Overview of 2008 regarding Free Software and related topics


The year 2008 was a plentiful year for Free Software. Over the years, it has become both a societal topic and a strategic challenge for companies and institutions.

Whether of international or local extent, new events related to the Free movement have taken place and these events have been met by a growing audience; the French government has finally taken up the issue of bundled selling; on the company side, Free Software went from the development phase to the adoption phase; major versions of famous Free Software have been released; several radio shows aimed at the general public have been made on Free Software...

Of course, all has not been for the best in 2008. For instance, the debates on the normalization of OOXML have demonstrated Microsoft's determination to fight on all grounds to ensure the defense its dominant position.

This illustrates the value of a structure promoting and defending Free Software and whose means are fit for such important stakes. In 2008, April continued to develop: April is today strong of over 4,000 members and a team of three full-time employees.

April thanks you for your support, and invites you to all the Free Software events and actions that will take place during this year 2009.

Four seasons of open formats and interoperability

At the beginning of January 2008, Microsoft apologized to its users who were outraged following the blocking by the Service Pack 3 of Office 2003 of some file formats considered as obsolete. At the end of January 2008, the W3C published the first work-document on HTML 5, which is an open format. The interview of Colonel Géraud by Tristan Nitot cite the use of open standards as the first reason for the migration towards GNU/Linux and Free Software at the French Gendarmerie: We are in an heterogeneous world. How do we do to dialogue in such a world? We use open standards!. The Attali report recommends to "Demand in priority at the European level the establishment of international norms that guarantee interoperability between Free Software and proprietary software, as part of the competition between software solutions."

In February 2008, the W3C celebrated the 10 years of XML, support of numerous open formats such as Open Document, SVG or Jabber/XMPP. On February 21st, Microsoft announced its new strategy setting forth interoperability but continues to exclude the Free Software world from accessing the formats and protocols used in Microsoft software.

In March 2008, the petition Open Parliament called the European Parliament to take on open standards and to promote interoperability in terms of Information Technologies. The "Raising Awareness" work-group within April adopted the SVG open format for the new version of Expolibre published as part of the "Free Festival" ["Libre en fête" in French]. Thierry Stoehr, the ELF FOO, starts the spring in Digne with open formats, if we need to mention only one of his numerous conferences. On March 26th, the first Document Freedom Day took place, as a day promoting open standards.

CinemaDNG and OMS Video, both open formats for video were released respectively by Adobe and Sun but the Ogg Theora format should have several advantages over them. The OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) approved KML, an open format for geographical information. On May 19th took place the Open Discussion Day which aims at promoting open protocols in instant messaging, and we obviously think of Jabber. In July 2008, the PDF format becomes an ISO standard. During August 2008 is held the sixth edition of the SVG Open conference in Nuremberg, with three days of conferences and workshops on this open format for vector images.

Thomson-Reuters, editor of the bibliographic reference software EndNote sues the George Mason University (GMU), for having done reverse-engineering on its data format in order to have interoperability with its own software Zotero published under a Free license. Tristan Nitot asks : In the expression "proprietary software", should we understand that the editor is owner of your data? In his article "YOUR data is in OUR formats", Thierry Stoehr highlights "free on-line services such as webmail sites, photo galleries, blogs, social networks, RSS feeds, alerts, calendars, agendas, office work, etc (...) What if tomorrow the site were to close? (...) Is it possible to export your data? Or are there held captive...

During the Open World Forum, Éric Besson (then French Secretary of State in charge of Prospective, of Evaluating Public Policies and of Digital Economy) announced that the General Referential on Interoperability [Référentiel général d'interopérabilité] shall be published by the end of the year. But he probably meant the end of year 2009, so let us confer in a year for the next edition of the four seasons of open formats and interoperability.

Handicap and accessibility

The year 2008 saw a multiplication of the initiatives related to Free Software and handicap.

The day-long events, the encounters, the conferences aimed at the general public, developers or professionals give an idea both of how taking into account the needs of disabled people can improve the accessibility of Free solutions, and also of how Free Software offers today reliable and relevant solutions for those who are disabled.

Moreover, the accessibility of the web has seen many communications, which led to the release of version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)

Those Free Software which are specifically adapted to the disabled's requirements are continually improving their reliability, while the Free resources - both software ones and educational ones - are also most relevant in some uses by handicapped people. For a synthetic overview, please refer to this specific resource file.

Amongst this year's conferences, let us note:

Over three years after the publishing of the French law n°2005-102 of February 11th 2005 on the equal rights and opportunities, participation and citizenship of disabled people, the decree that should clarify the details regarding the enforcement of the digital accessibility hasn't been released yet. In May 2008 was put on-line a petition for the electronic accessibility to public services asking for the publishing of the decree applying article 47 of the law of February 2005.

The Internet's Rights Forum (IRF)2 created in a new work-group in March 2008 on sustainable development in the Internet, whose work dealt in the first place the underlying issues of digital accessibility of web sites. April took part in this work-group. In November 2008, the IRF released its recommendation "Internet and sustainable development I: the accessibility of on-line communication services part of public services".3. This recommendation aims at helping the application of the decree regarding the article 47 of the law of February 11th 2005 on equal rights and opportunities, participation and citizenship of disabled people.

Unfortunately, as of today, this application decree hasn't been yet published.

Vincent Aniort and Aurélien Levy are accessibility experts and the creators - with Frank Galey - of the petition on digital accessibility of public services. With Frédéric Couchet, April's executive director, they met in November 2008 the French Prime Minister's advisor on information technologies to exchange on the electronic accessibility of public services.

In December 2008 was released the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) and was started their translation in French for 2009.

Let us note as a conclusion the arrival of WAI-ARIA, which is a specification currently being written that should allow to add accessibility to widgets.

Bundled selling

This year was plentiful in the struggle against bundled selling.

On February 28th, AFUL, April, UFC - QueChoisir and CLCV, called for a multiplication in the refund demands on software that is imposed when buying a new computer. A refund guide has been proposed. AFUL created for that purpose the "Racketiciel" work-group, to support the individuals who wish to get a refund for those software which they do not want.

The court decision in the first trial that UFC - QueChoisir issued against Darty was released on June 24th 2008. April produced a detailed analysis of it.

