Free Software in Europe -- Position Paper

hellekin how at
Thu Sep 28 11:14:58 UTC 2017

This proposal was submitted to the Next Generation Internet consulting project
at NLnet on 2017-09-27 at 22:27.

## Building a Public Discourse for Free Software

We need support to engage with the free software community at European level to
fulfill the following agenda. The specific step for which we’re asking support
is the funding of our forum platform that serves as the base of operations of
[the Migration project]. We’re aiming at boosting a think-tank involving
technicians, philosophers, lawyers, lobbyists to create influential
publications and amplifying existing free software action networks at European

[the Migration project]:

We're making *a public discourse that differentiates proprietary software from
free software on technical ground.* With this new understanding, policy-makers
in Europe can consciously choose to favor free software instead of wasting
public funding on private interests that are unable to deliver a solid public
digital infrastructure.

Over the last decade, a number of free software activists, mostly in Europe,
have been gathering, trying to alleviate the huge asymmetry of funding between
proprietary and free software in general, and especially in public
institutions. Small steps have been made, resulting in a growing network of
instruments for free software projects to access economic and legal means to
sustain them.

But the free software movement is too often perceived as an ethical lobby of
entrenched idealists who don’t play well with others. Lately the open-source
world has been diluting with corporations historically opposed to free
software, and others that make extensive use of free software, eventually
promoting and funding some open-source projects, but who are actually working
against the ethics of software freedom, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook,
Apple, and Microsoft (GAFAM).

This recuperation of the free software movement by problematic U.S. companies
involved in sapping privacy, fair markets, and technological diversity, send
the wrong message, and give a wrong incentive to European policy-makers who
make decisions with few actual technical knowledge. Our aim is to develop a
public discourse that free software activists and lobbyists can use to
counteract this trend in European policy, that appear even more pregnant as the
upcoming reform of European Copyright law seems to indicate that the rule of
Law may be side-stepped by direct access of software patent owners – often U.S.
corporations – to actual means of disrupting the open-source model of code
development. (See the current Public Money, Public Code campaign of the FSFE,
and the article 13 of the European Copyright law reform under way.)

In order to counteract this trend, we started the NEST (Nouvelles Études
Simondoniennes Transdisciplinaires, New Transdisciplinary Simondonian Studies)
working group gathering philosophers and technicians interested in developing a
public discourse that distinguishes proprietary software from free software on
technical grounds.

We’re looking for support to:

- publish a collective article on this topic
- extend our reach and publish a review demonstrating the need for free
technologies to provide a public digital infrastructure
- engage and coordinate with existing free software activists and developers
in Europe

We’re currently using an online forum to develop this discourse on our spare
time. We need resources to professionalize this endeavor in order to provide a
European-wide initiative that will amplify the reach of existing lobbies (FSFE,
EDRI) and support the free software community out of the idealist margins it
has been relegated to, into a strong force to build a sustainable technological
society that is respectful of citizens, and economically sound.

The worst-case scenario is already under way. If article 13 is voted into
European law, software patent holders may be able to forcefully close key
public code repositories that participate in the larger open-source code base
without intervention of a judge, eventually breaking software builds and
rendering some free software illegal. Anti-reverse-engineering clauses may
render software security research illegal and harder to do. This combination of
trends may effect in a disruption of the Internet and the free software

The GAFAM are currently in a unique position where they can force competition
out by “selling at zero price”, effectively killing any attempt at entering the
market. This monopolistic behavior requires huge amounts of capital, and cannot
be countered with current laws and tax systems. The GAFAM are known to pay much
less taxes than they should. This gives them an unfair advantage only
reinforcing itself as they capture more markets in Europe.

Understanding of how technologies work is a key component of inflecting
European policy in a direction that is favorable to the Internet and democracy.
By gathering support around key technical arguments, we believe we can provide
strong political support towards establishing a public digital infrastructure
in Europe, based on free software that create open-ended technologies where all
technical stakeholders, small and big, can contribute. This will create a
highly competitive market not only open to larger corporations with infinite
credits, but also to local businesses that can better respond to local needs
while still strengthening the common infrastructure.

It will also pave the way to bring forward a strong strategic advantage for the
European Union over the USA that currently dominate the Internet markets. For
example, once policy-makers have understood the technical influence they can
gain from forcing competition on larger corporations, they can implement
EU-wide electronic payment systems on free software like GNU TALER that
provides transparent sales (taxable), and at the same time privacy-preserving
purchases. Such a possibility can bring a halt to many current fraud and tax
evasion from larger players in the European Union, reinforcing the European
market and helping to balance unfair competition from larger corporations.

These issues must be addressed at several levels and time frames but the first
part that this proposal introduces must be addressed by a small group of free
software technicians and philosophers to create the public discourse that will
provide others the arguments for a shift in policy.

The first part of the effort, i.e., running the NEST WG successfully, will
require a full time effort for the coordinator, and several publications by
renowned academics over the next year.

The main obstacle is the current misunderstanding of open-ended technologies
that allow proprietary software companies to capture public money, instead of
having a myriad of free technologies companies building up a public digital
infrastructure. But once the discourse is public, it cannot be undone:
understanding implies a change of perception, a new perspective on technologies
from the part of policy-makers.

We’re aiming for:

- more engagement with the platform and/or a new
successful platform hosted in partnership with FSFE and other stakeholders.
- concrete outcomes with federating EU free software lobbyists
- successful impact on the understanding of open-ended technologies by EU

Current time estimates aim:

- to establish a public discourse susceptible to bring a more adequate
understanding of open-ended technologies to the public in general, and EU
policy makers in particular within 6 to 12 months.

- to gather forces and create European consortia that can respond to public
EU calls following this discourse, involving existing activist (CCC, EDRI,
FSFE, LQDN, etc.) and funders (CCT, EdgeFunders, NLnet, Public CIC, TCC)
networks, as well as free software unions (e.g., Synpell in France) and related
free software companies and university departments, within 18 months.

- to involve political parties active in the EU Parliament and work in
collaboration with the above-mentioned networks to pass legislation favorable
to a public digital infrastructure, 6 to 12 months from now, within 36 months.

- to catalyze local businesses so they can use the public discourse to gain
local markets with their cities and at regional level, 8 to 12 months from now,
for the next 5 years.


Towards a GNU Consensus on Free Software for Social Networking

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