There have been two high profile hacks in Australia recently, Medibank and Optus. Optus is one of the largest mobile phone networks in Australia. Hackers obtained details of identity documents for millions of Optus customers. The situation is so bad that all Australian states are reprinting driving licenses.
The first thing that came to my mind was my experience with Matthias Kirschner and his FSFE. In 2017, the community elected me as the Fellowship representative in FSFE.
Within a few days, I received concerns from John Sullivan, the Executive Director of the real FSF. He told me that the FSFE, the fake FSF, was impersonating the FSF, in other words, behaving like common garden variety identity thieves:
Subject: FSFE Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2017 09:50:48 -0400 From: John Sullivan
To: Daniel Pocock Hi Daniel, Congratulations on your election to FSFE's general assembly! I'm wondering, if as part of your new position, you have been briefed on the current issues between FSF and FSFE. I have been trying to discuss them with Jonas and Matthias for the last several years, but have gotten nowhere, and in fact things are now much worse than they were before. They made it clear at our last in-person meeting in April that they do not intend to change anything. In your post at <https://danielpocock.com/risks-of-using-proprietary-software>, you expressed some of the same concerns FSF has. So I'm reaching out to you in the hopes that we might be able to figure out a solution, and also to hear anything you can share about plans you have for trying to address your concerns from your new position. We could arrange a call, or we could discuss by email, if you are open to talking. Will you be at Debconf in Montreal? I am also attaching a copy of the agreement FSFE made with us in order to use the FSF name, in case you have not seen it. -john
In 2018, I completely resigned as the Fellowship representative and I resigned from FSFE altogether. One of the reasons for my complete resignation from the organization is the deception of a volunteer who gave them a bequest of €150,000. FSFE refuses to show anybody the documents from his will so we don't know if this money is really for the FSF or the FSFE. As the community representative, it was my job to ask questions about this money.
There are more emails to demonstrate FSFE knows they are deceiving the community but they keep doing it for as long as they can get away with it.
The emails below demonstrate some of their attitudes but the real reason is money. Looking at their financial disclosures, we can see that the name FSFE is giving them approximately €600,000 per year in revenue and of that, approximately €200,000 comes from small individual donations who are completely unaware of the FSF/FSFE identity fraud.
I suspect that between twenty percent and fifty percent of their funding would disappear if they stopped impersonating the FSF. Therefore, despite all the long emails about the issue, I don't think they will make any effort to change their name unless there is legal action from FSF or legal action from individual donors who have been deceived.
Google, Red Hat, Ubuntu and Mozilla are contributing about a third of the FSFE budget. These organizations are clever enough to know that Matthias Kirschner is impersonating and undermining the FSF. Are they incentivizing him to do so? Would they stop funding him altogether if he chose another name?
If you add up all the donations over 20 years, FSFE has received approximately €8 million by ripping off the name of the real FSF. That is more than the $A15 million ransom demanded by the Medibank hackers.
Jonas Oberg, the FSFE Executive Director, acknowledged that their original agreement with FSF was abandoned years ago, leaving them with no right to keep deceiving volunteers with a name like FSFE:
Subject: Re: FSF asking us to change our name II Date: Tue, 30 May 2017 15:31:39 +0200 From: Jonas Oberg
To: Bernhard Reiter CC: firstname.lastname@example.org Hi Bernhard, I largely agree with you, but I would like to ask for a clarification on this part: > I don't see why. We should ask them to establish the agreed cooperation. If I take an honest look at the framework agreement, I believe it's phrased rather favourable towards the FSF, and a lot of what we would like to see -- such as joint decision making on important issues related to Free Software -- isn't actually in the agreement aside from an intent to develop such a way in some hypothetical future. And I can truly see why the FSF believes we are in violation of the agreement, at least on parts. Our work on the Radio Directive and other policy work I believe is an example of work that according to the agreement should be carried out by the FSF, and not the FSFE. Our work on standards for cloud services is close to what's reserved for the FSF. On the other part, there are a number of activities envisioned from the FSFE which we don't do, or never did: operate the GNU Business Network, develop new free software, translate FSF position papers, recruit more volunteers for the GNU project, resell FSF merchandise, and so on. So the framework agreement, as it stands, is not being honored from any side. What I understand from you is that you think we can push more on this: We intend, in the future, after we have gained experience working together, to develop a system wherein these decisions are approved jointly by a specific list of several major FSFs. Essentially, our message could be that now, after 15 years, we have the experience of working together. It's not been a pleasurable experience, but we now know what the current tensions and activities are, which makes this a good time to now negotiate what such a system for join decision making would look like. Is that close to what you intend? Sincerely, -- Jonas Öberg, Executive Director Free Software Foundation Europe | email@example.com Your support enables our work (fsfe.org/join)
Here is one of the particularly stubborn and obstinate responses from the FSFE inner circle:
Subject: Re: FSF asking us to change our name II Date: Tue, 30 May 2017 15:01:52 +0200 From: Bernhard Reiter <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Hello, Am Dienstag 23 Mai 2017 10:39:00 schrieb Matthias Kirschner: > It is longer than I wished for thanks for the long writeup, it took me the reminder to actually read it, because the topic is long lasting and unpleasing. > In line with previous discussions in the GA, we believe a name change is > not something to be entered into fast or with external pressure the only > factor to account for. Still, we would like to be prepared and plan to > run such a process at a time suitable for us. We would also like to place > some distance between us and the FSF and prepare both organisations for > moving forward independently of each other. After reading my tendency is to not put much efforts into this and just keep the full name and the spirit. Why? Because it is very likely that our negociation partner has already become unreliable. So we will have to wait until the situation becomes more stable again. Chances may be that we cannot gain much for us and Free Software. > * To again raise our questions which we sent to the FSF last time, but > which were not answered (this time we will also make sure Richard gets > them). That is good. The central question stays: What is good for Free Software (and its positive effect on society)? > * To work with the abbreviation "FSFE" and not communicate the full name > from around the half year mark 2017 (A little bit like with the change > from "FSF Europe" to FSFE). My suggestion is to keep the full name. If there is anything happening we still have to tell our story no matter what name we have by then. So we might as well tell them as Free Software Foundation Europe. > * We plan the process for a potential "Organisational brand", including > working out the costs involved in this (now). > * We communicate our overall process and the timelines to the FSF and > negotiate with them regarding potential funding for these processes. Both may send a signal that we believe that there is a good chance that us giving up the "Free Software Foundation" namespace could actually be good for Free Software. And I don't believe that. It would be way better if we kept the spirit of cooperation and they leave parts of the world be. It seems we may prepare to resist some of FSF's future actions. And they might get the wrong impression that their pressure is having and effect. (Of course it has some effect, but an unequal one.) > * Together with the FSF, we agree to terminate the framework agreement > sometime later this year or as soon as possible. I don't see why. We should ask them to establish the agreed cooperation. (And wait until they are able to again.) And we can keep saying that we are sister organisations (for 15 years) anyway. > * Safeguard 3: We intensified communication about our work in relation > with FSFE 15 years (we hired a dedicated PR person for that). Sounds good to me. Best Regards, Bernhard -- www.intevation.de/~bernhard +49 541 33 508 3-3 Intevation GmbH, Osnabrück, DE; Amtsgericht Osnabrück, HRB 18998 Geschäftsführer Frank Koormann, Bernhard Reiter, Dr. Jan-Oliver Wagner
Subject: FSF asking us to change our name II Date: Tue, 23 May 2017 08:39:00 +0000 From: Matthias Kirschner <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Dear members, as we wrote in our last mail we have again been approached by the FSF to change our name. Below there is a summary of the situation as well as the proposed next steps. Please let us know if you have any questions. It is longer than I wished for, but we had several new people join the GA since the last time we discussed this. **Last weekend at the Legal Workshop in Barcelona, John from the FSF again asked the FSFE to change its name. As discussed before, we will not take such a step on request of the FSF, however we might at some point decide to change our brand for other reasons, of which one could be that it may become a risk to be too closely connected to the FSF.** # Proposed way forward In line with previous discussions in the GA, we believe a name change is not something to be entered into fast or with external pressure the only factor to account for. Still, we would like to be prepared and plan to run such a process at a time suitable for us. We would also like to place some distance between us and the FSF and prepare both organisations for moving forward independently of each other. With your support, we therefore start planing: * To again raise our questions which we sent to the FSF last time, but which were not answered (this time we will also make sure Richard gets them). * To work with the abbreviation "FSFE" and not communicate the full name from around the half year mark 2017 (A little bit like with the change from "FSF Europe" to FSFE). * We plan the process for a potential "Organisational brand", including working out the costs involved in this (now). * We communicate our overall process and the timelines to the FSF and negotiate with them regarding potential funding for these processes. * Together with the FSF, we agree to terminate the framework agreement sometime later this year or as soon as possible. * We run the organisational brand process after the organisational identity one, possibly slightly overlapping but not much. Most likely this would start towards the end of the second half of 2017. * In 2018, if the agreement from our brand process is still that we change our name (keeping the abbreviation FSFE or finding a completely new name), we introduce that name as soon as possible, and then gradually shift into it. The other outcome is that we continue to communicate as "Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE)". # Preconditions Our first option is still to find a solution so that the FSF and the FSFE can have joint decision making on some aspects of Free Software, then we would prefer this over separating the organisations. While the FSF currently adds external pressure, this is not *the* reason why we want to look into the options of a name change below. Beside that whatever we will work on about our identity, our brand, and our structure; the council's main goal is to primarily focus on our "normal work" which will reach people outside our organisation and let the other discussion have as little disturbance for that work as possible. # History At FOSDEM 2016 we had a meeting with the FSF. Participants were John Sullivan (FSF) and from our side Alessandro, Jonas, any Matthias. John told us there is