A plenary hearing at the DGCCRF4 was held on July 3rd. April put on-line a short summary of it and a press review.

Over the summer, several political comments were made in the direction of putting an end to bundled selling in computing:

  • Luc Chatel, the French Secretary of State in charge of Industry and Consumption said in an interview made by the newspaper "Le Parisien" on July 3rd 2008: "I wish that on the cost of a computer be seen the price of the pre-installed software, so that the consumers may chose and may get a refund for them".
  • Bruno Parent, the executive director of the DGCCRF5 reminded during the plenary hearing of July 3rd that "many trials are currently ongoing and will cost money to the manufacturers". If he did grant an additional thought period to the vendors' representatives, he also made very clear that it is "out of the question to wait two years before the [French] State takes its responsibilities"..
  • Éric Besson, the French secretary of State in charge of prospective, evaluation of public policies and electronic economy, wished in actions 64 and 65 of his "Electronic Plan 2012" for "a separated presentation of the price of the software and of the operating system [from the price of the computer]" and for "allowing the dissociated selling of the computer and its operating system and mounting a work-group containing players from the retail industry, consumer associations, vendors and software providers to organize a test as soon as the first quarter of 2009."

Also during the summer started the display of some details in shops. Following the DGCCRF's request, this detailed display should be broadened to all retailers. For the moment being, it is limited to some of them, and it doesn't always apply to all of one retailer's products. However, the situation is improving: Darty for instance has added a pink area on its labels to inform customers on the possibility of getting a refund. A link to their web site specifies some pieces of information regarding the refund. The FNAC also has a page containing some pieces of information. But this progress is only the beginning.

Of course, on the long-term, refunding isn't an acceptable solution; it is not normal to ask consumers to pay in advance a significant amount of money - that can reach several hundred euros - for software they do not want.

On September 3rd, Dell proposed a 180 euros refund in a mutual agreement, without the customer having to resort to litigation.

Still, despite all these initiatives, progresses and declarations, the situation hasn't moved sufficiently forward. On December 18th, AFUL, April, UFC-QueChoisir and the CLCV co-signed a press release to ask for Santa Claus to be generous for Christmas. Unfortunately, it seems he was very busy this year.

The suggested solution happens to be very simple: it lays in the optionality, which could be done technically by following Nexedi's solution. At the very least, this solution illustrated the technical feasibility of optionality- not to mention the interest for the French economy. Let us remind that DGCCRF, Luc Chatel and Éric Besson have all unanimously said to be in favor of such a solution. Let us hope 2009 will see their wish granted.

Open web, interoperability and browsers

2008 was a very positive year for the open Web. After the dark years of Microsoft's monopoly, the Free Software has continued to rise, forcing the lead player in the proprietary world to get back to work after the release of Internet Explorer 7 at the end of 2007 and the sources of disappointment it brought in terms of features and support of standards. More generally, there has been an increase in the support of standards such as HTML 5, CSS 3 and SVG in all modern browsers, whether they are Free (Firefox and derivatives), proprietary (Opera) or hybrid (Safari and to a lesser extent Google Chrome).

Internet Explorer 8 (Beta 1 released in March 2008, Beta 2 in August) is improving regarding standards and should follow the CSS 2.1 standards. But on the other side, nothing is announced regarding the support of CSS 3, SVG or HTML 5: Microsoft seems to be resting on its proprietary technology Silverlight to achieve what these emerging open standards can do. IE8 can still almost be seen as a good news, at least in that it can help the demise of Internet Explorer 6 and 7, whose low compliance with the standards hampered the progress of the Web.

June saw the release of Firefox 3.0, with the achievement of a world record. Firefox has now 200 million active users and exceeds in some countries 50% market share. In September, a thunderclap has shaken the world of browsers, with the announcement by Google of a new beta browser called Google Chrome. Currently only available for Windows, it was released in its final version in December. Chrome is largely Free and uses Apple's WebKit engine. Versions for GNU/Linux and Mac are expected for 2009.

Regarding standards, we can note the progress of HTML 5, which will provide browsers with features that were previously restricted to proprietary systems (native audio and video, canvas). These new features go hand in hand with a significant acceleration of JavaScript (JIT technology-Tracing). The combination of these two factors increases significantly the competitiveness of the open Web (based on open standards6) compared to proprietary technologies such as Microsoft's Silverlight and Adobe's Flash. It should be pointed out that all three engines of JIT-Tracing are Free (Google's V8, Safari's SquirrelFish and Mozilla's Tracemonkey). Opera and Internet Explorer, both proprietary, have no equivalent. Who dares to say in 2009 that Free Software is not innovative?


The year 2008 has seen an increase in the number of important events within the community. Launched in 2005, the agenda of Free related events exceeded 1,000 events in 2007 and 2,000 events in 2008.

Token of this dynamism, the 2008 edition of the Free Festival has been a success with nearly 150 events on the agenda of Free related events against 94 events in 2007. This festival aims to promote Free Software to the general public through a series of events. These events were organized throughout the French territory and were covered by the national press.

In January 2008, the ninth edition of the Linux Solutions exhibition took place. The exhibition brought together 200 exhibitors in the district of La Défense in Paris in an exhibition village of over 3,000m², including 500m² dedicated to associations. This village allowed for the community of Free Software to be visible for a professional audience. The next edition will occur from March 31st to April 2nd, 2009.

The eighth edition of FOSDEM was held at the Unviersité Libre de Brussels in February 2008. This gathering brings together the European Free Software developers for a whole weekend of conference. It was the opportunity for Patrick Michaud to talk about Perl 6, for David White to talk about the Battle of Wesnoth, for Andrei Zmievski to present PHP 6, for J. Tiberghien to talk of Crystal space 3D, for Charles Nutter to present Jruby, but also for S. Magnenat to talk about Globulation 2.

During the beginning of July 2008, the 9th Libre Software Meeting, in Mont-de-Marsan in the Landes region, has gathered over 4,000 attendees. It was organized by Landinux. This meeting was the pinnacle of the Free Software community through its "village of associations" and its conferences on topics such as Accessibility and Disability, Education and Popular Education, Health, Security and Network or System. The meetings were marked by the presence of Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project, which also appeared in Saint-Etienne and Belfort in November during two conferences. The 10th edition of the LSM will be held in Nantes in July 2009.

