Software Freedom Conservancy

The next $68,495 of support we receive will be matched thanks to Private Internet Access and a group of generous donors, including Josh Triplett! Support Conservancy today!

We've matched $21,504.64 of $90,000.00 so far!

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Displaying posts by Deb Nicholson

Copyleft Conf Venue Announced!

by Deb Nicholson on December 12, 2018

We are excited to announce the venue we'll be using for Copyleft Conf. The one day event will take place in downtown Brussels at DigitYser, Boulevard d’Anvers 40, 1000 Bruxelles. The venue is a bit northeast of Grande Place. Participants can choose to walk, take the train to the Yser stop or use one of Brussels' many buses.

The first ever Copyleft Conf is happening in Brussels on February 4th, aka the Monday after FOSDEM. This event will provide a friendly and safe place for discussion of all aspects of copyleft -- developers, strategists, enforcement organizations, scholars and critics are all welcome.

The event starts at 9:30am and will finish at 6pm.We'll be providing coffee throughout the day and lunch for those who pre-register for the event. We will accommodate vegetarians and vegans and people with other dietary restrictions should get in touch with us. Registration will open in about a week, which should come pretty close to the date when we hope to have a preliminary schedule to share with you.

If you have questions about Copyleft Conf, including questions about attending, volunteering with or sponsoring, please email

Tags: licensing, Copyleft Conf

Keith Packard: Inspired & Inspiring

by Deb Nicholson on December 4, 2018

This is part of our ongoing series to highlight our generous matching donors. Keith Packard has been working in free software for more than thirty years and is a long-time contributor to Debian, X Windows and more recently the Linux graphics driver stack. Keith and several other outstanding individuals are joining Private Internet Access and a big anonymous donor in offering a total of $90K in matching funds to Conservancy for our continued work to provide both a "back-office" for free software and a clear voice in favor of community-driven licensing and governance practices. You can join him and donate today!

Deb: What's the best recent trend you've seen in free software?

Keith: I've been excited to see how rapidly the free software communities I participate in have adopted strong codes of conduct. I feel like the tone of communication has become kinder and accepting. We've still got a long ways to go, but it feels like we've at least accepted that this change is necessary and good.

Keith Packard, holding a light orange cat

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

Keith: I'm afraid I'll have to be very US-specific with my answer as the US tax code colors how people within non-profit organizations work, even non profit organizations with an international scope.

The free software non-profit organizations that I am involved in have operated under the 501(c)3 rules for public charities. These rules are designed for groups focused on charitable, scientific, educational and certain other purposes and require a strong commitment to the public good. For instance, was able to operate under 501(c)3 rules only after demonstrating (to the US government) a many-year history of providing direct educational assistance to new and existing software developers through our conferences and other outreach programs.

The goals of free software include allowing all people to control their computing environment and allowing people to teach, learn and share all of the software they use. An organization supporting free software for the public good is the best way I know of to defend and promote the essential software freedoms.

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

Keith: One of my little quirks is that, even in 2018, I run my network infrastructure out of my own home (mostly email, git and web pages). I feel this offers me a better legal framework should someone want to seize any of my data, plus it keeps me from being subject to any corporate policies I might not like.

My web site is published using ikiwiki, which works pretty well but is both overly complicated and missing some key features. I like the general plan -- write markdown, commit to git and publish the resulting web site. I don't like the markdown it uses; it's old and written in perl. I don't like how publication works -- you push source code to a git repository on the web server where a git hook runs to compile that source code into your web site.

I recently packaged cmark-gfm for debian; that's the common mark to HTML conversion program that github uses for all of the markdown content that people publish there. It's fast and self-contained, but it doesn't generate whole web pages, just HTML fragments.

What I'm looking for is a self-contained web site publication program that takes a collection of templates and a collection of common mark files and generates a whole web site from that on my laptop. Once the web site is complete and tested, I should be able to copy it to the web server unchanged where it can be served directly.

Essentially, I'm interested in free software to help make running a simple web presence easier, more secure, and still look good so that people aren't stuck using commercial services where users are the product.

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

Keith: Of course, I'm hopeful that Conservancy will continue to grow and spread the good news about free software. I expect to see many more member projects join. I'd love to see parallel organizations form supporting freedom in other areas of the arts and sciences -- everything from computer hardware to clothing design. I think those communities can learn much from what Conservancy has accomplished, and I hope we can learn from them as well.

Deb: Anything else you'd like to add?

Keith: I'm so pleased to have been asked by Molly to participate in this fundraising drive; her vision of what we can do as a community is inspiring to all of us.

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

The picture of Keith with his cat is a selfie and is available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

Tags: conservancy

Molly de Blanc: Free Software Superstar

by Deb Nicholson on November 27, 2018

I recently interviewed the inestimable Molly de Blanc. Molly is on the Board of Directors for the Open Source Initiative, works as a Campaigns Manager for the Free Software Foundation and also happens to be an amazing baker. She has been working in free software for 4 years, and involved for 10 years -- plus she is the driving force behind the individual super-donor part of our year-end donation match. Molly and several other outstanding individuals are joining Private Internet Access and a big anonymous donor in offering a total of $90K in matching funds to Conservancy for our continued work to provide both a "back-office" for free software and a clear voice in favor of community-driven licensing and governance practices.

Deb: I know you're passionate about free software and an enthusiastic supporter of non-profit work. Can you tell me why you think non-profits are important for free software?

