Fwd: [FSFE PR][EN] Copyright Directive – EU safeguards Free Software at the last minute

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Thu Mar 28 14:28:16 UTC 2019

On Thursday 28. March 2019 09.47.34 Christian Imhorst wrote:
> in our last press release on the EU Copyright Directive, Alexander
> Sander says:
> "The exclusion of Free Software code hosting and sharing providers from
> this directive is crucial to keep Free Software development in Europe
> healthy, solid and alive"
> How do we come to this conclusion? We can probably give thanks to
> Microsoft for their good lobby work, that they could get an exception
> for GitHub (maybe the purchase of GitHub had finally probably something
> good):
> "Open source software developing and sharing platforms like GitHub
> should remain out of scope." [1]

I must say that I feel uncomfortable about emphasising companies like GitHub 
in any advocacy campaign. GitHub and their corporate parent are quite able to 
look after their own interests, and while there may be common cause with the 
FSFE on this particular matter, I find it difficult to take such entities 
seriously on matters of "defending the Internet" (and all the other familiar 
rhetoric) when those entities have pursued a predatory strategy of 
consolidating collaborative activities and works on their own proprietary 

> Finally, I don't think this will help us. Other open source platforms,
> such as Mastodon instances, have to install upload filters if they don't
> want to end up in court. I am not a lawyer and I can't find a section in
> the directive that contains the opposite or can dispel my concerns about
> this. Can our legal team tell us what does
> "Providers of services such as open source software development and
> sharing platforms,[...] are also excluded from this definition" [2]
> in the "EU Copyright Directive" exactly mean for free and open source
> software projects that are not "software development and sharing
> platforms"?

I would need to spend a lot longer looking at the text, which looks in many 
ways like the usual "fudge" when conflicting interests need to be accommodated 
in a hastily conceived way. So there are things like revenue and customer 
thresholds before companies are affected by various obligations, which just 
seems like bad law to me.

Presumably, everyone must neatly fit themselves into commercial and non-
commercial categories, which as we know from actual experience can be 
genuinely challenging. For example, can content licensed under CC-BY-NC be 
used on a site with adverts generating revenue? And so on.

Still, I guess the usual established multinational (but ostensibly European) 
media interests were able to see their wishes attended to, with all the costs 
and repercussions once again handed over to everyone else to bear.

> Next, Alexander says in our names:
> "We call on the European Commission to promote the dissemination of Free
> Software filter technologies, including financial support, for instance"
> No, I won't do that and I completely disagree! I urge the FSFE to argue
> *against* uploadfilters and censorship. Because it doesn't matter if the
> censorship machine has an open or a closed license, At the end of the
> day uploadfilters serve censorship and censorship has to be abolished.
> There's already enough free  software being abused for purposes of
> oppression and to spy on privacy in the surveillance capitalism, we
> don't need another one.

Here I agree with you. It seems the attitude is that there may be business 
opportunities for Free Software and so these should be happily pursued. 
Although I strongly believe that Free Software should be properly funded, this 
should never take place at the expense of basic rights and freedoms.

The FSFE enters dubious territory if it starts acting as an agent for business 
interests. Indeed, in some places there are different kinds of incorporation 
for organisations acting in this way, and crossing the line between these two 
kinds of entity could have legal (as well as ethical) consequences.

But what I miss from much of what is said is how this affects me as someone 
who wants to share my code via my own channels, rather than as a participant 
in some kind of data-farming megaupload site for code. I almost couldn't care 
less what GitHub would have to do to comply with legislation, but I care very 
much what I would be required to do.

And as I wrote in an article recently, it is no longer enough to think that 
since Free Software is in some way protected, there is no need to uphold other 
causes, rights and freedoms and that they can be ignored or neglected. Free 
Software is a consequence of having those other things, not a singular goal in 
its own right.

> I hope that we will reconsider our goals we shared in this press
> release.
> Christian Imhorst

Agreed, and I notice that for me, at least, your name and badge appeared first 
in the list of supporters on the "Save Code Share!" site, which seemed like an 
appropriate sign that I should respond!


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