: Unionize Free Software.

Today can be exploited by . We need to united free software development and collectively provide a counter to big and exploitative tech, that takes free software as gratis labor and undermines it as soon as free software developers demand anything in return - even if it's just to release your own source code depending on as .

Thus I present to you: "Unionize Free Software".

@csddumi I'd like to comment that my advocacy in response to seeing this exploitation of our labor is to advise being more mindful in regards to the projects we tackle.

Centralized services, JavaScript frameworks, big data analysis, etc are always the first things to be exploited. So try going more decentralized... Try making a GTK or Qt app...

This approach can go far, but sure. Not all the way.


Yeah, my concern about this proposal is that it seems to propose more centralization for free software, without addressing the dangers that come with centralization, such as the amplification of the effects of poor decisions, spreading the costs of them across many more people than just those who supported the poor decisions.


@TMakarios @alcinnz @csddumi

Well, those concerns should be somehow addressed. The idea is "united we are stronger than before", and without this or similar initiatives it is every #FOSS dev fending for themselves.

I think with "union" we shouldn't think too soon about traditional union structures that exist, where often there's indeed all kinds of centralization and abuse-of-power issues.

@TMakarios @alcinnz decentralization has become a buzzword more than anything else.

A decentralized system is just as likely to make a mistake that is amplified to all members of that system as a centralized one. The difference is in how these decisions are made.

I don't argue on the centralized vs. decentralized axis but on authoritarian vs. democratic. The more directly democratic a union is the better it's accountability and higher it's bus number is.

@TMakarios @alcinnz

The tools against corruption are well known:
a) Accountability
b) Transparency
c) Democracy

Decentralization does not mean decisions are not made, it just defines how they are made and decentralization does not necessarily entail accountability, transparency or democracy. Just decentralized, i.e. somehow shared decision making power.

@csddumi @TMakarios @alcinnz

> A decentralized system is just as likely to make a mistake that is amplified to all members of that system as a centralized one.

I don't know if that is true. O e problem with centralization is the consolidation of power. It doesn't matter how democratic something is if it has power and the ability to leverage that power from a central position it becomes more vulnerable/attractive to exploitation.

@thatguyoverthere @alcinnz @TMakarios when I say democracy, I mean direct democracy - which inherently is the opposite of consolidation of power.

When democracy is meant to be a republican organization you are right.


@thatguyoverthere @alcinnz @TMakarios

Regarding : It's already centralized. Not all of it and not in all parts but certainly when looking at a single language or framework and when looking at hosting, packaging, content delivery. And only a very small part of these centralized entities are republican or democratic.

For example:
- Hosting is
- Python is changed through
- JavaScript and web technology is governed by the
- is operated as a

@csddumi @alcinnz @TMakarios

Yes things are incredibly broken I agree. Github and npmjs are now properties of Microsoft, systemd is consuming the entirety of the linux ecosystem, something like 5% of all registered domain names point at amazon infrastructure, and governing organizations have become incredibly political.

I am not simply referring to the political parties of American politics when I suggest that democratization is not decentralization. The decision of the active voters in the system is imposed on others who rely on that system but haven't been given the opportunity to participate or don't have the time/technical experience to do so. In America, the decentralization we were supposed to have achieved was through states having the authority not granted to the federal government, but slowly more and more authority has been "democratically" handed over to the federal government resulting in less "decentralization" of power within the country.

For purely technical issues I think this is not necessarily a problem, especially if the only barrier of entry is expertise and a desire to participate. I think working groups to define and improve protocols and things like that can work in a democratic way without there being a risk of becoming authoritarian. However we're now seeing language policing in source code, political battles over who should be "represented" or "included" when considering software design decisions, and more and more centralization of authority over who can even have a presence or a voice on the internet or contribute to projects.