just one agenda point from their side: their board firmly suggest we should rename ourselves and not use the name "Free Software Foundation" anymore. John explained they want to setup a structure like Wikimedia with a central body and local chapters. FSF believes from the message we have given them in the past that we would not see ourselves fitting into that structure. John said they could help us with the renaming and they would work with us on a joint announcement. After the meeting we had longer discussions in the GA and wrote a follow-up e-mail to John Sullivan asking them to provide us good reasons why we should change our name and how that will benefit the Free Software movement. The questions at that time were: - How will Free Software and the Free Software movement benefit from a name change? - What are the problems you currently see for Free Software by us using a similar name? - Will those problems be fixed by us changing the name? - Furthermore what disadvantages did FSF see when FSFE would use another name? - Which advantages did you see in comparison to the disadvantages? But we never got answers to those questions, as John replied several times that he did not yet manage to do that. Instead there were some several 1:1 talks between Jonas, Matthias, John, and some FSF board members on this. # Meeting during LLW 2017 Now at our Legal and Licensing workshop in Barcelona John again approached Jonas and Matthias about when we will change our name. First of all the FSF were unhappy about our press announcement we joined with the Linux Foundation, which announced some compliance tools including Shane and Armijn's recent book on GPL compliance which was released at our licensing workshop. According to John, they feel this is a violation of the framework agreement, specifically the part about the FSF-NA alone setting policy for free software licensing. They also find it troublesome because the FSF is trying to build a new relationship with the Linux Foundation in which they hope to get the Linux Foundation to agree to some policies or principles, and they feel FSFE having a better relationship with the LF lowers their chances of getting the LF to agree to their terms. We told John we disagreed with that assessment, and that on the subject of changing our name, we talked with the GA, and if we were to put this to a vote or discussion right now, the answer would be "No". Our preferred option is still that we can work together. But if he would like another answer, he will only get it if we, after a more lengthy process determine that is the right course of action for the FSFE and Free Software generally. John expressed his concern about that answer. # Making an offer from our side John Sullivan said he would like to prevent public fights, and said that when he leaves the FSF he would like to leave it in good relationship with us. He said he does not see any realistic chance that we can find common ground to work together as organisations in the same namespace. John asked us to submit a proposal how much a name change on our side would costs he "if that is 1 million we should state that" though although he does not know if we would get that (I have not calculated any costs yet, but I do not think we will be able to achieve that with anything less than 450.000€). # Instability in the FSF During the last months we learned about lots of power struggle inside the FSF. Eben Moglen, who had to leave the FSF before is trying to convince Richard that he should side with him; while Bradley seems to push Richard in another -- more radical -- direction. We expect the fight between Bradley and Eben to become very dirty. Furthermore in Barcelona we learnt that Richard's mother recently died. That can most likely cause more instability and unexpected decision making by Richard. We were also told that most of the people who backed Richard in the past meanwhile split and are not there for him anymore. Beside that some people apparently would like to get rid of John Sullivan as FSF's executive director. This would further harm our relationship as he is our main contact and the most mediate decision maker in the FSF, and in general destabilise the FSF as they loose a mediator. One person, involved a long time, said (s)he is very concerned about the developments in the FSF and that we should expect a public outburst soon. (S)he considers it important that there is "a home for people who care about user freedoms" when the ugly public fighting in the FSF starts. Several people Jonas and I talked to in the last months about a possible name change were very positive about that, and said an independent organisation like the FSFE would be needed globally. So we expect that those internal FSF fights can become quite ugly and it is not unlikely that parts of those fights will become public in the next months. The slight advantage for us, if we want to keep the name is, that they might be busy with themselves and not be able to have a coordinated position towards us. On the other hand, it can also mean that there will never ever be a joint way out of the situation we currently are. # Summary There is no different evaluation in the legal threats, but a higher likelyhood that a possible fight will get very dirty. The chances that they are interested in any further cooperation without us changing our name is very unlikely. Furthermore the FSF might soon take further steps. Due to internal power struggles and instabilities it might be better for every organisation caring about user freedom to be one step away from the FSF in the next months. It will get more and more difficult for us to "save the name of the Free Software Foundation" as first envisioned when something happens to Richard or the FSF. Therefore we suggest measures above to find a solution which would fit our needs but also work for the FSF, including a possible name change and how the FSF would contribute financially to it. As I said, if you have any questions or thoughts, please let us know. We know it is a difficult topic, and many of us feel emotionally attached to our name. Still, we get more and more the feeling we should reevaluate our former GA decision about how to act in this question. Best Regards, Matthias # Summary from 2016 # What results would a name change have? On the