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Interview with FSFE President Georg Greve by Sean Daly
Friday, July 06 2007 @ 10:41 AM EDT

Sean Daly had the opportunity to meet up in Brussles with George Greve, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe, on July 2nd, and naturally he wanted to ask him about GPLv3. He also got Greve's views on what's wrong with Open XML, some news about the complaint ECIS, the European Committee For Interoperable Systems, has lodged with the European Commission, this time in the area of office and internet interoperability, how the FSFE's Freedom Task Force has been working out, and much more.

Greve begins by explaining why GPLv3 provides a higher level of security for your project but also reassures everyone that it's no difficulty if projects such as the kernel wish to remain GPLv2. He does raise some legal issues the kernel folks likely will wish to think about.

Here is the audio of the interview as Ogg. Sean also, with a lot of help from Ciarán O'Riordan, has provided a transcript. If you are not accustomed to listening to Ogg files, you'll find it's a treat. You can get the free-as-in-beer and as-in-speech player, Audacity, here and it works on Microsoft and Apple products too. Enjoy.


Interview with Georg C. F. Greve,
President of the Free Software Foundation Europe, by Sean Daly
July 2, 2007, in the FSFE offices, Brussels, Belgium

SD: I'm sitting with Georg Greve, President of Free Software Foundation Europe, and Georg has very graciously agreed to sit down with us and speak for a few minutes after three long days of an annual general assembly. The first question I would like to ask is very simple. GPLv3 is finally out, a year and a half of lots of work, lots of travelling, I know, on your part. Are you happy with it?

Georg Greve: Oh yeah, absolutely. We think this is a very strong license, and it has shown that many eyes together can indeed find things that one pair of eyes could occasionally miss, even if that pair of eyes is connected to a brain as powerful as that of Richard Stallman. And, so, I think the community, the companies, everyone who has given feedback, everyone who has commented on the website, everybody who has written emails and pointed out things that they perceived as problems and part of things that were problems -- every single one of them is part of the end result now, and we think this is a very strong license so we're quite happy that it's out now and people start to use it and we hope they will.

SD: Well, if I could ask quite a basic question, why GPLv3? Why should projects upgrade now?

Georg Greve: Well there's a couple of reasons. You have to understand that the GPLv2 is an exceptionally successful license. The fact that it was out and in use and strong for so many years is unusual for a license in a field that is as volatile, as changing, as software. The GPLv2 was incredibly successful but, of course, it wasn't perfect. There's always things that you can improve, so there were misunderstandings, things where people were not sure how to read the license. There were application cases of the license that nobody thought of when the license was written. I mean, the technology has changed dramatically since GPLv2 came out. We're talking early '90s here. The technology looked completely different to today. So the technological changes, the experience of what people understood and what they didn't understand, trying to make the license clearer -- as humanly clear as we could make it -- all these things were reasons why the GPLv3 was necessary, ultimately, or at least useful.

But there's also places where people feel that technology has essentially worked to undermine the idea behind the GPL. One of them being what Richard calls the "tivoization". People buy products but don't own them because they cannot control the software that actually runs the device. So, for those who have not followed that discussion, ultimately, the problem here is that the vendor creates a device, that device runs free software, so software that was written by others with the intention of giving the users the freedom to study that software, to modify the software, to use the software for any purpose they see fit and to distribute that software. That was the declared intent of the authors of that software. And they take that software and they put it into their device and then they put something into that device that makes it impossible to change the software and run it on this device. You cannot run any [modified] software on that device.

And one company that has been doing that is Tivo. In that case, one of the things they put in there, into the software, written by the other people, ultimately, was the spyware feature. It was that Tivo reported the viewing habits back to the Tivo corporation. Now, people should have privacy, and they should be allowed to remove shackles that are put upon them. And so we think it is not in the interest of society to let technology overrule the clearly declared intention of the authors of that software -- which was that everybody should have the four freedoms of free software.

Now, GPLv3 does not forbid to build, for instance, DRM systems that are often very similar in their functioning, but what GPLv3 explicitly says is that you have the freedom to remove those shackles if they are put upon you. You have the right to remove the shackles that somebody tries to put on you.