I don't know what the problem with Mastodon is, but there are plenty of other Activity Pub services people can choose from. is running on pleroma which I personally like more than mastodon, but I don't have any problem federating with masto servers 🤷 Perhaps you are saying they maintain control over the protocol I don't know. I know there are fedi services that include data not supported by mastodon (like bookwyrm), but I think masto users can still subscribe to their users and get updates. I haven't yet invested much time in fedi development although it is something I plan to do at some point.
@csddumi @TMakarios @alcinnz Also as far as for profit organizations leveraging #FOSS I think as long as they don't break with the license requirements they can do whatever they want. It would be silly to imagine that none of the ecosystem has been improved by some of these organizations. If you look at the linux commit history you will find a lot of RedHat employed engineers have contributed substantial code over the years, and many were paid to do so. Even MSBS has contributed. Also in spite of the fact that I detest their ownership of Github, Microsoft actually made more of the paid features free when they took over which is an improvement for those who want to use the platform.

@thatguyoverthere @alcinnz @TMakarios

is simply an example of the benevolent dictator for life.

In such a development system the final say over development rests with one developer, who is in that position because they were with the project at the beginning.

This position can become very powerful and controversial. The largest project is lead by Linus Torvalds - a BDFL.

@csddumi @alcinnz @TMakarios Anyone who wants to break away from these "dictators" is free to fork the code and go their own way though.

@thatguyoverthere @alcinnz @TMakarios

That's far beyond the point of the article.

We today live in a world where free software provided a lot of very useful software, which is used by a lot of and non-FOSS projects.

This software environment is the product of the largest business and leisure partnership in history - mostly to the financial benefit of the businesses.

@thatguyoverthere @alcinnz @TMakarios

And now these businesses have money and can translate that into political power.

It should be accepted and these developers should be given a seat at the table as equals. Because otherwise this system, this environment of hobbyists-buisness relations will be replaced by another proprietary era.

Just look at the proposals made in the article I refer to:
> could you fork the code and maintain it internally?

@csddumi @alcinnz @TMakarios This would depend on the chosen software license which is a matter of preference for the project creator. Being allowed to fork a project doesn't mean you can strip the license and close the source as many licenses protect derivative works. Some licenses (such as the WTFPL) are quite open in what they allow.

@thatguyoverthere @csddumi @TMakarios Though some nuance I rarely see noted: All licenses allow you to use your own fork internally without opensourcing it. It's when you distribute your compiled fork (or rarely, offer it for use over the internet) that some licenses kick in their obligations.

Which is a line drawn I quite like!

@alcinnz @thatguyoverthere @TMakarios

but it also means that a company like could stop open sourcing their forks of eventually.

And we have to remember that all of these license terms are just as strong as the copyright law that underpins it. After enough internal development a company might argue that their changes are sufficient to constitute fair use and thus they are no longer bound by the terms of the license that the original project was developed under.

@alcinnz @thatguyoverthere @TMakarios

Given that this would only happen after several years, the original developers would have a good chance of noticing. And they have to notice, because only they can make a claim for a violation of copyright and license terms.

Welcome to new Era of proprietary software growing out of an unsustainable free software culture.

@csddumi @alcinnz @TMakarios everyone can also stop relying on amazon to make elastic search easy. They have created a different kind of value (easy button) which people seem to prefer over self ownership. No one needs to use Amazon's proprietary fork either.

@thatguyoverthere @alcinnz @csddumi @TMakarios Amazon's fork of Elasticsearch is actually free software (Apache 2 licensed), whereas Elastic's isn't (SSPL, a "source available" license that isn't even OSI approved open source).

@mathew @alcinnz @csddumi @TMakarios right it looks like they’ve preserved the original license which it seems changed in 2021. This seems win win to me (they profit and the community benefits), but if they ever did decide to change their license it wouldn’t be retroactive so anyone with a copy could fork it and continue to preserve the apache license. This also applies to any situation where they start removing features or adding bloat too

We are moving our Apache 2.0-licensed source code in Elasticsearch and Kibana to be dual licensed under the Elastic License and Server Side Public License (SSPL)

@thatguyoverthere @alcinnz @csddumi @TMakarios Also, even before the license change, Elasticsearch was really "open core" rather than open source, as a number of key features weren't (and still aren't) available in the free version -- like the ability to configure a retention policy, for example, or authenticate via LDAP, OIDC or SAML.

@mathew @thatguyoverthere @alcinnz @TMakarios

The problem is that there is a trend towards controlled and sustained by . And if controls and sustains these projects, what motivation do they have to keep them ?

