Raleigh, North Carolina: good BBQ and great outreach for free software knowledge
We recently posted a lengthy write-up of the licensing team’s activities in 2019. Although we have been really busy, we didn’t want to miss the chance to share some specifics about our activities in October. That month, members of our licensing and campaigns teams headed down to North Carolina to spread the message of software freedom. First, on the 14th & 15th, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) staffed a booth at the ATO conference where we reminded hundreds of people that freedom is better than just being open. Next, on October 16th, our licensing and compliance team held another Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar.
We had a great time representing software freedom at the ATO conference. ATO was a huge conference with almost 5,000 people from all over the world in attendance. We were fortunate to have prime real estate for our booth location, which was at a bottleneck right outside the keynote auditoriums, and it provided us with a constant stream of visitors. We gave away 200 Bash stickers, and we happily said goodbye to four adorable baby gnu plushies, along with many T-shirts and books. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring our new DRM dust jackets, and we only discovered this because someone asked for one. It was a very busy and full day of introducing people to the FSF and meeting our fervent supporters. As usual, we also hosted a meetup after the conference. Well over twenty people joined us, and we feasted on fried Brussels sprouts and boiled peanuts, among other tasty appetizers. Meetups are always a great time to socialize with free software supporters, and this was no exception, as we had staff from the GNOME Foundation, the Open Source Initiative, and the Software Freedom Conservancy in attendance. While chatting among peers, one of the attendees informed us about a barcade right around the corner requiring a picture of your face to enter the establishment, and that those images are allegedly shared with the police. Yikes! The idea of giving up your whereabouts so wantonly seems like a horrible activity to normalize.
Following the two days of the ATO conference, we hosted our CLE seminar. Attendees of the full day seminar got a comprehensive overview of copyleft and other practical concepts in the GNU family of licenses. They also learned about ethical considerations important to lawyers working with clients involved in free software, and other current topics in free software licensing.
After the morning pleasantries and an introduction by FSF program manager Zoë Kooyman, FSF executive director John Sullivan gave an introduction to the GNU General Public License (GPL). Next up Marc Jones, JD, in-house counsel and compliance engineer at Civic Actions, took the stage and discussed how the courts view the GPL based on a variety of precedent-setting court cases.
What followed was a quiz-show styled learning activity, "Malpractice! The Free Software Ethics Quiz Show!" hosted by Justin C. Colannino, JD, attorney at Microsoft, and Donald R. Robertson, III, JD, licensing and compliance manager of the FSF. You might find this an odd pairing, but the FSF has been working with Justin for several years, since before he went to Microsoft. Presented in the style of Jeopardy, this was a fun time for all, and it presented a platform for tangent discussions and interesting view points.
Pamela Chestek, JD, principal of Chestek Legal, next discussed the topic of trademarks and free software, delving into the governance of free software projects, the “forking” of projects, and some history of a discussion between the Mozilla Foundation and the Debian Project involving trademark. The day’s final talk was given by Donald, about the dangers of the current spate of license proliferation.
After the CLE, we hosted another meetup for seminar attendees. Given that so many of the attendees were lawyers in the free software space, the discussions and debates about the legal landscape surrounding software freedom continued on late into the evening.
Between the hundreds of conversations at the ATO conference, the chats among peers at the meetups, and the informative CLE, it was a fantastic couple of days for free software education. All fun and socializing aside, the CLE seminars are an essential component of the licensing and compliance team’s outreach and education efforts, and is the only CLE offered by a free software organization. We look forward to another CLE in 2020, and we hope to see you there!
To support work like our legal seminar series, here’s what you can do to get involved and help make the world a better place: