Issue #11
June 2006

1. The "L" in LUG stands for "Free Software"
2. FSFLA responds to Veja Magazine (Brazil)
3. GPLv3
4. Work in progress
5. Events


1. The "L" in LUG stands for "Free Software"

When what was going to become a very active Free Software user group in Colombia were looking for a name, what came naturally to them was "COLIBRI --- Comunidad de Usuarios de Software Libre en Colombia". You will notice that the acronym doesn't match the name, probably owing to the fact that the word "colibrí" (hummingbird) was just too beautiful to be sacrificed to the need of actually meaning anything.

At the moment of their founding, not all user groups were as insightful, or maybe as lucky, as COLIBRI was. In most cases, they were built by groups of people who had discovered something truly wonderful: software they could study and tweak to their heart's desire, programs they could share freely with their friends, and which they could use without having to submit to restrictive conditions unilaterally set by its author. Very often, they had gotten to know this software through a Unix-workalike operating system many people referred to as "Linux", so when they set out to tell the world about it, most of them formed a "Linux User Group", or LUG.

Only after their members had become better acquainted with Free Software's philosophy and history did many of the LUGs become aware of the GNU project's importance. Some of them felt strongly enough about their original mistake as to change their names. Sometimes they changed the meaning of the acronym (Mendoza's LUGMen became "LUGMen Usa GNU/Linux en Mendoza", mirroring GNU's recursion), sometimes they changed the name to something that didn't fit the acronym at all (Rosario's LUGRo became "Grupo de Usuarios de GNU/Linux de Rosario"). Others felt that both solutions were awkward enough, or that the issue were not worth the trouble.

Recently, however, more and more LUGs are realizing that keeping the emphasis on "Linux" is not the right thing to do, that even broadening their focus to GNU/Linux is still not good enough, and that nothing short of "Free Software" will do. This follows from three observations that are becoming unavoidable:

        * the topic of the LUGs is much broader than Linux, even than GNU/Linux. Asking for help with a BSD system on a LUG's mailing list is not considered offtopic, but asking for help with non-free Unix-workalikes such AIX system is. Solaris used to be just as offtopic, but OpenSolaris is not. From a technical point of view, these OSes have lots in common, yet their are irrelevant to the LUG's topic. This makes it apparent that it is freedom, and not any technical feature, that makes software pertinent to a LUG's work.

        * a large portion of the work of LUGs is telling people about Free Software. If they do so concentrating on "Linux", they are not only driving attention away from the important issues, they are even putting a large portion of their work at risk. Just as any other free program, the Linux kernel will not be with us forever: it may become obsolete, or a legal challenge may be successful and take it away from us to some extent. This would certainly affect Free Software, but it would not be a catastrophe: there are other free kernels, and Linux could be replaced without too much effort. The effect on communications, however, can be much larger: if LUGs have been telling people that "Linux is good for you", and all of a sudden Linux is no longer there, they must redo all the communication again.

        * the topic of LUGs is not at all restricted to operating systems, or to the GNU project. Questions about using non-GNU free  programs such as OpenOffice.org or Mozilla on proprietary operating systems are welcome, and LUGs often help people start the way towards Free Software by installing free programs on  whatever OS the user has on his or her machine.

By and by, LUGs in Latin America are coming to realize this, and changing their names and communications to reflect the fact that they are actually gathering around the Free Software concept, and not any particular program or collection of programs.

2. FSFLA responds to Veja Magazine (Brazil)

Veja, one of the widest-circulation news magazines in Brazil, published an article criticizing the Brazilian government's adoption of Free Software. An on-line copy of the article is available at:

http://veja.abril.uol.com.br/170506/p_068.html (subscribers only)
(both in Portuguese)

FSFLA responded as follows:

"Criticizing good government positioning does not seem to be a sensible position, even if you want to oppose the government. The adoption of Free Software, for example, is presented in issue # 1956 (May 17, 2006) as a party stance, in spite of the convergence of forein and national, right- and left-wing initiatives with the same goal. Quite the opposite, the quest for technologic and economic sovereignty, independence and development in the country, instead of accepting the position of mere software consumers, should be independent of partisanships.

