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FSF France activity report

The FSF Europe presence in France exists since April 12 2001, and produced an activity report covering April and May 2001. This report covers June, July and August 2001. If some subjects are obscure, you can get back to the previous report to better understand them. We took care to keep the same headlines to ease cross reference.

During those three months we established many contacts, informally or on actual actions, with Free Software organization or individuals around the world. All of them were possible thanks to APRIL (national), FSF (international) and FSF Europe (European). Our actions can now extend to Portugal, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, South Africa, Japan, China, Hungary, Czech Republic, India, Korea, Mexico, United States and Canada.

We attended to events, the most important being LSM and produced a sustained advocacy effort coordinated with other organizations. Actions previously engaged (Savannah, Savannah and Europe, freedoms, GPL translation, GNU information, Technopole Logiciel Libre) made significant progress. New actions were also started (patents, education, science, electronic voting, press review, GNU and Debian), most of them mainly undertaken by associate organizations.

Our involvement in the GNU project grew with contributions to the web standards, the fact that the machine is now used as a secondary DNS for the domain, evaluation of candidate GNU packages and heavy contribution to the maintainance and evolution of Savannah. We also benefit from the infrastructure of the GNU project since our domain, mailing lists, CVS tree etc. are hosted on other GNU machines.

Political and legal actions are also doing fine since we had opportunities to stress the importance of legal protection of Free Software, met with government officials occasionally. To be completely honest we cannot really claim a noteworthy achievement on this front.

Last but not least, it is now established that FSF France activity is ruled by a steady flow of volunteers, contributing their time in occasional burst and happy enthusiasm. Around ten volunteers motivated themselves to fight for Free Software with us in the past three months. This may seem very few people and yet we achieved to do a significant amount of work. Nowadays every good will counts and your action can really make the difference, as long as you can spare some time to drink a beer or relax between two sessions. We want to keep going in the long term and this requires a bit of fun from time to time.

On cooperation

The collaborative spirit described in the previous report is certainly our most pro-eminent achievement. Our motto could be that we don't undertake actions alone. It is better not to undertake an action if we fail to actually cooperate with Free Software movement people and organizations already involved.

Although this spirit makes sense in writing it requires a significant amount of effort. The syndrome of replicating effort does not only apply to software. Organizations also have a natural tendency to undertake new projects before searching for similar efforts, before actually engaging a dialog with people involved, before trying everything to cooperate.

The bandwidth of the brain is significantly higher than the bandwidth of the mail. If all the dialog needed to start a new project occurs in the brain of a single person, the project will take off rapidly, the first version will be available fast and bring some results within days. When you extend the dialog to other people and organizations, it gets significantly slower at first. Only later does it become faster and stronger. Yes, union is a force but it works slower and is not fit for the impatient.

A fairly good example is our involvement in the infrastructure of the GNU project. From the beginning we started with the idea that all our technical infrastructure should use and contribute to the infrastructure of the GNU project. The advantages are pretty obvious: why run and maintain Mailman, exim, ftp server, web server, CVS when those are already available and maintained by the GNU project ? The drawbacks are also pretty obvious: understanding the infrastructure of the GNU project, contribute to it so that it fits our needs introduces a significant bootstrap delay.

The machine we installed in France is now fully integrated to the GNU project, meaning that it is monitored and maintained by the GNU project. This a win for us. It also runs the secondary DNS for domains. This is a win for the GNU project. Mailing lists and web site for FSF Europe are managed by machines in Boston. This is win for us. People involved in the system administration of the machine in France know the infrastructure of the GNU project and can contribute to the maintainance of other machines. This a win for the GNU project.

This may seem an example that is of no great consequence but in our eyes it reflects the essence of cooperation. It's slower but it makes us stronger. This example is also chosen on purpose because we believe that technical heterogeneity is often the first obstacle to cooperation on non technical matters. Say, for instance, that two Free Software organizations want to share their calendars to coordinate their political actions. If they use technical tools that are significantly different it may prove inconvenient for them to actually do it. We are not saying that it is a major problem, we are not saying that everybody should use the exact same tools or nothing. We only acknowledge that cooperation on a technical infrastructure is a win/win situation that also removes an obstacle for cooperation on non technical matters. Given the fact that we have scarce resources at all time, there is no reason to discard this advantage.


Translation of the GNU GPL in French (previous report).
Interviews of Mélanie Clément-Fontaine (french, 19 May 2001), and Benjamin Drieu (french, 17 May 2001) about the translation of the GNU GPL were conducted to keep people informed of the progress made so far.

