Booth Volunteer FAQ
Free Software Foundation Europe
Copyright c 2001, 2002 Free Software Foundation Europe. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
This document is primarily a guide for volunteers who would like to present the Free Software Foundation Europe at conferences, forums and similar. It includes answers to frequently asked questions regarding the FSFE, software patents and Free Software. For a general overview how to help at booths, see the official page.
- What is the Free Software Foundation Europe?
- Why is a European FSF necessary?
- What does FSFE do?
- How is FSFE organised?
- Where is FSFE located?
- Is FSFE independent from FSF in USA?
- How is FSFE financed?
- How many people are part of FSFE?
- Is it possible to become a member of FSFE?
- What are the associate organisations of FSFE?
- How can I support FSFE?
- Are donations to FSFE tax-deductable?
- How do I contact FSFE?
- What is Free Software?
- What is the difference between Free Software, Public Domain, Shareware, Freeware and Open Source?
FSF & FSFE
1. What is the Free Software Foundation Europe?
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) was founded in 2001 as the sister organisation of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) in the USA to take care of all aspects of Free Software in Europe. (see also http://fsfe.org/about/about.en.html)
2. Why is a European FSF necessary?
Looking at the development of Free Software in the last years, it is clear that many important projects have originated in Europe. Because of the difference in judicial systems between Europe and USA it becomes necessary to ensure that legal matters surrounding Free Software are also -confronted- in Europe. This is especially important in regards to ensure that the validity of Free Software licenses like GNU GPL and LGPL apply equally to European law. FSF Europe works together with several legal experts on this issue. (see also http://www.fsfe.org/documents/whyweexist.en.html)
3. What does FSFE do?
See https://fsfe.org/campaigns/campaigns.en.html for detailed information.
The Free Software Foundation Europe is currently involved in the following projects:
3.1. Open Standards
Lock-in of data is one of the most common techniques to artificially raise the cost of migration to Free Software. Ensuring the best possible interoperability through Open Standards is essential in enabling users to escape vendor lock-in. FSFE's work on Open Standards has the goal of making sure that people do not have to lose all their data when migrating to Free Software.
3.2. Freedom Task Force (FTF)
The Freedom Task Force is helping individuals, projects and businesses with Free Software licensing. It provides assistance, training and manages networks of technical and legal experts to help in this. The FTF works in partnership with gpl-violations.org to resolve licence issues in the European arena.
3.3. Fellowship of FSFE
The Fellowship of the Free Software Foundation Europe is a community of people united by their interest in Free Software and freedom in all aspects of the digital age. It is the easiest and most direct way to get involved with, remain informed about and support the work of the Free Software Foundation Europe. This is the place where we all come together. Not least for the cool features, namely the Cryptocard.
3.4. Software Patents in Europe
Software patents for Europe are currently being pushed forward actively by a lobby gathering around the European patent office and the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which represents the interests of the large U.S. companies. Software patents are a menace to society and economy and the FSFE is actively involved in the resistance against such plans.
Software patents create the following problems:
- Add legal risks, and therefore costs, to software development
- Specifically inhibit the development of useful software by blocking compatibility and interoperability
- Patents are incompatible with software because software is so complex - too many ideas are used for it to be practical to count them and check them against existing patents
DRM.info is a collaborative platform initiated and maintained by FSFE to inform on the dangers of Digital Restrictions Management and make visible the concerns from various different groups. DRM.info contributors include digital liberty, consumer protection, net-activism and library organisations.
3.6. Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a global policy discussion forum of the United Nations, established as an outcome of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). FSFE is following the IGF to ensure that policy discussions will not endanger digital freedom in general and Free Software in particular.
STACS (Science, Technology and Civil Society) is a project that seeks to bridge the gap between civil society and research in order to increase the societal relevance of research being done. The project aims to accomplish by educating both civil society organisations and researchers, and finding common projects to work on for the future.
A second directive on the enforcement of "intellectual property rights" has been proposed by the European Commission. It aims to criminalise all "intentional, commercial-scale" infringements, and to allow rights-holders to take part investigations. FSFE will be pointing out to the EU institutions how such laws encourage abuse of the legal system and have chilling effects on law-abiding activities.
3.9. FS in education
The goal of FSFE's Education Team is to bring the benefits of Free Software to all education-related activities and institutions.
4. How is FSFE organised?
Due to the lack of common European organisation laws, FSFE is built up as a modular organisation, consisting of a central organisation in Germany and several legally independent chapters in different countries. The central organisation is a non-profit and charitable non-governmental organisation under German jurisdiction to which all members of FSFE belong. Membership in the main organisation is a requirement for being part of a local chapter. The main organisation and the different chapters of FSFE are democratically organised, with all important decisions being decided in cooperation on the European level. This is somewhat of a "legal hack" that makes it possible for FSFE to function as a unified organisation. Administrative positions are filled through elections, usually every two years. (see also http://www.fsfe.org/about/self-conception.en.html)
5. Where is FSFE located?
Though operating throughout Europe, the main office of the FSFE is in Germany. The adress is
Free Software Foundation Europe e.V.
