In the end of October, FSFE provided its recommendations to the European Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy, a roadmap for European policy in digital age aimed at bringing down regulatory barriers between 28 different national markets. In particular, the Commission has set goals to digitalise European industries, to develop standards for “the cloud”, “the Internet of Things”, and big data, and to further enhance digital education.
FSFE believes that Free Software will help the EU to meet the goals set by the Commission. However, several barriers to unleash the full potential of Free Software still exist: in particular unharmonised exceptions to copyright protection, software patents, unrecognised rights of users to modify their property, and the danger of standard-essential patents in the standardisation. We ask EU legislators to follow our recommendations and abolish the obstacles in the way of Free Software.
As a part of the Commission’s Digital Single Market, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has been requested to identify a detailed map of the standards required to support EU policy in “the cloud”. Your co-editor blogged about their confusing position on Free Software in the ETSI’s Cloud Standards Coordination initiative.
FSFE hired our German coordinator Max Mehl as a working student to stay on top of the compulsory routers issue. So far the FSFE, together with 9 other civil and economic organisations, sent a joint letter to members of the German Bundestag to support the bill against compulsory routers. Forcing consumers to use a specific router provided by an ISP undermines free and fair competition of manufacturers. In addition they are harmful to users’ security, privacy, and independence to use their own preferred, secure, device.
The Bundestag will consult about the bill in November, and despite the unanimous opinion of experts, consumer protectors, and politicians who support the bill, some members of the Federal Council aligned against it, and adopted technically inconsistent arguments of internet providers and network carriers.
FSFE commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Sony rootkit fiasco on 31 October by posting a reminder of how dangerous digital restrictions are for user’s security, the freedom to tinker, and general purpose computing. Before public outrage and lawsuits demanded retribution from Sony, the rootkit had already infiltrated users’ computers, spied on their listening habits, blocked third party software, slowed down computer performance, created holes in user’s computer security, and sent data back to Sony. This month FSFE reached out to dozens of tech and security journalists to team up and remind the public to protect their digital freedoms and to be wary of digital restrictions, the same kinds of restrictions that gave Sony access to millions of computers and hundreds of thousands of networks.
Since last week was the 10th anniversary of when the Sony rootkit was unveiled, spend a few minutes this month to share what happened back in 2005 with friends, family, or colleagues who have never heard of the Sony rootkit. Sony rootkit provides a prime example of how companies build in harmful restrictions into software to limit what consumers can do with their own property.
In contrast to the Sony rootkit anniversary, there was also a positive anniversary this month. On 3 October 2015 the Free Software Foundation of Europe celebrated the Free Software Foundation’s 30th birthday with some delicious cake and many wonderful birthday wishes. Shortly thereafter, FSFE President Matthias Kirschner spoke extensively with the largest Swiss newspaper about FSFE and the role of Free Software in politics and the economy. Matthias’s interview complemented an additional article about Richard Stallman and Free Software activism.
Fellows in Zurich started “Free Computer for Free People”, an initiative to offer laptops that run completely on Free Software only. This includes alternative firmware and free BIOS that are most often proprietary on the majority of laptops and preclude users from installing Free Software not authorised by the manufacturer. By reusing used hardware, the Zurich Fellows also like to foster a sustainable use of hardware.
FSFE’s project to develop FreeRTC, that is, Real Time Communications, is taking suggestions for how to improve their Mission Statement. The goal is to make it as easy as possible to call other people and receive calls from other people using solely Free Software, open standards, a free choice of service providers and a credible standard of privacy. Sign up to the mailing list to follow the discussion and post your opinion.
FSFE co-founder and Executive Director, Jonas Öberg reminisced about how he got involved in Free Software, including the details of his influential trip to Boston as a 22-year-old in 1999. His story features trips to Technology Square in Boston, attending the Free Software Awards, and a commitment to Richard Stallman to “always be true to the community.”
On 13 October, Paul Boddie commemorated Ada Lovelace Day (international day of women in science and technology) by interviewing local Berlin resident and Free Software contributor, Isabel Drost-Fromm. Their conversation covered technical topics (naturally), as well as advice on managing expectations and building confidence for the transition to the next generation of hackers, makers, and tinkerers.
Thanks to all the volunteers, Fellows, and corporate donors who enable our work.
Polina Malaja and Asa Ritz - FSFE