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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<title>FSFE's year 2010 - a letter from the President</title>
<h1>FSFE's year 2010 - a letter from the President</h1>
<div id="introduction">
We have had an eventful year, and a good one. In the following
text you will find background links to our various activities.
Please take this opportunity to get a much more complete
picture of our present and future work for Free Software.
<h2>Awards and recognition for FSFE's work</h2>
We celebrated not one, but two awards this year. In May, <a href="/news/2010/news-20100126-01.html">FSFE received
the Theodor Heuss Medal</a>. During a grand ceremony with numerous German
political luminaries in Stuttgart in May, Ludwig Heuss, Director of
the Theodor Heuss Foundation, praised FSFE's work for freedom in the
information society:
"Free Software Foundation Europe receives the Theodor Heuss Medal
2010 because it competently contributes to creating new rules for
social, political and legal conditions for digital freedom through
Free Software."
A week earlier, on the 28th of April, FSFE's founding President <a href="/news/2010/news-20100428-01.html">
Georg Greve was awarded the
German Federal Cross of Merit</a> (Bundesverdienstkreuz) in recognition of
his great achievements in promoting Free Software with FSFE. To our
knowledge, this is the first time that any country in the world
bestows such an honour on any Free Software activist. This is a
well-deserved reward for many years of hard work. Congratulations,
<h2>Divide and re-conquer</h2>
Such recognition is of course a huge motivation. But there is no time
to rest on our laurels. Technology evolves, and Free Software
advocates everywhere need to face up to new challenges. Many people
are coming to rely more and more on web services, software as a
service and "cloud computing" for different purposes, such as email,
online data storage, or social networking. The freedoms that define
Free Software -- to use, study, share and improve a program -- are
tailored towards programs running on computers we control. Can we find
a way to defend those freedoms in a world where much of our computing
happens on machines controlled by others? How can we win those
freedoms back where they've already been lost?
The best bet for an answer to these questions are decentralised
systems; systems which provide the services that users are looking
for, but which have no central controlling node. What exactly would
such systems need to look like to preserve our freedoms, and how can
they be built? To inspire users and developers to think about these
questions, we gave <a href="">talks</a>
at different events across Europe and even as
far afield as the FISL event in Porto Alegre, Brazil. At the Free
Society Conference (<a href="">FSCONS</a>)
in Gothenburg in November we organised a
whole track on the topic, under the title <a href="">"Divide and
re-conquer"</a>. Here we brought together people who are working on
projects that break up the central point of control and replace it
with decentralised systems, such as Appleseed's Michael Chisari,
Benjamin Bayart of the user-owned ISP French Data Network, and FSFE's
Torsten Grote, who explained why the concentration of power and data
in the hands of a few companies is a problem, and how decentralised
systems can help us to re-conquer our freedoms.
<h2>Campaigning for Free Software and Open Standards</h2>
<a href="/activities/os/os.html">Open Standards</a> are essential for Free
Software. Free Software relies
on Open Standards to interoperate with other programs. If public
sector organisations and businesses use Open Standards, citizens are
not forced to use proprietary software to communicate with them, while
the organisations themselves can throw off the shackles of dependence
on a single software vendor.
For these reasons, we continued to invest a lot of time and effort
into Open Standards this year. The <a href="">Document
Freedom Day</a> campaign saw
groups around the world celebrating Open Standards and open document
formats on March 31, with events taking place from Argentina to
Vietnam and in many European countries.
The European Commission is currently finishing its long-awaited
revision of the European Interoperability Framework, a recommendation
to public bodies across Europe on how to make their IT systems talk to
each other. The original version from 2004 strongly backed Open
Standards and was very influential. The revised version, which we
expect to be published shortly, is likely to be
<a href="/activities/os/eifv2.html">heavily watered down</a>
in this regard.
As we <a href="/news/2010/news-20101016-01.html">fought tooth and nail</a>
to retain at least a mention of Open
Standards in the document, we raised a lot of attention for the topic
within the European Commission and the European public sector. We also
<a href="">participated in the reform
of the European standardisation system</a> that
is currently underway, with FSFE's President Karsten Gerloff setting
out the key issues for Free Software in standardisation at a
conference organised by the European Commission and the European
Patent Office in November.
If the public sector asks for software based on Open Standards, Free
Software companies can bid for contracts, and will have more money to
invest in development. We have been monitoring public procurement
around Europe. When the Italian region of South Tyrol extended a
contract for proprietary software licenses without a tender, we raised
<a href="/news/2010/news-20100702-01.html">a very public alarm</a>.
But rather than just criticising the province, we
offered the administration help to do better next time. This resulted
in a Round Table with local Free Software experts which is now making
real, long-term progress in developing fairer procurement
practices. We hope to create an example here for other public
administrations to follow.
Our <a href="/campaigns/pdfreaders/pdfreaders.html">pdfreaders campaign</a>
has convinced dozens of public bodies across
Europe to advertise <a href="">Free Software PDF readers</a>.