And that has been one of the big improvements of GPLv3, and it has been one of the most debated ones because, ultimately, there is a large discussion about whether or not those shackles should be allowed or should not be allowed and our position very clearly is that they should not be allowed.

Another area where we have seen substantial improvement is the legal area. There's been attempts to undermine GPL in legal ways. The most well-known one being the deal between Novell and Microsoft where, essentially, Microsoft is conspiring with Novell to run a protection racket on the use of free software. Trying to imply a legal uncertainty in the use of free software, in the commercial and professional areas, so that everyone who's making professional use of free software under the GPL will then have to fear being sued by Microsoft unless they were taking the specific version that Novell could give them.

Now, that's obviously not only market-distorting behavior, and probably something that should be, in some cases, investigated by the antitrust authorities, but it also very clearly against the spirit of free software.

Everybody should enjoy the same freedoms and there should never be a single company alone that can offer you a certain piece of free software -- in particular if that company didn't even write it.

So, we have the situation where they were able to cleverly phrase a deal in a way that it would probably pass in court as not violating GPLv2, although that can also be debated. But it's not wise to rely on this necessarily. So GPLv3 explicitly makes sure that future deals of a similar nature will not be possible. But it also makes sure that this particular deal now extends that "protection" -- in quotation marks in this case -- by Microsoft.

[07:11] SD: How does that work? I mean, they could have moved the date to prior to the Microsoft-Novell deal and simply X'd out the Microsoft-Novell deal. Why leave the deal?

Georg Greve: Well, the problem is that if you try to retroactively change the ground rules, there is always a very difficult endeavor and there is a certain amount of legal obstacles to overcome. In this case it was much easier, and also much wiser, to take that energy and -- in a move that you might describe as legal judo -- taking the energy of the attacker and turning it back upon them. I mean, I myself do Aikido and that is the very principle of what Aikido teaches you.

So I think this is a much wiser move since ultimately through the distribution of these vouchers that Microsoft has distributed, Microsoft themselves have made themselves a free software distributor of GPL'd software. That suddenly changes the whole ground rule of the deal, in a way, that that alleged protection, this covenant not to sue, the freedom from lawsuits that they claim to offer -- although it is a fragile line always with Microsoft -- but this freedom from the lawsuits ultimately extends to all users of that software.

But for that to actually work out, people have to switch to GPLv3.

GPLv2 does not offer this. So this is a very solid reason to switch to GPLv3 because it helps to take out that kind of deal.

SD: If we, ah... do you have some kind of secret chart on the wall saying by October 1st we should have three hundred and six projects signed up, and, by December 1st we should have six hundred and seven projects lined up? Are you very concerned about getting numbers of projects signed up to GPLv3, or is it more like, ok we offer this and it's up to every project if they decide?

Georg Greve: Well, it's ultimately up to every project to decide. We cannot decide for others; we can only try to convince them. Naturally that decision to move to GPLv3 will be made for the GNU system, or actually it is already being implemented. We've been monitoring over the weekend which GNU packages have switched. And, this was always a small cause for celebration in a way, but ultimately that decision lies with the author of the software.

We do advise everybody who has a GPL'd project to very strongly consider switching to GPLv3, and in fact it would be my recommendation to do so, for the reasons outlined and for the reason that GPLv3 has seen significant work in various areas, clarifying things that people have tried to question the validity of the GPL in the past. They've been explicitly clarified in GPLv3, so it does have a higher level of base security in that sense.

So moving to GPLv3 will increase the legal security of the project. And I think that is a good thing to do.

We're not very concerned, to be honest, because GPLv3 is a strong license; it is out their now. We think, as always, there will be some early adopters, people who understand very early on and are willing to move with this directly. There's people who are going to wait for a second to see how it works out. And then there's some who are going still be skeptical and who will need a little more convincing, who will need to see this is solid for a year or two and when they see that all of this is solid and that all of this works out and that the ecosystem keeps to grow, then they will also switch, I believe.

