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Displaying posts by Karen Sandler

We Matched our 50 Supporter Challenge!

by Karen Sandler on December 4, 2015

Thanks to all of you who signed up and helped us spread the word, we successful earned our $6,000 match! This brings our overall goal to continue our enforcement work down to 2,367. We've added a lot of Supporters in the week and a half since we launched our fundraiser but we have a long way to go. We must substantially increase our individual support to be able to continue defending software freedom for our member projects and the entire free and open source software community. You're showing us that with your help we can do this!

Tags: conservancy, GPL, supporter

Half Way to Our First Goal and a Message from Stefano Zacchiroli

by Karen Sandler on November 30, 2015

We're happy to celebrate Cyber Monday by getting half way to our first goal of 750 Supporters! We still have 16 Supporters to sign up to meet our match by Friday. Help us get the rest of the way!

Stefano Zacchiroli, Debian project member, former three-term Debian Project Leader and OSI board member recorded this video to encourage you to sign up as a Conservancy Supporter. Stefano talks about why he supports Conservancy and in particular how our activities are ethical, “ensuring that the amount of free software in the world increases year after year.”

Join Stefano and help us get all the way to our fundraising goals by signing up as a Conservancy Supporter today! and helping us to spread the word!

Tags: conservancy, supporter

Our fundraiser and awesome Supporters pitching in

by Karen Sandler on November 24, 2015

** Photo of Conservancy Supporters.  Photo by-Carlo-Piana under CC-0 **

You may have noticed that Conservancy launched a big fundraising campaign this week. As we talk about more fully on our Supporter sign up page, over the past year and in particular since we launched the VMware suit some of our corporate funding has been pulled because we tackle important but controversial issues, like GPL compliance. We have even have had talks blocked or canceled at conferences.

In order to ensure that we can continue our work, we must transition to a primarily individual-supported model. We will continue to seek corporate support, of course, and we're grateful for the corporate donors whose support has continued. But our constituency is the software freedom community, and that's where our support should ultimately come from. It's not enough for us to think that the work we do is right - a significant portion of the public must also agree and be willing to vote with their money. Without that support we simply cannot continue. The 10% that our member projects contribute doesn't cover even one staffer plus basic overhead.

We have structured the campaign with two make-or-break levels: a lower level that will just sustain the organization for a "bare minimum" service plan to our member projects, and a separate, higher level to continue doing copyleft enforcement. If we don't meet these goals we'll be forced to radically restructure.

You can see the names of some of our Supporters who choose to be acknowledged, and they are a very impressive bunch!

One Supporter, the very awesome Christopher Allan Webber took some time to sit down with Bradley and me to talk about the campaign and about GPL enforcement generally. You can hear it as the latest episode of Bradley's and my oggcast Free as in Freedom. It's the first episode of FaiF that we've released in some time, and I'm glad we were able to get it together in time for this important fundraiser.

In the coming weeks we will have a few videos from other Supporters about why they choose to support us. Carol Smith of Google was very kind to do one.

Many thanks to Carol for supporting sofware freedom and our organization! Join Carol and become a supporter of Conservancy today.

Tags: conservancy, GPL, supporter

Linaro Connect, Volkswagen and Developer Ethics

by Karen Sandler on September 30, 2015

Last week I had the privilege of delivering Friday's keynote address at Linaro Connect. I was so excited and pleased that I had been asked to speak about compliance there. As Linaro is a consortium for Linux kernel related initiatives on ARM, I was excited and curious as to what the conference was like and thrilled to be given the chance to talk about why copyleft and GPL compliance are so fundamental to the success of collaborative engineering initiatives like Linaro. The fact that the conference is so developer focused was a huge bonus.

One of the topics I touched on, given its newsworthiness was the situation with Volkswagen. Many people have talked about the implications of so-called dieselgate and its implications for free and open source software. In my talk I focused on another aspect of this - engineer and developer culture.

When I was in engineering school at The Cooper Union we had a mandatory course during our first year where we read the book To Engineer Is Human (which incidentally, if you buy you can sign up to support Conservancy on Amazon Smile first). The book discusses prominent engineering failures (including the dramatic Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse “Galloping Gertie”), why they failed and how such failure is ultimately a part of successful societal engineering. In the class we talked about the culture of engineering ethics and how engineers ultimately have a special responsibility in society on behalf of the people who are impacted by the work they do.

In the recent case of Volkswagen, the failure of the company to behave ethically not only caused a negative impact on the environment and alienated VW's customer base, but also had a massively negative effect on the company's bottom line and financial outlook. How many engineers at the company felt horribly about what was happening and felt powerless to do anything about it? And in that case, the failure of Volkswagen to do the right thing was bad for the company in a number of levels.

As we see that copyleft and best security are linked (I talked about the Honeymoon Effect during the talk, and you can read my old paper on medical device safety plus many great discussions by folks like Matthew Garrett and even Bruce Schneier) and we embark upon an Internet of Things network, the ethical implications of software freedom become all the more poignant. In addition to the ethical aspects inherent in sharing code and the ethical considerations of following a license under which you received software for your use, there's an additional ethics layer in the safety implications of keeping GPL'd code closed. Because software so often interacts in complex ways (as shown in the car vulnerability demonstrations that go through the wheel maintenance system to exploit the critical ignition and brake systems), it's impossible to predict which software the next failure will be based on.

We need companies to understand that complying with the GPL isn't just good community participation or a safeguard from lawsuits - it is fundamental to their longterm financial success in a myriad of ways. Developers play a key role in that process. It's not always easy to stand up for the right thing in a corporate context. Doing so can cause reprisal in the form of some penalty. Obviously, if an engineer had been able to take action at Volkswagen, they would have saved the company a lot of embarrassment and lost revenue but without the hindsight of seeing how that situation actually played out it's likely that there was a real fear of penalty for speaking up.

Fortunately, where copylefted software is involved there are external mechanisms to help with some of these issues. Because companies must make good on providing source when they distribute, an outsider could determine that a company is not meeting its obligations. This is the main reason why having the option of participating anonymously in our coalition of developers who want to enforce the GPL is so important. In software development, coming out in favor of enforcement may not cause you any negative repercussions with your current employer but many developers rightly worry that other future employers may negatively view their participation in the coalition.

In the same vein as my ethical education in engineering school, developers should include the long term ethical considerations in their core technical analysis of what free and open source software licenses their companies should use and how they comply with it on a long term basis. While failures are terrible to have, they're essential to learn from and work towards better technical and ethical infrastructure.

Video of the full talk is available. You can sign up to our GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers by emailing <linux-services@sfconservancy.org>.

Tags: conservancy, GPL

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