08.22.20

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Leak: FSF/FSFE Trademark Dispute (FSF Demanding That FSFE Should Change the Organisation’s Name)

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, FSF, Law at 4:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Using or misusing the FSF’s good name as a ‘cash machine’

Change

Summary: The FSF made demands for FSFE to change the name, the FSFE discussed the matter internally and Jonas Oberg, the FSFE’s Executive Director, wrote the leaked message (below) where he states: “So the framework agreement, as it stands, is not being honored from any side.”

SEVERAL months ago Richard Stallman told me that the FSFE’s relationship with the FSF was largely amicable. It was around this time that we also published FSF-Relationship-Framework.txt and explained why the FSFE taking money from Microsoft was potentially mean-spirited a move.

“…the FSFE taking money from Microsoft was potentially mean-spirited a move.”As it turns out, Stallman left out something that had happened 3 years earlier (and 2 years before he was pushed out, with the FSFE’s support for the coup).

Here is a letter from May 2017:

Subject: Re: FSF asking us to change our name II
From: Jonas Oberg <jonas@fsfe.org>
Date: 30/05/2017, 15:31
To: Bernhard Reiter <bernhard@intevation.de>
CC: ga@fsfeurope.org

Hi Bernhard,

I largely agree with you, but I would like to ask for a clarification on this part:

I don’t see why. We should ask them to establish the agreed cooperation.

If I take an honest look at the framework agreement, I believe it’s phrased rather favourable towards the FSF, and a lot of what we would like to see — such as joint decision making on important issues related to Free Software — isn’t actually in the agreement aside from an intent to develop such a way in some hypothetical future.

And I can truly see why the FSF believes we are in violation of the agreement, at least on parts. Our work on the Radio Directive and other policy work I believe is an example of work that according to the agreement should be carried out by the FSF, and not the FSFE.

Our work on standards for cloud services is close to what’s reserved for the FSF. On the other part, there are a number of activities envisioned from the FSFE which we don’t do, or never did: operate the GNU Business Network, develop new free software, translate FSF position papers, recruit more volunteers for the GNU project, resell FSF merchandise, and so on.

So the framework agreement, as it stands, is not being honored from any side. What I understand from you is that you think we can push more on this:

We intend, in the future, after we have gained experience working together, to develop a system wherein these decisions are approved jointly by a specific list of several major FSFs.

Essentially, our message could be that now, after 15 years, we have the experience of working together. It’s not been a pleasurable experience, but we now know what the current tensions and activities are, which makes this a good time to now negotiate what such a system for join decision making would look like.

Is that close to what you intend?

Sincerely,


Jonas Öberg, Executive Director
Free Software Foundation Europe | jonas@fsfe.org
Your support enables our work (fsfe.org/join)

A few days later the following message was sent from the FSF:

Subject: FSFE
From: John Sullivan <johns@fsf.org>
Date: 02/06/2017, 15:50
To: Daniel Pocock <daniel@pocock.pro>

Hi Daniel,

Congratulations on your election to FSFE’s general assembly!

I’m wondering, if as part of your new position, you have been briefed on the current issues between FSF and FSFE.

I have been trying to discuss them with Jonas and Matthias for the last several years, but have gotten nowhere, and in fact things are now much worse than they were before. They made it clear at our last in-person meeting in April that they do not intend to change anything.

In your post at <https://danielpocock.com/risks-of-using-proprietary-software>, you expressed some of the same concerns FSF has. So I’m reaching out to you in the hopes that we might be able to figure out a solution, and also to hear anything you can share about plans you have for trying to address
your concerns from your new position. We could arrange a call, or we could discuss by email, if you are open to talking. Will you be at Debconf in Montreal?

I am also attaching a copy of the agreement FSFE made with us in order to use the FSF name, in case you have not seen it.

-john



John Sullivan | Executive Director, Free Software Foundation
GPG Key: A462 6CBA FF37 6039 D2D7 5544 97BA 9CE7 61A0 963B
http://status.fsf.org/johns | http://fsf.org/blogs/RSS
Do you use free software? Donate to join the FSF and support freedom at <http://my.fsf.org/join>.

According to this, the FSF granted FSFE permission to use the name, based on the FSF-Relationship-Framework which we reproduced here a few months ago. In 2017, John Sullivan, the FSF’s Executive Director, sent an email to a newly-elected person from the FSFE’s general assembly describing how difficult it is to deal with people in FSFE. “It is clear from these emails that FSFE does not have the blessing of FSF to use the name,” the leak’s source tells us. Quite a few people seem to be familiar with this problem, which is somewhat of an ‘open secret’. The “FSFE has collected over 1 million euro of donations from Free Software supporters,” the source told us. “Using a name borrowed from FSF helped them get this money.”

“In 2017, John Sullivan, the FSF’s Executive Director, sent an email to a newly-elected person from the FSFE’s general assembly describing how difficult it is to deal with people in FSFE.”And it meanwhile looks like in Wikipedia FSFE’s self-promotional page has become a candidate for deletion, with the following anonymously stated reason: “Page replicates the organization’s own view of itself, almost transplanted verbatim from its own web site. Staff and members of the organization have been actively editing the page (see Reinhard Müller, Mxmehl). Name of the organization is in dispute, as they borrowed the name from FSF. The organization has less than 30 members, as listed on their own People page. Demographic data released by the last elected Fellowship Representative shows that interest in the organization is very limited outside Germany. Much of the organization’s work appears to be ambush marketing, for example, a city converts their computers to Free Software and the FSFE makes a lot of publicity trying to associate the decision with one of their campaigns, even if they were never involved. It is not clear what original work they have done themselves and therefore, without being either very big or having done some outstanding work of their own initiative, they are not particularly notable. If the page remains, it needs substantial work to include the history of the organization, how it has interacted with other organizations, volunteers and sponsors (Google) but there are not many Reliable Sources, as required by Wikipedia, to document those facts objectively.”

In recent years the FSFE has had a number of scandals for positions it took and decided to broadcast out in the open. Seeing that even the FSF is not happy with the FSFE’s stance, with hard evidence to prove it, seems reasonably newsworthy.

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