But I'm not very concerned, to be honest. It's solid, strong license in the tradition of the GPL. It is clearly the next step. It's the next generation of GPL, if you will. In the sense that the natural evolution of the license along with the technology, and so on. Yeah, we're not very concerned.

SD: I saw on the FSF site that Richard Stallman had written a little piece he said that, ah, in the case of the Linux kernel, it's particularly complicated and the number of copyright holders but that the Linux kernel can very well remain v2 and function with distribution of GPLv3 software.

Georg Greve: Oh yes, absolutely. There's no problem here whatsoever. Every free software distribution there is, every GNU/Linux distribution, you can get, no matter from which vendor, ultimately combines GPL'd, LGPL'd, and code under other licenses, sometimes even GPL incompatible ones. Since these are copyright licenses, ultimately, the limits of copyright law apply to them, which means -- you can put a Michelangelo next to a Rembrandt on your wall, right, that doesn't change the copyright of the pictures.

In a similar sense, you can put programs that came from different projects with different copyright licenses next to each other on a CD. They don't necessarily affect each other's status at that moment. Only when they are linked together in a single work, then would the copyright incompatibility, license incompatibility in this case, play any role. But for the Linux kernel, that is not a problem.

So, yes, there is no problem if Linux wants to remain with GPLv2. That is completely fine. The rest of the system will move to GPLv3, many other programs will move to GPLv3, and it will all be fine. Everything will continue to function. It will be legally solid. There will be no problem there whatsoever.

And if Linux, actually, the kernel, wants to switch, well, that is probably possible. It's going to require some work, but not all the kernel is under GPL v2-only. There is large parts of it which are under GPLv2 or later, so it could upgrade automatically.

And there is parts that may have to be addressed, may have to be rewritten sometimes, if you cannot find the copyright holder for that part to get permission to move to GPLv3, but it would be a doable task.

I believe that even Linus has said that in principle it's not impossible. It's just a decision that he and others would have to take for the Linux kernel. So we are awaiting his decision on that, but, as I said, there is no hurry, there is no urgency for this to happen because everything will continue to work perfectly well.

The only thing for which this example can serve is for legal maintainability, as we have come to call it in the Free Software Foundation Europe, which is that projects should think about the legal consolidation of their work, because having such a complex copyright situation can make things more difficult. It can make it more difficult to change the license, even to enforce the license if you cannot get together a significant amount of copyright to be accepted by the court as the legitimate claimant for a certain case.

SD: At the most basic level, that's the contact information for each copyright holder.

Georg Greve: Essentially, but the problem is that if you have a thousand authors and a piece of software, then any single author would only have one thousandth of that code in terms of copyright -- I mean, assuming that every one of them wrote the exact same amount of code obviously -- in that case, you see, the court can make a decision when there is enough copyright affected to actually make this a case and whether it's too insignificant.

Now, obviously for this, you want to err on the side of caution. You never want to worry about whether or not you do have enough copyright. It's been shown for the Linux kernel that it can be done, by Harald Welte, who assembled, ultimately, copyrights from others who authorised him to enforce those copyrights with his gpl-violations project. But, we believe it would be beneficial for projects to consider such issues before problems arise. And that is work that the Freedom Task Force of the Free Software Foundation Europe has been doing, has ultimately.

It has three main areas of education. One is licensing education, helping people understand how this works. Help them adapt and inherit the principles of Free Software into their business models and projects.

It does license enforcement, so it helps ensure that the licenses of free software licenses are being enforced and upheld.

And it does what we call fiduciary activities, so it helps projects by becoming their legal fiduciary, and essentially takes care of all the legal issues of the project, leaving the technical and managerial -- the whole part of how do we design our project, what technologies do we use, where do we want to go -- all of that is left to the project administration itself and the Freedom Task Force acts as a service center, if you will, to make sure the legal issues are dealt with and the copyright is consolidated and there is a party that can take care of those issues and will take care of those issues if and when they arise.

