Free Software Foundation Europe

ao at
GnuPG Key: F5FE3668

Word lid van de Fellowship en bescherm uw vrijheid!

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