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See you at LibrePlanet!

by Karen Sandler on March 18, 2016

I'm getting ready to head up to Massachusetts for LibrePlanet, one of my favorite conferences! This year will be a bit different, as Conservancy is having our very first booth there. I'm particularly excited about the amazing volunteers who have agreed to staff the booth. We started an email thread to coordinate schedules about who should be in the booth when, and got talking about what message we wanted to convey through the booth.

In a quick summary of talking points, I mentioned that I thought LibrePlanet attendees would be most interested in GPL enforcement and Outreachy. Ira Cooper, Samba Team Member and one of the volunteers wrote back:

Do you think we'll have anyone asking about what benefits the projects recieve? To be honest, as a member of the conservancy, to some degree, the boring things matter most. Without someone to help with handling our finances etc... It'd be chaos.

The fact that there is a structure where multiple projects can share that work, is actually at least as powerful in some ways.

Yes, the GPL and what not, is the flashy stuff. But... It is important to tell people about the things that allow these projects to live and breathe. :)

Soon after, Yamil Suarez, another volunteer with the Evergreen project chimed in:

Also, I wanted to add that to my project (Evergreen), it really matters to have the SFC keeps us in compliance with the IRS. Even though we have a our own board there is always turnaround, the SFC gives us continuation in our regulatory compliance. Which I think is invaluable. Also, when hosting conferences, there are plenty of regulatory minefields involved that the SFC keeps an eye on.

I was truly floored by how clear and eloquent Ira and Yamil were about the usefulness of Conservancy as a fiscal sponsor. I often find it hard to quickly explain that part of the Conservancy's work. Glossing over "the boring stuff" just doesn't explain the challenges we try to address or why we're so valuable to our Member Projects. I'm really looking forward to spending time with all of our volunteers in the booth this weekend. If you're at LibrePlanet, stop by and say hello.

Plus if you can and haven't done so already, please consider signing up as a Conservancy Supporter, and you'll be invited to a cocktail hour celebrating 10 years of Conservancy!. If you are already a Supporter, don't forget to RSVP by tomorrow. Bradley and I will both be there (and at LibrePlanet, generally), excited to talk about software freedom with you. I also have the honor of delivering the closing keynote and will participate in a panel about the high priorities project list. See you there!

Tags: conservancy

The VMware Hearing and the Long Road Ahead

by Bradley M. Kuhn on February 29, 2016

On last Thursday, Christoph Hellwig and his legal counsel attended a hearing in Hellwig's VMware case that Conservancy currently funds. Harald Welte, world famous for his GPL enforcement work in the early 2000s, also attended as an observer and wrote an excellent summary. I'd like to highlight a few parts of his summary, in the context of Conservancy's past litigation experience regarding the GPL.

First of all, in great contrast to the cases here in the USA, the Court acknowledged fully the level of public interest and importance of the case. Judges who have presided over Conservancy's GPL enforcement cases USA federal court take all matters before them quite seriously. However, in our hearings, the federal judges preferred to ignore entirely the public policy implications regarding copyleft; they focused only on the copyright infringement and claims related to it. Usually, appeals courts in the USA are the first to broadly consider larger policy questions. There are definitely some advantages to the first Court showing interest in the public policy concerns.

However, beyond this initial point, I was struck that Harald's summary sounded so much like the many hearings I attended in the late 2000's and early 2010's regarding Conservancy's BusyBox cases. From his description, it sounds to me like judges around the world aren't all that different: they like to ask leading questions and speculate from the bench. It's their job to dig deep into an issue, separate away irrelevancies, and assure that the stark truth of the matter presents itself before the Court for consideration. In an adversarial process like this one, that means impartially asking both sides plenty of tough questions.

That process can be a rollercoaster for anyone who feels, as we do, that the Court will rule on the specific legal issues around which we have built our community. We should of course not fear the hard questions of judges; it's their job to ask us the hard questions, and it's our job to answer them as best we can. So often, here in the USA, we've listened to Supreme Court arguments (for which the audio is released publicly), and every pundit has speculated incorrectly about how the justices would rule based on their questions. Sometimes, a judge asks a clarification question regarding a matter they already understand to support a specific opinion and help their colleagues on the bench see the same issue. Other times, judges asks a questions for the usual reasons: because the judges themselves are truly confused and unsure. Sometimes, particularly in our past BusyBox cases, I've seen the judge ask the opposing counsel a question to expose some bit of bluster that counsel sought to pass off as settled law. You never know really why a judge asked a specific question until you see the ruling. At this point in the VMware case, nothing has been decided; this is just the next step forward in a long process. We enforced here in the USA for almost five years, we've been in litigation in Germany for about one year, and the earliest the Germany case can possibly resolve is this May.

