December 24, 2009
Dear friends of SFLC,
I know that the annual campaign missives have been arriving in shoals the last few weeks; my list of organizations to support has been growing longer, precisely because so many of us are having to do more with less, and need the help. With your support, the SFLC can continue its long-term mission of providing legal services to the hundreds of thousands of dedicated people who produce wonderful technology just because they want to share.
The SFLC’s clients produce software that is inside all the devices that make the 21st century so different, from DVD players and mobile phones to web applications and learning tools. Though their work is vital to our society, they often don’t seek profits and have no margin out of which to pay their lawyers. The businesses that make money distributing their software will donate money to pay for their legal protection, to some extent, but to avoid complete financial dependency on those who may not always share our communities’ interests, we need to solicit ongoing community support.
The SFLC is entering its fifth year of operation as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and will soon have to make our public-support test showing to the IRS. Your support this year crucially helps us in proving the breadth of our financial support community. We are immensely grateful at SFLC to the corporate donors and foundations who assist us with their resources, but maintenance of a broad community of individual donors is essential. That’s why your gift now has special importance to us:
Highlights of 2009
This has been a very busy year at SFLC. Counseling clients is not work that lends itself to public discussion, but among the parts of our practice this year that we can discuss, these are some of the activities we are especially proud of:
* We filed two amicus briefs, representing free software developers to make sure their interests are considered as courts decide cases that could affect them. Our amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Bilski v. Kappos argues that software standing alone cannot constitutionally be patented. Our amicus brief in Jacobsen v. Katzer before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) explains that a free software developer whose license has been violated should be able to call upon the courts to prevent further infringing distributions.
* We represented the FSF and the Busybox project to enforce the GPL. Some suits were already settled with violators agreeing to appoint a Free Software Director or Officer to supervise compliance with the requirements of free software licenses.
* We provided our expertise on the GPL to the European Commission in its consideration regarding the ongoing merger approval investigation of Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems. SFLC submitted an opinion that we made available to the public and also participated at the EC’s hearing.
* We published our first complete year of podcasts, with over 350,000 downloads so far, in which Bradley Kuhn and Karen Sandler discuss various issues related to free software and the law.
This coming year will be a remarkable one for the free software communities we represent. Significant public policy discussions about patent law and competition/antitrust will be going on in the US, Europe, India and China in contexts that immediately concern the Free World. Major corporate acquisitions have occurred and will occur with significant consequences for major free software communities in 2010. New free software entrants and breakthrough releases of established projects will bring changes in communities’ composition and their need for legal services.
SFLC will grow and change this year with the communities we serve. Our sister organization, SFLC India, will begin operation under the direction of Mishi Choudhary. During 2010, I expect to begin building initiatives with cooperating counsel in Russia and China, where the interests of burgeoning free software communities need protection and support.
Your generous contributions will help us make judicious, strategic interventions to foster organizations and protect individual developers and non-profit communities that make and distribute free software around the world. As you decide where to put your donations to work this year, please consider SFLC.
Thank you and Happy New Year,