positive side changing our name could have some advantages. We could use a name which might be easier to pronounce then our current acronym. We could use a name which makes it easier for us to approach people who are not that deep in technology. It might have some advantages if we are not associated by name with the FSF, and we do not have to explain we are a different organisation. So in general it would be an option to do so. But it will be a significant change. For 15 years we worked to build up this name. People all over in Europe and around the world know us by this name. Many of them associated solid and good work with it. Even if they heard about us 10 years ago, whenever they would now hear about it they associated it with our past work. It would take us many years to build up a new name, and to make sure all the people who heard about us will associate us with the new name. Changing our name has the potential to throw back our political work for several years. For 15 years, contributors feel connected with our organisations. You and several other volunteers spent a significant time of their life to work our association, for Free Software Foundation Europe. It will be a challenge to build up such a feeling if we have a new name. Beside the communication part it involves lots of administrative work: we have to do the name change with banks, association register (who might want to check our charitable status at that time), other authorities, lobby registers, we have to communicate it to companies and organisations with whom we have contracts, gift matching programs, printer leasing, or other relationships. With the experience how much we currently had to invest to move to a new bank (although there we will have clear advantages later) this will be a significant time investment. Even if we keep the acronym FSFE it would mean a lot of work to update our websites, information materials like donation boxes, banners, roll-ups, or stickers. Changing our name we would also completely loose influence over the FSF namespace. Although the FSF did not really coordinate with us, our existence and our work influenced the way how they were able to work, and I believe it balanced it in a way which was good for the Free Software movement. If we ever think our current name hinders us more than it helps us in reaching our goal, we might decide to take all those steps, plus the one to decide what this name would be which we do not expect to be a fast process. But I want us to do such a process at a time we decide, and not when someone else decided for us we should do so. And after spending considerable resources in the last months to work on internal procedures and the handover I would like us to focus on our core topics for the next years. ## Can we legally be forced to change our name? No. A potential name change was already on the table two years ago. At that point Carlo already reviewed the situation, and I talked again with Carlo about it after FOSDEM. Here is his short summary: They could ask us to abandon the FSFE - Free Software Foundation Europe name only based on trademark or passing off, or even unfair competition. It would be a very long shot, since -- I have checked -- they have registered the trademark in Europe only way after our establishment. Therefore, while they have the right to use the name "Free Software Foundation" in Europe, they a) cannot prohibit our use of the name, on preuse basis. They can say we cannot expand our use of the name to other fields, which is hard to be claimed. b) they could attempt to establish another Free Software Foundation in Europe, but hardly they could call it "Free Software Foundation Europe", as that name has already be taken. FSFE is all the more taken. I would investigate whether to register it, anyway. So it would be a moot request by and large. On unfair competition and passing off, I think there is very little scope, and they should come to Germany to litigate it, where FSFE is established, very welcome. But that would be stupid, we can just settle for something more ambiguous. The advice is "keep calm and carry on". But we also got the advise that the legal aspect of the trademark is one part, but we should consider that "you fight clean, they fight dirty". ## Is the framework agreement valid? The FSF is using it to tell us that we are doing things wrong. But the spirit of the agreement was not met for many years already. There was almost no coordination on anything. Which would mean that the sub points are irrelevant, too. Still in 2016 we discussed that at there might be the situation in which we want to officially tell them that we do not consider the framework agreement valid. Especially if we have the impression they do not want to have a discussion under equals but just want to dictate us what to do. We can still cancel it without their agreement. The implications of that would be that we cannot call ourselves "sister organisation of the FSF" anymore. We would have to remove that from our websites. The plan was to tell them this but also tell them that we still want to talk with them about how to cooperate in future to work on our joint goals, but that we don't see the agreement being the frame for such a cooperation. * see attachment 2-cancel-framework.mkdn * see attachment framework-agreement.txt ## What Safeguards did we work on? As additional steps we worked to setup some safeguards: * Safeguard 1: Prepare Emergency Plan for Public statement (currently in SVN under /Team/Matthias/safeguard-1.mkdn in case the FSF attacks us publicly [this might soon need an update]. * Safeguard 2: Brief community leaders. We reached out to some some community leaders with whom we have a good relationship and talk with them about this under four eyes. This way we briefed people with the background and if it ever goes public, people can support us and our reaction will not be seen as just defending ourselves. * Safeguard 3: We intensified communication about our work in relation with FSFE 15 years (we hired a dedicated PR person for that). -- Matthias Kirschner - President - Free Software Foundation Europe Schönhauser Allee 6/7, 10119 Berlin, Germany | t +49-30-27595290 Registered at Amtsgericht Hamburg, VR 17030 | (fsfe.org/join) Contact (fsfe.org/about/kirschner) - Weblog (k7r.eu/blog.html)