In addition, there are local chapters in Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, UK, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Serbia and Sweden. (see also http://www.fsfe.org/contact/contact.en.html)
6. Is FSFE independent from FSF in USA?
FSFE is recognised as a sister organisation of FSF, but is legally and organisationally independent. Supporting one FSF will however benefit every other FSF, as all FSF's are working together in cooperation towards common goals.
7. How is FSFE financed?
FSFE is mainly financed through monetary donations, the Fellowship and the sale of merchandise, but also gets some funding for specific projects. (see http://www.fsfe.org/about/funds/funds.en.html for details)
8. How many people are part of FSFE?
FSFE has around 100 active members, with some 800 additional supporters through the Fellowship program.
9. Is it possible to become a member of FSFE?
The work of FSFE is focused on sustainable long term activities. This requires its members to not only have a great understanding of Free Software, but also to commit to a long term engagement and accepting personal limitations. New members are approved through a voting process and requires a majority of 2/3 of the votes. Membership in the Fellowship program is however open to anyone, but has a yearly fee of 120 EUR (60 EUR for people with low income). But even without paying, anyone is welcome to participate in discussions, working groups, fellowship meetings, translations, etc. See http://www.fsfe.org/contribute/contribute.en.html for other ways to contribute.
10. What are the associate organisations of FSFE?
(See http://www.fsfe.org/associates/associates.en.html for the most current list.)
The following organisations are associates of FSFE:
- Association For Free Software
- National Association for Free Software
- Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure
- Verein zur Förderung Freier Informationen und Software e.V.
- Free Knowledge Foundation (Fundación Conocimiento Libre)
- Free Software Initiative of Japan
- Free Software Network Serbia (Mreža za slobodan softver Srbija)
- Irish Free Software Organisation
- KDE e.V.
- Organisation for Free Software in Education and Teaching
- Fundacion Via Libre -- Argentinian Foundation for Free Software
- Wilhelm Tux -- Campaign for Free Software. Swiss non-profit for Free Software.
11. How can I support FSFE?
There are many ways you can contribute to the FSFE. The most obvious are:
- Maintaining or translating websites.
- Translating leaflets and articles.
- Organising and participating in booths at conferences.
- Donating to FSFE.
- Joining the Fellowship.
12. Are donations to FSFE tax-deductable?
They are, at least in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. See http://www.fsfe.org/donate/donate.en.html for details)
13. How do I contact FSFE?
See http://www.fsfe.org/contact/contact.en.html for most recent and updated info.
1. What is Free Software?
Free Software is defined through the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:
The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
Placing restrictions on the use of Free Software, such as time ("30 days trial period", "license expires January 1st, 2004") purpose ("permission granted for research and non-commercial use", "may not be used for benchmarking") or geographic area ("must not be used in country X") makes a program non-free.
The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.
Placing legal or practical restrictions on the comprehension or modification of a program, such as mandatory purchase of special licenses, signing of a Non-Disclosure-Agreement (NDA) or - for programming languages that have multiple forms or representation - making the preferred human way of comprehending and editing a program ("source code") inaccessible also makes it proprietary (non-free). Without the freedom to modify a program, people will remain at the mercy of a single vendor.
The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
Software can be copied/distributed at virtually no cost. If you are not allowed to give a program to a person in need, that makes a program non-free. This can be done for a charge, if you so choose.
The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits.
Not everyone is an equally good programmer in all fields. Some people don't know how to program at all. This freedom allows those who do not have the time or skills to solve a problem to indirectly access the freedom to modify. This can be done for a charge.
Important points to note are:
- The term "Free" refers to Freedom, not price.
- The opposite of Free Software is proprietary or non-free software.
- Free Software places no restrictions on commercial use.
2. What is the difference between Free Software, Public Domain, Shareware, Freeware and Open Source?
Among these categories, only Free Software actually ensures that any user has the freedom to modify the software and distribute her or his changes.
While a computer program in Public Domain would be freely distributable, the lack of available source code would render it non-free according to the definition of Free Software.
Shareware and Freeware are generally used to describe proprietary (non-free) software that can be downloaded free of charge and have nothing to do with Free Software. Not only are Shareware and Freeware provided without any source code, they are also often licenced in a way that even further distribution might be illegal.
Open Source was coined to promote Free Software among businesses that might be hesitant towards applying ethical considerations to their software. In effect, the Open Source definition is based on the Free Software definition and as such ensures certain freedoms for the user. However, certain provisions such as restriction of source code distribution are allowed and thus some Open Source licenses would not be accepted as Free Software licenses.