Supported by hundreds
of volunteers across Europe, we contacted public bodies in 33
countries, told them about Free Software and Open Standards, and asked
them to replace or complement their advertisements for proprietary PDF
readers with links to free ones.
At the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), <a href="/activities/wipo/wipo.html">
our persistent work</a> is bearing fruit. Though change in this international
organisation is slow, it is visible. We
<a href="">analysed the risks of software
patents and the benefits of Open Standards</a> for delegates from patent
offices around the world. We also had productive discussion with
member states and WIPO staff on how Free Software can become a
permanent element in the organisation's activities. The organisation
is still far from becoming the World Intellectual Wealth Organisation
that we called for six years ago, but it is slowly opening up to the
ideas of Free Software and knowledge sharing. WIPO has commissioned a
number of studies on these subjects, which it used to ignore. Once the
results are in, we will push for the organisation to make these
topics a regular part of its work.
After the departure of FTF coordinator Adriaan de Groot in April,
we focused the work of our legal department on core tasks. The
<a href="/activities/ln/ln.html">European Legal Network</a> has grown to become the world's largest network
of Free Software specialists from the legal profession. The
invite-only environment provides a protected space for sensitive
discussions and an open, honest exchange of views. The network's
yearly workshop in Amsterdam was a resounding success. The network
also <a href="">
produced a document on interactions between different software
components</a>, delivering a structured set of views on a complex and
obscure domain. We maintain our <a href="/activities/ftf/fiduciary.html">copyright
assignment tool</a> for projects
that wish to use it, and answer a steady stream of legal and licensing
questions from the community.
<h2>Behind the scenes</h2>
Internally, there was housekeeping to do. Our infrastructure, both
software and hardware, is getting a makeover. The volunteer web team
is progressively making the website more informative, while our system
administrators make sure that our servers are stable and secure. We
are making our internal processes more efficient, so that we can focus
on working for Free Software.
As always, a lot of our work is being done by volunteers. They make it
possible for FSFE to connect to Free Software activists across Europe,
and to be present at dozens of events in many countries every
year. Besides the usual Free Software conferences, we also branched
out into events for a broader audience such as the German Kirchentag,
attended by 130,000 people, where we had a successful
booth. Volunteers also maintain our website and make it available in
up to 30 different languages. Volunteers have launched a new country
team in France and a very active Fellowship group in Slovenia. Most
importantly, they carry the Free Software message into their
workplaces, their universities, and their circle of friends. This is
the time to send all of them a big "thank you!".
All of our activities were supported by FSFE's interns. This year,
four talented young people worked with us, diving headlong into the
Free Software world and doing much of the legwork required to make
campaigns, events and policy work happen.
<h2>Looking into 2011</h2>
In 2011, FSFE will turn ten years old. We have come far, as your
support and the hard work of many committed people have turned us into
Europe's most respected Free Software advocacy organisation. But we
have so much further yet to go.
We want to help the community build systems that respect our freedom,
as computing moves increasingly into the network. Building on the
awareness we have raised for distributed systems, we will bring
together people working in this field and look for ways to let them
join forces and make them stronger.
It's a safe bet that Open Standards and standardisation reform will
keep us busy in 2011. Preparations are already well underway for
Document Freedom Day on March 30. We will continue to push for a
market that is open to Free Software, and for a standardisation system
that respects the needs of Free Software users, developers and
Software patents are creeping back onto the agenda, in different
guises. We will push for patents to be licensed without restrictions
when they are included in standards. The European Commission has
lately started to once more drive the idea of a single European
patent. For software, much will depend on how such a system is
implemented. FSFE will be monitoring the details, giving input and
applying pressure as needed.
Our legal department has been extremely successful in bringing
together experts on legal aspects of Free Software, and in helping
developers with information on licensing issues. In 2011, we will
reposition the department to be even more useful to the community.
<h2>Thank you for your support!</h2>
All this work costs money. Almost all of <a href="/donate/thankgnus.html">
FSFE's funding</a> comes from
<a href="">your donations</a>
and your Fellowship contributions. Your support not
only lets us do all this work, and more. Most importantly, it lets us
stay independent of any particular interests. This independence is not
a luxury. It is the basic prerequisite for the work that we do. Thank
you for making it possible!
We are working to make it easier for you to donate and pay Fellowship
contributions on a monthly basis. Receiving monthly payments
lets us calculate our budget more reliably, and keeps the cash
flow smooth throughout the year. We are also currently working to make
tax-free donations possible from a number of European countries.
We hope for your continued support as we are confronting these
challenges head-on. On behalf of all FSFE staff and volunteers, I wish
you happy holidays. Celebrate them in freedom, rest a bit, and gather
strength for the challenges and battles coming in 2011. It will be an
exciting year. I invite you to keep working for software freedom along
with us.
With the best wishes for a free 2011,<br/>
Karsten Gerloff<br/>
President, Free Software Foundation Europe