Is there any hope for FSFE?

Paul Boddie paul at
Fri May 3 16:00:03 UTC 2019

On Friday 3. May 2019 15.00.30 Reinhard Müller wrote:
> Hi, Besnik,
> all sarcasm aside,
> Am 03.05.19 um 13:48 schrieb Besnik Bleta:
> > we give the money to lawyers who "helped" us
> > "safeguard" Free Software through Copyright Directive, right?
> what exactly do you refer to in this sentence? If FSFE spends money on
> something, I'm usually among the first ones to know, but I have no idea
> what you mean.

I think that there are concerns that the FSFE has not exactly safeguarded the 
interests of individual members and Free Software initiatives quite as well as 
those of its corporate sponsors and partners.

So, in the case of the Copyright Directive, where much fuss was made about 
keeping code sharing platforms free of copyright filters, it seemed that the 
FSFE was acting to defend GitHub and various proprietary services on the basis 
that they help people share Free Software. As I noted about a month ago, 
Microsoft/GitHub can surely do their own lobbying if they don't want their 
profitability to be affected, which is surely all they really care about in 
this instance.

And upon finding that these filters would still impact other online 
activities, it appeared that the FSFE was somehow trying to drum up business 
for companies to sell Free Software filters. This rather distasteful 
impression was alleviated when a statement in the press release was supposedly 
withdrawn, but this episode did not particularly inspire confidence that the 
organisation would remain in solidarity with its traditional partners and 
their causes.

Certainly, the FSFE has achieved good results in the past, participating in 
antitrust cases that have yielded benefits for Free Software. However, its 
legal activities remain opaque to supporters of the organisation, leaving 
suspicions of a two- or three-tier organisation, with those who donate out of 
their own pocket or who participate in their own scarce free time feeling that 
they are effectively enabling some kind of private club whose activities are 
never disclosed or discussed with them.

Of course, specific legal matters will never be discussed openly, but there is 
a significant contrast between the FSFE and, say, the Software Freedom 
Conservancy on more general legal activities with regard to transparency. It 
is also worth noting that the FSFE has largely had little to say about cases 
like Hellwig versus VMware, despite the legal venue being practically on the 
FSFE's doorstep:

Conservancy may be empowered to participate in such cases due to its role as 
custodian of some Linux copyrights, but one can always wonder why the FSFE has 
avoided or abandoned such a role when it could have been more influential. 
This leaves impressions of apathy or a lack of guidance or strategy, none of 
which are particularly reassuring to supporters of the organisation.

I hope this provides some kind of explanation as to what people might be 
thinking, not that I seek to represent anyone in particular.


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