So I believe, it doesn't have to be the Freedom Task Force to do that, necessarily, I believe there's other groups that can do that as well. The Free Software Foundation has been doing this for many years for the GNU project as well.

So it's not necessarily our job to do that for everybody, and in fact, if people prefer to do this with other parties, that's also very fine for us but we do believe that people should consider those issues and should think about them. And I encourage people to have a look at least at the Freedom Task Force webpage for some of the basic information that we provide for that purpose.

SD: All right, great. Well, GPLv3 is out the door, it's been quite a lot of, high priority for a number of months. What's next on the agenda now?

Georg Greve: Well, what's next is kind of what came before, in a sense. I mean, we have been working for many years now on the Microsoft anti-trust cases or case, but soon to be cases here in Europe.

SD: Why soon to be cases, plural?

Georg Greve: Well, there is one complaint that was launched, in 1998 if I'm not mistaken, by Sun Microsystems about abuse of monopoly in the area of workgroup server interoperability. That investigation took several years also because the Commission needed to build up competency actually to deal with that issue, which is a very complex one.

The Free Software Foundation Europe has helped the Commission in its finding, in its investigation, has represented and very closely worked with the Samba Team -- which is the main competitor to the Microsoft workgroup servers today -- and has worked with the Samba Team to supply that technical competency to the European Commission. And in fact that was the significant part of the Final Decision by the Commission in which the Commission asked Microsoft to disclose the interoperability information necessary to talk the same language that the workgroup servers talk to the clients and amongst themselves.

Now, Microsoft makes a lot of profit from that monopoly and therefore is not so willing to give it up. So it tried to delay the implementation of that decision by asking for injuctive relief, I believe, is the legal term for this. The court denied that. The court found very clearly. We had a hearing in the European court for this.

SD: Yes, I remember.

Georg Greve: And so the court then said very clearly, in 2005 it must have been, that ultimately there is no more time for Microsoft to lose, you must publish the interoperability information now.

Since the court denied giving Microsoft more time, Microsoft decided to give itself more time. They simply went ahead and granted themselves injunctive relief by not publishing that information or publishing it in a way that made it completely useless. Incomplete, overly complex, under licensing terms that made it impossible to use it with Free Software.

SD: That was the trustee [Professor Neil Barrett, NDLR] who found that it was unusable.

Georg Greve: Oh yes. And in fact, I mean, the trustee was chosen in a process in which Microsoft themselves could choose the trustee. I mean, Microsoft could ultimately say: these are the people we would trust to do this kind of job, and the court would then appoint the trustee.

Now, Microsoft chose that trustee themselves, and the trustee found that the information was completely useless and inadequate to achieve interoperability. So, claiming now, as Microsoft has done, that the trustee doesn't know what he talks about and is somehow biased against Microsoft seems a little odd, given that they have chosen him themselves. And, by the way, it is completely out of place since the trustee is a very experienced person who has deserved the respect that he gets.

SD: This is the case where we're waiting for a decision of the first appeal at the Court of First Instance at Luxembourg, right?

Georg Greve: Exactly. We had a hearing in April last year. There was the main hearing for the case after the injuncti[on] had been not granted. And now we had that hearing in April last year; we are waiting for a decision still. It is expected that that decision will come in mid-September of this year. That is the date that we currently have. Also, since the President, Judge Bo Vesterdorf will then retire, I understand, so it would be a proper end for his presidency of that jury of judges to actually announce their findings.

SD: Hand down their decision. A minute ago you said "cases". Is there another case starting here? What's that?

Georg Greve: Yes in fact. I mean, as you can see from the dates involved here, I mean, the Microsoft investigation on the interoperability side went on since '98 and we're now in 2007 so this is almost ten years. And it's probably going to go on a little longer because no matter what the court finds, we're fairly certain that one of the parties will go into revision, and then you will have the question of how long that will take, so, estimating another two or three years for this is not at all unreasonable.

SD: It seems to me that Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, had announced that in case of a decision that they found unacceptable that they would appeal...

Georg Greve: Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes.

SD: ... to the European Court of Justice.