Till Jaeger and Axel Metzger, two German lawyers in contact with the FSF Europe are also following and participating to this project. They are working on launching a similar effort in their country.

During the Libre Software Meeting in Bordeaux, Eben Moglen came to express his vision of the future of the GPL. A workshop involving Mélanie Clément Fontaine, Eben Moglen, Bradley M. Kuhn, Anne Østergaard and around twenty people interested in the subject allowed to clarify very important points. Eben Moglen stressed the fact that it is important that the translation matches the following constraints:
  • It must not be used as a legally binding license, it must remain informative, the English version being the only one that has a legal force.
  • It must not be bound to contract law

Volunteers: Mélanie Clément-Fontaine, Benjamin Drieu, Frédéric Couchet, Olivier Berger, Sebastien Blondeel, Loïc Dachary, Till Jaeger, Axel Metzger.

APRIL (FSF Europe associate organization) launched a call for action to encourage people to act against patents. They propose specific actions and provide all the material needed to strongly react against the report given to the french government that is in favor of software patents.

Late June, Richard M. Stallman was in Paris and proposed an idea for a program against software patents.

On the subject of patents we follow the lead of APRIL and AFUL.

Volunteers: Frédéric Couchet, Jérôme Dominguez.

The four freedoms (previous report)
A steady flow of people are participating.

Volunteers: Raphaël Rousseau, Loïc Dachary.

Hilaire Fernandes and other volunteers joined the GNU project and created the education section of the GNU project. They established contact with Canadian and Chinese activists involved in providing Free Software for educational purposes.

Hilaire published an essay (in french) about Free Software and education. Verbatim copy is permitted and encouraged. It also contains a detailed history of the Free Software movement.

On the subject of education we follow the lead of OFSET. Many people are involved and their actions deserves an independent activity report.

Volunteers: savannah list

Joris Van der Hoven initiated an APRIL working group to support Free Software in science. He works for a french university himself and advocates that software made while conducting a research financed by the government should be released as Free Software. The very spirit of research does not fit well with the restrictions imposed by proprietary licenses. Besides, citizens are not too happy when they have to finance the research and buy the product when it is released.

A list was created ( to discuss this subject.

Volunteers: Joris Van der Hoven, Gilles Veillon, Jeremy Nestel, Jérôme Pansanel

Community Positioning System (Coposys).
Olivier Berger proposed a project to visualize Free Software friends around the globe. Cyril Bouthors implemented and installed a first version and hundreds of people registered from all over the world.

Volunteers: Cyril Bouthors, Olivier Berger.

Electronic Voting
An information page on electronic voting issues was produced to highlight the importance of Free Software in these matter. We do not have the ambition to spend time to try to solve this enormous problem at present. We merely keep in touch with french people interested in the subject and store information.

Volunteers: Olivier Berger, Loïc Dachary.

Press Review
Nicole Ciry and Gilles Veillon launched the project of gathering french articles about Free Software. They produced a methodology, explained it in a web page and gather a copy of the first articles. Those articles are sent once a month to the FSF in Boston and the first shipment was made early July.

Volunteers: Nicole Ciry, Gilles Veillon.

GNU project information relay (was GNU help desk) (previous report)
In the previous report this was listed as GNU help desk which was kind of inaccurate. The proximity of french people involved in the GNU project makes it easier for other french people to get involved in the GNU project, in a way or another. Some developers come to us for various points related to the GNU project:

  • A software they wrote is being evaluated for inclusion in the GNU project. These requests are handled thru the mailing list.
  • They wrote a software and wonder what it means to become part of the GNU project.
  • They would like to help in the system administration of the GNU project.
  • They have an idea to improve the infrastructure of the GNU project.

We had many contacts are related to these points. Here are the two most pro-eminent.

Loïc Dachary got involved in the evaluation of a software that wanted to become part of the GNU project (phpGroupWare). It was the occasion for him to get practical experience of this process in order to better answer questions.

A pretty long thread regarding the rationale of the evaluation process and other issues related to GNU was launched by Denis Barbier. His critic views and comparisons with the Debian process are very valuable, specially since he is not a member of the GNU project. To be completely honest no visible modifications of the GNU project are a direct consequence of this discussion. Mainly because Loïc Dachary is postponing this for no other reason than lack of time.

Volunteers: Loïc Dachary.

