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Computing Our Liberty: April 2005

Yet another month has passed, full of events, screaming thoughts and voices, virtual fights, victories and defeats. But the "war" is still raging. And this column is on the "computing liberty front", with small people like you and me with great multiplied power, fighting for a simple freedom to be masters of our own computers, our own digital destiny and our "hidden" urge to cooperate for our and everyone's benefit.

Software Patents: Screaming in the night: "Where is the light!"

But on the other front there are people afraid for their position in the world, for the destiny they planed to build on the expense of others. Software Patents in Europe and US are nothing short of that. Corporate powers of capitalism (read: profitland) are now more powerful than a country, or even worse, a union. So powerful that the union\'s principles are being thrown away for it - democracy (if there ever was such a thing) - rejected for \"higher interests\". The \"suspected\" collusion of Microsoft with European Commission when they, despite all of the major opposition, decided to pass software patents as an A-item leaving only one chance for it to be rejected, on a second reading to European Parliament, proves the already clear involvement of \"higher interests\". There is little chance that European Parliament will have majority for rejection and we, my dear readers, have come ever close to the worst threat our computing freedoms ever encountered becoming a legitimate reality.
Therefore, I pass this call to you: if you are an European citizen (my condolences to you), urge your MEP (member of European parliament) to be *against* software patents directive adoption. Don\'t quit and don\'t loose your hopes - we just might win this one. If they, however, still throw away the voices of our representatives in parliament - I urge you to never ever stop using and developing Free Software however \"illegal\" it becomes. Why? Because, the ones who already committed the most illegal actions today are the very ones who make your freedom illegal - the European Government (if they finalize software patents adoption).

To name one example, MPlayer developers on their page about software patents (loaded before homepage) are seemingly implying that they could stop their work if software patents get legalized. (\"Enter the MPlayer homepage while it is still available.\") Be it their true intention or not, I herby urge them, and for that matter everyone that might be discouraged from continuing the development and use of Free Software because of patents: Don\'t be a legalist that much to value it more than your freedom! You have won the battle afterall. Everyone knows that the majority IS against software patents. Those who are pushing it and who could get through it are the loosers who don\'t want to acknowledge that (and wouldn\'t dare to get by their own interests, no matter what). In their own mind and their own dirty game, they seem to be winners. In reality, we are the ultimate winners, and for that matter, every single person that holds some value to basic human principles.

To encourage you, don\'t be easily fooled that software patents even CAN wipe out Free Software so easily. Not since so many powerful businesses see a business opportunity in its virtues: Novell, RedHat, IBM, HP, Sun and many others. Some of them even use their own patents \"against patents\" (such as RedHat and partially IBM). They are all more or less competing with (sorry for the expression) plague of the 21st century digital age: Microsoft - the main pusher for software patents.

Free Software and GNU/Linux adoption rapidly rises. Actually, nothing at this moment in history has such a rapid growth rate as GNU/Linux and Free Software adoption does. Therefore, do not let software patents (be it legal or not) stop you. Do just the contrary! Software patents are the scheme of the past (trying to stop the future from coming), totally absurd for the age we\'re living in. But is there anything more absurd than that? Unfortunately yes, the wild forces of \"profitland\" are extending their attempts to kill every last pocket of possible resistence to their power by pushing for litigation of even the technologies that *can* be used for \"copyright infringement\" such as p2p networks, cd recorders etc. Would you stop using your CD Burner because it is illegal all of a sudden? Wait till they litigate email or blogging because you can \"share\" using it too, or better yet, why don\'t they just lock up the internet to be usable for only the select few. Being a legalist and obeying the software patents laws if they come is just helping that situation becoming a reality too. If you don\'t say \"nothing can stop us\" than they will have a base to say that nothing can stop *them* in killing the last bit of your freedom - even making you a slave.

Inside Issues: \"I found the light, let it shine!\"

Oh let it shine! In these metaphorical subtitles the \"light\" represents freedom. In order for that light to shine, we should let it, not cloud it with mist of our misconceptions (let alone software patents darkness).

And oh indeed the misconceptions even within the very world of \"FOSS\". Free Software vs. Open Source, GPL v2 vs. GPL v3, Java in or not - clearly, even those that \"presumably\" \"see\" the light are still \"recovering\" from the dark.
Sun is entering the light (however that sounds Eye, but rather plays its own game. You couldn\'t even make out if it\'s really a proprietary company or an \"open source\" one (despite their claims). Given its misty strategies it is still unsure if we should call it a Free (as in *freedom*) Software company either.