Georg Greve: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Microsoft is almost certainly guaranteed to go into appeal and try to overthrow whatever that court might find that they would not like. It's very clear that that is what they will do. Now, then you will see this case having lasted twelve or thirteen years roundabout, which shows that antitrust law is relatively slow, and meanwhile -- and this is not the only area in which Microsoft has abused its monopoly -- the ECIS, the European Committee For Interoperable Systems here in Europe has lodged another complaint with the European Commission, this time in the area of office and internet interoperability.

So it's very closely related to the whole office format issue and also related to the XAML specifications that Microsoft tries to essentially superimpose over and have as a replacement for HTML. Another vendor-specific format that could never be implemented fully by anyone else that they try to push into the market to monopolize the Internet. I mean, Steve Ballmer has made very clear statements to, you know, we have conquered the desktop, we have conquered the server, and we will conquer the Internet. I believe that was an almost literal quote of Mr. Ballmer.

Now, their intentions here are very clear, and ECIS has filed that complaint so the Commission will start to investigate this now, because if they investigate it any later, it might be too late. The Free Software Foundation Europe also has offered its expertise again in this case to the European Commission, as it has done before for the other investigation, and we're doing it this time together with the Samba Team and, both of whom we represent in that investigation, and we also have talks with another third very large free software project which might also be interested in participating in this effort. So we are ultimately preparing to supply the technical evidence and the technical competency to the Commission from the Free Software community, again in the best spirit of the Free Software community by working together, by cooperative action that is done by various projects collaborating to do the best job possible.

Now, this investigation is quite important, and right now, as far as I understand, the Commission has not yet decided whether or not they will actually investigate this. The latest status that I had -- although after three days of general assembly you are kind of mushy in the head -- the latest status information that I remember is that the Commission is considering right now whether or not to start that investigation, and we seriously hope that the Commission will start this investigation, because we believe it's very important that the Commission start this investigation. It would be important, I believe, that others encourage the Commission to do that, to start the investigation, because it is in the interest of Europe and the European competitive market to do this. Otherwise, we may find ourselves with a situation in which Microsoft dominates virtually every area of business computing at some point, and once that domination is too complete -- I mean, we see the problems of achieving compliance from Microsoft in the workgroup server side, where Mrs. Kroes who initially had been very welcome by Microsoft because they thought that she would play out in their advantage it seems that, at least it seems that that was their reading of the situation -- she's now made very clear that she is tired of the games Microsoft is playing with the European Commission. Microsoft seems to be acting in bad faith and contempt for the European authorities in court and we believe that it should not be allowed to continue that kind of practice, and it's doing so in one case, we have to make sure that it's not doing so in other cases. So starting that investigation, bringing it to a fast end so we can actually force interoperability from Microsoft, because to force them appears to be the only way to get it, is indeed a very important endeavor.

SD: Is the ECIS complaint a reaction to Vista, or what?

Georg Greve: Well, it is partially related. Obviously, with every new generation of every product that Microsoft publishes, it increases the interconnectivity of all its technical components. It has done so for many years now when it discovered that by embedding certain parts of the web browser into the operating system, embedding certain parts of the media player into the operating system, that all these technical measures could ultimately enable them to drive competitors out. They found this as a very successful strategy for achieving and spreading and abusing their monopoly. Now, that is something that ever since they found out that this for them works like a magic stone, they keep doing it, and doing it, and doing it over and over again. And Vista is no exception to this. I mean, ultimately, the idea here is that with Vista, XAML is pushed, OOXML is pushed, all the various proprietary technologies are increasingly spread throughout the desktops of the world, because the moment that they are in place on the receiving end, they can switch the sending end towards whatever they want that no one else can really work with. So, yes, I mean, the Vista rollout certainly had influence on the timing and also on the nature of the complaint, although the general behavior of Microsoft has obviously existed before this time.

SD: All right. You recently published six questions about ODF that should be addressed to standards bodies, could you talk about that for a moment?

Georg Greve: Actually, those six questions were actually about MS-OOXML, not about ODF.

SD: (laughter) Well, I guess I'm one of these people who just kind of sees, you know, OOXML on one side and ODF on the other side and a trench in the middle.

