[Fellowship-Slovenia] Fwd: FSFE Newsletter December 2010

Matija Šuklje hook at fsfe.org
Thu Dec 2 13:40:46 UTC 2010

----------  Posredovano sporočilo  ----------

Zadeva: FSFE Newsletter December 2010
Datum: četrtek 2. decembra 2010 11:10:44
Od: Fellowship of FSFE <fellowship at fsfeurope.org>
Za:  Matija Šuklje <hook at fsfe.org>

(Please support us to reach more people in their native language. Join
our translator team http://fsfe.org/contribute/translators/.)

= FSFE Newsletter - December 2010 =

This edition covers the current developments in Open Standards policy,
some basic information about software patents, an update from FSCONS
about distributed computing, and how you can support us in the end of
the year.

This month was the first time in FSFE's history that we had a booth at
three conferences at the same date: the Brandenburger Linux Infotag
(BLIT) [1] in Potsdam/Germany, the Free Society Conference and Nordic
Summit (FSCONS) [2] in Göteburg/Sweden, and T-DOSE [3] Eindhoven/The
Netherlands. Our PDFreaders campaign [4] is quite successful: 31 public
administrations already removed advertisements for non-free PDF readers
from their websites, 8 of them added links to pdfreaders.org. FSFE's
sysadmins updated the Fellowship blog software [5], and we gave several
presentations to politicians, parties, the public administration, and
the Berlin debating union. This month Fellowship interview is with Brian
[6] about free documentation, emacs org mode, and his understanding of
software as a tool. And finally we would like to congratulate Bjarni
Rúnar Einarsson, Free Software developer and community builder from
Iceland, who has received the Nordic Free Software Award [7]

== Open Standards: India - Europe 1:0 ==

This month India's government announced its Open Standards policy [8],
which is a huge success for the Free Software movement. The advantages
for Free Software in India were definitely worth the three-year struggle
with the proprietary software companies. When reading the government's
papers you will recognise several points [9] that were
included in our Open Standards definition [10] especially the ones
already covered in the October edition of the newsletter [11] : that
patents on standards should be available on a royalty-free basis. This
policy will foster innovation in India's IT market, it will lead to
smaller costs for the public administration, and will enable programmers
to be more innovative.

The European Commission is also setting out to reform Europe's
standardisation  system. Standardisation in Europe is currently
dominated by a small number of organisations, mainly big companies. At
the same time, much innovation is done by small and medium-sized
companies. Although numerous, they do not really have a voice in
standardisation.  When having the opportunity to participate they often
struggle because of a lack of time, money or expertise. So while the
Indian document improved between revisions [12], the European
Interoperability Framework (EIF) has only got worse [13]. But with
your ongoing support we can continue to explain the importance of Open
Standards [14] to the European Commission and the member states, so they
can provide us the same advantages as the Indian government. This month
by participating at an joint event from the European Commission and the
European Patent Office [15].

== Software patents: Not another monopoly on software ==

Another topic we highlighted at the meeting from the European Commission
and in a radio interview [16] were software patents.

To begin with, a patent is a monopoly on an idea, whereas copyright is a
monopoly on a concrete implementation. While Bach's II symphony is
covered by copyright, a patent would give a monopoly on the idea to
combine bowed and wind instruments. Software falls under the copyright.
This makes sense, with software you have little research costs, but you
have to spend a lot of time implementing [17] the ideas to make sure
there are no security problems, and you can easily maintain and adapt it
in future. The idea to combine bowed and wind instruments is not a big
challenge, the challenge is how to combine them so it still sounds good
in the end.

More and more people understand that software patents are a problem for
everybody [18], no matter if big or small companies, individual
software developers, users, non-free or Free Software.

- The companies have to spent more money for their legal department, to
  register patents, to negotiate patent crosslicensing, and to defend
  themselves against patent claims. While for some time software patents
  are a nice tool for big companies to prevent newcomers to compete     
  with them, they also have to face companies who only sue others on
  software patents, and never do any software development by
  themselves. Against them, any software company can only loose.
- For software developers software patents mean legal uncertainty:
  whenever you start programming you might violate law. You will never
  be able to find out if you violate a patent. Even if you read a
  software patent you might not realise it covers what you are
  currently implementing. With patents, we have to pay money to
  register them. On the other hand with copyright, everybody of
  us even those who just program as a hobby can write a program, and
  afterwards this falls under copyright without any additional costs.
  In fact, software patents can dispossess us as they can prevent from
  using the rights we get from copyright, e.g. to distribute the
  program to others.
- Users would have to pay for all those costs.  Some people estimate
  that the patent costs for smartphones are about 20% of the actual
  price payed by the customer.

We will continue to get rid of that problem. In the US our sister
organisation is working to build awareness to the harm caused by
software patents [19] and in New Zealand the government understood the
problem and recommended in April to include computer programs amongst
inventions that may not be patented [20]. In Europe the legislation has
decided that software is not patentable. But laws are always interpreted
by people, and in this case interpretations of the law
differ. So the European Patents Office (EPO) grants software patents by
declaring them as "computer implemented inventions". We will continue to
work with our sister organisations [21], our associated organisation
FFII [22], and others to inform people about the dangers of software
patents. We will explain the legislative that they have to make the laws
more precise so that the patent offices have to act as intended.

== Distributed computing at FSCONS ==

We know that distributed computing is not a brand new topic. In fact
there is a 7:21 minutes commercial from 1959 about it [23], and some of
the ideas might still be relevant for the current "cloud computing"

Our part here was to host a track a this year's FSCONS called Divide and
Reconquer [24], which focused on the problem of the trend towards
centralised non-free Internet services, and possible solutions. Thanks
to Sam's work [25] and our speakers, all five talks went well, each
generating extensive discussion in the question and answer sessions.

For example this month Fellowship interviewee Brian Gough [26] even said
to me after Michael Christen's demonstration of the peer to peer search
engine Yacy [27], that by the end of next year he only wants to use
distributed search engines for his web searches. Sounds like a good New
Year's resolution. We will continue to work on this topic and animate
more people to think about it, discuss it with others and work on

== Get Active: Buy presents and donate - our support programs ==

End of the year often means buying presents and donating money. There
are some ways to combine those two things, for example our support
programs [28]. So if you or some of your friends already use Libri or
Amazon to buy presents, please inform them about the possibility to
support us.

- If you buy books from bookzilla.de [29] we will receive around 5% of
the sales as a donation.
- If you have installed our plugin [30] around 5% of your sale from
amazon is donated to FSFE.

You can read Maëlle's blog post [31] to find out how much was donated
through those ways. If you buy your books and other presents from other
shops, you can of course support FSFE through a one time donation [32]
or on a regular basis by becoming a Fellow of FSFE [33].

Best Regards,
Matthias Kirschner [34] - FSFE [35]

  16.http://blogs.fsfe.org/mk/?p=690 (in German)

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