GNU and Debian
French people involved in the GNU, Debian and FreeBSD project met to drink a beer and share their experiences. This was a chance to know each other and discover possible cooperation grounds. No report of this meeting is available, unfortunately.

We had another opportunity to meet and discuss during the LSM since the Debian conference 1 was hosted by LSM.

As a direct consequence of these talks, some concrete things happened. That may not be all, but that is what we are aware of. Of course we discussed a lot about the philosophical issues that keep the GNU and Debian organizations apart. The GNU project would like to see the explicit support of non free software removed from the Debian social contract and identification of the software packages in the main part of Debian that do not qualify as Free Software according to GNU. Solving these issues is an on-going effort on both sides. The Debian community also has some claims for the GNU project and Denis Barbier voiced some of them.

Volunteers: Raphaël Rousseau, Loïc Dachary, Olivier Berger.

Technopole Logiciel Libre (previous report)
Frédéric Couchet maintains good relationships with the Technopole Logiciel Libre. A result of this cooperation was the interview of Philippe Carpentier on Internet actu video newspaper. The Technopole Logiciel Libre was also invited to LSM where Philippe Carpentier made a speech to explain the goals and philosophy of the project.

Philippe Carpentier proposed to launch a European contest for Free Software and is working on this idea with Frédéric Couchet.

Volunteers: Frédéric Couchet, Loïc Dachary, Philippe Carpentier, Pierre Jarret

Savannah and Europe: CoopX (previous report)
The contacts we had with hosting platforms similar to Savannah in France triggered the creation of a working group called CoopX.

The goal of this working group is to define an interchange format between hosting platforms. SourceForge, phpGroupWare joined the working group shortly after its creation. CoopX was also pleased to welcome TuxFamily, a cooperatively run hosting facility run by french volunteers.

Although we are a founding member of CoopX, the project itself is neither hosted nor ruled by us. It is a strictly cooperative effort and every group willing to participate actively is welcome. Even non free software groups, as long as the format is decided cooperatively and released under a license that has the same qualities as the GNU FDL.

Volunteers: Loïc Dachary, Christian Bac, Samuel Tardieu, Dan Kuykendall, Tim Perdue and many others.

Links with Free Software organizations

In the network of Free Software organizations we actively worked to establish contacts in order to be able to actually do things in a coordinated way. The ideal situation would be that each organization in a given geographical location is able quickly establish contact with any other organization over the world for a given action related to education, software development or political issues. The following list is a map of the network involving at least one person from FSF France or APRIL.

At present we cannot claim any world wide coordinated action but we sincerely hope it will happen, on the subject of patents for instance. Do you want to take the lead ?-)

FSF France is tightly bound to APRIL and we had four meetings in the past three months. Two meeting reports are available.

A Free Software organization (AGIL) is being created in Portugal. A lot of discussions with APRIL were engaged to share their experience. A similar dialog is being established with Masayuki Ida to create a Free Software organization in Japan. Masayuki Ida will be visiting France in October and he wants to meet with APRIL activists on this subject.

Matthias Saou, former president of the french organization ALDIL moved to Spain recently and agreed to act as a liaison with Jose Marchesi and GNU Spain.

GNU project (previous report)

Usenix award
During the 2001 Usenix conference in Boston, Robert Chassel received an award in the name of all the contributors to the GNU project. We are proud to broadcast this award to all the people who contributed to the GNU project thru FSF France recently, by installing the first machine of the GNU project outside the US ( or by contributing to the hardware upgrade of Savannah (

Rodolphe Quiedeville, Cedric Valignat and Jean-Louis Bergamot are also doing occasional system administration on the GNU machine in France and were very efficient when handling a minor security alert. Cedric is now taking care of the Internet connection of the GNU machine in France and is in contact with Joel N Weber II for this purpose.

Volunteers: Rodolphe Quiedeville, Cedric Valignat, Jean-Louis Bergamot, Loïc Dachary, Joel N. Weber II, Frédéric Couchet.

Savannah (previous report)
The installation of the new hardware allowed Savannah to grow. It is now serving more than 200 projects and around 1 500 members joined it.

The most important event is that Savannah is now open to Free Software projects that do not (yet ;-) joined the GNU project. This allows candidate packages to the GNU project to develop and grow while going thru the application process. At present 87 such projects are hosted on Savannah.

Now that phpGroupWare is dubbed a GNU package, the perspective of migrating the software used to run Savannah under phpGroupWare is more likely to become a reality. At present, there is no concrete plan in this direction but it is actively discussed.