The Interlug-be barbecue took place on 19 July 2008 in Arlon, Belgium. It brought together representatives of different groups of Free Software users in French-speaking Belgium. Though they were invited, the Flemish groups of Free Software users didn't attend the event.

Paris Capitale du Libre, organized by the FNILL, was held in Paris' at "Maison Internationale" in September 2008. The event was the opportunity to combine conferences, stalls and the "Lutèce d'Or" award distribution for outstanding players of the Free Software scene. A special "Lutèce d'Or" was awarded to April for all of its work, in front of Eric Besson, the French secretary of state in charge of the digital economy.

The EuroBSDCon was held in Strasbourg on October 18-19. It brought together over a weekend aficionados of all BSD systems.

On November 29-30, the Ubuntu Party was held in celebration of the release of Intrepid Ibex. This event saw over 4,000 visitors, from the curious to the connoisseurs and the devotes at the "Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie" in Paris. It was followed on December 6-7 by the Fedora Release Party for the release of Cambridge.

On Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd of December 2008, the first Open World Forum was held in Paris. Guests from 22 different countries came to this new event, which showcased the achievements in Brazil regarding Free Software and explored the future of Free Software, through the discussions and recommendations of the "2020 FLOSS Roadmap".

Many important local events of importance could be noted. The association Breizhtux organized the first "Libre Software Meeting of Britanny" on April 19th and 20th in Saint-Brieuc. The event attracted over 200 visitors. The next such meeting will be held in 2009 in Brest from April 24th to 26th with the help of the association Finix. In June, the association BxLUG organized Free Software Days in Brussels. The 11th Free Software Days of the city of Lyon were held on October 16th and 17th, under the leadership of the ALDIL. The 3rd Mediterranean Free Software Meeting, organized by the association Linux Azur, took place in Sophia Antipolis in November. The Technological University of Reims organized Free Software Days on November 21st and 22nd.

A "free village" was organized by Chtinux at the Lille braderie on the first weekend of September, soon followed by the "Free Software village" of the Humanity Festival in La Courneuve.

In Lyon, the Artishow, a festival of Free cultures, took place from the 22nd to 28th of September, including a varied programming in different cultural places within the city which opened the debate on Free licenses for art.

Because of the municipal and cantonal elections in France held in March 2008, April launched its Free Software Pact campaign. Free Software supporters from all over the French territory met the candidates to introduce them to the stakes of Free Software. Amongst those that were elected, a total of 22 lists have signed the pact. In 2009 the Pact will broaden its scope to the European level with the European parliamentary elections.

Lastly, the appearance this year of BSD France, Free Béthune and of the MySQL User Group France - aka "Le MUG" - should be noted.

Free software and public policy

From a broad view, the French government has paid little attention to Free Software as such. The issue of bundled selling, which the government seems to finally take into consideration7, and the appointment of Eric Besson as French Secretary of State on the Digital Domain and his actions in this area are the best governmental actions towards Free Software.

In March 2008, Eric Besson, Secretary of State in charge of Prospective and Evaluation of Public Policies, received a new assignment: developing the digital economy. April welcomed the fact that the government finally appeared to consider that the digital domain is important, but denounced the narrow scope of this position, only focused on the economic issues.

This new skill has given rise to the "Digital Forum" ["Assises du Numérique" in French] and the resulting literature.

This "Digital Forum" has not focused much on software in general, nor to Free Software in particular. April took part in the plenary kick-off meeting on May 29th, through the intervention of its President, Benoît Sibaud, during the round table on e-government. Benoît Sibaud was also with the representative of WWF, and thus was the only personality from the civil society invited to speak at this conference. The transcription of his speech is available online. April has also participated to the "Software Forum" which followed and which was organized by the AFDEL as part of the "Digital Forum:

  • On the theme "Industrial innovation and R&D", Christophe Le Bars, Vice-President of April, attended the round-table discussion entitled "Intellectual Property: foundation of the digital economy?"
  • On the theme "Education & Training and Towards a Small Business Act", Alix Cazenave, April's Public Affairs Officer, participated to the round-table on E-government.

Following these conferences, Éric Besson released 27 ideas of work for his future development plan of the digital economy. These 27 ideas included two proposals in favor of Free Software from the Attali report: 20% of Free Software in government procurement, and the tax incentive consisting in considering Free Software as patronage. April, through its representatives, has had the opportunity to support these proposals when facing their author, when Éric Besson granted them an interview.

Unfortunately, these proposals have not been kept in the "Digital France 2012" plan introduced last November by Éric Besson. In an intermediate version to which April had got an access shortly before the official presentation, the plan did not even mention Free Software. However, although it had only very few mentions to software in general, the final version did include a finding stating the opportunity Free software is for France and Europe, as well as two proposals against bundled selling: the display of detailed prices and the introduction of a dissociation of prices, as desired by Luc Chatel and the DGCCRF8. However, the plan mentions in numerous occasions the topic of DRM, both as unnecessary and harmful for the development of legal offers but also as relevant for the film industry and the management of media chronology.

In addition to these events whose consequences are confined mainly to bundled selling, Free Software is mainly concerned by the problems associated with the standardization of OOXML, the non-publication of the General Referential on Interoperability9, and the new discrimination that could be brought by the Hadopi bill, following the DADVSI law.

The Hadopi bill - aka "Creation and Internet" - plans to punish the failure to secure the Internet connection, through the monitoring of unauthorized downloads. It does not revise in any way the DADVSI law (nor the legal protection of DRM, nor the Vivendi articles which penalize peer-to-peer), but claims to create a list of approved devices to secure one's connection: this is a new discrimination threat for authors and users of Free Software, and a new major hurdle for competition in this market. For this reason, and in order to obtain a revision - at least partial - of the DADVSI law, April meets the parliamentary members.

This bill's course was a chaotic one. After presenting the outline of the project and it being signed by the French Presidency, the bill went through a highly critical review by the CNIL10 and the French Council of State. After being planned for the first half of 2008 and it being submitted under the urgency act, the matter was in the end postponed until November, for a first submission in front of the French Senate. The discussions were short but turbulent, including questions about the security features of the connection. The bill must be considered by the French National Assembly in the first quarter of 2009.

