Issue #15
October 2006

1. Editorial: The FTA epidemic
2. Campaign against DRM: Entertained and Controlled
3. Amicus Curiae in Brasil: Constitucional preference for Free Software
4. GPLv3, LGPL and FDL
5. FSFLA in the Media
6. Events
7. Participate en FSFLA

1. Editorial: The FTA epidemic

In Latin America, many legislation decisions regarding patents and copyrights are taken without the social discussion they deserve, often without public knowledge. But this way, silently and on the hands of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with USA, our countries enter juridic systems that clash with the Free Software philosophy and threaten our rights in digital environments.

In several multilateral negotiations such as those at WIPO and WTO, countries get together in blocks generally stronger so they can resist the pressure from negotiators that propose such policies. On the other hand, WIPO treaties are optional: member countries are not required to sign them. This leads those who seek regressive policies regarding patents and copyrights to use varying and combined action strategies and different instruments to reach our region.

The instrument for this penetration are the Free Trade Agreements that USA is spurring in our region. Facing ample resistance to the so-called FTAA (Free Trade Agreement for the Americas), the Bush administration has focused its work on bilateral agreements, such as the FTA signed with Chile and the one it negotiates with Uruguay, or regional ones, such as the signed-and-sealed CAFTA (FTA with Central America and Dominican Republic)[1] or NAFTA (for North America, including Mexico).

It is worth reviewing some of the clauses that the Central-American CAFTA subscribers have promised to follow, so as to understand the dimension of the inroads this kind of agreements are making, imposing with force of law the "harmonization" (read: submission) of our legislations to the patent and copyright regimes in USA.

By joining CAFTA, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Guatemala have promised to pass laws equivalent to the DMCA in USA. With regard to digital restrictions management (DRM)[2], these laws must prohibit eluding any effective technical measure to control access in digital formats. This FTA, ratified by the parliaments of the signing countries, turns into a criminal anyone who eludes a DRM system or provides others with elements to do so. This prohibition, just like that of DMCA, includes for example academics involved in research on computer security, cryptography, and related fields, that find themselves stopped --- by legal threats --- from publishing results of their research that are applicable to elude allegedly-effective technical measures.

Along the same lines, this FTA also turns into criminals those who research the workings of access control systems to build their own access applications, and those who intend to write their own programs or use Free programs to interact with digital content subjected to such technical measures[3]. Another detail is that USA may enter a revision process of DMCA because of the negative consequences it has had over the past few years, but these treaties will survive potential fixes to this law [4].

Besides, CAFTA also requires the acceptance of any patents granted by the US Patent Office, including patents on ideas applied to software, mathematical algorithms, living matter and so on, and extends the copyright monopoly to at least 70 years past the death of the author.

An interesting topic to review regarding FTAs is how, in several cases, signing such an agreement places the legal norms in a country in check. For example, in Mexico today there is an important confusion regarding software patents that did not exist before the FTA: Mexican patent legislation explicitly states that computer programs are not patentable (just like corresponding legislation in Argentina and Brazil). Nevertheless, the Mexican Patent Office has been granting software patents, in accordance with the FTA with USA, which brings a major uncertainty to the Mexican community.

The path walked down by Mexico[5], Chile[6] and Central America and the Dominican Republic, is now being walked by Uruguay, a full member of Mercosur, where the political class takes for granted that the FTA with USA will be signed soon. What are the ongoing discussions about this? Very few. It is unlikely taht USA will submit for discussion one of the points it is most interested in in such treaties, and there doesn't appear to be political will to demand a negotiation. The Uruguayan press says in October a team of negotiators will arrive from the US, who, along with politicians from the Amplio Front, currently holding power in Uruguay, will wrap up an agreement in which there is very little room for discussion or negotiation, and that will have a major negative impact on all the Uruguayan Free Software community and society [7].

