FSFE Annual Report 2016
press at fsfe.org
press at fsfe.org
Tue Jan 10 08:01:39 CET 2017
= FSFE Annual Report 2016 =
[ Read online: https://fsfe.org/news/2017/news-20170109-01.it.html ]
It has been a busy year for the FSFE. Upholding the principles of Free
Software and protecting citizens' from being exploited are ongoing
challenges we tackled from a variety of angles. We (and by "we", we mean
the staff and volunteers at the FSFE) pored over hundreds of pages of
policies and legislations, looking for loopholes through which Free
Software could be attacked.
We travelled to events all over Europe, often carrying with us dozens of
heavy boxes of merchandising, to explain what Free Software is all about
as speakers and attendees. We have organised our own events too
including our first international summit.
And we have dreamt up and executed campaigns to spread awareness of the
threats to Free Software and users' freedoms. This has entailed
mobilising dozens of staff members and volunteers, contacting the media,
and designing and ordering T-shirts, squishy stress balls/hearts, and
balloons, lots of balloons.
What follows are just a few of the highlights from 2016.
Help us to grow bigger and make a difference in 2017:
== Policies and Legislation ==
We have been carefully monitoring policies and legislation in Europe and
intervened when citizens' rights were in peril. We have formulated
several proposals to EU institutions and EU member states containing
concrete steps to solve the issues with the EU Radio Directive .
This Directive threatens software freedom with its ambiguous phrasing
that all but forbids users from installing unapproved software (read
"Free operating systems") on radio-enabled devices. These devices
include all modern laptops, wireless routers and every single smartphone
in existence. Over 40 European organisations and enterprises support our
concerns and demands.Max Mehl and Polina Malaja will be doing follow-up
on this with along with our volunteers and other organisations to make
sure you can still install Free Software on those devices.
Another threat to Free Software is the EC's stance on the Digital Single
Market strategy. We have patiently explained several times why FRAND
licensing , the licensing favoured by the Commission in its "ICT
Standardisation Priorities for the Digital Single Market", is
incompatible with Free Software and why a more liberal model should be
used. This is still an ongoing battle.
Staying with the EC, we tried to help out on the "Free and Open Source
Security Audit" (FOSSA)  project, commissioned jointly by the
European Parliament. The project should have helped evaluate the
suitability of the Free Software used in public administrations. A
professional audit of Free Software tools and frameworks would seem a
good thing at first glance, an excellent way to test run software and
improve it when bugs and vulnerabilities pop up. At the very least it
would help protect citizens' data stored on public servers.
However, after reading the results, it was not clear the time and money
invested into the study had been well-spent. The conclusions were
sometimes vague and some parts directly wrong. Despite our best efforts,
the company employed to do the survey did not seem to know much about
Free Software at all.
That said, the EC and MEPs in charge of the project, were always open to
our comments and able to push for improvements, although they were bound
to a contract with consultants who were not too knowledgeable about Free
Software matters. Viewed as a pilot, it helped everybody see where the
pitfalls were. With a bigger budget and the lessons learnt, the EU is
planning to follow our advice and improve the project in future
We even put the law to the test, and our colleague Max Mehl, the FSFE
coordinator for Germany, sent out "alternative" routers to testers 
so they could try them with their Internet provider. We published the
results on our Wiki  to help others who are thinking of changing
Join the FSFE to support our policy work in 2017: https://fsfe.org/join
== Campaigns ==
But not all our campaigns have been so serious. We have also carried out
a campaigns to raise awareness about Free Software amongst the general
public, and here "light-hearted" is literally the keyword. We launched
our 6th "I love FS" campaign  on Valentine's day. During this
campaign, we encouraged all our friends to make a display of love
towards Free Software by telling the world, online with posts to social
media, or offline, with public demonstrations of FS love.
Online, we got tweets and blog posts from users, volunteers and
sympathizers explaining what they loved most about their favourite Free
Software project. Offline, we had at least one cake baked by the
WikiMedia Foundation, gifs of people squeezing our #ilovefs stress
heart, and pictures of people from all over Europe waving our "<3 Free
In a similar vein, we wanted to help the general media, local
newspapers, radios and TV stations, to know more about Free Software. To
this end we started our "Meet a Free Software Hero" campaign. Part of
our larger 15th Anniversary celebration campaign , we encouraged
volunteers and media outlets to get in touch with each other so that the
"heroes" could explain what software freedom was all about, and bust a
few myths at the same time.
Thanks to the campaign, we managed to increase our profile with the
media and it has now become much more usual for journalists to get in
touch with us to comment on stories. This gives us more visibility and
influence to affect changes in favour of Free Software.
== Events ==
Another way of reaching a wider audience was through events. Apart from
participating in Free Software-specific conferences like FOSDEM,
LinuxCon and different Linuxtage (we took the FSFE booth to all of
these), we also participated in the Wear Fair and more . This event
is Austria's largest textile fair for sustainable clothing and
lifestyle, and covers from organic food, to DIY electronic repairs. The
themes of sustainability, individual personal freedom and alternative
economic models helped our Foundation fit right in and we sold plenty of
T-shirts, bags and baby vests. We also collected contact information of
people interested in our cause.
But we are prouder of the two big events we organised ourselves. In
April we held our annual Legal and Licensing Workshop . This
Workshop is set up by and for members of the FSFE's Legal Network. Legal
experts from all sectors of the industry got together to discuss
licenses, compliance and what constitutes derivative work for three days
in balmy Barcelona.