Finally, in the absence of a public policy regarding Free Software, a roadmap entitled "2020 FLOSS Roadmap", was produced by the program committee of the Free World Forum. It includes a "public policy" section, with recommendations on legislation, e-government, innovation policy and society. Alix Cazenave, April's Public Affairs Officer, was heading this theme. The "2020 FLOSS Roadmap" is intended to evolve and benefit from all voluntary contributions.


2008 was a hinge year for the Free Software. "Since 2008, CIOs do not wonder if they will incorporate Free Software but when they do" is undoubtedly the sentence that best sums up this change. Free software raised from a development phase to an adoption one. Several studies published this year show this evolution of the software market.

Between May and June 2008, the Gartner firm surveyed nearly 300 companies in Europe, Asia and the United States. It concluded that 85% of respondents use Free Software and the remaining 15% will do so within 12 months. In a similar study, the Forrester institute and Bull revealed that Free Software is present in all application layers, both for enterprise and infrastructure related applications. Concerning industrial, Forrester note that all types of activities use free software solutions. Surprisingly, the manufacturing has the greatest level of adoption but the public sector, while he communicates a lot around the Free Software, he uses less.

Several important migrations to free software solutions were announced in 2008. It may be noted that the French Minister of the Interior, which replaced its proprietary messaging solution with free solution, based on Thunderbird /OBM [1], the Société Générale decision to migrate 54,000 of its workstations under GNU/Linux [2], or also the French Department of Defense's decision to migrate all of its 70,000 stations under Ubuntu [3].

With regards to investment, the acquisition of MySQL AB by Sun for 1 billion dollars, Google's investment in Free Software projects of 5.6 million dollars or, in France, the continuation of acquisition policies by groups such as Linagora (NetAktiv, AliaSource), were signs of a very favorable market for Free Software. They push a bit higher its economic viability.

The various events related to Free Software were the reflection of this evolution.

Linux Solutions 2008 hosted 200 exhibitors and around 10,000 visitors from 29th to 31st of January.

The Company theme of the Libre Software Meeting (from 1st to 5th of July 2008, in Mont-de-Marsan) allowed the 4,000 visitors to discover across 46 conferences a wide panorama of free solutions for the enterprise : from ERP to the decisional computing or to Geographic Information Systems, from free infrastructure (telephony, development, ...) to the free solutions migration feedback.

At the end of September, Paris Capitale du Libre (PCL) was an opportunity to meet some great names of Free Software World such as David Axmark, founder of MySQL AB, Sacha Labourey, Jboss Co-founder, or also the Vice President of the Apache Foundation, Sander Striker. PCL was also an opportunity to reward the interesting initiatives of the past year. Regarding the company, we can note the Lutèce d'Or award to the Meteo France portal developed by Atos Worldline, to the ERP5 Express Project and to Xerox for its Codendi project.

On 22nd and 23rd of October, it was in Marseille that Free Software professionals met together for the 2nd edition of SPLLOSS, organized by the network of PACA's Free Software specialized companies: Libertis.

Finally the year 2008 ended with a new show: the Open World Forum took place on the 1st and 2nd of December in Paris. Through its many conferences, this event led to imagine the future of Free Software. After these reflections, a 2020 Free Software roadmap containing 80 recommendations to industry was born.

2008 was the proof that Free Software in entering into companies. Its industry is structuring, the creation of a cluster of companies in Nantes, Bordeaux, Marseille, Avignon or Paris demonstrates it. Undoubtedly, this will allow Free Software to serve in a better way a market representing over 2 billion euros in 2011.

DRM and Treacherous Computing

In terms of DRM ("Digital Rights Management", but today it is primarily understood as a way to control the actions of a user - UCD Usage Control Device), the end of 2007 had already set the tone for 2008 :"Wal-Mart forces Sony and Warner to abandon DRM" "For EMI, it is no longer a problem. Soon, it should not anymore be a problem for Universal also, but for Warner and Sony BMG, this is far from certain. Sony is said to be more or less preparing a test to distribute MP3 while refusing for the moment to drop DRM, and nothing on the side of Warner."; "Sony BMG should sell MP3 without DRM... in stores"; "After a stock market tumble, Warner Music Group stops DRM". The pitch of the music industry about DRM as the ultimate solution when considering the DADVSI law project inevitably collapses. The surprise and complaining are obviously fake, they knew as well as we do that their way leads to a deadlock.

The past year is a long litany of data being lost or inaccessible because of DRM:

The whole is accompanied of dropout announcements:

Not to mention the fact that DRM aren't technically efficient: One more DRM circumvented... "Since yesterday,the Blu-Ray anti-piracy protection, the HD storage format (stands for high definition and high density) supported by Sony, is no longer securing anything." The failure is total: "Anti-piracy protections installed on the online music have failed : they do not avoid pirate downloads, while annoying legal users. The solution will not come from technology" (La Recherche magazine of April 2008 "The failure of anti-piracy software").

And about video games, the judgement is also clear-cut (« Interview: Good Old Games and the "idiocy" of DRM ». Users of the game Spore (limiting activations by a remote server to 3 times) rebelled: they propelled on Amazon the game in the top 10 worst games ever released, with over 90% of "bad" marks (1 star), with critics such as "No to DRM", "DRM (you are renting this game, not buying it)", "Do NOT buy this game!", "DRM makes this game un-buy-able".

Some are still looking how to transmute lead into gold (but for the moment being they are watsing their time and blowing their minds on it): the European Commission invents the chimerical "inter-operable DRM" ("UE: one license, DRM scheme to rule them all"). Tech Crunch decides: « The industry has been flat out unable to agree on DRM interoperability (the Coral Consortium was the primary hope in this area and has largely stalled). » On Slashdot, someone asks if we can make DRM with Free Software. Answers: oxymoron, impossible, antithetical, security through obscurity, trusted computing... Less funny, the Canadian Commissioner to Privacy explains that DRM "only controls copy and the use of content" (sic) but "collecting personal information and sending it to beneficiaries or to media providers, without the permission or even with a notification of the user" is just too much...

Meanwhile, the CBC Canadian TV opts for distribution without DRM via BitTorrent "CBC to BitTorrent Canada's Next Great Prime Minister"."We'll be the first major broadcaster in North America to release a high quality, DRM-free copy of a primetime show using BitTorrent technology."

