As you may know, I am currently in Recife and Olinda in the Brazilian Northeast. While most people come here for vacation on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, I hardly found time to enjoy any of these pleasures, because LACFREE 2005 has kept me quite busy.
Firstly it is probably a small miracle that I am here, at all: From the FSFE event page, you may have noticed that LACFREE was originally scheduled to take place about two months ago, but was postponed just one week before it was supposed to take place. Although it required an unusual overhead of discussion, I finally did have my ticket at the time, and only thanks to the very excellent organizers of the III. Encontro de Software Livre do Amazonas (ESLAM) picking up that ticket on short notice was I able to join their conference in October.
Unfortunately, this second attempt was not really much more efficiently organized, I only received my tickets on Friday before catching my flight from Porto Alegre on Monday. From what I heard in the usual exchange between conference participants, everybody was very much in the same position and many people did not get their tickets, at all.
To my great dismay, this also included Nagarjuna G, president of the Free Software Foundation India, who broke off another trip early in order to make it back to India in time to retrieve a visa. After having to spend a night in Delhi and, the consulate would not grant his visa as he did not have a ticket, and looking at the web page of the event, he found that his name had been removed without even telling him. He then went back to Mumbai, where he lives.
Both Federico Heinz, president of FSF Latin America, and myself were most upset about this and considered for a moment to not go to LACFREE. After giving it some thought, we did decide to go for multiple reasons. The Free Software community in the Brazilian Northeast had very few events, and almost none with international context so far. Why should they pay the price for the organisational problems? Also, refusing to share knowledge with others at the conference would not have benefitted anyone. And finally, Nagarjuna himself asked Federico and myself to please go and make the best of it.
But since this also happened to other speakers that were originally invited, there are quite some names on the list who did not appear in person. So I ultimately found myself participating in four workshops: one about the Free Software Foundations and our international network, one about Free Software in Education and Culture, one about Legal issues of Free Software and one about Free Software and eGovernance, totalling in four speeches and 10hrs of panel time in just three days.
Additionally, I gave interviews to a Pernambuco state newspaper, explained the background of the Vienna Manipulations to a community radio and asked people to Fellow Me: Say NO! to Vienna Manipulations.
Most amazing during the legal panel was a speech by video conference of Victor Vazquez Lopez for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): Mr Lopez correctly explained the four freedoms of Free Software, explained a little bit on the GNU General Public License (GPL) and how Copyleft was a perfectly viable model of using Copyright. And I am not afraid to admit that I was stunned to see his presentation being more correct than speeches by some Free Software advocats.
Naturally, that does not yet solve all the problems WIPO has, and we still have a lot of work ahead of us until WIPO will be the World Intellectual Wealth Organisation we think it should be, but it is a good sign.
Now the event is almost over, and as always it was great to spend time with the Brazilian Free Software community, and besides memories of an intensive event, I will take home a bound copy of the Brazilian Free Software migration guide, version 1.0, which the Brazilian government put under the GNU General Public License (GPL).
And maybe I’ll even get to see some beach tomorrow, after three extremely stressful days I am inclined to think that I deserve it. In any case: Someone has to put the Fellowship beach-wear to a practical test.