ⓘ Free Software Foundation Europe

Free Software Foundation Europe

ⓘ Free Software Foundation Europe

The Free Software Foundation Europe was founded in 2001 to support all aspects of the free software movement in Europe. FSFE is a charitable registered association under German law, and has registered chapters in several European countries. It is an official European sister organization of the US-based Free Software Foundation. FSF and FSFE are financially and legally separate entities. Since 2013 Google is the main sponsor of the FSFE.

FSFE believes that access to and control of software determines who may participate in a digital society. Therefore, the freedoms to use, copy, modify and redistribute software, as described in The Free Software Definition, are necessary for equal participation in the Information Age.


1. Goals

The focus of FSFEs work is political, legal, and social with the aim of promoting free software and the ethical, philosophical, social, political and commercial values that it implements. In particular, it

  • helps coordinating and networking other initiatives in the Free Software area.
  • helps companies to develop business models based on Free Software or fit existing models to it; it encourages companies in their evolution to Free Software. To make it easier for companies based on Free Software to be commercially successful, the FSF Europe also seeks to broaden the market for Free Software.
  • is actively promoting free software politically as Europe-based global competence center in dialog with politicians and press.
  • provides a contact point and orientational help on all issues regarding Free Software.
  • supports, coordinates and develops projects in the Free Software area, especially the GNU Project. It also provides computer resources to Free Software developers to enable them to continue their developments.
  • follows and seeks to influence legal and political activities that are contrary to the goals and values of Free Software.
  • works closely together with lawyers active in the Free Software area in universities and practices in order to follow and influence the legal discourse. Also it cooperates with lawyers throughout Europe to maximize the legal security of Free Software.

2. Example projects

Public Money? Public Code!" campaign

In September 2017, FSFE launched the "Public Money? Public Code!" campaign by publishing an open letter signed by other organizations and calling for European and national Members of Parliament to" Implement legislation requiring that publicly financed software developed for the public sector be made publicly available under a Free and Open Source Software license”. Among the 150 signing organizations as of July 2018, the campaign is supported by digital rights NGOs like Creative Commons, Open Source Initiative, Electronic Frontier Foundation, EDRi, April, Chaos Computer Club, and national chapters of Wikimedia including public figures such as Edward Snowden, Francesca Bria CTO of the city of Barcelona as well as public administrations like the City of Barcelona.

Software patents in Europe According to the FSFE, software patents for Europe are currently being pushed forward actively by a lobby gathering around the European patent office and the Business Software Alliance BSA, which represents the interests of the largest US companies. Software patents are considered by the FSFE to be a menace to society and economy and FSF Europe is actively involved in the resistance to such plans. European Union v. Microsoft In 2001 the European Union, through the DG Competition of the European Commission led by Prof. Mario Monti, started investigating Microsofts dominant position in the desktop operating systems. The Free Software Foundation Europe was invited by the EC to represent the stance of the Free Software movement. In 2004 FSFE was admitted as an intervening third party in the appeal against the decision of the Commission and, also representing the Samba Team, was one of the only two interveners to remain active in the proceedings from start to end. It provided strong evidence in court thanks to the effort volunteers like Andrew Tridgell, Jeremy Allison, Volker Lendeke and their lawyer, Carlo Piana. The case is now considered one of the leading cases in European antitrust. World Intellectual Property Organization The World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO is one of 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations system of organisations. Its role is to administer 24 international treaties dealing with different aspects of limited monopolies on knowledge. As an observer to WIPO and together with a global coalition of other players with similar goals, FSFE is working towards reshaping it as a "World Intellectual Wealth Organisation." FSFE Legal Team previously known as the Freedom Task Force The legal branch of FSFE that helps individuals, projects, businesses and government agencies find Free Software legal information, experts and support. FSFE Legal provides compliance, best practice, procurement and governance resources in-house, in partnership with FSFE’s associate organisations and through its extensive network of contacts including the Legal Network. Its mission is to spread knowledge, solve problems and encourage the long-term growth of Free Software. The FSFE Legal Team is also responsible for maintaining the Fiduciary License Agreement, a balanced Contributor License Agreement that makes sure the project remains Free Software.

Each month, FSFE publishes a newsletter, in multiple languages, of their activities that can be mentioned in public.


3. Structure

From FSFEs published "Self-Conception": "The people of the Free Software Foundation Europe FSFE, see ourselves as Europeans from different cultures with the shared goal of co-operation across cultures and of developing a common culture of co-operation from a regional to a global level. We form a non-profit non-governmental organisation and network that itself is part of a global network of people with common goals and visions. We are not representative for anyone but ourselves and our work. Our common work and dedication to freedom in all aspects of digital society is what defines us."

Internally, the FSFE has a consensus-oriented, team structure in which participation is determined by each persons willingness to participate and do work. A democratic and representative-democratic model functions as a fallback for when the consensus-based approach either reaps no results or a quick decision is needed.


3.1. Structure Legal structure

The FSFE has a modular legal structure with a central "Hub" organisation and the possibility of local legal bodies, called "chapters". The Hub is a charitable association "e.V." which is, by happenstance, registered in Germany.

As well as being in regular contact with the other FSFs, FSFE has a structure of organisations which are official associates. These are mostly national-level free software groups.


3.2. Structure Awards

In 2010 FSFE received the Theodor Heuss Medal in recognition of its work for freedom in the information society. The medal is awarded once a year in Stuttgart by a non-partisan foundation named after West Germanys first president.

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