In France, "DRM and DADVSI: the Council of State protects Free Software" following an appeal filed by April (cf "Ruling of the State Council on the "DADVSI Decree"- April's analysis"), and the District Court of Paris dismissed self-reports of StopDRM ("No prison for circumvention of DRM", "Deactivating a DRM: the DC invokes force majeure or self-defense"). DADVSI in 2008 is still dormant and unenforceable.

2008 has also been a year oriented on monitoring and attacks against privacy. Microsoft illustrated this with a patent system on health monitoring and the mental state of a computer user ("Microsoft also think to adopt the system on mobile phones and PDA so that people can be permanently monitored.") or the distant controling of the remote control in your living room. Alex Türk, President of the National Commission for Computer and Liberties (CNIL) isn't more optimistic : "The use of personal data gets more and more out of hand. Worse, there is a shift in attitudes: people do not realize the need to protect their information, thus their privacy.". Jean-Baptiste Kempf from the VLC team evokes "some codecs that regularly call back home". Even more revealing, at the U.S. Border airport, your laptop and your mobile phone have no right to privacy, especially if you are Arab or Muslim..

In addition, IT may be treacherous, as evidenced by researchers who succeeded in taking control of a pacemaker by WiFi (risks to the patient's life, and for his pacemaker settings and therefore for part of his medical records) or the discovery of electronic payment terminals compromised during their manufacturing that have helped to divert tens of millions British pounds. Even if sometimes it is not enough, like Nintendo learned at its expense, by deploying in pure loss a variety of treacherous computing schemes to prevent any modified code from running on a Wii.

The following are once again the worst examples for democracy this year: electronic voting machines and digital voting: no re-count, the manufacturer "Premier Election Software which admits that its voting machines are defective", security experts particularly explicit evoke "Hanging Chads, Hopping votes, Flipped votes, Tripled votes, Missing memory cards, Machine malfunctions, Software glitches, Undervotes, Overvotes. Reports of voting machine failures flooded the news after the last elections and left most voters wondering "Does my vote really count?" "Can these electronic voting machines be trusted?" "How secure are my state's voting systems?", etc. April has clearly shown its position about digital voting and reacted within the scope of the Internet's Rights Forum.

It is up to us to ensure that this kind of treacherous computing and DRM do not still hold such a place in the next April retrospective, fighting against these attacks to digital freedom and privacy.

Software patents

With regard to software patents in Europe, the year 2008 has been the year of statu quo. Indeed, Europe was under the threat of software patents legalization through the unification project of courts concerned by disputes on patents. This was likely to validate tens of thousands of software patents granted by the European Patent Office. While assuming the Presidency of the European Union, France confirmed its determination to see this project succeed, and some commentators saw here a last chance for a unified patent system being established within the ten coming years. However, negotiations have still not reached and finding a consensus between the Member States of the European Union continues during the Czech presidency. Of course, we have to stay aware about the progress of this project.

Otherwise, positions have still moved in 2008 on the front of European patents. The British UKIPO, one of Europe's offices most resistant to software patents, had been noticed in 2007 by invalidating a patent to Symbian on the reason for what he claimed as inventive only covered altogether an algorithm. This decision was reversed on appeal in 2008 by the English Judge Pattern because it would be too far from the European Patent Office (EPO) doctrine. And the UKIPO immediately updated its guidelines on software patents to closer practices of the EPO.

However, the Symbian case illustrated the inconsistency of EPO's Internal Boards of Appeal decisions on the topic of patentability. The President of the EPO, Alison Brimelow submitted to the EPO Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBoA), the highest court of the office, a questionnaire to decide on the limits of what is patentable in the software field. It is difficult to predict what will emerge from this referral to the EBoA, but it should be noted that it was requested by the British judge Jacob, one of the main architects of the "English doctrine" before the Symbian case appeal. This appeal was refused by Alison Brimelow's predecessor, Alain Pompidou.

And while the decision-makers of the old continent might engage in a legitimating way to the EPO practices, criticism came from inside. Indeed, at the beginning of September, the EPO staff manifested in Brussels, not to ask for wage increases, but to denounce a bad thrashing of the innovation quality, promoted for purely financial and political reasons.

But the most significant event of 2008 for software patents undoubtedly took place across the Atlantic, where a Court of Appeal of Federal Circuit (CAFC) confirmed the invalidity of a patent on a method of business.. This appellate jurisdiction specialized in the litigations related to patents, was created in the 80's. And, as demonstrates the latest book by James Bessen and Michael J. Meuer released during the spring, the CAFC is greatly responsible for the observed excesses in the U.S. Patent system, including its extension to intellectual software and computerized methods. However, in the Bilski case, the CAFC rejected a method of risk coverage in trading of energy, because it does not follow a physical transformation of an article nor was related to a specific machine. Also, this ruling by the CAFC at the end of October in the Bilski case marks a substantial break − and is encouraging for the opponents to software patents − although judges refused to act directly on the software patentability.

And while we still have not definitively ruled out software from the scope of patentability, yearly retrospectives will tirelessly relate examples of absurd patents or trials with disproportionated issues. The year 2008 is no exception to this rule:

  • In January, in the United States, the telecom equipment manufacturer Broadcom won a victory in court against its concurrent Qualcomm, convicted by a federal court for patent infringement, about the WCDMA third generation mobile telephony standard. The publisher of security products Trend Micro started an action against Barracuda Networks, with at the heart of the conflict, ClamAV, a free and open source antivirus, very popular, used by Barracuda for its internal use, which raised a reaction and a call for boycott from Free Software associations.
  • In February occured a new episode in the series opposing the European Commission to Microsoft for its anti-competitive practices. It saw, the European Commission impose to the U.S. software giant a record fee of 899 million Euro for non-compliance with the sanctions imposed in 2004. This is because an agreement was reached in October 2007, so the Commission estimated that for three years, between 2004 and 2007, Microsoft has continued its illegal practices. The total fee imposed has now reached 1.68 billion Euros, which corresponds to the initial penalty plus the fact that it was not respected.
  • In April, it's Apple which has been featured on software patents that the firm deposits apace: about the concept of an episodic game, about the reorganization of the iPhone home page or about the iPhone virtual keyboard that appears when required.
  • In July, four giants of computing, Oracle, SAP, IBM and Adobe were victims of a complaint by Implicit Networks, a "patent troll" − or patents profiteer : companies whose business model is based only on patents licenses trading without producing any good, or service − for patent infringement to improve the performance of security functions software at the server side. Last February the company had already filed complaint for patent infringement this time the targets were AMD, Intel, Nvidia, RealNetworks and Sun.
  • In August, another "patent troll", GraphOn filed complaint against Google about patents that are used to access databases. While Microsoft was given in the United States, a patent on the fact that when viewing a document anywhere on a page, pressing the <Page Up> or <Page Down> keys cutting out at exactly the same place on the next page or on the previous one.
  • In September, we learnt the publication of a Google US patent request about a telephone service allowing the user to make telephone calls via multiple networks (Wi-Fi, WiMax, Bluetooth, GSM, CDMA…) but also on several networks of operators and to make his call according to his own desiderata, for example depending on the operator's price or the quality level of the call.
  • In October, U.S. Patents on the ZFS file system with which NetApp attacked Sun were invalidated. Microsoft obtained a U.S. patent on a technology allowing to censor, in real time, words or phrases in a conversation, like a vocal chat.
  • In November, RIM, the BlackBerry manufacturer that had to pay more than half a billion dollars in 2006 to get rid of a questionable complaint, was again the victim of a complaint for patent infringement, this time from Mformation about systems and methods of terminals remote management.
  • In December, after the Bilski case, the CAFC restricted the claims of a patent about an online payment method that Netcraft used to attack eBay and Paypal. The CAFC judged that Qualcomm should disclose to the standardization committees in which he participates, the patents on a mechanism for video compression he holds, the H.264, and therefore it wasn't entitled to rely on these patents to attack the Broadcom chip manufacturer. However, the defeat only concerned the use of these patents in the H.264 standard whereas their scope extend to other uses. Cygnus Systems [5] has sued three heavyweights players of the computing business, Microsoft, Apple and Google, for infringement of a patent covering the use of a miniature, or a thumbnail preview, allowing to see some of the files to which it leads. The year ended with the publication of a patent filled by Microsoft, attempting to monopolize a solution to sell a PC with on demand options. The Microsoft project called 'Metered Pay-As-You-Go' was to propose a low-cost computer for which the user could acquire the solutions of his choice, at a low rate. A few days later, the U.S. Patent Office rejected it for being too vague and using technologies already patented.
  • Finally this 2008 gallery of horrors is best illustrated by the sudden bounces of litigations between Alcatel-Lucent and Microsoft. In fact, there were several disputes opposing these multinationals. We remember that in early 2007, a jury convicted, after a two-week trial, the Redmond giant to pay 1.5 billion USD of compensation − a record amount in this area − to the Franco-American group which reproached to Microsoft the illicit use of a licensed patent technology to decode the digital music files in MP3 format in its Windows Media Player audio player. But the following summer, a new trial in San Diego resulted in the outright cancellation of such conviction. But in July 2008, Alcatel-Lucent claimed an appeal of that last decision. In September, the CAFC confirmed the cancellation of Microsoft condemnation to pay 1.5 billion USD to Lucent. Finally, this litigation on patents covering MP3 format ended in December 2008 by the conclusion of an agreement between the telecom manufacturer and the software editor. In contrast, the agreement does not resolve the dispute about a technology to capture data with a stylus on a touch screen, for which a jury condemned in April Microsoft to pay 367.4 million USD of compensation in this case. Despite Microsoft's appeal, an American Federal Judge confirmed this sentence in June. It should also be noted that Microsoft has also assigned Alcatel-Lucent to justice for violating the patents of its own in the field of business telecommunications networks but was dismissed of its complaint in May 2008. In short, large companies who can afford to play the game of software patents do not hesitate to use these weapons of deterrence... though they are ultimately forced to store back such weapons, faced with the risk of killing each other.

To stop this escalation of trials and illegitimate patents, opponents to software patents declared the 24th of September as the "World day against software patents". Several events took place this day in the World. And this appeal was reinforced by a petition requesting the end of software patents in Europe. These actions were supported and relayed in France by April. Let's hope that, thanks to the involvement of an increasing number of April members, the next review about software patents will allow us to announce the success of these operations...

OOXML, standardization, the continuation of the serial

The debate on the standardization of revisable documents formats (Office formats) continued throughout 2008. The highlight was the vote leading to the standardization of Office Open XML (OOXML, or ECMA-376) on March 29th, 2008, OOXML officially became the ISO/IEC 29500 standard on August 17th, 2008. This snatch-obtained normalization revealed a number of elements.

It highlighted Microsoft determination to fight on all fronts to defend its dominant position on office software. Let's recall that OOXML aims to compete with the office format OpenDocument format (ISO/IEC 26300 standard), which has the characteristic of being an open format used by many free software, included OpenOffice.org.

This standardization has jeopardized ISO's credibility about its action in the field of computer standards. Beyond the technical arguments involving OOXML's poor quality, irregularities in the voting procedure led six countries to appeal against the procedure (Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay) ; on its side, the European Commission launched an investigation about the conditions of the vote and possible attempts to influence in the European Union countries. The appeal by these six countries was rejected and they indicated "the highest opinion" about the ISO in a diplomatically-incorrect statement. Note that for France, the Afnor finally abstained at the last moment after considering a position of "no with commentary". April, member of the Afnor Committee for revisable documents formats, considers the vote was done under duress.

Since the OOXML normalization, Microsoft announced that the OOXML effective support would be delayed to a future version of its office suite, whereas the OpenDocument support would be available in an update of Word's current version.

Among the risks identified during the OOXML standardization, we'll note the following aspects regarding the "open standard" concept:

  • The legal risk with regards to software patents that could immediately apply to OOXML implementations, the commitments of the main author (Microsoft) not to use its patents against people implementing the standard seemed to be insufficient.
  • The license to use Open XML is incompatible with the programs under the GPL license. This view is shared both by the Free Software Foundation (through the voice of Richard Stallman, its President) and by Microsoft experts.
  • As part of the campaign to promote OOXML, efforts were made to reduce the scope of the European definition for the open standards as defined by the European Interoperability Framework for pan-European eGovernment Services (EIF 1.0). These efforts were fruitless, the progress of the European Interoperability Framework maintained, at the presentation on June 25th, 2008, a tough position about the criteria to open the standards advocated in tools for e-Government (EIF 2.0).