Molly: Honestly, I think we just can't trust corporate actors to do the right thing for user freedom without financial incentives. Nonprofits are powered by their donors, members, and supporters. This means that they're working for those people -- people who care -- rather than typical corporate and financial interests. When you have a nonprofit working on a cause, you have someone working for that cause.

Creating good free and open source software and infrastructure isn't enough. We need organizational support for those projects. We also need organized advocacy, which best comes from nonprofits and foundations, whose entire mission is supporting user freedom.

Molly de Blanc, a blue-haired woman holding a brown tabby cat

Deb: How did MollyGive start? Who named it?

Molly: For a little background context, starting somewhere around 2013 or 2014 I began to offer to match people's end of year donations from my own donation fund. I don't remember the exact year, but my blog references it "happened again" in 2015. I forget what I called it for the first year/s, but David Nusinow dubbed it MollyGive, which was catchy if not a little egotistical when I need to refer to it.

I liked donating, but had trouble deciding where to most effectively donate. I wanted to reach out to causes that mattered, but were outside of the sphere of my volunteer work, which at the time was around free software, libraries, and music. I have amazing people in my life, and trust them. It was nice to contract out my decision making to others. I've gotten to reach groups like the American Indian College Fund, Black and Pink, and MassCare. (Check out the complete list here.)

I also wanted to encourage others to give. I started donating when I didn't have a lot of money -- and understand how demoralizing it can feel when you're only able to give $5. I hoped to encourage people to give by helping them to realize how much their giving matters.

It's important to note that I don't consider this an extension of MollyGive -- for me it is how I'm using a large chunk of the MollyGive funds this year. [We] didn't explicitly ask others to participate in MollyGive -- we asked them to help Conservancy.

Deb: How hard was it to find folks to join you on this match after you had the idea?

Molly: Well, Karen helped me! The first few donors were easy to find. Between Linux Conf Australia 2018 and DebConf 18, I picked up a few enthusiastic individuals. After that, I got a lot of "nos." Karen and I together helped them change their minds -- that's how we got two of our matchers. At least one person approached us after hearing about it, which was really inspiring.

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

Molly: Conservancy is slowly gathering all of my favorite free software projects (that aren't already 501(c)3s) under its umbrella, like the Debian Copyright Aggregation Project, Etherpad, Git, Outreachy, and Reproducible Builds. I expect that in the next five years you'll get the rest.

As someone who has worked at nonprofits for most of their career, I'd say I probably think about the Conservancy differently. For example, I'd like to see the staff expanded, especially to include more organizational infrastructure roles, like a development director. It would be great if it hosted a summit for its member projects.

From a programmatic perspective, I'd really like to see others recognize the Conservancy's role on the cutting edge of working for user freedom. This includes things like being recognized by media outlets as an authority on issues relating to ethics in technology; providing support for developers and engineers looking to build freedom respecting contracts at their work places; and increased copyleft compliance. One of my hopes is to see strong legal wins for copyleft, and I think the Conservancy will play an integral role in that happening.

I see Conservancy as the organization that can do what no other nonprofit can do for software freedom. I see a deep understanding across its entire staff of the necessity of free and open source software. I think that you and I have similar visions for a world where user freedom is built into every piece of technology. I look forward to seeing how the Conservancy helps turn that vision into reality.

Deb: Anything else you'd like to add?

Please donate! I love giving away money -- especially other people's! By donating you're not just helping free and open source software, you're helping me, personally, because I get to have another successful year of matching donations.

I'd like to express my deep gratitude to the other people participating in the match -- whether they're choosing to be public about their identity or staying anonymous. I'd also like to express my gratitude to you, reading this, and everyone else who is choosing to support Conservancy.

You can read more of Molly's thoughts on the Conservancy match this year on her personal blog.The photo of Molly is is CC-BY-SA 3.0 by Luc Rocher.

Tags: conservancy

Why We Chose a Robust Code of Conduct for Copyleft Conf

by Deb Nicholson on October 30, 2018

We want all kinds of people to feel safe and comfortable participating as speakers or attendees at Copyleft Conf. Unfortunately, that is neither a given or even the default in many FOSS communities. In order to be credibly welcoming, it is incumbent on each free software community and event to proactively say, "Yes, you are welcome here" and, "No, we will not look away if someone attempts to belittle you, harass you or harm you." It is not enough to merely suggest good behavior. People need to know that those who willfully disrupt our community -- by making it unsafe or uncomfortable for others to participate -- will be asked to leave.

Copyleft Conf's Code of Conduct

We feel strongly that the future of free software depends on an open, welcoming and evolving conversation around licensing practices and compliance. The copyleft licenses that many of the world's largest free software projects -- like Linux, Git, Drupal and Wordpress -- rely on must be both well understood and used in good faith. This conversation around copyleft is well overdue. We can't afford to turn away those who would help us build the bridges to increase adoption and achieve better compliance.

Free software is meaningless if it is only free for some or is alienating for large swathes of people. At Conservancy, we believe that control of our computing experience affects our democracy, our privacy, the news we have access to and our online relationships. Software freedom is important and it must be for everyone. Everyone must feel that they are welcome to participate in the crucial conversations about the future of the tools we use, the kinds of communities we build and the structures we put in place to ensure software freedom. If you don't agree with our starting principle -- that software freedom is for everyone -- then we will not allow you to alienate others who are willing to work with us, to achieve software freedom for everyone.

The first ever Copyleft Conf takes place on February 4th, in Brussels, the day after FOSDEM. The Call for Proposals is open now.

Tags: diversity, Copyleft Conf

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