IGF 2019 WS #223 Free/Open Source and the impact of Internet Legislation

Organizer 1: Judith Ann Okite, FOSSFA
Organizer 2: Satish Babu, ISOC-TRV
Organizer 3: Glenn McKnight, Foundation for Building Sustainable Community
Organizer 4: ,

Speaker 1: Fernando Botelho, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Mishi Choudhary, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Raoul Plommer, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

1. How do new Internet laws such as those directed at Data Protection, Privacy and Copyright impact the Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) movement and its spinoff (such as Open Data and Open Access Publishing)?
2. How do these laws impact software innovation on the Internet? Do these laws differentially impact the use of FOSS vis-à-vis different genders, geographies or cultures?
3. What are the measures that FOSS developers, end-user communities, researchers, businesses and the Government can take to mitigate the impact of the new laws and ensure the sustainability of FOSS and associated movements?

Relevance to Theme: Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is one of the pillars of the Internet. FOSS that ensures that the Internet remains free, open, and inclusive. It not only provides implementations of open standards of Internet protocols, but it also provides a model of decentralized peer-production, distribution, use and maintenance of software in an ethical and inclusive manner. Finally, FOSS is an enabler of impactful, distributed, inclusive innovation in software--a key factor in the evolution of technology.

Almost all the key software that is used on the Internet are licensed as FOSS. FOSS enables communities, business and governments to extend, localize and internationalize existing software for specific communities and redistribute such software. This way, FOSS ensures that the Internet itself is inclusive and open, particularly in the context of user communities that are powerless in the face of giant software monopolies so characteristic of the early 2000s.

While FOSS has become mainstream in the last decade with widespread adoption by civil society, Governments and industry (with IT giants who were significantly anti-FOSS crossing over to becoming FOSS users and suppliers), a new threat has arrived in the form of "Internet" legislation such as GDPR and the EU Copyright Law. There is significant concern that some of the elements of these legislations will make fundamental aspects of FOSS--such as free sharing of code--illegal.

While much of the new legislation has originated in Europe, the issue has a global impact as many countries are looking to Europe for inspiration for their own national laws, and are likely to follow with similar laws. There is a distinct possibility that a number of such laws--mostly lacking harmony--will deeply and adversely impact the current model of Free/Open Source Software. (However, despite this general sense of foreboding, it is unclear what the precise impacts of these legislations--both short-term and long-term--would be).

This session will bring together FOSS developers & practitioners, end-users, businesses, researchers lawyers, and Governments to highlight and identify--as precisely as possible-the different ways that the current momentum of FOSS may be impaired on account of these laws, and to identify the ways by which these risks may be mitigated.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Compared to a decade ago, FOSS is now mainstream, and already involve the IT industry and governments, in addition to its traditional stakeholders (FOSS Developers, end-user communities, researchers, and activists). Any adverse impact on FOSS will have far-reaching consequences to the Internet and accordingly, the stakeholders of the Internet--under the Multistakeholder model--have to take cognizance of these probably impacts and recommend ways to minimize them. As such, there is a strong Governance component to the issue.


Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Description: We will be giving multiple notices to the IGF community as well as the FOSS community well before the event, so that all interested participants are aware of the location and time of the workshop. We would also be publicizing the remote participation details so that we can attract remote participation (particularly from Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacfic, given the time-zone constraints).

The actual 90-minute session, formatted as a panel discussion, has the following tentative structure:

1. Welcome (Workshop organizers, 3 min)
2. Background to the topic: Ms Mishi Choudhary, SFLC New York (10 min)
3. Views from Different Geographies of the World:
* Brazil/Latin America (Fernando, 5 min)
* Europe (Roul, 5 min)
* Africa (Seun, 5 min)
4. View from FSF Europe (Jonas, 8 min)
5. Government Perspectives (TBD, 8 min)
6. Industry and institutional perspectives (Rinalia, 8 min)
6. Discussions (Moderator, Satish Babu; Remote Moderator: Judy Okite, 35 min)
7. Summarization and Conclusion (3 min)

Expected Outcomes: The workshop will be beneficial to all the stakeholders in the domains of both Internet Governance and FOSS. The following are the specific outcomes expected from the session:

a. The nature of issues associated with the new legislation vis-à-vis FOSS
b. The relative/differential impacts of the legislation within the FOSS and Internet Governance communities (ie., intra-stakeholder balances)
c. Any positive impacts on FOSS from the new legislation
d. A set of action items that will help in mitigating some or all of the adverse impacts

Onsite Moderator: 

Satish Babu, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator: 

Judith Ann Okite, Civil Society, African Group


Glenn McKnight, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Discussion Facilitation: 

All three organizers of the session are well-experienced in conducting IGF workshops, having been in more than 5 IGFs (one is a past MAG member while for another organizer, Berlin is the 10th IGF that he is attending).

The session timing is carefully crafted to maximize discussion on the floor, with a balanced division of the time between experts (55 minutes) and open discussions (35 minutes).

Time-keeping will be strict. The onsite and online moderators will work together to maintain a common queue of speakers (with priority for online participants). Each intervention during the open discussions will be restricted to 1 minute so as to maximize the number of speakers. Repeated interventions from the same person will only be permitted if there are no others in the queue.

Special efforts to will be taken to support speakers who have language issues (by peer translation if official translation is not available).

Online Participation: 

The session organizers have long years of experience using online participation tools such as Adobe Connect, Zoom, Webex, and Skype. The online moderator will be keeping track of online participation, and she will facilitate and support any online participant who requires special support.


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