Volunteers: Loïc Dachary, Jaime Villate, Guillaume Morin, Joel N. Weber II, Mark H. Weaver.

GNU Search
As of today the GNU search team was created to maintain and improve the search facility of the GNU project. Cyril Bouthors, Igor Genibel and Helios de Creisquer launched this project. They started as volunteer system administrators of the GNU machine in France ( By doing simple tasks in this context they became familiar with the GNU project and proposed to become more commited to the infrastructure.

Volunteers: Loïc Dachary, Cyril Bouthors, Igor Genibel, Helios de Creisquer.

Joel N. Weber II monitored the machine during a few weeks and found that it could do a reasonable secondary name server for the domain. He installed it about a month ago and it's running fine. Should the north American continent disappear the domain will still be resolved :-}

Volunteers: Joel N. Weber II, Loïc Dachary, Cyril Bouthors.

Events and advocacy

We would like to acknowledge the countless advocacy efforts made by people tuned on the FSF France mailing list. All of them would deserve an entry in this report, laziness is the only reason why they do not show. We miss some bits such as interviews (Europe II Bordeaux for instance) we never had a chance to listen. If you heard about them, please send us a note.

Microsoft FUD (previous report)
We relayed press releases. RMS speech was translated and broadcasted. We did not do anything significant at the national level.

Unisys studies Free Software (previous report)
Unisys politely dismissed our help proposal to write the report, although they invited us to feed them with data. That was not what we wanted.

Richard M. Stallman suggested that the best course of action would be to publish an article explaining why the study conducted by Unisys could be biased. Nobody took the task and the report is probably finished by now. We failed on this advocacy issue.

BBC World
BBC World wanted to interview a Free Software advocate for a television show in London. We proposed that Phil Hands speak in our name. A short time frame did not leave much room for cooperation and it turned out that the journalist really wanted a confrontation between the proprietary world and the Free Software world. At present it is still unclear what the result will be. If you ever see the show, let us know.

Volunteers: Phil Hands, Richard M. Stallman, Frédéric Couchet, Loïc Dachary.

Le Journal du Net (previous report)
This well known french online newspaper changed their category entitled Open Source to Logiciel Libre. We are not entirely happy about the accuracy of their articles but they show a good will that we find remarkable.

FAQ hardware producers
Marc-Aurèle Darche and Philippe Coulonges wrote a FAQ to inform hardware producers about the advantages of Free Software drivers. This is the first work that involves a cooperation between APRIL, AFUL and FSF France. Marc-Aurèle Darche deserves all the credit for making this joint effort a reality. Although FSF France will not endorse the document produced because it partially advocates for the Open Source movement, working on it allowed us to contribute to the ideas related to Free Software.

We will keep the draft directory alive even after the release of the FAQ to show how it evolved. In my eyes it is a nice example of the fundamental difference between the Open Source movement and the Free Software movement. Some people claim Free Software and Open Source are two words on top of the same movement ? Check the first version of the document, rather Open Source style and the second version proposed, more Free Software style. You will see a visible difference in the spirit and very few differences in the wording.

Volunteers: Marc-Aurèle Darche, Philippe Coulonges.

The french government defines a list of software accredited to provide encryption. During LSM Werner Koch asked for volunteers to register GNUPG. Some people show interest to do that but the action did not start yet.

Sebastien Blondeel is attending CEENET in Hungaria (August 20). He will bring goodies from APRIL and FSF Europe and spread the word in our name. He will meet Shooby Ban who is potentially interested in launching a Free Software dedicated organization. People attending CEENET are not specifically interested in Free Software, that makes his mission even more interesting.

Volunteers: Sebastien Blondeel.

We engaged a discussion with Unesco on the subject of their Free Software portal because we feel that its content is problematic in many ways. The people are responsive and we sent them a proposal to replace the license page.

Volunteers: Loïc Dachary.

SourceForge and VA Linux
We are helping VA Linux to produce a copyright assignment form for SourceForge authors. The experience of the FSF in this matter is valuable.

Volunteers: Loïc Dachary.

Propriété intellectuelle , Copyright, Brevets, logiciels libres
A special issue of the french magazine MULTITUDE was published on the subject of copyright, patents and free software. It features articles from Richard M. Stallman and Eben Moglen and many other Free Software advocates. Frédéric Couchet and Benjamin Drieu were very involved in making this special issue a reality.