But wait, this is just in. We have just got an unofficial news that Sun is making JRE Free Software by releasing it under LGPL. We better confirm it before the celebration and wiping the \"Java in drama\" from the \"issues\" book begin. Indeed, if not for OpenSolaris and their funny schemed CDDL license, we would surely respect Sun for freeing JRE (at least JRE) since so many Free Software projects are based or dependant on it (including Sun, you better make it official soon and your contributions to our computing freedoms will be acknowledged!

Okay, so Sun is still identifying its position in \"Free Software\" world (however \"uncomfortable\" that position is - with OpenSolaris critiques).

But how do some others who start \"seeing\" the light feel about it? (Prepare yourself) They spread FUD! Seemingly, this is much of a trend and EDS is showing us the nearest example. A group was actually advocating GNU/Linux (almost bragging about it) and then all of a sudden they attack it with a notorious angry accusation: \"Linux is insecure, unscalable\". Well, according to this article, they might be feeling a bit down about them being wrong when they really did think that \"linux is insecure and unscalable\" so they, for the sake of their own injured pride, once again shout their old proudful false presumption. Well, whatever it is, FUD is FUD, and our FUDZilla will list it as such. They should restrain their emotions and accept the facts.

Now, speaking about \"light\" there are some that think they see the brightest of the light and those that truly see it. Depending on where your standpoints are you may argue on which group of people falls in which of those two categories: Free Software movement or Open Source Movement. If the light is the ideal of freedom and the principles that follow, then surely the movement which fails to see the importance of valuing freedom besides practical benefits only is not the one who really *does* \"see the light\", isn\'t it?. By rejecting the fact that the issue of Free Software is an ethical issue as well, not only pragmatical one they allow themselves to compromise too much - to the level where they can even be seen as close to an \"opponent\" to the Free Software movement instead of an \"allie\". Selling themselves and their software out to dependence on proprietary software like in case of and Java or even making proprietary versions of their software they are so clearly demonstrating their main difference from Free Software movement as well as their \"nobrainer\" view on freedom.

To those who somehow believe that by supporting open source they support freedom, such cases should serve as an eye opener that if they really care about freedom, open source is the wrong movement to support, Free Software movement is the one they should identify with. I am saying this just because there seem to be too much people that carelessly use and even propagate the term \"open source\" while the thinking that led to that term is actually contradicting their views. Everyone that values freedom should identify themselves with the Free Software movement and use the original term \"Free Software\" when talking about it.

Not only that, but since Free Software movement is the one who built the foundations for what many today call \"open source software\", free software, built for the sake of freedom, not just practical benefits deserves to be called by it\'s original term \"Free Software\", not \"open source software\". Besides, both movements share basically the same software base and differ only in philosophical views about it. I could therefore even go that far to say that Free Software IS to be called \"Free Software\" and never \"open source software\" because it was called that way first. What \"open source\" should be is nothing, but a derivate view and software with open code not approved as Free Software by FSF and not any other software. The point would be: open source software does not exist except for only nonfree open source software. It is only a philosophy. And when RMS says that GCC is not open source, he is in full respect right about it. If I write a software program tommorow, I would explicitly correct anyone that doesn\'t call it Free Software and I\'d have every right to do so because i wrote it with a goal of freedom in mind, not just to make good software. Crosspoint of thoughts.

Freedom also means an unrestricted thought - being able to express your views no matter what they are, shape them and challenge them through discussions in the end enlightening yourself and forming new views to express elsewhere. Being an advocate of what you believe is truth should not make you afraid to challenge that truth by confronting it with different opinions: a reason why is not a closed Free Software supporters only place. It is a crosspoint of thoughts related to Free Software.

Some of those thoughts by some of libervis members have been invested into our cooperative article about FOSS model expansion to areas beyond software. The meltdown of thoughts has been carved and then polished. It is now finished and submit to WSF2005. It will be officially published after the approval in libervis articles section. (it lays in our wiki section for the moment - still hot).

When we cross our thoughts why wouldn\'t we cross our visual creativity and what\'s more, at the same time promote computing freedoms? Well, that\'s what we do with our art contest which is now soon to enter its final phase. It is a contest of graphical art created using exclusively Free Software tools. It is being sponsored by (great big collaborative blog) to allow a winner a very nice prize, whatever he/she chooses from or stores that is in cost range of 40 dollars.
The submissions deadline is 23rd April 2005. We await your artistic expressions made through Free tools. Good luck!

That would be it for this months \"Computing Our Liberty\" column. For any comments, critiques and suggestions please feel free to use comments system or our forums.

Thank you for reading.
Danijel Orsolic