GitHub, proprietary services and Save Code Share (was Re: Is there any hope for FSFE?)

Paul Boddie paul at
Mon May 6 10:37:44 UTC 2019

On Saturday 4. May 2019 13.42.51 Nikos Roussos wrote:
> On 03/05/2019 19:00, Paul Boddie wrote:
> > 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.
> That doesn't sound like a logical conclusion. Sure Github is one of the
> affected platforms, but code sharing platforms also include Free
> Software initiatives (eg. sourcehut) or even self-hosted instances of
> Gitlab, Gitea, etc.

Of course. But what I object to is a prominent position being given to a 
centralising, proprietary service provider in a campaign about how copyright 
legislation will affect Free Software. I would much rather the FSFE supported 
and promoted genuinely open code-sharing platforms and let the proprietary 
service providers do their own lobbying.

Particularly since I imagine that a lot of stuff going up on GitHub isn't 
actually Free Software, as you'll agree if you've ever seen repositories just 
used for file uploads, which I have. And thus GitHub starts to share a number 
of characteristics with YouTube, dealing in the kind of material that got the 
copyright cartels so upset with these companies in the first place.

But beside this, the FSFE has to decide whether the organisation should stand 
against centralising, coercive proprietary services or not. People are being 
"asked" to sign up for these services all the time, like I recently had to do 
as part of my work. It is just like peer pressure making people join the likes 
of Facebook and its many wholly-controlled brands.

All of this is damaging to interoperability, choice, and ultimately to Free 
Software, regardless of how nice Facebook, GitHub, Google and Microsoft are 
supposedly being to Free Software projects. The FSFE is supposed to be in 
favour of the former qualities and should remain uninfluenced by the latter 
apparent generosity of entities who inevitably want something in return.

It is of no help to independent code-sharing, collaboration, communication, 
and other Free Software projects if they end up being impossible to deploy 
because the Internet has been effectively reconfigured to exclude them. The 
claim that it is easier or "normal" to just get an account with one of the 
providers in a big-name cartel may satisfy the impatient consumer, but it has 
serious consequences for their privacy, and the exclusion of independent Free 
Software from general deployment has serious social and economic consequences 
for Free Software developers.

> Free Software developers and users would all suffer from the directive
> if the exception for code sharing platforms hadn't be adopted. So
> lobbying towards that direction seems like a very meaningful (and
> successful) way for safeguarding the interests of the Free Software
> community.

And another point I made was that it is all very well getting narrow 
exemptions for Free Software, for which I suppose we should be grateful, but 
what do we then say to other, natural partners of the Free Software movement 
when they do not receive the same exemptions? It feels like abandoning those 
other partners of a broader coalition so that certain corporations can 
continue their business as usual.


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