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

Matthias Kirschner mk at
Mon Jan 16 08:24:44 UTC 2017

Dear André,

we discussed labels, but also identified some problems with it.
Especially that one entity has to do the work to check. I meanwhile
heard there are labels, which work the other way: you sign it, and you
remove companies if you find out they violate the principles. But I am
not yet sure if that would work in this context.

* André Ockers <ao at> [2016-12-28 22:09:19 +0100]:

> > 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?

Yes, but that does not prevent any company from saying it is "Open
Source Software" or "Free Software".

> > 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.

It can also be that a huge part is Free Software, but there is also
non-free software offered. Do you need the proprietary part to compete,
or not? Does it only effect people who are already locked into another
prietary software, or also others? ... 

> > 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.

Yes, it will -- and we will only be able to do it, if enough people
support us. But the thinking was that by doing so, others can learn how
to evaluate it themselves. So it is more a knowledge transfer than a
"buy whatever we put the label on without thinking yourself". 

Best Regards,

Matthias Kirschner - President - Free Software Foundation Europe
Schönhauser Allee 6/7, 10119 Berlin, Germany | t +49-30-27595290
Registered at Amtsgericht Hamburg, VR 17030  |   (
Contact (  -  Weblog (

More information about the Discussion mailing list