[1] http://www.ustr.gov/Trade_Agreements/

[2] http://www.fsfla.org/?q=es/node/99

[3] http://www.ustr.gov/

[4] http://www.fsf.org/news/support-HR-1201.html

[5] http://ww.ustr.gov/

[6] http://www.ustr.gov/

[7] La Diaria

2. Campaign against DRM: Entertained and Controlled

The workgroup of the campaign against DRM keeps on working on strategies to act and inform the community against these measures of technical restrictions that threaten our access to culture and our right to privacy.

"Entertained and Controlled", as our campaign is named, intends to show publicly that this is what the big corporations that promote such technical restrictions expect from our citizenship: that we be silent consumers of entertainment and under strict control in digital environments. DRMs are the technical measures that will enable them to keep us "entertained and controlled".

On another hand, the Global Campaign Defective By Design and the Free Software Foundation have declared October 3 the Day Against DRM, a date on which activists worldwide will perform public demonstrations to show our rejection of the implementation of Digital Restrictions Management.

3. Amicus Curiae in Brasil: Constitucional preference for Free Software

The article "On the constitutional preference for Free Software", published last month by FSFLA, was submitted as an annex to the Amicus Curiae petition filed on September 20, 2006 and granted one week later, regarding the Direct Unconstitutionality Lawsuit, case 3059/03, against law 11.871 of December 19, 2002, popularly known as the Free Software Law of the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

The petition was filed by the Brazilian Institute of Informatics Policies and Rights, an institution in which FSFLA is represented by our board member Prof Pedro Antonio Dourado de Rezende, PhD, and our informal legal advisor Dr Omar Kaminski.

FSFLA extends a public ackownledgment to all the lawyers who offered their contributions to formalize this request, in particular to Dr Omar Kaminski and Dr Euripedes Brito Cunha Junior.

More information at http://www.fsfla.org/?q=pt/node/108, at http://www.internetlegal.com.br/amicus/y and at http://www.stf.gov.br/
(in Portuguese)

4. GPLv3, LGPL y FDL

The Free Software Foundation keeps on leading the process of update and commentaries on the GPL license towards its version 3. Aiming at important problems such as software patents and DRM implementation, the second draft of the license and the first draft of the revised LGPL are already available on line for public comments and discussion at http://gplv3.fsf.org.

The revision process of the Free Documentation License was officially launched on September 26, with the publication of the first draft of its version 2, along with the first draft of the Simpler Free Documentation License. Both are available from the GPLv3 site above.

On the other hand, the fifth international conference of GPLv3 will take place in Tokyo, Japan, on November 21 and 22 this year, organized by the Free Software Initiative of Japan (FSIJ). Just like previous public conferences and discussions, FSFLA will actively participate in this event along with their sister organizations.

5.FSFLA in the Media

SL Magazine of Mexico is already available on line, with a special cover dedicated to women in Free Software and with articles about the last Consol 2006, that took place in August in the Federal District. After her visit to Mexico, Beatriz Busaniche, participated in the 4th issue of the magazine, available athttp://revista-sl.org/

Federico Heinz contributed a column of opinion on education and Free Software for the Argentinian portal Canal-Ar. "Free Software is a fertile space of study and experimentation, in which there are no arbitrary limits: each one can choose by himself how much he/she wants to learn about the programs, only limited by his own capacity and dedication. Thousand of programs from which you could learn, thousands of opportunities in which you could participate, from the same school, in the greatest community construction ever seen in humankind." says Federico in the column published in http://canal-ar.com.ar/
(In spanish)

On the other hand, a direct action of the Free Software community, with participation of FSFLA members and academics, achieved a change in the state portal Educ.ar regarding the terms of use of a contest organized by the Education Minister of Argentina in which the rights on every submitted works by the educational participants were going to be transferred to Microsoft, within the framework of the Education Alliance (Alianza por la Educación). Because of an intense campaign of public denunciation, contacts with press, e-mails and promotion in various blogs, the terms of use of the Par@educar program were modified and the cession of rights to Microsoft was eliminated, leaving only one cession of license to the Education Minister. The repercussions of what happened can be seen in different medias such as:http://barrapunto.com/, http://weblog.educ.ar/sociedad-informacion/archives/007986.php, http://canal-ar.com.ar/noticias/noticiamuestra.asp?Id=3629 y http://www.diegolevis.com.ar/tecnocultura/. (All in spanish)