Kierkegaard wrote that it is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards. Court cases are a prime example of this phenomenon. We know it is gut-wrenching for our Supporters to watch every twist and turn in the case. It has taken so long for us to reach the point where the question of a combined work of software under the GPL is before a Court; now that it is we all want this part to finish quickly. We remain very grateful to all our Supporters who stick with us, and the new ones who will join today. That funding makes it possible for Conservancy to pursue this and other matters to ensure strong copyleft for our future, and handle every other detail that our member projects need. The one certainty is that our best chance of success is working hard for plenty of hours, and we appreciate that all of you continue to donate so that the hard work can continue. We also thank the Linux developers in Germany, like Harald, who are supporting us locally and able to attend in person and report back.

Tags: conservancy, GPL

Bart Massey on Why You Should Be a Conservancy Supporter

by Karen Sandler on January 28, 2016

In this video, Bart Massey talks about why he is a passionate supporter of Conservancy. Bart discusses why he thinks Conservancy is relevant for the next 20 years of software freedom, tells you about his favorite Conservancy project and strongly encourages you to become a Conservancy Supporter.

(Also available on YouTube.)

Tags: conservancy, supporter

Key Charities That Advance Software Freedom Are Worthy of Your Urgent Support

by Bradley M. Kuhn on January 25, 2016

I've had the pleasure and the privilege, for the last 20 years, to be either a volunteer or employee of the two most important organizations for the advance of software freedom and users' rights to copy, share, modify and redistribute software. In 1996, I began volunteering for the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and worked as its Executive Director from 2001–2005. I continued as a volunteer for the FSF since then, and now serve as a volunteer on FSF's Board of Directors. I was also one of the first volunteers for Software Freedom Conservancy when we founded it in 2006, and I was the primary person doing the work of the organization as a volunteer from 2006–2010. I've enjoyed having a day job as a Conservancy employee since 2011.

These two organizations have been the center of my life's work. Between them, I typically spend 50–80 hours every single week doing a mix of paid and volunteer work. Both my hobby and my career are advancing software freedom.

I choose to give my time and work to these organizations because they provide the infrastructure that make my work possible. The Free Software community has shown that the work of many individuals, who care deeply about a cause but cooperate together toward a common goal, has an impact greater than any individuals can ever have working separately. The same is often true for cooperating organizations: charities, like Conservancy and the FSF, that work together with each other amplify their impact beyond the expected.

Both Conservancy and the FSF pursue specific and differing approaches and methods to the advancement of software freedom. The FSF is an advocacy organization that raises awareness about key issues that impact the future of users' freedoms and rights, and finds volunteers and pays staff to advocate about these issues. Conservancy is a fiscal sponsor, which means one of our key activities is operational work, meeting the logistical and organizational needs of volunteers so they can focus on the production of great Free Software and Free Documentation. Meanwhile, both Conservancy and FSF dedicated themselves to sponsoring software projects: the FSF through the GNU project, and Conservancy through its member projects. And, most importantly, both charities stand up for the rights of users by enforcing and defending copyleft licenses such as the GNU GPL.

Conservancy and the FSF show in concrete terms that two charities can work together to increase their impact. Last year, our organizations collaborated on many projects, such as the proposed FCC rule changes for wireless devices, jointly handled a GPL enforcement action against Canonical, Ltd., published the principles of community-oriented GPL enforcement, and continued our collaboration on copyleft.org. We're already discussing lots of ways that the two organizations can work together in 2016!

I'm proud to give so much of my time and energy to both these excellent organizations. But, I also give my money as well: I was the first person in history to become an Associate Member of the FSF (back in November 2002), and have gladly paid my monthly dues since then. Today, I also signed up as an annual Supporter of Conservancy, because I'm want to ensure that Conservancy's meets its current pledge match — the next 215 Supporters who sign up before January 31st will double their donation via the match.

For just US$20 each month, you make sure the excellent work of both these organizations can continue. This is quite a deal: if you are employed, University-educated professional living in the industrialized world, US$20 is probably the same amount you'd easily spend on a meals at restaurants or other luxuries. Isn't it even a better luxury to know that these two organizations can have employ a years' worth of effort of standing up for your software freedom in 2016? You can make the real difference by making your charitable contribution to these two organizations today:

Please don't wait: both fundraising deadlines are just six days away!

Tags: conservancy, supporter

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