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Free Software organizations at LSM

People involved in Free Software organizations in Italy, Portugal, United States, Canada and France went for diner in the old town of Bordeaux (France) after the sessions of LSM.

Jaime Villate (villate@gnu.org) and Ruben Leote Mendes (ruben@nocturno.org) come from Portugal and are involved in the creation of a democratic organization whose goal is identical to the goals of Free Software Foundation. During the past month the discussions conducted in Portugal made clear what can be done to start a dynamic Free Software movement in a country where there is none. Although many if not all countries are populated by GNU/Linux user groups, only a few organizations promote philosophical aspects of the Free Software movement. It became obvious over the years that GNU/Linux user groups are complementary to Free Software organizations but do not play the same role.

In almost every country there is at least one person who is a long time supporter of the Free Software movement. His interest and involvement started before the Open Source movement appeared in 1998 and he was not distracted by it. He clearly understands the Free Software movement and that its focus on philosophy and freedom is important. The political and legal issues that threaten or favor Free Software in his country are familiar to him. As an active member of the Free Software movement he also participate in various cooperative projects and is a contributor to the GNU project.

By reading this profile, it is very likely that you know someone who matches it and at the same time it is very unlikely that hundreds of people match it in a given country. This person, even if he is the only one in his country, is in a position to create a Free Software organization. He only needs the opportunity to do it. The exact way in which he will be involved does not really follow a fixed pattern. For instance Frederic Couchet (mad@april.org) started APRIL (democratic non-profit organization for Free Software) in 1996 and later convinced Loic Dachary (loic@gnu.org) to play an active role in FSF Europe. In Spain Jose Marchesi (jemarch@es.gnu.org) started an informal group of people who gather around the GNU Spain project that is an official part of the GNU project. In Japan Masayuki Ida (ida@sipeb.aoyama.ac.jp) is an official representative of the Free Software Foundation (United States) in his country and it all started when he realized his role with Free Software and MIT. Wolfgang Sourdeau (wolfgang@contre.com) is creating an organization together with Richard M. Stallman in Canada and Hong Feng (hongfeng@gnu.org) is doing the same in China. Georg Greve (greve@gnu.org) initiated FSF Europe as a continental organization made of national chapters. This shows us that there can be three ways to represent the Free Software movement in a given geographical area:

  • 1) An individual belongs to a Free Software organization in country A and lives in country B
  • 2) Creating a democratic Free Software organization
  • 3) Creating a Free Software organization that is compatible and approved by another Free Software organization (for instance it can be approved by the FSF, like the FSF Europe was)

The easiest path depends on the person who is willing to take one of these direction. Those three approaches are equally valid and good and it is very important that someone undertake this effort since the strength of the Free Software movement depends on its ability to unite worldwide. Because all those organizations share the same philosophy and play by the rules established by the Free Software Foundation in 1985, they share a common ground that allow them to work together.

Wolfgang Sourdeau (wolfgang@contre.com) lives in Canada and is involved in the creation of the Free Software Foundation Canada, together with Richard M. Stallman and with the help of a lawyer. They started a year ago and it is about to be complete. It took so long because getting the charitable status in Canada is a delicate process. The laws regulating the charitable status were originally written around 1600 and are a bit old fashioned. Basically the organization should be active in one of the following fields: religion or education, building roads. If the non-profit organization is not involved in one of those activities, there is no way to get the charitable status. Fortunately the Free Software movement is very beneficial to the education field and the Free Software Foundation Canada was able to apply. However there is a need for a few more members who are long time supporters of the Free Software movement to start the activity.

Leandro Noferini (lnoferin@cybervalley.org) is a founding member of the ASSOLI organization in Florence, Italy. ASSOLI was created by 16 members from all around Italy (mostly from Torino, Pisa, Pavia, Padova) in November 2000, to focus on Free Software issues. One of the most important issues that ASSOLI is dealing with is the Stamp Law. At present this law requires that every software must be registered to the SIAE to get a stamp that must be put on the medium that contain the software. Although the law has been voted, the practical implementation was not defined by the administration yet. The Italian press criticizes the fuzziness of the law that does not define what is a software and therefore lead to implementation problems apparently impossible to solve. ASSOLI is trying to raise the issue of Free Software that is completely ignored by the law. ASSOLI met with the creator of the law who assumes that every software ever copied on a medium involves a financial transaction and a contract. There is a need to raise interest in the media to block the actual implementation that would paralyze the Free Software movement in Italy. ASSOLI need to be as efficient as possible on this delicate subject. Although the FSF Europe publishes a text written by ASSOLI, it could relay information and raise interest in other countries. This problem is purely local to Italy but if other countries do not help them to the best they could, they cannot expect to get help when something really nasty happen to them in the future. ASSOLI prepared a press release about the dangers of the Stamp Law and Leandro will forward this press release to the FSF Europe so that it can be broadcasted in Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Sweden and United Kingdom. That would be the first step of cooperation between the FSF Europe and ASSOLI.

Bradley M. Kuhn (bkuhn@gnu.org) is the Vice President of the Free Software Foundation. Since the organization exists in the United States since 1985, it does not face any creation problems :-) However, it turns out that there is no democratic organization that promotes Free Software in the United States. There are hundreds of GNU/Linux user groups (20 of them actually using the terms of GNU/Linux and Free Software instead of Linux and Open Source). It would be very beneficial if an organization appears in the United States to complement the action of the Free Software Foundation, in the same way as APRIL complements the action of the FSF Europe in France.

Loc Dachary

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Updated: $Date: 2003-02-28 16:16:22 +0100 (Fri, 28 Feb 2003) $ $Author: loic $