New Hampshire (USA) may soon enshrine Software Freedom into law. YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!

Leah Rowe

8 January 2022


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Article published by: Leah Rowe

Date of publication: 8 January 2022

Introduction

This event of such global importance to Free Software projects, and the Free Software movement as a whole, has made me decide to write an article. The events in question, covered by this article, will occur on 11 January 2022. This is just three days away from today, 8 January 2022 when this article was written, so if you make a decision, you should make it now, today, and prepare. Please continue reading.

If you live in New Hampshire or in one of the neighbouring states, especially Massachusetts, please listen up! If you are further away and unable to reach New Hampshire all that easily, please spread the following news anyway. It’s important. As alien as it may seem to many of my readers, I’m actually writing parts of this article as though someone who has never heard of Free Software is reading it, because I expect precisely that such people will read this particular article.

You will see the term Free Software used in this article, but some people call it Open Source Software. However, you should call it Free Software. The word “free” refers to freedom, not price, though the software is usually also free as in gratis / zero price.

The opposite of Free Software is called proprietary software, or non-free software. Proponents of Open Source sometimes call non-free software Closed Source, but you should call it non-free or proprietary, to highlight the fact that it isn’t free.

What’s happening in New Hampshire?

An important bill is being proposed in New Hampshire, which would enshrine much of what we know as Free Software into law. Here is the proposed bill, technically named “HB1273”:
https://gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/legacy/bs2016/billText.aspx?sy=2022&id=1363&txtFormat=html

You can read it for yourself, but here is a paraphrasing of what it proposes:

However, this is only a short summary. You are advised to read the bill in detail. It’s not very long.

At first glance, it may not seem that the bill affects individuals, but don’t be fooled; this is a hugely positive step forward for everyone! If the state is using Free Software, that most likely means it’ll be used in education aswell.

Although perhaps not immediately and readily apparent, this is a stake in the heart of proprietary software’s current dominance, because it would remove one key element of its attack against us; its abuse of education services.

If education services are using Free Software, that means they’ll probably have children (the ones being educated) using it too. This is a huge step, and it will result in more Free Software developers in the future. Free Software will become more and more mainstream to the masses, which can surely only be a good thing!

Freedom is always superior. The more people that have it, the better off we all are, because freedom is also collective; it relies on others around us also having it, so that we can defend each other. If more people have it, especially if it results in more Free Software developers in the future, that’s one thing, but imagine if more states like what they see and start to copy the new legislation.

Now imagine that countries besides the US start doing it, inspired by the US’s success (and I think it will be a resounding success).

Imagine a world where Free Software, free as in freedom, is the default everywhere. Imagine a world where Free Software licensing is required reading material in schools. Imagine a world where any five year old can install a free operating system such as GNU+Linux, and Computer Science is mandatory in schools from a young age. Imagine filing your tax returns with Free Software, exclusively. Imagine not even thinking about that, because it became the norm.

Imagine a world where proprietary software doesn’t exist, because it is obsolete; entire generations of people are taught to value freedom, and to staunchly defend it, helping each other learn and grow (and produce better software in the process, with less bugs, because people are now free to do that, without relying on some evil company).

Imagine a world where you’re no longer being spied on because NSA, Apple and Microsoft no longer have backdoor access to your computer. Imagine having the ability to say no, because that’s what freedom is. Try to imagine it!

Free Software is a revolution that we in the Free Software movement have rigorously upheld and fought for, over many years, but we still face an uphill battle because children are not taught in schools about free computing, nor are they encouraged to learn; they are taught to view computers as products to throw away every 1-2 years, that they can run a few apps on but otherwise are not allowed to do anything with. The concept of a general purpose, fully reprogrammable computer is heavily suppressed in mainstream culture. Most people in the world do not run a free operating system; the idea of a computer being a mere appliance is normalized (as opposed to the idea of it being a highly liberating tool for development and the expansion of human knowledge).

This is what we in the Free Software movement have fought for over the years. We believe that knowledge is a human right, that the ability to share, study, learn, adapt and modify the software is an inalienable right that everyone must have. The four freedoms are absolute.

