FOSDEM (Free and Open source Software Developers’ European Meeting) is a
non-commercial, volunteer-organized meeting where almost ten thousand people
come together around free and open-source software development. It is aimed
at developers and anyone interested in the free and open-source software
movement. It really is totally open, anyone can just walk up and attend
anything. There is no registration even. And yet, it is full of people who
are central to so many key free software projects that power the world we
For me personally, FOSDEM was good and intense as usual. I went to FOSDEM
for the first time about five years ago. At that time, when I told people I
worked on F-Droid, they asked, “What’s that?”. I went last year, and when I
said F-Droid, people mostly responded, “oh yeah, nice project!” This year,
it felt like most people’s response was to show me F-Droid installed on
their phone then to thank me. It was really a wonderful confirmation to
receive, especially in person, and was a great reminder that we are
positively affecting people’s lives, although our day-to-day experience is
mostly dealing with the problems that people report.
I’ve been doing free software so long (30 years this year!) that it was hard
for me to walk 50m without running into someone that I should discuss
something with. I talked with people from Debian,
Codeberg, CalyxOS, Clean
Insights, Weblate, The
European Commission, Tella,
OpenJDK, /e/ foundation,
Thunderbird, Eclipse Foundation and more.
One thing that is particularly impressive is the project
stands. Basically every one of them was
staffed by core contributors. Many founders and project leaders were even at
the stands answering questions from whoever walked up (Mastodon, Calyx,
NLnet, ISRG/Let’s Encrypt, Open Source Design, Codeberg, Thunderbird,
Matrix and more).
EU Legislation and Free Software
For me, the biggest part was the Open Source In The European Legislative
There were a number of people from the European Commission actively engaging
with the hackers like me to understand free software in the context of the
Digital Markets Act, the Cyber Resiliency Act, and the Product Liability
Directive. It was great to see that they are generally supportive of our
point of view. The Digital Markets Act is shaping up to be a powerful tool
for opening up things for free software. The key question now is whether
the European Commission will step up to strongly enforce it in the face of
well-funded attacks from Big Tech.
From that experience, I now feel that the current state of the EU’s Cyber
Resiliency Act (CRA) and the Product Liability Directive (PLD) should not
negatively affect F-Droid or its contributors. I am not a lawyer, so this is
based on my understanding after lots of discussions with people who know a
lot of about it. This is my current understanding of why F-Droid and anyone
who contributes to it should not have to change what they are doing:
- The F-Droid legal entity makes the “product” so it would be liable.
- F-Droid is currently entirely non-commercial, handles no money, and only
commercial activity is regulated by CRA and PLD.
- Volunteer contributors are very clearly exempt since all their activity is
- Donation-funded contributions like our
Liberapay should also not be affected
since donations are not paying for a product.
- Contracted contributors are helping build the regulated product, so the
legal entities of the contractors would not be liable for F-Droid’s
All in all, I enjoyed FOSDEM very much and found it an amazing place to
exchange with other free software projects. The only downside were the
crowds when trying to get food and drink, and the Wi-Fi and cellular
networks being overwhelmed. I can recommend bringing a spare sandwich and a
water bottle. I hope that the F-Droid community can be better represented
there in the future, and I’ll work on that myself to help make it happen.
Hope to see you at FOSDEM!