Bonum Certa Men Certa

Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) is Facilitating a Hostile Takeover by Corporations (Privatising Free Software)

Video download link | md5sum 989d6ee61c6398bf072bba30c65de7a2 Outsourcing GNU Piecewise Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0



Summary: The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), which is trying to take 'business' and funds away from the FSF (also from SFLC, which sued it over that), helps IBM/Red Hat and the corporate front groups take over important GNU projects, typically under the guise of providing security and funds (financial security)

THE MONEY tends to make things toxic in the Free software world.

James Bottomley (IBM) wrote about it less than a day ago and we've already witnessed how IBM uses its "donations" to the FSF as a form of blackmail ("do what we say or lose money!").

Lately, some awful things were done by awful people who had defamed the founder of the Free software movement. They wanted to forcibly remove him and, failing that, to forcibly remove projects they're connected to from GNU and/or the FSF. In the process they detached copyrights and caused chaos, mostly benefiting employers such as IBM. IBM likes to behave as though it owns GNU! It's all about money to these people...

"Lately, some awful things were done by awful people who had defamed the founder of the Free software movement."Earlier this month there was a shouting match culminating in this week's message and about 18 hours ago LWN liberated (outside the paywall today) last week's article, which mentions what it was all about and gave access to video. It says "yelling from the audience made it clear that there was some disagreement at this point — disagreement that had never been expressed during the month-long mailing-list discussion."

There's an unspoken-about conflict of interest, as the author is in the Linux Foundation, which pockets or gains control over these projects. I mention this in the video above. Similarly, many of the comments come from kernel developers/enthusiasts, so there's an inherent bias. At one point the author and editor admits "Funding from the LF" when he writes: "Through the end of 2019, LWN received some travel sponsorship from the LF that enabled us to get to events and was much appreciated. For some strange reason we stopped travelling in 2020 and that sponsorship ended; we have received no funds from the LF since that time. So the claim in the above comment is not really true. We might see if they are willing to renew the travel money at some point, but we have not even asked that question. The steady stream of "I got COVID" reports coming in from the events of the last two weeks has not increased our urgency on that point."

The video above makes it clear that this account of events is tilted in favour of the corporate allies.

"There's an unspoken-about conflict of interest..."The modus operandi isn't too hard to grasp. First, small grassroots communities develop good software. Over time it gains a lot in adoption, including corporate absorption (downstream and upstream, it's even in billions of products). But these corporations are then tempted to take over the entire thing, not just hire the key developers. They're taking over the governance, copyrights, maybe even topping it with obligatory software patents (obligatory to employees recruited from these projects).

In 2018 we saw Linus Torvalds temporarily ousted (and brought back in a lower position) from his own project and a year later Richard Stallman (rms) suffered the same fate, albeit less temporarily. For corporations, kicking aside project founders (like rms) and the FSF is the 'natural' next step. It's like a process of gradual privatisation, turning the Commons into "intellectual property".

The author says "Red Hat could turn evil someday (though he sees no signs of that now) and it is good to have a contingency plan."

Saying there's "no signs of that now" is missing the full picture; Red Hat is just a drone of IBM and many managers at Red Hat came from Microsoft following a massive and still-ongoing staff exodus.

"There are a lot of interesting comments, and almost 99% of them are from LWN subscribers, i.e. people who pay LWN."I've not watched the video of the controversial "debate", but this comment notes: "Looking at the video of the talk, that was egregiously unprofessional. I just cringed..."

There are a lot of interesting comments, and almost 99% of them are from LWN subscribers, i.e. people who pay LWN.

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