Why wouldn't they just stop making them - arguing that they have invested enough that they are no longer bound by the old licenses.

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> to limit or define what constitutes “proper”,“sustainable” or “reliable” free software is to limit these freedoms by limiting how they are exercised “properly”, “sustainably” or “reliably”.

I say that because of just such considerations: Free Software shouldn't change the problems that it works on just in order to avoid exploitation. Instead we need to challenge the exploiters and demand equal and fair treatment. Whether this means that big tech should open source the projects they developed based on or that they have to financially support developers depends on the developers themselves

@csddumi I can appreciate such a viewpoint, but I do question the utility of these most-exploited domains.

Centralized services require, even more than anything else, require additional governance to deliver the benefits of free software. Not to mention p2p tech is advancing...

JavaScript (or rather the DOM) I don't view as sustainable, once Google for whatever reason looses interest the ecosystem will crumble.

And the only valid use for big data I see is science...

@alcinnz those are fine arguments and discussions to have.

But I do not think we should build these considerations into the system for sustaining free software.

Sustaining Free Software should not change free software's subjects - the freedoms of the developers.

@alcinnz @thatguyoverthere @mathew @humanetech @TMakarios I posted a summary and my response to the arguments provided in this thread in a response to the post on the Forum:

@csddumi @alcinnz @mathew @Hyolobrika @humanetech @TMakarios I don't think I disagree that people should be able to protect themselves from perceived exploitation. I think forming an organization to do that makes perfect sense, if a group of people who maintain software wish to do that. Where the concept of unionization seems to fall down for me is the idea that any one group could ever be representative of all hobbyists or professionals. I have been denied a job (in trades) due to not being a member of a union before too so the term comes pre-loaded with some negative connotations for me I'm sure.

I still say that proper license selection should be all that is required. If there is no suitable license for your needs, I am sure there are avenues to create a new license model more inline with your particular concept of free software. One thing I don't know if you have considered is that many of the people hired by these big companies are the same hobbyists who in their free time also develop software off the clock. If they felt like their labor was being exploited by the company they could always coordinate a protest or walkout to make some noise. I've never heard of anything like this happening except for the political noise you sometimes hear out of facebook or twitter (also opensource powered companies who have "given back" to some degree).

Keep in mind I do not like these companies. I feel a little icky defending their use of community developed software as non-exploitative. There are plenty of other ways we are all being exploited by them. I just think our licenses should say what we mean, and if they don't that would be a better area to focus some attention than trying to get everyone to wave the same flag.

@thatguyoverthere @mathew @humanetech @alcinnz @TMakarios

Waving the same flag. I can certainly see why my proposal would could lead to this - as long as we persume that:
a) these groups would be closed gardens with strong gate keepers
b) that there was only a monopoly or duopoly of them
c) that only a monopoly or duopoly could act effectively.

I don't think any of these assumptions need to be true. There can be multiple of these groups - only coordinating when the need arises.

@thatguyoverthere @mathew @humanetech @alcinnz @TMakarios

A great example of exploitative pratices regarding is probably - which also highlights a problem with the argument, that you just need to tweak the license and everything will be fine.

Because as long as copyright infringements (and thus license term violations) have to be declared by the copyright holder - giving them the sole responsibility to enforce these license terms in a court of law.

@thatguyoverthere @mathew @humanetech @alcinnz @TMakarios

I'm personally unable to prosecute anyone violating license terms on my copyright - at least at the moment.

@csddumi @mathew @humanetech @alcinnz @TMakarios @Hyolobrika I'm not really sure what they've done wrong from a #FOSS perspective. From an organizational and cultural position sure, I think they were stupid not to go ahead and just start an open federated instance, but as far as I am aware they broke no rules. If people are mad because Trump is benefiting from their labor of love, that's a political issue and I don't really have much interest in being part of all that. The way it looks they aren't doing so hot anyway. It would say a lot for any politician to setup and maintain a freely accessible #fediverse instance in my opinion, so I am still hoping they'll undo whatever dumb shit they did to avoid federating and just become another instance in the many instead of trying to be the next twitter.

