22 May 2009

The Free Software Pact

As regular readers of these posts will have noticed, political issues are starting to impinge more and more on the world of free software and openness in general. I think that's the result of two trends.

One, is that politicians are starting to wake up to the fact that openness is hot, and are beginning to talk about it - not always sincerely - in the hope of looking vaguely trendy. The other is that supporters of free software and the rest are beginning to realise that the main obstacles to spreading openness are increasingly political, rather than technical. This means the fight must be taken to the politicians directly.

One way to do that is to write to MPs and MEPs, and that's also something that I've been advocating more frequently recently, as important legislation with an impact on openness comes before national and European parliaments. Clearly, though, it would be good to be able to bring free software and related areas to the attention of politicians in other ways. The recently-launched Free Software Pact is one possibility:

What is the Free Software Pact?

The Free Software Pact is a citizen initiative to coordinate a European scale campaign in favour of Free Software. We will provide material and software to any volunteer who want to contribute to the initiative.

What are the objectives of the Free Software Pact?

The Free Software Pact is a simple document with which candidates can inform the voting public that they favor the development and use of Free Software, and will protect it from possible threatening EU legislation. The Free Software Pact is also a tool for citizens who value Free Software to educate candidates about the importance of Free Software and why they should, if elected, protect the European Free Software community.

You can find the text of the Pact (in various languages and formats) here, although I can't see a version that politicians can sign online. Either it doesn't exist - which would be foolish, since it's by far the easiest way to sign - or else it's badly signposted on the site. Either way, it needs fixing.

The coordinator for the Free Software Pact in the UK is Mark Taylor, a familiar name to this blog, and one of the most selfless defenders of free software around. Getting him on board is an excellent start for this fledgling movement, and I wish him and it well in their efforts. You can contact him about the Pact at mtaylor@freesoftwarepact.eu.

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Peter said...

"The other is that supporters of free software and the rest are beginning to realise that the main obstacles to spreading openness are increasingly political, rather than technical."

Indeed. rms saw this many years ago and its counter-effort leads the ignorant to label his vision, "extremism".

If it were really true that this is merely a technical matter, then rms and his rhetoric is utter foolishness. But any considerate individual understands that this isn't the case. Code controls.

"Think 'free speech', not 'free beer'." isn't just a clever way of putting it...it has profound and deep meaning.

Glyn Moody said...


Unknown said...


Agreed. Software is politics. I can't claim to be as prescient as RMS, but I saw this coming not long after the Creative Commons Licences were released in 2002. A Record Company executive was interviewed about them (no, I don't remember who, or exactly when), and his comment was "The Creative Commons Licenses are not legal".

Ihe record companies, and other Intellectual Monopolists have no interest in cultural freedom. In fact they believe it's having a negative impact on their profits, and therefore they stand against it. I didn't immediately undertand the reason. I don't know why, maybe I'm a bit slow, but then SCO Group tried to claim that the GNU General Public License is invalid. The Creative Commons is just a variation on the GNU GPL.If either can be legislated out of existence, profits should increase.

If the RIAA/MPAA can shut down Free Culture, they think that they can make more a lot money. I suspect that as "Custodians of Culture), they would try to arrange things so that the copyrights of anything published under the GPL/Creative Commons licenses would be transfed to the, at no cost. Profit!

They have been lobbying for years change the Copyright Act, and have had some success (see the DMCA. This is just a logical continuation. The ethics are questionable, but it appears to me that profits are more important to them.

Glyn Moody said...

Yes, I don't think history will be too kind to them or their efforts to put money above ethics.