Booth Volunteer FAQ

This document is primarily a guide for volunteers who would like to present the FSFE at conferences, forums and similar. It includes answers to frequently asked questions regarding the FSFE and Free Software.

For more information you may also see the Advocacy FAQ which has more information and answers to some common questions asked.


What is the Free Software Foundation Europe?

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a charity founded in 2001 whose mission is to keep the power over technology in your hands. The FSFE works on legal and policy issues related to free software, to ensure each and every one of us can take advantage of the full power of computing, using free software without hindrance.

What does FSFE do?

See and our web pages in general for detailed information. In particular, it's worth noting the FSFE hosts the largest legal network of free software legal experts (300+ lawyers), we do political lobbying and grass roots engagement towards the European Commission and governments around Europe. We provide education and raise public awareness of Free Software in many ways, including participating at events and running local campaigns.

How is FSFE organised?

Due to the lack of common European organisation laws, FSFE is formally a central organisation in Germany, but with hundreds of volunteers and thousands supporters throughout all countries in Europe. Most of our work is done in local and thematic teams, with a core team and coordinators team in which all coordinators of the different teams participate. In addition, many core volunteers, who feel strongly connected to the FSFE, are also formally members of the FSFE, meaning they have a controlling function similar to that of a board of directors.

The FSFE has an office with roughly five or six full time staff in Berlin, Germany, where also also often have interns joining us for shorter or longer times. We also have some staff, permanent or project, located in other countries.

Is FSFE independent from FSF in USA?

FSFE is legally and organisationally independent from the FSF. That we share a similar name has some historical relevance, but in practice, we have different leadership, engage in different activities, work with different stakeholders, and have sometimes different ways of working. Both, however, share the common goal of working for free software, and both operate internationally.

How is FSFE financed?

FSFE is mainly financed through monetary donations, our supporters and the sale of merchandise. (see for details)

How many people are part of FSFE?

FSFE has around 100 active volunteers across Europe, and a few thousands supporters which support our work financially or through their activities.

Is it possible to become a member of FSFE?

Yes! You can join the FSFE as a supporter, which is a good step towards becoming engaged in our activities. You can also join one of our topical or local teams as a volunteer. Regardless of how you contribute, you're welcome as a part of the FSFE.

If you're interested in becoming a formal member of the FSFE e.V., the non-profit central organisation, you can read more about this on the Teams/GA page.

How can I support FSFE?

There are many ways you can contribute to the FSFE. The most obvious are:

(See also

Are donations to FSFE tax-deductable?

They are, at least in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. See for details)

How do I contact FSFE?

See for most recent and updated info.

Free Software

What is Free Software?

Each one has a different way of explaining free software, and you should try and see what works for you. You may find our 15 years birthday video interesting and a useful starting point. Ultimately, how you explain free software also comes down to who you're talking to. If you want to be technical, you cna mention the following four freedoms, which define free software. But often you don't need to talk about the four freedoms unless you're specifically asked what the parameters are for something to be 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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:

What is the difference between Free Software, Public Domain, Shareware, Freeware and Open Source?

Among these categories, only Free Software and Open Source actually ensures that any user has the freedom to modify the software and distribute her or his changes. (Also read: "Free Software, Open Source, FOSS, FLOSS - same same but different" for different terms for Free Software and how we rate them)

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.

It's important to point out that Free Software and Open Source means the same software. The FSFE prefer to speak of free software, and try to be consistent in this. We do not, however, consider there to be any difference between the two terms. The tension is often not between free software and open source but between free and open source proponents and these who say free or open source but mean something less.

Any chance we can get to point out that free software and open source are the same, the better. It mitigates the feeling of a division in the community and encourages the community to stand together against those who try to disrupt our work.

Category/Booth Category/Faq

KnowHow/Groups/OrganizeABooth/BoothFAQ (last edited 2018-08-23 11:54:46 by eal)