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July 2007 Letter to Free Software Foundation Associate Members

The following is a letter I received as an associate member of the Free Software Foundation few days ago (August 2007), but written on July 13, 2007.

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Dear . .,

Help us build Libre Planet - a base for free software activists and community. Your support will help launch Libre Planet by August 2007!

Chamindra de Silva and his colleagues from the Sahana project traveled from Indonesia to Cambridge Massachusetts, in March of this year so that the FSF could award them the Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit for their efforts in the wake of the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in 2004.

On receiving the award, de Silva remarked, "None of this would have been possible without the work of the wider free software community, and we would not have been able to bring benefit to the victims and the people who help the victims without that. It is a credit to the whole community." For me, Chamindra's words point to the heart of the free software movement: developers, activists, and enthusiasts working as a community to create, protect and promote free software for all of society.

I can report that out campaigns in support of free software have gained substantial ground this year through this process - thanks in large part to your vocal and financial support. You can continue to contribute to the ongoing discussion by sending us your ideas at campaigns@fsf.org.

Since I last wrote, our high priority free software projects have met with significant success. The GNU GPL version 3 Development and Publicity Project has driven much of this success by highlighting the major issues facing the movement. The drafting of the GPLv3 was the first time in fifteen years that, as a community, we could discuss and revise the legal mechanisms that protect free software. I would like to thank you for your participation in this unprecedented process. The community's feedback has been invaluable and has truly shaped the final version of the GPL.

Gnash, a free Flash player, is now widely available. Congratulations to Rob Savoye and his team on this amazing achievement! Our campaign for a free BIOS advanced with added FSF developer time - the FSF is now running a free BIOS on all new server implementations! We are working to secure widespread support. In addition, this year we are sponsoring and devoting development time to all-free GNU/Linux distributions like gNewSense. You can get gNewSense online now at gnewsense.org.

In May, I attended Sun's JavaOne conference where CEO Jonathan Schwartz announced the freeing of Java under the GNU GPL. This removes the "Java Trap", and brings this successful campaign to a close. Also in May, we increased our ability to do work on behalf of the community by hiring a new campaigns manager, Josh Gay. On his first day of work, we launched playogg.org, a campaign to encourage public and industry adoption and support for Ogg formats, like Ogg Vorbis for audio and Ogg Theora for video. These formats have no patent-licensing hangups like MP3 and they don't rely upon proprietary multimedia players like other formats.

Also, our efforts against industry adoption and use of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) reached mainstream audiences with defectivebydesign.org. The first major label, EMI, has now dropped DRM, and Apple and Amazon have announced that they will distribute music without DRM. With continued public pressure, we know that many more will follow.

Unfortunately, I do have one piece of bad news to share with you, and that is that Microsoft continues to develop and support proprietary software. Joking aside, with the launch of badvista.org in November, people are learning that proprietary software actsagainst their interests, and that GNU/Linux - not Vista - is the real upgrade. Through our campaign action freesoftwarefreesociety.org, we were able to collaborate with the Green Party, Friends of the Earth International, New Internationalist, and People and Planet to reach a wide and diverse audience of social activists. The message we sent was loud and clear: proprietary software is bad for the world; we must have free software if we want a free society!

Finally, we face a major new thread in the area of software patents. The software patent deal between Microsoft and Novell has proved to be only the first of a number of deals that Microsoft has struck in order to tax free software users and demoralize free software developers. We have done as much as we can with the text of the GPLv3 to confront this thread, now the rest will fall upon legal defenses and our campaigning activity in the coming months.

Echoing Chamindra de Silva, none of this will be possible without the work of the wider free software community. If we are to defend our freedom, it will be to the credit of the whole community. LibrePlanet.org will help coordinate that defense.

Supporting the FSF helps ensure that there are adequate funds in place to support our campaigns, maintain the GNU project, and confront challenges to the free software community as they arise.

Together with other members, your monthly membership dues of $10.00 form the major source of our funding. Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Peter Brown
Executive Director