Alexandre Oliva began a cycle of radial spots on Free Software in the program Hacker Culture (Cultura Hacker), conceived by Sergio Amadeu of Freedom Network (Rede Livre) for Radiobras. More information on the program at http://sitio.redelivre.org.br/twiki/bin/view/Usuarios/BlogUsuarioSergioAmadeu200608111844 https://twiki.softwarelivre.org/bin/view/CoberturaWiki/Post20060911175612
(All in portuguese)

Within the framework of the discussion on legislation in favor of Free Software in the Argentinian Public Administration, the Bloggers Report portal interviewed ONTI-leader Carlos Achiary, Carlos Palotti, head of the Council of Sofware Businesses and Informatics Services (Cámara de Empresas de Software y Servicios Informáticos), and Beatriz Busaniche, of FSFLA and Vía Libre Foundation, to comment on the need for a Free Software law for the National Public Administration. The resulting debate is published in http://bloggers.com.ar.elserver.com/system/noticia_detalle.php?id_prod=473 (In spanish)

6. Events

In September, FSFLA participated in several international events. Beatriz Busaniche attended the VI Free Software National Congress in Oruro, Bolivia and the VII Librarians Regional Days in Rosario, Argentina. On the other hand, Federico Heinz and Fernanda Weiden participated in Wizards of OS in Germany, where FSFLA representatives contributed with FSFE in the panel on the GPLv3 license update. In addition, invited by the Mexico, Center America and the Caribbean Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Federico Heinz visited El Salvador, where he interchanged experiences with the Salvadorian community and offered conferences on Free Software in academic and governmental scopes.

For the month of October, we have several scheduled events.

Federico Heinz, Juan Jose Ciarlante and Beatriz Busaniche will participate in the IV Free Software Regional Days in Mendoza, Argentina, on October 13, 14 and 15. As usual in this kind of event, there will be technical and philosophical speeches, including presentations of FSFLA members on the GPLv3 license update, the threat of DRM systems and the SELF project. More information at http://jornadas.lugmen.org.ar/

From October 16 to 18, Alexandre Oliva will attend and speak at the Free Software Forum in Rio de Janeiro, that extends until October 20. http://www.forumsoftwarelivre.org.br/

From October 19 to 21, Pedro Rezende and Alexandre Oliva will represent FSFLA at the III Fórum Cearense of Free Software, that will take place in Fortaleza, Brazil. It will be hosted by the University of Fortaleza. More information at http://www.psl-ce.softwarelivre.org/iiifcsl/

From October 26 to 29, under the coordination of the Via Libre Foundation of Argentina and with the support of the South Cone Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, FSFLA members will participate in the workshop "MABI" (Artificial monopolies on Intangible Goods). The event will take place in Mar del Plata, Argentina, within the framework of the Second Congress on Environmental Education organized by CTERA, the Confederation of Workers of the Education of the Argentine Republic. Pedro Rezende and Enrique Chaparro will participate in a panel on patent regimes. Federico Heinz will be in a panel on copyright, access to culture and Free Software community. Whereas Beatriz Busaniche will participate in a panel on convergence of social movements. The workshop will touch the problematics resulting from DRM, the present discussions on copyrights and public domain, and the patent regimes applied to living matter and knowledge, within the framework of the political discussions that are carried out in WIPO, WTO and Free Trade Agreements. More information at http://www.educacionambiental.org.ar/

7. Participate en FSFLA

As usual, the FSFLA teams are open to participation by anyone who has will and desire to contribute to the defense and promotion of Free Software in our region.

We remind you that we have recently moved our announcements and discussion mailing lists, that now are at Anuncios and Discusión.

All the other lists and teams to participate in FSFLA are available at ¿Cómo participar?. (In Spanish)