Speakers included Harald Welte of gpl-violations.org fame; Miriam
Ballhausen from JBB; and Eben Moglen, chairman of the Software Freedom
Our Legal Coordinator Polina Malaja together with our trainee Olga
Gkotsopoulou are already busy planning next years conference which we
expect to be at least as successful as 2016's.
Similarly exciting was our first ever FSFE Summit held in Berlin  in
September, in which, Erik Albers, our community builder, commandeered a
veritable army of volunteers and interns to make sure that everything
Part celebration of FSFE's 15th anniversary, and everything we have
achieved over the years; part event to talk about the non-technical
aspects of Free Software , we covered the topics of Free Software in
business, the public sector and as a force for social advancement in
more than 50 talks. We also had our 15th birthday party.
Speakers included, among many others, the two prior presidents and the
one current president of the FSFE, that is, Georg Greve, Karsten
Gerloff, and Matthias Kirschner; Sonia Montegiove and Italo Vignoli, the
architects behind the migration to LibreOffice of the Italian Armed
Forces; and Roberto di Cosmo, co-founder along with Stefano "Zach"
Zacchiroli of SoftwareHeritage.org.
Julia Reda, MEP for the Pirate Party, closed the event  with a
keynote on copyright reform and made the case for Free Software on
machines critical in modern democracies. She explained, for example, why
using inauditable proprietary software on voting machines was
== Strengthening the Free Software Network ==
Which brings us to the subject of how we used events to make the network
of Free Software organisations stronger. The Software Heritage mentioned
above, for example, collects programs, applications and snippets of code
distributed under free license from several sources. It aims to preserve
an encyclopedia of free code for posterity. It was clear from the start
that the FSFE and SH had a lot in common, so we supported the initiative
early on, helping them get coverage in the media and offering them a
platform to spread the word about what they do.
We also strengthened our ties with the Document Foundation by joining
its Advisory Board . At the same time, The Document Foundation
became an associated organisation of the FSFE. This means that we will
be offering advice, support and suggestions on one of the most
successful Free Software projects out there: LibreOffice and all its
ecosystem. With the Document Foundation as an associated organisation,
we created official channels for the exchange of ideas, coordinate
efforts, motivate each other, and find opportunities to work together on
Another thing we did was to hand over the running of the FSFE's Document
Freedom Day to Document Freedom Foundation . The DFD already
organises the Software Freedom Day (SFD) campaign, the Education Freedom
Day, and the Hardware Freedom Day. It seemed logical that they also
organise the Document Freedom Day. Like that they widened the range of
events of related events they offer, and it allows us to concentrate on
core Free Software topics.
== Coming up in 2017 ==
But there is still a lot of work to do and 2017 is shaping up to be an
interesting year. Although we have managed to get the ban on compulsory
routers into law, we expect that ISPs will fight back, so we will have
to be on guard for that. The threat of FRAND licensing and software
patents is never far off and we will have to continue advising lawmakers
on why these are dangerous for Free Software and the European software
industry in general. Katharina Nucon, policy coordinator of the German
Pirate Party, will be helping us with this campaign.
Most of our efforts, however, will most likely be spent pushing for
getting more public institutions to publish their software under a free
license. We want public money to pay for public code, and only public
code. Software used by public institutions is acquired, deployed and/or
developed with taxpayers' money. Making it available under a Free
license to all citizens is just the right thing to do. Furthermore, we
hope we will raise awareness amongst politicians of the importance of
using Free Software when they see its advantages.
There are several important national and regional elections scheduled
throughout Europe in 2017. Politicians are supposedly more receptive
during campaigns, so we will do our best to make candidates and parties
commit to Free Software and openness in their administrations.
We need governments to commit to improving policies that favour Free
Software across the board. It is not admissible any more that the
administration pilfer taxpayers money on proprietary software.
We need policies that help the European IT sector become much more
competitive and sustainable. There is no better way to achieve this than
incentivising the use and development of Free Software and Open
Finally we need better policies to help promote Free Software amongst
the general public. Every European citizen must be allowed to regain
control over the technology they use once and for all.
Join the FSFE to support our work in 2017: https://fsfe.org/join 
== TL;DR ==
This has been a long report, but if you need a summary, here goes:
Free Software improves everybody's life and the world. It is clear that
everybody have been handed the short end of the IT stick for too long.
SMEs need a level playing ground to prosper and create employment.
Private citizens and business owners must be allowed to own and control
the devices they pay for. Governments must be at the service of the
people, as must the software they pay for with people's taxes. Free
Software, Free Hardware and Open Standards solve all of the above.
All of these things should be self-evident, but apparently are not. That
is why we at the FSFE do what we do. Throughout this report we have
mentioned some of the people that work to turn these things into
reality. However, and it may sound cliché, but it doesn't make it less
true, without the continued support from you, the volunteer, the fellow,
the occasional donor, and the moral supporter, none of our staff would
be able to do anything. We rely heavily on you, your activities and your
donations to stay independent and fight for your rights when they are
threatened, regardless as to where the threat comes from.
Please help us make next year's report is as long as this one, and do
consider joining the FSFE. 
Jonas Oberg (Executive Director) and Matthias Kirschner (President)
== About the Free Software Foundation Europe ==
Free Software Foundation Europe is a charity that empowers users to
control technology. Software is deeply involved in all aspects of our
lives; and it is important that this technology empowers rather than
restricts us. Free Software gives everybody the rights to use,
understand, adapt and share software. These rights help support other
fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech, press and privacy.
The FSFE helps individuals and organisations to understand how Free
Software contributes to freedom, transparency, and self-determination.
It enhances users' rights by abolishing barriers to Free Software
adoption, encourage people to use and develop Free Software, and
provide resources to enable everyone to further promote Free Software
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