@thatguyoverthere @mathew @alcinnz @humanetech @TMakarios

The problem was that did violate the terms of AGPLv3 that Mastodon is licensed under. They claimed all the source code that they used was their proprietary property - while using Mastodon.

The problem here is that this had to first be established and the rule breaking then had to be enforced by the Mastodon gGmbH.

@csddumi @mathew @alcinnz @humanetech @TMakarios @Hyolobrika yeah I remember the dust up, but no one had actually broken any rules when the community found they were using mastodon. Their terms of service, which may or may not have been a final draft suggested they owned some portion of the code, and maybe they were planning to avoid attribution and release of their source, but the site wasn't actually in use yet. it was a huge ordeal to a lot of people on purely political grounds and so a big stink was made. As I recall they have released their code at this point and acknowledged they are using mastodon and I think soapbox. At the end of the day it looked like they might have been considering trying to play coy and act like they wrote the whole platform, but a simple letter pointing out that would be a license violation seems all that was required to nip that in the bud. It's possible that wasn't even their intent, and I'm even willing to suggest the people put in charge of that project are literally retarded and didn't know any better. We'll never know because before they went live they complied with licensing requirements.

It is possible they were planning to rip people off, and if they had done so the license would have provided a legal pathway to resolution.

@thatguyoverthere @mathew @alcinnz @humanetech @TMakarios

You are of the opinion that all that will be necessary to institute any fair relationship between and their dependents is the choice of license.

Once a license is chosen, they can only be changed with a lot of effort.

I mean, look at Linux. Today updating the license to GPLv3 or any other license will almost be impossible, because there are too many contributors.


@csddumi @mathew @alcinnz @humanetech @TMakarios @Hyolobrika yes, changing the license should be difficult. If we are building software for the free software community we can't get upset when people we don't like participate in what has historically been an open community. This is similar in my view to the way protection of speech rights should be handled. I would even go so far as to argue free software is an extension of free speech. I believe people have the right to speak their minds, but I don't try and silence people I disagree with.

@thatguyoverthere @mathew @alcinnz @humanetech @TMakarios

So, why do you think that unforeseen situations may undermine the spirit of the license but not it's wording?

@csddumi @mathew @alcinnz @humanetech @TMakarios @Hyolobrika I'm not sure I know what you mean? What spirit of the license was undermined? I think that if their ToS remained as it was before they released their source when they went live without disclosing they would have broken with the license agreement. It's possible too that they were ignorant of this fact before the letter from Mastodon. Their ignorance would not have protected them from a license infringement, but at the end of the day they fulfilled their obligations prior to opening the platform up for registrations.
> but the site wasn't actually in use yet
There were screenshots of people using it, mostly for spamming it. But it was indeed in use so it did violate the license of mastodon (AGPLv3) but AGPLv3 has a 30 days compliance period for releasing the source code and thus they had to wait 30 before sueing truthsocial.

And they did release it after 30 days so it's a non issue.
@colinsmatt11 @alcinnz @humanetech @mathew @Hyolobrika @csddumi @TMakarios I didn't know anyone actually used the platform prelaunch. That almost supports my "they are idiots" theory. If they were planning a huge reveal and people just found their way onto the platform that was probably not intentional. But as you say either way they did comply with license requirements once confronted.
AGPL and most of the licenses don't care about intention, they care about only one thing, the distribution which in this case was happening and thus licensing terms were applied.

And accordingly to few people it was likely available for testing purposes.

@colinsmatt11 @thatguyoverthere @alcinnz @humanetech @mathew @TMakarios

AGPLv3 might only care about distribution. But developers do apply it with an intention. And is there intention to provide free labor to big tech?

That's upto developers, they own the copyright so they have to decide that.
@csddumi @colinsmatt11 @alcinnz @humanetech @mathew @Hyolobrika @TMakarios the intentions of the developer are encapsulated in their chosen license. Of they choose a license that is more permissive then they intended then they can move to make changes down the road similarly to how the Elastic Search guys did. Sure the more popular a package is the harder it may be to alter the license, and depending on the situation such a change might cause some fragmentation (forks) but ideally we choose a license that aligns with our goals from the start.
Goals change overtime so does licenses, that's why controlling your copyright is the most important part according to me.

