Matthew Garrett: Software Freedom Activist

by Deb Nicholson on December 13, 2018

This is part of our ongoing series on generous matching donors. Matthew Garrett is a security-focused developer and software freedom activist who received a Free Software Award for his work on Secure Boot, UEFI and the linux kernel in 2014. If you are not worried about the security of practically all your devices, it is only because you haven't seen Matthew speak about low-level vulnerabilities. Matthew and several other outstanding individuals are joining Private Internet Access and a big anonymous donor in offering $90K in matching funds to Conservancy for our continued work to provide both support for important free software and a clear voice in favor of community-driven licensing and governance practices.

Garrett in 2016, standing outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London holding a sign saying

Deb: What's the most worrying thing you've seen recently in free software?

Matthew: I'm concerned about the perception that it's impossible for development of free software to be financially self supporting, and that the only way to handle this is to develop new licenses that forbid certain use cases. There's a real problem where individual developers are left with little reward for developing code that giant commercial enterprises depend on, but we're largely seeing this push come from venture capital firms who just want a larger return on their investment. The free software community needs to come up with an answer to this that doesn't involve trying to extort money out of companies in order for them to be able to legally exercise the freedoms that free software should guarantee, but I don't know what that answer is yet.

Deb: What do you think non-profits are uniquely positioned to accomplish in free software?

Matthew: Non-profits are part of the solution to the above. Free software needs to be supported in order to prosper - and that means that someone needs to be able to provide resources to free software projects without being motivated by whether or not they can profit from the exercise. Conservancy is an example of an organisation that provides resources to and reduces friction for a number of free software projects, and it's hard to imagine a for-profit entity being able to achieve the same.

Deb: Is there a free software project that you wish existed but (as far as you know) no one has started working on?

Matthew: I'd love to see a free software TV stack. The majority of modern TVs run Linux, but there's no realistic way to replace most of the vendor provided code. The ability to provide a full featured, user controlled experience that improved upon the functionality provided by the manufacturer would be an amazing way to increase awareness of the power of free software, while also reducing the amount of personal information that users are currently giving up (frequently without even knowing what they're giving up!)

Deb: What do you hope to see Conservancy accomplish in the next five years?

Matthew: I'd love to see more projects under the Conservancy umbrella and for Conservancy to be a strong representative voice that can push back against the profit-oriented arguments against free software that are becoming louder.

Please take a minute to help Conservancy continue to spread the good news about free software and meet this exciting year-end match, today!

Matthew Garrett "You're not even a wiki" is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license, from Wikipedia by tef.

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