Georg Greve: That is a way in which this situation has been seen. That is certainly true. The problem here is, there is an obvious connection in the sense of MS-OOXML trying to do the same thing, the same functionality that ODF is supplying, meaning a universal office document format, but trying it the Microsoft way, which means ultimately trying to subvert the open standard by a proprietary protocol that is in the hands of Microsoft so that Microsoft can then kill off competition in this market entirely and dictate the market totally. That is the obvious strategic goal behind OOXML. In fact, I spoke about this in an article of the "Danaergeschenk" that was published on Groklaw towards the end of last year if I remember correctly, where I spoke about the fact that Novell was working on a "fig-leaf" implementation of an OOXML plugin, if you will, so that you could claim to have some interoperability, but when people tried this out, they found naturally that this interoperability was extremely limited and in fact, it didn't seem to work at all. It's just there on paper, so it looks like there is another implementation, but that's really all it is. It's a fig leaf, nothing else.

Now, OOXML was accepted by ECMA as an ECMA standard, although from the recent answers published by ECMA on questions that have been raised about OOXML it seems that they themselves didn't quite understand what they were doing. I mean, some of the most fundamental questions, in particular the one about the legal safety which is one of the six ones that I've written up and posted on our webpage -- they have no idea how that works. They actually cannot say -- and rely purely on vague Microsoft promises that the legal security is there. But once you look at those promises, it becomes very apparent that this is not enough to actually be able to implement OOXML. There is this Microsoft Open Specification Promise that they put on their webpage.

Now, the interesting part in that statement how they have a certain grant for what they call "Microsoft necessary claims" -- if you look up a little bit lower in the definition what that actually means, it is very explicit about meaning only the base components of whatever they're talking about and no referenced technologies and no extensions to those technologies. Which means that all the proprietary formats that are covered in OOXML and are referenced in OOXML are not part of that Open Specification Promise to begin with, and neither are all the proprietary extensions that you can put in there. That means that the whole spectrum of documents that could be built with OOXML can only be read by one company, and that company being Microsoft. Which is natural, because this is a proprietary format. It's nothing else.

There were a couple of other questions, too. I mean, I really recommend to everybody to have a look at those six questions which were phrased in a way to give, on two sheets A4, an idea to everybody who's interested in this, of what's wrong with OOXML, where is the problem, why is this a problem. So I would encourage everybody to have a look at this, spread it, to journalists, to politicians, and to the national standardization bodies. Contact your local national standardization body, find out who's on the committee for that decision whether or not to approve OOXML as an ISO standard and give them these six questions. Ask them to answer them. Ask them to find answers for them and ultimately, they will themselves then see why they have to say no to OOXML. Because I have not yet seen any good answers to any of these questions.

And Microsoft has tried, but usually, that takes the form of trying to distract from the issue, trying to weasel around the actual problem, or frankly outright ignoring what was the question. So those six questions I believe could be a very useful resource for everyone around the world who wants to do something about this, which is why we put them out in this way. They come as an HTML page as well as a PDF that you can print and just hand out. And I would ask you to do so, and do so fast because that decision is upcoming soon.

SD: Now, Microsoft must have been pleased with the results they've had so far by using ECMA as a fast-track entry to the ISO, because they just last week also submitted their so-called "PDF killer" format, the XML Paper Specification I believe it's called. Is this a case of "Here we go again"?

Georg Greve: It appears that way. It's unfortunate, but it appears that Microsoft has found a severe weakness in the ISO standardization process that they can exploit, which is that you have lots of technical bodies around the world in which Microsoft is usually present and has significant influence who are not really operating on the grounds of what needs to be an open standard in the sense of the full necessity of openness to achieve actual interoperability. So there is a lot of wiggle room and gray areas around this, and the only arguments that Microsoft wants those bodies to look at are technical arguments. Now, technical arguments are important, but sometimes Microsoft tries to portray, for instance, legal issues as nontechnical arguments, as general arguments which should not influence the decision of those national standards bodies, which is wrong, beacuse ultimately it defeats the entire purpose of those bodies. Because the purpose of those bodies is, in the end, to have a standard that allows competition.