I will never sign a CLA to contribute to some project.

@colinsmatt11 @thatguyoverthere @alcinnz @humanetech @mathew @TMakarios

We're getting a bit away from the topic here.

The question I wanted to discuss was:
How can free software be sustainably developed?
Without agreeing on an answer, we have found consensus on some criteria that this answer should have:

- Accessibility of any scheme should match or even be greater than the accessibility of contributing to free software is today
- Decentralization of decision making. Any scheme shouldn't require loyalty to some organization.
- Independence of Big Tech. Any scheme should work with or without the consent of Big Tech.

@colinsmatt11 @alcinnz @humanetech @mathew @Hyolobrika @csddumi @TMakarios oh yeah I don't mean to suggest their ignorance would protect them legally, just simply that intent is something worth considering when making a personal judgment on a particular action. I was unaware they had made it available. Given that they did then I agree they violated their obligations. But it seems the mechanisms in place for conflict resolution worked without issue.

@thatguyoverthere @mathew @alcinnz @humanetech @TMakarios

And had Mastodon gGmbH (and only them) not sent a complaint they would have continued to be violated.

That's my problem with licenses: They can only be enforced by the holder of the copyright that they relate to. Which for anyone without access to lawyers or legal experience is a high threshold.

@csddumi @mathew @alcinnz @humanetech @TMakarios @Hyolobrika Maybe a good place to put attention then is on how to make the courts more accessible to the average citizen. I think this is something that extends beyond simply software development and speaks to a much larger systemic issue. I do think the license holder should be the one who has the right [and responsibility] to call out infringement since they are the only one who has any claim to damages, but I also think that you make a good point about how difficult the law can be to navigate.

@thatguyoverthere @mathew @csddumi @humanetech @TMakarios @Hyolobrika At which point its worth noting The Software Freedom Conservancy does litigation (mostly just threats) for the projects under their umbrella. Also they're advocating for courts to allow impacted users to be able to bring these cases, which I've seen a little controversy over since that doesn't have any basis in copyright law.

@alcinnz @mathew @csddumi @humanetech @TMakarios @Hyolobrika

Very cool. Pertinent to the discussion, here is actually the Vizio case where end users rather than the license holder are being represented in court based on the user [consumer] rights protected by GPL.

The GPL is a copyleft license that ensures end users the freedom to run, study, share, and modify the software. Copyleft is a kind of software licensing that leverages the restrictions of copyright, but with the intent to promote sharing (using copyright licensing to freely use and repair software).

Software Freedom Conservancy, a nonprofit organization focused on ethical technology, is filing the lawsuit as the purchaser of a product which has copylefted code. This approach makes it the first legal case that focuses on the rights of individual consumers as third-party beneficiaries of the GPL.

“That’s what makes this litigation unique and historic in terms of defending consumer rights,” says Karen M. Sandler, the organization’s executive director.

According to the lawsuit, a consumer of a product such as this has the right to access the source code so that it can be modified, studied, and redistributed (under the appropriate license conditions).

“We are asking the court to require Vizio to make good on its obligations under copyleft compliance requirements,” says Sandler. She explains that in past litigation, the plaintiffs have always been copyright holders of the specific GPL code. In this case, Software Freedom Conservancy hopes to demonstrate that it’s not just the copyright holders, but also the receivers of the licensed code who are entitled to rights.

@csddumi It looks like as far back as 2015 Debian has been working with the Conservancy to delegate authority to take action on copyright claims.

Conservancy can now accept assignment agreements or enforcement agreements for any Debian contributors who choose to join the Aggregation Project. Currently, Debian developers interested in this program can contact The DPL and Conservancy are working together to create a self-service system for filing the paperwork.

@alcinnz @Hyolobrika @TMakarios @humanetech @mathew

@alcinnz @csddumi Also have a look at licensing. An AGPL-Licensed Javascript Framework is much less likely to be exploited that the typical MIT/APL2 licensed ones.

That said: When I get permission to release a tool as Free Software that I built on the time of my employer, the license is APL2.

I won’t complain when I get paid by my employer to build Free Software.

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