February 16, 2005

A week of digital freedoms in a Linux pub

Author: Marco Fioretti

Linux Club Italia is both a
cultural association and a pub in the Ostiense district of Rome. The
pub doesn't just offer good drinks, food, and music. It is also the
home of all the Free Software-related projects of the association. A
particularly interesting project was last month's Week of Digital Freedoms.

The next time you are in Rome, check out the pub. It attracts normal people -- that 99% of humankind that wouldn't compile a kernel if their life depended on it -- in a relaxing, non-technical setting. Then, through talks, movies, games,
and book presentations, the Associazione
Culturale Linux Club Italia shows customers that software licenses matter, because they are an aspect of a bigger universe, in which everybody's
civic rights are at stake. The association's mission is to defend
Free Software, because it is equivalent to defending the freedom to
research and share knowledge, as well as basic rights like freedom of
speech and equal access to technology and information.

The Week of Digital Freedoms was a four-day parade of seminars, workshop, movies,
concerts, and talks. The
program was really a good summary of the Italian activities in the
fields of Free Software, unrestricted knowledge, and relationships
between IT and ethics. I could not attend, but I tried to learn as much as possible from
the participants.

The week started with a presentation on the dangers hidden in software patents and
closed formats and protocols, especially when they are used by public
administrations. The special guests list for this session included
Senator Fiorello
, long active in this area. Speaking of
politics, Giovambattista Vieri
presented E-VOTAlo, an open Web-based e-voting system whose
development plan includes voting by mobile phone or email. As far as
business is concerned, here in Italy several hundred small information and communication technology companies are already able to offer world-class solutions without a
huge structure, thanks to more or less customized Free and Open Source
Software (FOSS). Some of them have started to cooperate through the CIRS consortium, whose
president, Roberto Galoppini, was also present at the workshop.

The next day's program included a an explanation by Alessandro Rubini, the co-author of Writing Linux
Device Drivers
, of how embedded technologies are ubiquitous in today's
life, and how important it is that the software they use is Free as in
freedom. During this day the Non Maskable Interrupt Club, a
group devoted to the study of the long-term social and cultural
impacts of the major technological trends, presented the first complete Italian account of the whole SCO story, in the book NoSCOpyright - SCO versus LINUX, which is also available online
under an Attribution-Commercial-ShareAlike
. The last part of this
evening was more relaxed, being centered on a presentation, followed
by a tournament, of the Free multiplayer 3D tank battle game BZFlag. Besides Linux, the game also
runs on Irix, *BSD, Windows, Mac OS X and other platforms.

The Open Source cooperation model can serve as a model for the whole
service sector, according to a panel with speakers Stefano Maffulli of the Free Software Foundation Europe
and lawyer Barbara Gualtieri from the Florence office of the Centro Studi di Informatica Giuridica
, an Italian Center of Studies on law and IT.

The last day covered how traditional "intellectual property protection" models
are inadequate to deal with modern production and distribution
avenues. For example, the Italian Society of Authors and Editors
mandates that every CD-ROM for sale or public distribution must carry
its bollino (stamp), which must be obtained through an
awkward procedure. That's why Linux Club offered a
Bollino Howto, written by some members of LUG Roma. The document explains how
to distribute CD-ROMs with Free Software and documentation legally. Other representatives of the Italian activity in this sector were
the ANTIARTE anticopyright
, the Free Music label Anomolo, and the FLxER video mixer. ANTIARTE is lead by
the "dramatist judge" Gennaro Francione, who
in 2001 declared innocent some immigrants selling pirated CD-ROMs
because they had acted
out of necessity
. Anomolo distributes music of several groups,
both on CD and by making them freely available on a Web site in MP3
format. FLxER makes possible live video sharing and mixing; this
allows new forms of entertainment, but in a way that could
be seen as copyright violation.

Excellent software can be written and distributed worldwide
by groups of people over the Internet. Many related issues,
however, from legal protection to handling other forms of creative
work, are still dealt with locally. Thanks again to the Internet, even
small enterprises can cooperate directly today, no matter how far apart they
are. For these reasons, it is important to integrate
beyond national borders services and initiatives like those presented
in Rome. Wouldn't it be great if
CSIG, the Software Freedom Law Center and other experts worldwide formed one single
international network to offer technical and legal guidelines valid


  • Free Software
Click Here!