Our initiative is not as successful as in so many other countries, that is a fact. Putting administrative mistakes aside, there's certainly negative contribution from the impunity to corruption, that makes it easier for lobbies for proprietary software that seek to maintain their monopolies. By listening only to the voices favorable to the monopolites, mistaking freedom with zero cost and presenting the creation of jobs to replace royalty payments to foreign companies as a bad thing, the magazine placed its credibility in check, even more so if you take into account the journalistic presentation of fallacies present in ads and "studies" funded by advertisers in the
magazine itself.

Some other URLs that refute with more information the position taken by Veja's article (in Portuguese):

<a href=" <http://www.iti.br/twiki/bin/view/Main/PressRelease2006May18A>">http://www.iti.br/twiki/bin/view/Main/PressRelease2006May18A</a><br />


Alexandre Oliva
Secretary for Free Software Foundation Latin America"

3. GPLv3

The Free Software Foundation continues leading the process of update and commentaries on the GPL license to its version 3. The third conference of the annual cycle of public consultation will take place in Barcelona, Spain, on June 22 and 23.

For this event is confirmed the presence of Richard M. Stallman, founder and President of the Free Software Foundation, Eben Moglen, President of Software Freedom Law Center and Legal advisor of the FSF and Georg Greve, president of FSF Europe. On behalf of FSFLA, will be present Federico Heinz, who will maintain us informed on what happens during the two days of the event.

As it happened few months ago in Brazil, the third GPLv3 conference will count with expert panelists of Europe and the rest of the world in sessions that will discuss the internationalization of the license, the problems involving DRMs and software patents, and the license adoption by Free Software projects and developers.

More information on this event in the site of our sister organization
FSFE in http://fsfeurope.org/projects/gplv3/europe-gplv3-conference

4. Work in progress

The FSFLA [translators] team is working in the translation of several documents. At the moment we are elaborating the Spanish version of the Richard M. Stallman speech in the event of GPLv3 during the Second International Conference made in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The draft of the material, not yet corrected, is in our wiki in http://wiki.fsfla.org/wiki/index.php/FISL_RMS
It is open the invitation to collaborate in this and other translations. For this, we counted with the [translator] list where it is possible to review the daily work and to subscribe in http://www.fsfla.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/traductores

Some interesting discussions on legislation on use of Free Software in public Administration are taking place in the [legal] list. One of the central subjects discussed at the moment has to do with the Free Software Law in Rio Grande do Sul and the controversy about its constitutionality.
Public files and invitation to add contributions to the discussion in

With the objective to support public administrations and governmental entities that are already working in free software or are evaluating the political decision to incorporate it to their agendas, FSFLA inaugurates the list of Public Administration. If you are member of some governmental organism, you can join this team in http://fsfla.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/admpub

If you work in press and diffusion area, and would want to collaborate
with the work of FSFLA communications, we count from now on with a
list for this aim in http://fsfla.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/prensa

As always, more information on how to participate in FSFLA in

5. Events

By the end of April, Federico Heinz was in Dublin, Ireland, working next to colleagues of our sister organization FSF Europe and Irish Free Software Organization (IFSO). The audio archives of the
conference on Free Software in Education and in Public Administration is in the IFSO site in

FSFLA participated in the Education World Forum

FSFLA joined the Gleducar project in their presentation in the Education World Forum, made in Buenos Aires, on May 4, 5 and 6. Beatriz Busaniche, on behalf of FSFLA, accompanied the presentation by Gleducar, that was in charge of Carlos Toledo, Roman Gelbort, Franco Iacomella and Bibiana Bocolini. Gleducar and FSFLA presented together the principles of Free Software, the main directions for the use of Free Software in Schools whereas Gleducar specially made focus on the concept of Cooperative Construction of Knowledge, that is the base of the pedagogical work of this educative project. More information, presentations and stories of what happened in the World Education Forum in the Gleducar site in