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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
  2. <html>
  3. <head>
  4. <meta name="author-name-1" content="Matthias Kirschner" />
  5. <meta name="author-link-1" content="/about/kirschner/kirschner.html" />
  6. <meta name="publication-date" content="2010-04-23" />
  7. <title>Democracy and Free Software</title>
  8. </head>
  9. <body id="article">
  10. <p id="category">
  11. <a href="/freesoftware/freesoftware.html">Free Software</a>
  12. </p>
  13. <h1>Democracy requires Free Software</h1>
  14. <p>
  15. Throughout history technology has influenced society. Reading,
  16. writing, arithmetic, agriculture, printing and radio are all examples
  17. of developments that changed the way we interact through trade, art and science.
  18. The most important cultural technology of the 21st century is software. The
  19. Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is committed to ensuring that
  20. people in our society have the right to shape this technology as they see fit.
  21. </p>
  22. <p>
  23. Today it is impossible to imagine daily life without software.
  24. The majority of us can't spend a single day without using
  25. it. People use software in the
  26. workplace, on laptops, and on mobile phones. Software is also found in
  27. less obvious places however: in trains, cars,
  28. televisions, washing-machines, fridges, and many other devices. None
  29. of these devices could function without software. Without software we
  30. couldn't write e-mails, make phone calls, go shopping, or travel as we
  31. are accustomed to. Software is our society's central tool.
  32. </p>
  33. <p>
  34. When others control a tool as important to us as software, they are
  35. able to exert great influence over our actions. Whoever controls the search
  36. engine that we use determines what we find. He who controls our e-mails
  37. has the opportunity to censor us. Simply put, control of a communication
  38. service entails the ability to decide who can exchange
  39. what with whom. Similarly whoever decides how software operates has great
  40. influence over how we live and work.
  41. </p>
  42. <p> In modern democracies power is seperated. We distribute legislative,
  43. executive and judiciary powers between different institutions. Furthermore
  44. we distribute responsibilities between several levels of competence, e.g.
  45. central government, regional government, and local government. A key
  46. function of the freedom of the press is to safeguard against the formation
  47. of an informational monopoly, where too much power would be concentrated in
  48. too few hands. A key benefit of effective democracy is that you could give any
  49. office inside the democratic system to your worst opponent.
  50. </p>
  51. <p>
  52. It would represent a great danger to democracy if the critical social instrument
  53. that software constitutes were controlled by only a small group. Not
  54. only does our communication depend on software, but
  55. also a big part of society's infrastructure. FSFE wants to voice the
  56. interests of computer users, and to hand control of software's future to
  57. everybody. Society cannot afford to be dependant on private interests when it
  58. comes to a tool as important as software.
  59. </p>
  60. <p>
  61. Our society must ensure that everybody has the opportunity to shape
  62. software for themselves. This requires that we have the freedom to use
  63. software for any purpose, to study how it works, to share it with others,
  64. and to make improvements.
  65. </p>
  66. <ul>
  67. <li>
  68. <strong>Use:</strong> The freedom to use the software for any
  69. purpose fights discrimination, and ensures equal opportunity for
  70. everyone to participate in the society.
  71. </li>
  72. <li>
  73. <strong>Study:</strong> The freedom to study how software functions is
  74. central to an understanding of how this critical tool works.
  75. </li>
  76. <li>
  77. <strong>Share:</strong> The freedom to distribute the software
  78. ensures that we can assist others by sharing it with them.
  79. </li>
  80. <li>
  81. <strong>Improve:</strong> Lastly, a society must have the freedom to change
  82. its tools in order to develop them, and to adapt them to personal needs.
  83. </li>
  84. </ul>
  85. <p>
  86. Software that respects these four freedoms is Free Software.
  87. </p>
  88. <p>
  89. A democratic society needs firm foundations. One of these foundations is Free
  90. Software.
  91. </p>
  92. </body>
  93. <timestamp>$Date: 2010-04-23 15:56:18 +0100 (Mon, 23 May 2010) $ $Author: Matthias Kirschner$</timestamp>
  94. </html>