Volunteers: Frédéric Couchet, Benjamin Drieu.

Libre Software Meeting
The event was far too rich to summarize in this report. To our knowledge it is the only event in the world exclusively dedicated to Free Software and organized only by volunteers. Hundreds of users and developers from all around the world attended this event. When compared to events like LinuxWord where at least half the people and organizations present are indeed interested or involved in non free software, it makes a huge difference. Some pictures were taken for the record. Next year event will be organized together with the FSF France, with technical help from the GNU project.

We had the opportunity to meet people involved in Free Software organizations from all over the world.

Frédéric Couchet and Carl W. Vilbrandt organized and participated to the Law, Economy, Politic and libre software session.

Frédéric Couchet introduced the FSF Europe to the audience in a one hour speech.

Loïc Dachary was an informal spoke-person of the AFSM during the AAUL meeting.

Loïc Dachary shortly spoke about Savannah during the Libre Software for Communication session.

The FSF France actively participated to the discussions of the APRIL members Convention. Jaime Villate and Ruben Leote Mendes also attended the event in the name of the future Free Software organization (ANSOL will be the name) that is being created in Portugal.

INJEP is launching courses for administrations and non profit organizations in France. These courses are co-financed by the government and cost 500 F for one day. Benjamin Drieu and Jeremy Nestel did some work on a three days course on Free Software at the initiation level. Although not certain yet, this can lead to a cheap way for people to be introduced to the Free Software tools. This project is at a very early stage and volunteers are very needed.

Volunteers: Jeremy Nestel, Benjamin Drieu, Frédéric Couchet.

Information infrastructure

FSF Europe migration

The FSF Europe web was migrated to the machine. This was mainly done to ease the maintainance process of the web and increase the page generation rate without risking to overload the machine which is already hosting the GNU web site.

Volunteers: Frédéric Couchet, Loïc Dachary

Contact Database (previous report)
This area was rather neglected and did not progress much. The situation improved a little since Bradley M. Kuhn explained in detail what we would need and made contacts with Dan Kuykendall on this subject. We also discovered that XML Vcard was published earlier this year by W3C and this will definitely be the format on which we will be working.

Volunteers: Bradley M. Kuhn, Loïc Dachary.

Web standards
A script repository was created so that directories on various GNU machines handling web sites can use them. The first script to enter the arena is a symbolic link builder for CVS HTML pages.

The task of improving the web standards is enormous. However, it is a very rewarding since it brings results rapidly.

A rather unexpected improvement comes from the hardware FAQ. The authors use the technical infrastructure of the GNU project to publish their drafts. Since the source format is DocBook, we had some interesting exchanges on formating issues. It appears that the machine now has a proper set of software to produce output from DocBook sources. Since there also exist a translator from DocBook to texinfo, one might be tempted to write DocBook documents from now on. This is food for thought, there are many issues to consider, one of which being the relatively immature state of the Free Software DocBook formating tools.

Volunteers: Jaime Villate, Paul Vischer, Loïc Dachary, Richard M. Stallman, Marc-Aurèle Darche

Audio and video repository
A large audio and video repository was created. The primary purpose is to store the FSF Award 2000 video file (1.2Gb) and 400Mb audio files. There is a total of 22Gb available.

Volunteers: Loïc Dachary

News channel
The RSS based news channel of FSF France is available on FSF Europe. Olivier Berger enhanced it to display only the latest news on the front page and all the archives in the news subdirectory.

They are now dispatched on a daily basis by mail on the and mailing-lists (resp. in english, and in french). This allows people interested in Free Software movement to keep informed of FSF France activity. To subscribe to this mailing-list, send a mail to with the subject "subscribe"

Volunteers: Olivier Berger, Loïc Dachary


Donations (previous report)
We did not chase donations and (what a surprise ;-) nobody sent a cent to FSF France in the past months. The good news is that we did not spend any money either.

Cyril Bouthors and Noémie Roche worked hard on the tax deductibility issue. The papers were sent to the administration and we are waiting for their answer.

Volunteers: Olivier Berger, Raphaël Rousseau, Frédéric Couchet, Loïc Dachary, Noémie Roche, Cyril Bouthors.

Business Cards
A new set of 200 business cards was produced for future events.

Volunteers: Frédéric Couchet

Loïc Dachary

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Updated: $Date: 2003-02-28 16:16:22 +0100 (Fri, 28 Feb 2003) $ $Author: loic $