Competition is something that happens on the base of a common standard. Microsoft is putting forth this notion that there should be competition on the standard in the sense of between the standards, but that is an entirely nonsensical notion, and it's very key to understand that, because if you look at any other area, there is never additional competition from additional proposed standards. You can start with a very simple example, for instance, power plugs. It doesn't help competition to have more than one standard for a power plug. In fact, the only thing it causes is annoyance, because we always have to think about which converters we need.

SD: Well, there's the form factor, there's the voltage --

Georg Greve: There's various factors, actually. And now think about the complexity that an office format has in comparison to a power plug. A power plug is unbelievably simple in comparison. But, still, some similar things apply, and now if you imagine a world in which in your country, every electricity company had their own socket format and could then license the plug format only to certain vendors of certain devices, and those would be the only ones you could buy from because you happen to have those plugs in your house. That this helps competition is an obviously nonsensical notion, because the best competition is achieved if everybody uses the same plugs and the same sockets, because then you can buy electricity from any electricity company and you can buy devices from any devices company. Appliances you can get from one side and electricity from another. Now, Microsoft tries to be both. They try to be the electricity and the appliances company at the same time, and creating plugs for which only they have the sockets and vice versa. That this is in some way helpful to competition -- I don't think how anybody could actually honestly believe that.

SD: You just finished three days of general assembly of the FSF Europe. To wrap up, maybe you could tell us -- you were mentioning the FTF -- maybe you could tell us a little bit about what's going on with the FSFE here in Europe?

Georg Greve: Well, too much unfortunately (laughter). Otherwise we wouldn't need three full days, twelve hours per day, to actually come to a conclusion on all the issues we need to talk about. In fact, there's never enough time; on Sunday evening, you find that you still had so many other things that you should have discussed. But yes, the Freedom Task Force is one issue that we did discuss. Our Freedom Task Force coordinator, Mr. Shane Coughlan, gave us a report of the activities that the Freedom Task Force did since its launch in November last year, and we're very, very happy with the work that has been done. I mean, the Freedom Task Force has clearly exceeded our expectations in various areas, an incredibly successful activity, unfortunately activity that we can't really talk about too much because the success sometimes only comes from protecting the anonymity of people you talk to, because -- especially large companies are very sensitive about finding their names plastered all over the place so I will neither give you names nor numbers on those activities, but yes, we are overall very happy and we are glad to have established the Freedom Task Force as a reliable and competent and friendly partner for industry, for projects, for people around the world to discuss those issues.

And we have been helping to spread legal competency in this area both on a noncommercial level in the sense of education, putting out FAQs, helping vendors achieve GPL compliance through guidelines that we have published on our webpage and other things, as well as through courses that Mr. Coughlan actually now teaches how to adapt your business model to free software licenses, how free software licenses affect your products, how you can work with your products, how you can be GPL-compliant, how you can avoid issues with this, and so on. So in fact, there is now an offering for companies that want to do that kind of business, to have Mr. Coughlan immediately help them address those issues. So we're very happy about how that has worked out, actually.

Other issues we have been working on are obviously the open standards question that we've been working on in the United Nations Internet Governance Forum, where we've been a founding partner of the dynamic coalition on open standards, together with Sun Microsystems, with various other civil society groups, a couple of governments, and so on, as a multi-stakeholder coalition to promote the understanding and the use of open standards.

We've been working in the European Union area obviously, Ciaran O'Riordan, our Brussels representative, in whose office we are right now sitting, he's been very active, not only building awareness for GPLv3, which obviously is another big project that kept us busy, but he's also been following many of the EU legislative activities and helped to influence, for instance, the IPRED2 directive [PDF] about criminalization of infringement of initially copyrights, patents, and trademarks, but for instance patents were now taken out of the bunch, which is a very useful improvement of the overall directive. We don't think it's a good directive yet; there would have to be many more improvements to make that an actual useful directive, but it is a very important step in the right direction and we were a part of that. I don't know, the list is very long, in fact if you are interested in seeing more, there is an executive summary published on FSFE's webpage of the work of the past two years, as we have done for every other two-year period before, so you can find the executive summaries for FSFE's work from the years 2001 on until yesterday, essentially.