The year 2009 will open with two recent but incompatible standards for Office formats, from both a technical and a legal point of view (no possible implementation of OOXML under a GPL license). So 2009 will be the time to begin wondering about the interoperability of these two ISO formats, particularly in the context of eGovernment in Europe.


Free education software is going ahead, slowly but surely. It is developing and diversifying. But the Free education software must face an aggressive Microsoft policy in response to its breakthrough; and the French Ministry of Education, still unaware of the situation's criticality, isn't applying a policy allowing such a neutrality.

At the Beginning of January 2008, Xavier Darcos (the French Minister of Education) launched the "E-educ" mission about Communication and Information Technologies for the education. The leadership of it was given to John Mounet (Syntec Informatique). The composition of the commission will be highly criticized and its representation questioned: among the members of the mission there weren't any teacher, neither representative of local authorities, nor Free Software players (even though Microsoft participates to the committee). April and the AFUL were interviewed in March 2008. April published an analysis of the E-educ educational mission report.

In Great-Britain, people ask good questions. The BECTA (British Educational Communication and Technology Agency) published a report in January 2008, that examines the interest of switching British School information systems to the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system and to the office suite MS Office 2007. The report also addresses the issue of interoperability and more specifically the implementation of an ODF office open standard. It also takes into account, under the home-school compatibility, the use of free software using open standards rather than close format requiring a specific software. Refer to pertinents quotes on the Framablog and the PDF version of the report translated in French.

A significant event was the Ile-de-France region sending a tender for a Free DWE (Free Digital Workspace Environment). The AbulEdu solution (Scideralle) commemorated its tenth anniversary and a new release of the AbulÉduLive autonomous CD-R with the Terrier software and an environment adapted is available. The Prométhée DWE is a real benefit for agricultural education and the LLSOL project, languages laboratory, is doing its first steps. Some companies offer their solutions, for example to the primary Iconito (CapTic) or Class@Tice (Profusus). The editorial channel Scénari arouses a great interest. The OpenOffice.org education project is developing. The department of Seine Maritime continues its gift of USB thumbdrive with Free Software ported to students in secondary school, in partnership with the CDDP of the Havre and the CRDP of Paris. A book that was highly anticipated, devoted to OpenOffice.org in professional high schools, was published in September. The CRDP of Aix-Marseille implements Corrée, an open catalog of online editorial resources for the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur high schools. The CRDP of Lyon deploys Oscar, its software of network support. And so on and so forth...

Framasoft continues year after year to be a reference website. With the SCEREN Free Software skills center, the Free education tools are now in major dedicated or general events: Linux Solutions, Educatice, Libre Software Meeting, Paris Capitale du Libre, Open World Forum, Tropheus of the Free days, the Orme Meetings, InterTice...

In the education field, the Free applies both to software and to educational resources. More than ever, the Sésamath association is the "flagship" of Free educational cooperative productions. At the beginning of the 2008 school-year, it published a Free school manual for students in Year 10 (after those in Years 8 and 9 being published in the past years). Its Sésaprof workspace sets up a collaborative work on a large scale. Sésamath has taken initiatives around the issue of collaborative production resources with other teachers' associations (Weblettres, Les Clionautes).

At the end of August, April was present in Tunisia, at the Hammamet University dedicated to the digital solidarity. A workshop, focused on the educational resources of scientific and technical colleges, stated several proposals including one essential in the eyes of its participants : educational software and resources in use must be Free. Standards and data formats must be open. Three reasons have motivated this proposal : the costs, the operational nature of the collaborative production of educational contents, and the fact that the implementations and the answers of the Free world in term of intellectual property are in phase with the general philosophy of a digital solidarity project such as sharing, cooperation, exchange.

The Relia solidarity project with the Francophone Africa is based on the approach of Free with the goal of autonomous production of Free resources by teachers.

In October 2008, the AFUL announced the launch of an investigation about the Free Software in education as part of the tenth anniversary of its agreement with the French Ministry of National Education.

The Free in the education field is always a space for pedagogical and societal thoughts. It is an opportunity for some lively but always rich debates about important subjects : training, knowledge ownership for all, intellectual property, economic models of publishing and the immaterial, common good, public good ...

Finally, the community of the Free for education, which one knows to be attached to the training of "smart" users and digital creators, is pleased with the installation for the 2009 school-year of a course on "computer-science and digital society" in Year 11.


In 2008, graphic adapters still dominate the Free actuality with AMD announcing the release of the 3D part specs of its R600 and R700, which should clear the way for Free drivers to high-end graphic adapters with 3D support. The VIA graphic adapters were also totally opened this year. Since Intel is still working on its Free drivers, there remains only one major actor of this market to keep closed drivers.

Netbooks have confirmed their presence on the market with many models available with pre-installed GNU/Linux. This is always good to obtain from manufacturers a little more cooperation for the concerned drivers. The OLPC, the laptop for the education of youth, on its side hesitates between GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows.

Wi-Fi chipsets are not left with Atheros, which finally open its hardware, as Nokia for its Internet tablets' chip. Efforts on reverse-engineering on Broadcom chips proved to be fruitful.

On the processors side, Intel is hiring Free distribution developers and also Alan Cox, who is leaving Red Hat after several years.

The year 2008 is probably a turning point in relations between the manufacturers and the Free Software community: non-compliance by manufacturers of the General Public License GNU now, after the usual reminders, leads to a passage in front of a judge. The FSF attacks Cisco with its Linksys WRT54GL, Artifex Software attacks Diebold for its ghostscript use in the voting machines, Busybox attacks Iliad for its Freebox. Some actors are escaping the trial after finding settlements like Extreme Network, who in less than three months solved a conflict with Busybox thanks to a private arrangement.

In the worlds of mobile phones and PDAs, the Neo Freerunner and the Google Android have been on the market, both open and based on Free Software. Nokia seems to follow GNU/Linux for its high-end phones and sees the portage of two more forks of GNU/Linux, Android and Ubuntu on its Internet tablets demonstrating the potential of open hardware platforms. One of the last closed platforms Symbian will be open after being purchased by Nokia, the number of non-open platform is therefore reduced.

