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AFFS December Newsletter
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Welcome to the December AFFS newsletter. For the next few months (on a trial basis) these newsletters will appear monthly, rather than quarterly, as we do have an awful lot to tell you. If you have any news you would like to submit for the next newsletter, please email newsdesk at affs.


* FSFE EU Case follow-up
* Software Patent News
* OSSWatch Briefings
* OSC Launch
* AFFS Committee News
* Dates from the diary


FSFE EU Case follow-up

Last month we told you about the legal work the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is doing in the anti-trust case the EU Competition Commission has brought against Microsoft. You will remember that Microsoft was found to have acted in a manner to prevent fair competition: it was asked to change its software, and also had the largest-ever fine (almost a half billion Euro) imposed against it.

Since then, the case has taken a number of twists. Both Novell (a distributor and developer of both free and proprietary software) and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) have withdrawn from the case. In both instances, their withdrawal from the case occurred as a consequence of a financial settlement with Microsoft. It also later emerged that the Chief Executive of the CCIA was personally paid a multi-million dollar bonus from the proceeds of their Microsoft settlement. This leaves the FSFE as one of the few remaining organisations supporting the judgement against Microsoft.

Georg Greve, president of FSFE, said "those who wish to see freedom of market restored should be aware that never can someone with deeper pockets divert support already given to FSFE, as it happened with the CCIA. This independence is priceless, but not without cost. The only thing that might therefore be able to stop us is lack of resources because of lack of support."

AFFS last month donated £250 to the FSFE for this cause. It should also be noted that even though the CCIA and Novell have withdrawn from the case, the evidence they submitted remains - the case is not over, by a long shot.

Software Patent News

Hopefully, many of our members will have written to their local MP and MEPs on the important subject of software patents, and the danger that they pose particularly to Free Software. Certain lucky members amongst those who wrote will have subsequently been invited to a meeting at the DTI on December 14th, arranged by the UK Patent Office. The agenda for the meeting is a pro-software patent one, but we hope that those who can attend will ask telling questions during the Q&A at the end of the session. FFII are arranging a meeting on the 13th as a briefing/workshop in preparation for the DTI meeting - if you are going to the meeting, and can come to London on the 13th too, you may want to attend. This briefing is primarily aimed at counter-acting the UKPO "Facts & Fiction" leaflet that they helpfully sent out with the invitations. - feedback also requested,39020645,39172989,00.htm - UKPO "facts" perhaps less than true

In other software patent news, there have been significant political shifts elsewhere in Europe. The Polish government has officially declared that "Poland cannot support the text that was agreed upon by the EU Council on May 18th, 2004" - there is now a serious question mark over whether or not the Council can adopt the text previously agreed. Currently, the formal agreement is held up over "translation difficulties" (there is currently a backlog of texts being translated into the official languages of the EU); however, it is politically more difficult to officially adopt the text when the support appears to have evaporated.

A senior Austrian politician has also come out against the idea of software patents - Othmar Karas MEP is particularly worried about the effects of the legislation on small & medium sized businesses. MEPs from the Austrian Socialist Party (SPOe) and the Austrian Green Party joined Mr Karas in his criticism of the Council directive.

Finally, you may have noticed that Linus Torvalds has again voiced his opinion on those who would see Europe accepts software patents (he and Alan Cox had previously written an open letter expressing their opposition in September 2003). A UK patent attorney has accused Torvalds of being "unaware that copyright can only protect software code and not software" - the patent industry is realising that they may not get their way on this issue. - Polish jury on SWPat: nul points.,39020651,39174908,00.htm - Austrians voice support for EU Parliament - Torvalds "slammed"

OSSWatch Briefings

OSSWatch are a body funded by the UK academic funding boards' Joint Committee for Information Systems (JISC) to "provide unbiased advice and guidance about free and open source software for UK further and higher education" (and, although they predominantly talk of "open source", their site does also refer to Free Software). They recently published a set of briefings about various aspects of Free Software, and would like to receive comments about their usefulness and the content. - please send any feedback to - the briefings themselves

OSC Launch

A new group calling themselves the "Open Source Consortium" launched recently, providing a collective under which UK Free Software companies may collaboratively tender for large public contracts. The take-up of Free Software amongst public sector bodies has, in the large, been poor, and the OSC aim to change this by addressing many of the common complaints identified ("no support", etc.). OSC is oriented towards small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who wish to bid for public contracts, but are not sizable enough themselves to win them: by working together, OSC hopes to drive take-up of free software solutions and compete effectively with the larger solutions providers (especially the large providers of proprietary solutions).

The FSFE-UK mailing list has also recently seen some discussion about the value proposition of proprietary software; in particularly, the eGovernment Unit spending many tens of millions of pounds on a content management system which appears to have raised costs for those who have adopted the system. With current Government guidance stating that Free Software solutions should be considered alongside proprietary and assessed on a "best value" principle, we hope that Free Software use within the public sector increases substantially over the next few years. - OSC launch PR - real cost of implementing proprietary systems?

AFFS Committee News

This month we sadly waved goodbye to Kevin Donnelly, who has served as Secretary since the last AGM until his resignation this month. The Committee thank him for all the work he has invested in AFFS, and wish him all the best with his future endeavours.

An acting secretary will be announced shortly to the AFFS-Project mailing list; they will hold office until the next AGM.

Dates from the Diary

  • Briefing/workshop on software patents & the DTI meeting
7-9pm, 13 December 2023
University College, London.
There is also a small post-DTI meeting.
  • First International Exim Conference 2005
23, 24 February 2024
Birmingham, UK
  • UKUUG Winter Conference
25, 26 February 2024
Birmingham, UK

Do you have an event that is related to free software? E-mail newsdesk at affs and we will publicise it.

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