SD: All right, great, I want to thank you yet again for sitting down with us at Groklaw. Get some sleep!

Georg Greve: Thank you very much.


Interview with FSFE President Georg Greve by Sean Daly | 319 comments | Create New Account
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Interview with FSFE President Georg Greve by Sean Daly
Authored by: fstanchina on Friday, July 06 2007 @ 10:47 AM EDT
His first name is Georg, not George.

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Corrections Here
Authored by: red floyd on Friday, July 06 2007 @ 10:59 AM EDT
So PJ can find them.

I am not merely a "consumer" or a "taxpayer". I am a *CITIZEN* of the United
States of America.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off-Topic Thread
Authored by: red floyd on Friday, July 06 2007 @ 11:00 AM EDT
In a fit of mercy, on-topic posts will also be allowed.

Please see the red text below the posting box, and remember to use HTML mode, so
that we can follow your clickies!!!!

I am not merely a "consumer" or a "taxpayer". I am a *CITIZEN* of the United
States of America.

[ Reply to This | # ]

another defence for Microsoft
Authored by: stites on Friday, July 06 2007 @ 02:21 PM EDT
Microsoft seems to be preparing to fight GPLv3 with two defences. They plan to
deny that the coupons constitute distributing GPLv3 code and they plan to deny
that GPLv3 can force its own interpretation of the Microsoft-Novell agreement
upon Microsoft.

I would like to suggest a third defence to Microsoft which would probably be
much more effective than the first two. Microsoft could pay Novell to cancel the
Microsoft-Novell agreement before Novell actually distributes any GPLv3 code.
Abolishing the Microsoft-Novell agreement would forestall the possibility that
the Free Software Foundation might be able to extend Microsoft's software patent
protection to all open source developers, distributors, and users.

Steve Stites

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Interview with FSFE President Georg Greve by Sean Daly
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 06 2007 @ 02:35 PM EDT
I, for one, am disgusted that the FSFE is involved with such things as fighting
MS's antitrust case. Unless MS is directly attacking free software, their
business should not be mettled with by the FSFE. And no, I do not consider
changing implementations of their own software to make it difficult to mimic a
direct attack on free software. Stick to supporting software libre or risk
losing your supporters.

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Microsoft is not afraid.
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, July 07 2007 @ 02:26 PM EDT
Any software code that assists in implimenting a process patent isn't eligible
for copyright protection:

“Specifically, 17 U. S. C. §102(b) provides: “In no case does copyright
protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure,
process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery,
regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or
embodied in such work.”. . . Due to this distinction, every idea, theory, and
fact in a copyrighted work becomes instantly available for public exploitation
at the moment of publication. See Feist, 499 U. S., at 349–350. . . Second, the
“fair use” defense allows the public to use not only facts and ideas contained
in a copyrighted work, but also expression itself in certain circumstances.”
Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186 (2003).

The GPLv3 is a copyright license and therefore has no effect on code in process
patents. Microsoft has nothing to fear from the GPLv3.

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You're all underestimating M$'s liability.
Authored by: RTH on Sunday, July 08 2007 @ 08:49 AM EDT
M$ has repudiated GPLv3, and claim not to be bound by it. OK, but:

You may make, run and propagate covered works that you do not convey, without conditions so long as your license otherwise remains in force.

THEIR LICENCE DOES NOT REMAIN IN FORCE - they don't even have a licence!

M$ cannot make any copies of any GPLv3 work. They cannot even download a copy to look at it and play with it in their Linux lab. They cannot test it, nor ever again do anything that shows that they know any details about any GPLv3 code. How long do you think it will be before M$ do something that reveals that they know something about the code in some GPLv3 product? And the instant they do, it can and should be law suits, discovery, and criminal charges for copyright violation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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