Introducing the Licensing team fall intern: Albert Sten-Clanton
As background, I began my professional life as an attorney. I conducted a solo practice for several years, then became a computer programmer at what was then the Bank of Boston. I programmed at the bank for approximately fifteen years, until my department was eliminated because of the merger with Bank of America.
I've been passionate about freedom for almost all of my life--freedom, equality of rights, and other things required for a proper blend of what we can call justice. I did not think much about software freedom, though, or copyright, patent, and trademark laws in general, until I heard Richard Stallman speak about the matter once or twice in 1998; I was an easy convert.
The wisdom of these new views hit me directly a little later though. I am blind, and use a "screen reader" program to get speech output. At the bank, I programmed primarily on the mainframe. For a while, I used a screen reader that gave me fairly good access to the mainframe screens, but crashed a lot. When that program bit the dust for good, I had to get a replacement, which gave me really poor access to those mainframe screens. I could improve some things with scripts, but to really make it work well clearly required some changes to the core software. There were apparently very few blind people working on mainframes at the time, and it didn't take long for me to realize that my problems didn't matter very much to the company making this screen reader. I also knew that, even if I'd known how, it would have been illegal for me to modify my copy of the program to meet my needs. As much as I wanted to make money programming, I decided that this was the wrong way to do it.
I have used several GNU/Linux distributions to one degree or another over the last eight years. My GNU/Linux journey has often been slow and its terrain full of rocks, especially the sharp stones of non-visual access problems and bad or absent documentation. My passion has driven me to persist, however, and now, because of the work of a lot of people, I've traveled from a place where I needed proprietary software to do anything important to one where I always give free software the first crack at a job. It gives me great pleasure when I can do a job better on my GNU/Linux box than on any Windows machine I have ever used.
One reason I applied for this internship is to get a far better grasp of free software licensing. To this end, I'm about to begin work on a sort of manual to help people ensure that their software complies with the relevant GNU licenses. It is much better when we can help an individual or company fully comply with a license rather than having them seek compliance consultation after the report of a violation. It is a big project, but one I'm glad to have a hand in.
I believe this internship will accelerate my GNU/Linux journey and improve my ability to help others who wish to take that journey. I have the long-term goal of running a computer consulting business focused at least primarily on free software. I also have the narrower goal of being able to promote the use of free software among the many blind people I know who seem to believe that it takes expensive proprietary software, and the rehab dollars to pay for it, to help our small market flourish in this age of technology.
This internship is an exciting opportunity and I look forward to learning more about software freedom.
If you have any questions, you can reach me via our licensing address at email@example.com.
More information about the FSF's internship program is available at https://www.fsf.org/volunteer/internships.