One of our biggest problem has been simply that schools and governments do not teach people about free computing. The right to learn, the right to read and the right to hack. Our governments are made up of human beings just like you or me, and they can be bought/corrupted; Microsoft, Apple and many others (such as IBM) have done this for years, having the national infrastructures governing us run on their proprietary systems, instead of systems that respect freedom; it is essential that these systems run free software, because a free and democratic society should expect nothing less. Those companies buy influence and they own your politicians.

All of this could change very soon. Something is happening in New Hampshire, which could redefine our movement and give free software real power instead.

HOW TO HELP

TESTIFY IN SUPPORT OF THE BILL

The reading of the bill is happening on 11 January 2022. This is when you should go to New Hampshire.

Location of hearing: Legislative Office Building in Concord, New Hampshire:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_Legislative_Office_Building

The organizer of the proposed bill, Eric Gallager, has left instructions on Twitter. The following is a nitter link, which lets you view the relevant Twitter thread without running non-free Javascript in your browser:
https://nitter.net/cooljeanius/status/1479663133207764992

The original Twitter URL is:
https://twitter.com/cooljeanius/status/1479663133207764992

Further instructions for what room to go to, when you get there:

See Nitter link:
https://nitter.net/cooljeanius/status/1479062316532604930

(original twitter link: https://twitter.com/cooljeanius/status/1479062316532604930)

Please read both threads very carefully!

YOU NEED TO GO TO NEW HAMPSHIRE IN PERSON!

If you’re able to go to New Hampshire to attend the reading of the bill, please do so! Voice your support of the bill, and say why you think it’s important.

Tell the lawmakers that you demand freedom!

This thread on Twitter is where Eric announced that the reading of the bill is to proceed (original Twitter URL):
https://twitter.com/cooljeanius/status/1479555737223413760

More states/countries will follow

If this bill is passed in New Hampshire, more states will likely follow. It will lead to a massively renewed drive to liberate all computer users, and US laws tend to be copied/pasted around the world too.

This bill, if passed, will have a hugely positive impact on Free Software at a global level.

You must support this bill. If you want to see it pass, please go to New Hampshire on 11 January 2022 to make sure your voice is heard.

OUR ENEMIES WILL BE THERE

The proprietary software companies like Microsoft and Apple will also be there, trying to argue the case against the use of Free Software.

There is already precedent; please watch this video, which shows how Microsoft (for example) might behave in the reading of the bill. This video is from a discussion within the European Union, several years ago:
https://vid.puffyan.us/watch?v=W_S0k1sx8EM (invidious link. works without javascript enabled, if you wish)

They will try to trick the law makers by claiming things such as:

If you’re familiar with the Matrix films, proprietary operating systems like Windows/MacOS are basically like the Matrix; bland, no individuality, no independent thought, everything tightly controlled. By contrast, free operating systems (such as GNU+Linux distributions or the BSDs) are like zion/io; vibrant, full of life, buzzing with activity, everything loose and free, and everyone is different (a highly diverse culture of people from all walks of life, acting in common cause but nonetheless individuals).

Meanwhile, Windows is known to have backdoors. Microsoft actively informs the NSA about how to exploit them, so that it can break into people’s computers and steal private data.

Proprietary software companies are evil, and must be opposed. They know that if this bill passes, their days are numbered.

Defend freedom! Don’t listen to any of the arguments against it by proprietary software companies; they don’t care about you, and instead only care about profit. They fundamentally do not want you to have any sort of freedom over your own computer, and they actively pursue tactics (such as DRM) to thwart you.

Microsoft and Apple are not your friends. There is no such thing as the Windows community. When you use proprietary systems, you are isolated from everyone around you, and so are they. You are the product, for the non-free software to exploit at the behest of their developers who only care about money.

However, there is such a thing as the Free Software community. It is a vibrant community, consisting of millions of people collectively all over the world, and they are all free to work with each other infinitely. It gave us most of the technology that we take for granted today, including the modern internet, where ISPs run free software almost exclusively!

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