04.30.20

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Platinum (Top) Sponsors of Copyleft Conf Are Companies That Attack Copyleft’s Father, Richard Stallman

Posted in FSF, Google, GPL, Microsoft at 8:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nothing says “copyleft” conference like a repeated GPL violator with a history of attacks on copyleft… at the very top of your page with a massive logo

Copyleft Conf
Source: 2020.copyleftconf.org/sponsors

Summary: If it smells like a rotten plot, then it might as well be one; software freedom won’t be guarded by companies that internally ban the GPL and coordinate public smear attacks on it (as well as its creator)

THERE is something truly disturbing going on at SFC. It’s not new. We mentioned it before. Other people also habitually mention it. SFC has a growing problem of trust or crisis of confidence because people out there aren’t sure what it stands for or who it stands for. Longtime readers are likely familiar with more recent blunders.

Why does SFC take Microsoft money? What does that mean to SFC? What might that say about the origins of Copyleft Conf and its purpose? Remember that in order to keep money coming next year (as well as other future years) they might as well be careful what they publicly say about Microsoft and about its record, e.g. bribery, antitrust abuses, work that kills people and various obvious crimes (with convictions).

The above may not seem like much; after all, it’s less than “slush funds” to Microsoft. But it’s a lot of money for SFC. It helps pay the rent, food and so on. It can make SFC almost dependent on Microsoft. And that’s a problem.

Remember that in politics or political spheres this is how the most classic and likely most common form of bribery works.

We’ve asked SFC for comment on this; we gave them a chance to explain or to clarify. Half a day later the Conservancy’s staff has not replied to this request for comment, so we decided to go ahead with the story and actually type it up. We also extended the offer for response several more hours. So remember; we politely reached out for comment, but they refuse to even explain the above. Microsoft is undoubtedly behind several anti-GPL campaigns, so SFC cannot just claim that Microsoft changed; Microsoft just gave them “some change” (small money or pocket money to Microsoft, but a lot to SFC). All those anti-GPL GitHub-based ‘studies’ remind us that the GPL-hostile agenda of Microsoft has only been taken up several more notches in recent years; those are all Microsoft. Microsoft isn’t only a GPL violator; Microsoft got caught several times.

Why is Microsoft’s name at the very top of a page of something called “Copyleft Conf”? We could go ahead and remark/criticise some of the speakers, but this article can be more powerful when it is impersonal, focusing on issues and companies, nothing ad hominem at all. The Linux Foundation likes to personify some of the bad things it does; that’s a trap. And we won’t fall into it.

So why is an anti-GPL company a “Platinum Sponsor” of this event? That’s an odd thing for something called “Software Freedom Conservancy” to do. But remember that those are the same people who pushed Richard Stallman out of the FSF. Notice how also Salesforce creeps it; it’s the company whose high-level staff did the same, pushing hard for Stallman to be kicked out along with anyone who supports him. This is well documented. So what the heck is this event anyway? Why is it controlled and led by such companies? And not for the first time (we mentioned this before, after the first such event); Microsoft and Google were there last year as well. Yes, the first one was also funded by Microsoft and one might theorise who came up with the idea of having such an event and raise funds for it. Yesterday the SFC wrote about it, as did few others online, mostly in social control media. The E-mail message from Deb Nicholson was reprinted by LWN and it says this:

URL: https://sfconservancy.org/news/2020/apr/29/cc2video/

In February, we ran our second annual [Copyleft Conf](
https://2020.copyleftconf.org/). Thanks to our program committee; Molly
de Blanc, Beth Flanagan, Bradley Kuhn, Deb Nicholson, Nithya Ruff, Josh
Simmons and Haralde Welte, the [schedule](
https://2020.copyleftconf.org/schedule/) was both bold and timely. We
are happy to announce that all the videos of this year’s sessions are
now [available for you to watch.](https://2020.copyleftconf.org/video)

This year’s [keynote](
https://archive.org/details/copyleftconf2020-sebro) was delivered by
[Tony Sebro](https://wikimediafoundation.org/profile/tony-sebro/), who
is Vice President of Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation, former
General Counsel of Conservancy, and serves on the Outreachy organizer’s
committee. In his talk, Tony wonders whether the community around
copyleft, like those around eschatology and Afro-centric hip-hop, has
lost it’s center and how we might entice new stakeholders to reinvest
in our shared values. His keynote is a great place to start with this
year’s videos.

We also want to especially thank Coraline Ada Ehmke for participating
in Copyleft Conf. She describes our responsibility as technologists and
shared her plan for building a movement to keep technology from being
used by bad actors. Both [her talk](
https://archive.org/details/copyleftconf2020-ehmke) and the [community
discussion](
https://archive.org/details/copyleftconf2020-ethical-lice…) that
followed are available to watch now. The passionate conversation around
ethical licensing was cited by many as a highlight of the conference
and we’re glad we were able to host it at Copyleft Conf.

In case you missed it, our first year’s keynote was Molly de Blanc.
She’s the Manager of Strategic Initiatives at GNOME Foundation. There
was [a Faifcast episode](http://faif.us/cast/2019/may/31/0×68/) where
Bradley and Karen discuss her talk, “The Margins of Software Freedom”
coupled with an onsite interview. Many of the 2019 Copyleft Conf videos
are also [available to watch.](https://2020.copyleftconf.org/video)

We have no way of knowing what 2021 will mean for in-person events, but
we will continue to advocate for and discuss copyleft as a tool for
software freedom — stay in touch by following us on [Mastodon](
https://mastodon.technology/@conservancy) or [Twitter](
https://twitter.com/conservancy) or swing by #conservancy on
freenode.net to talk with folks in real time, any time, but [especially
on Thursdays at 6pm UTC.](

https://sfconservancy.org/blog/2020/mar/12/virtualchat/)

About Conservancy

Conservancy is a resourceful, non-profit organization dedicated to
helping people take control of their computing experience by growing
the software freedom movement, supporting community-driven alternatives
to proprietary software and defending free software builders with
practical initiatives. Conservancy believes that the future of software
should be for everyone.


Deb Nicholson <deb@sfconservancy.org>
Software Freedom Conservancy

It may sound all happy and fun, but watch who sponsored this thing (huge logo of Microsoft at the very top; depending on one’s browser it can fill up the whole page!); the event’s message is shrewdly disguised as “ethics” and tolerance; but deep inside the people who run this event and sponsor this event know what they seek to accomplish. Remember VMware‘s deliberate GPL violations and cover-up that we uncovered earlier this week. SFC probably won’t resume litigation and there’s a strong Microsoft connection, which we explained this week.

Always follow the company’s or the institution’s revenue sources (clients, sponsors, venture capital etc.) to better understand who truly owns and controls them, at the very least by financial means post-financial crises.

I asked SFC, both in Mastodon (Fediverse) and in Twitter, why they deemed Microsoft a proper top sponsor (Platinum Sponsor) for such an event. They did not ever bother replying, so perhaps they lack an actual defense of this move.

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