How FSFE is organised

Paul Boddie paul at
Thu Oct 10 12:04:29 UTC 2019

On Thursday 10. October 2019 10.45.48 Bernhard E. Reiter wrote:
> Am Mittwoch 09 Oktober 2019 15:16:23 schrieb Paul Boddie:
> > I am sorry for the confusion here. In fact, I wasn't referring to the FSFE
> > with my remark
> Thanks for clarifying. I think it is clear that FSFE volunteers have other
> professional lives and need to earn their living. Many of them are still
> related to Free Software and thus FSFE may report on their activities
> and these lists can be used to chat and talk about all Free Software
> activities. If someone mails here, it can be completely unrelated to FSFE
> itself.

I am aware of all of this, and I wouldn't want to stop anyone earning their 
living. But what I take exception to is the way that people do things in the 
name of furthering Free Software that end up being ineffective or even 
counterproductive or harmful.

And, bringing back my original point about people in privileged positions 
versus everybody else, while some apparently random individual appealing for 
interest in his crowdfunding campaign might not get much traction, it is a 
different matter for people with a certain reputation and stature within a 

To be fair, I have also written content about various crowdfunding exercises 
that have not yet delivered anything, and I do feel a certain level of regret 
that people might have taken my writing as a kind of recommendation, even 
though I probably made it clear that I was bringing it to the attention of the 
readership and hopefully allowing them to make an informed decision by 

But then again, I have not been running any such campaigns myself, and despite 
the current status of the campaigns I have written about and even supported 
myself, those responsible have given some indication of having tried to 
realise their goals. Indeed, I recognise that those responsible have endured 
hardship in attempting to deliver what they envisaged. Once again, we all 
become victims of "performance capitalism" as the funding platforms take their 
cut regardless of the outcome.


> Most of our supported - as I take it - do not want the FSFE to become
> an organisation that has elaborate public decision processes, they want us
> to to campaigns like "public money public code", support that Free Software
> can be written, used and people, organisations and government are educated
> about it.

How do you know in any detail what most of the supporters want?


> The people participating in the legal network are not necessarily members
> of FSFE (association and social group). FSFE provides a space for them to
> exchange, while at the same time FSFE can participate, which is a bit of
> influence. So we get a bit of influence without costs about what legal
> experts that have an interested in Free Software are talking about and what
> their organisations (if they represent them) are taking a focus in.
> To me this sounds like a good thing.

It could be, yes. But what are the motivations for the other participants? For 
example, there is some controversy about licence enforcement and there are 
various commercial interests who probably do fairly well offering services to 
companies around releasing software that complies with the obligations in 
various Free Software licences.

It appears that some of those commercial interests might not entirely welcome 
initiatives to make licence compliance more obvious and transparent, mostly 
because their businesses are predicated on the idea that such stuff is 
difficult to get right, that professional help is necessary to get it right, 
and that companies can be offered services to make some kind of "threat" 

What are the rest of us to make of an event where the proceedings are not 
readily available and where the participants discuss topics directly connected 
to their business models that depend on limited transparency?

Are we left to assume that whatever consensus was reached at this event is the 
reason for the FSFE being indifferent about possibly the most significant 
licence compliance case in Europe in recent years? (One that was only 
"settled" by the defendant coincidentally deciding to rewrite the offending 

And what are we to make of an event that is presumably sponsored by an 
organisation who was - maybe still is - in a frivolous legal conflict with 
another Free Software organisation operating in the same realm (who presumably 
does not participate in this event)?

Ultimately, the danger here is that people supporting an organisation end up 
also supporting counterproductive or harmful behaviour, all because it is not 
possible to scrutinise what people are saying and doing.


> > Meanwhile, other organisations with arguably less "democracy"
> > pursue such activities transparently and let their supporters know
> > what they have been saying and doing.
> Please make an example here.

In the context of legal initiatives around Free Software licensing, the 
Software Freedom Conservancy is my example.


> > The impression this leaves is that there is the VIP track, with all the
> > benefits and a degree of opacity within which conflicts of interest could
> > easily develop, and then there is the ordinary supporter track.
> The "VIP track" is called "volunteer". :)

Not really. Like others, I have made my thoughts available to those willing to 
document and understand the mechanisms of volunteer culture and the 
deficiencies of organisations in engaging, motivating and recognising 
volunteer contributions.


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