In the world of gadgets the sources of Free Software used by the Garmin GPS are now online, and the Chumby clock based on GNU/Linux is now available for sale.

Computer calculus centers are still dominated by free software as shown in the Top 500 of supercalculators and even the NASA chose an open software contract.

A special mention to the Eaton company that acquired MGE, a famous Uninterruptible Power Supply brand, and which in a same time extend its support to Free Software developers internally and externally.

Finally, with all these good news, mainly concerning the embedded world, we can rejoice to see the Linux kernel obtaining a project manager dedicated to embedded devices..


2008 was the year of Free Software democratization and of a better understanding of Free Licenses in corporation and we can mention numerous upheavals, both structural ones and political ones. They concern:

The importance of making behaviors fitting to licenses. This is what motivated the introduction of an open source certification request from the GNU Affero GPL by manufacturers wishing to run their software under its terms (certification dated March 11th, 2008 — see "GNU Affero GPL Open Source: it's time to evaluate the situation"). In the same way, we saw Wikimedia argue with the FSF for a modification of the GNU FDL: which led to the publication, on November 3rd, 2008, of a 1.3 version of the GNU Free Documentation License, which is a transitional version to allow a legitimate re-licensing under CC-BY-SA of all its content.

The payment of the litigations for non-observance of the licences in front of the courts: such as the Francisco's decision in Jacobsen v. Katzner on August 13th, 2008 which confirms that non-compliance with the license does not merely induce a contractual liability (limited to the allocation of damages), but also an automatic termination of the license (and thus the subsequent prohibition of acts infringing). But 2008 also saw a lot of new actions : against Cisco in the USA (the complaint of the Free Software Foundation against CISCO dated December 11th, 2008, putting an end to a dialog started since 2003), or against the Illiad company in France (summons date November 24th, 2008).

A debate surrounding the use of free licenses that has never been stronger. Like the first European OpenSource Lawyers Event on September 24th, 2008 (see the presentations) : legal seminar dedicated to open source/Free Software, organized by and for practitioners working in the field of Free Software (composed of lawyers, attorneys, engineers or scientists of any part of Europe and the United States).

Governorships specific to the Free licenses are setting up in the user companies. The establishment of ad-hoc policies spread within industries, often by using the solutions of code auditing and workflow management (whether they are commercial like Black Duck Software – which bought Koders on April 28th, 2008 – or community-based like FOSSology — released in 1.0 on December 17th, 2008).

Private agreements of companies from the Free sector which are formulated according to Free Licenses: Thus, Red Hat and Firestar concluded on June 6th, 2008 a transaction concerning software patents, which is written in order to benefit the whole Free Software community. (see the guide published Red Hat's blog by Rob Tiller, who was in charge of this transaction).

To go further, see the "Veni, Vidi, Libri"'s blog "the 12 outstanding legal facts for Free software in 2008".

Associative World

April's "Free Association" work-group focused this year on consolidating a network of structures (obviously, mainly associative ones according to the aim of this workgroup) likely to be interested, at one time or another, in Free Software or in disseminating information in their own networks.

For this, group members relayed themselves to be present at different key-events for associations. We will therefore note the following presences and interventions: Francas' forum on July 1st, 2008 in Tours; Ardeva workshop on September 25th, 2008 at Murs à pêches, Paris' associations forum on the 17th and 18th of October, 2008 in front of the Paris City Hall; 3rd Forum of the associations and foundations on October 30th at the "Palais des Congrès" of Paris; "Democracy and networks" 'day on November 17th, 2008 at the "Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie".

In this logic of making contact and weaving associative network, a meeting took place with the FONDA members and a strong partnership has been established between April and the CPCA. Note also the "discreet" involvement but extremely important for the group, of the Foundation for Human Progress (FPH). And finally, the multiple meetings with the Free Software International Association is showing the way for a rich cooperation during the incoming months, in particular about the social economy and solidarity areas.

The notable action taken by the group this year remains, in partnership with CPCA, the survey aimed to better understand the customs and practices of French associations with respect to general computing and Free computing in particular. The idea is to better establish their needs in order to prioritize the tools to be developed or to be supported in the Free Software ecosystem. The survey, which stayed open from October 17th to December 20th, has yielded about 380 responses for an initial target of 500. This number will undoubtedly be enough to get a first "snapshot" of practices and to publish, during the 1st quarter of 2009, an analysis of those responses. An observatory will allow, in the next months, to continue the gathering of information.

The magazine "Associations manual", which is the reference in terms of associative press and which propose every month thirty pages of practical advices on all aspects concerning the association management, proposed in its December 2008 edition a small insert about the survey.

For the Free Festival, the "Associatifs" newsletter of the Southern Alps Education League and its associative network published a special edition about Free Software downloaded over than 5,000 copies. Available under Creative Commons BY-SA license, this magazine alternates definition of Free Software, experience feedbacks and resources to assist in migrating to Free Software.

Contributors for this 2008 overview

  • 1. ALLOS stands for "Accessibilité des Logiciels Libres et Open Source pour les personnes déficientes visuelles", meaning "Accessibility of Free Software and Open Source for visually impaired people".
  • 2. Forum des Droits sur l'Internet in French, or FDI
  • 3. Title in French: "Internet et développement durable I: l'accessibilité des services de communication publique en ligne du secteur public"
  • 4. The DGCCRF is the branch of the French government dealing with Consumption, Competition and Treachery Suppression. It stands for "Direction générale de la consommation, de la concurrence et de la répression des fraudes".
  • 5. The DGCCRF is the branch of the French government dealing with Consumption, Competition and Treachery Suppression. It stands for "Direction générale de la consommation, de la concurrence et de la répression des fraudes".
  • 6. Under French law, an open standard is "any communication protocol, interconnection or exchange and interoperable data format, whose specifications are public and unrestricted access or implementation"
  • 7. For more on this, please refer to the related "Bundled Selling" part.
  • 8. See the related "Bundled Selling" part of this overview
  • 9. See the section dedicated to interoperability
  • 10. The CNIL is the French council in charge of individual freedom and the digital domain