1. Freedom festivals (*)
Participating in a Free Software installation festival is entertaining, and for many it is the first step to be part of our large community. It is important that these new participants of the community learn a little more about Free Software, the principles that motivate us and the philosophy that gets us together. And also about the problems that we face.
Free Software is a matter of freedom. It is software that respects your individual freedom and that of the community around you. Free Software is defined by 4 basic freedoms: to use, study, adapt, and distribute the software, with or without modifications. These freedoms are essential for living together in a society based on sharing of the knowledge, the mutual aid and the equality of opportunities. Any software that respects the 4 fundamental freedoms is Free Software. Unlike many people think, Free Software is not software licensed only under the GPL. There are many Free licenses.
When we use Free Software, we accept the participation in this community in equal conditions. It is exactly the opposite of what happens when we accept proprietary software licenses. These proprietary licences curtail your freedoms, and cause our society's basic values of sharing to be seen as something undesirable.
Accepting a license of proprietary software, we are accepting to use a knowledge that "belongs" to somebody who does not want to permit us to learn. Our access to this knowledge is limited precisely to create a form of control over us. These licenses do not respect your freedoms, and also they do not respect the people around you, imposing a division of what can and cannot be known by you and your friends, creating a hierarchy in access to knowledge.
Some of these licenses also explicitly prohibit you from sharing this program to your friends, turning life in society into something egoistic and nearly impossible. Who has never loaned a book or a magazine to a friend?
Ok, you might now be thinking: "but this Free Software thing is getting to be quite complicated!" You have no idea. Besides our declared enemies, there are other dangers harder to pinpoint.
Given the growing amount and quality of Free Software available, we're beginning to see more and more systems that we call hybrid. These systems have the distinguishing feature of putting together both non-Free and Free Software. For example, some GNU/Linux distributions publish proprietary software (including firmware) as part of a system primarily composed of Free Software. They often fail to warn users clearly about this situation. This practice hides some dangers in causing some users to think they are living in freedom while they actually aren't. And it is quite likely that they will only find that out when they need the freedoms, and then it may be too late.
Fortunately, thanks to hard work by Free Software activists, we're on
track to eliminate these dangers. Examples are initiatives to create
100% Free GNU/Linux distributions such as gNewSense (Free
Ubuntu), BLAG (Free Fedora) and Ututo, an independent, Latin American
distribution. Recently, Ubuntu announced it is going to have a 100%
Free alternative to its current hybrid forms. We must remember that,
once it's installed, it can be hard work to identify and remove the
software whose license does not respect our freedom, especially for
It is always important to remember that living in freedom is not like getting a finished gift. Freedom requires maintenance, and also commitment. Every day the interests in limiting the individual and collective freedoms grow, as a means to control and to profit from this position of control. Therefore deciding to live in freedom is deciding to commit to a day-to-day struggle for not acceptance of the path that may even appear to be easier in the short term, but that in the long run may be too costly. Not only for you, but for all the people. And not only in the software field.
If some (perhaps unfortunately many) people do not realize the danger of accepting a proprietary license in exchange for ensuring some functionality to their systems. These people unintentionally form critical mass that, by giving up part of their freedoms, contributes to weakening the task of defending them. This attitude doesn't aid the understanding of the principles of Free Software by new community members, it debilitates our requests before abusive vendors and, in general, before an industry that's as powerful as it is disregarding of ethics in its development.
By reducing the importance of these freedoms for the sake of practical
aspects, it ends up more difficult to emphasize that freedom is
something essential. And we all know how essential it is.
FSFLA would like to request everyone who organizes and participates in install fests to ponder on our motivations, and to help us take up this commitment and day-to-day struggle for freedom.
(*) Adapted from the article published in:
FSFLA board members approved, during the International Free Software
Forum (FISL8.0), FSFLA's new constitution. It's been in effect since
April 13, and FSFLA wishes to acknowledge all the people who
participated and contributed to the processes of drafting and
translating the text. You can read the full Constitution at:
FSFLA has become one of the contributing organizations of the platform
DRM.info (http://drm.info). Along with FSFLA, also forming the
organization are: Electronic Information for Libraries, Consumer
Project on Technology, iCommons, among others, in this platform
created and maintained by our sister organization Free Software
Foundation Europe, with the goal of informing people about the dangers
of DRM. To join our anti-drm group, subscribe the mailing list at:
On April 25, FSFLA completed the process of liberation of the program
IRPF2007, originally distributed by Receita Federal (Brazil). This
work enabled the submission of the first income tax electronic
declaration in Brazil prepared exclusively with Free Software. More
information at our announcement:
Alexandre Oliva, Pedro Rezende and Fernanda G Weiden participated in the Free Software International Forum (FISL), offering speeches and running a booth. We wish to thank the FISL organizers for the space, to people who helped at our booth, particularly Ines Weiden, Alessandra Domingues, Eder Marques and Glauber Costa. With help from these people, FSFLA raised about R$6.000,00 (six thousand reais) in donations. Thank you very much!
Alexandre Oliva and Pedro Rezende participated in the Latin-American
Free Software Install Fest - FLISoL, in Campinas and Brasília,
respectively. FSFLA offered to organizers some written material and
also a vídeo/lecture by Alexandre Oliva, both about the fundamentals
of our community. The material is available at:
We wish to thank them for the space opened for FSFLA, and also to everyone who made donations during the event. Thank you very much!
On May 2nd, Alexandre Oliva will present the speech "Free Software and the Matrix" at USP-EACH (AKA Eastern campus), in São Paulo.
Alexandre Oliva will participate in ESLAM - Amazon Free Software Meeting, that will take place on May 25-26 in Manaus. He will present the speeches "FSFLA's Coolest Actions" and "Free Software and the Matrix".
FSFLA confirmed formal endorsement for the event Séptimas Jornadas
Regionales de Software Libre, to take place on August 7-11 in Córdoba,
Enrique Chaparro is no longer a member of the FSFLA board. We wish to thank him for his contribution and dedication throughout these more than 2 years, and wish him good luck in his projects.
Copyright 2007 FSFLA
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