Software Freedom for Macedonia?
My trip was sponsored by the Macedonian magazine publication, [PCInfo+], and I was invited to speak at an event they called ExpoCom. This event was originally expanded to be a full week long. However, when it was announced I was coming to speak on software freedom, a number of vendors and speakers withdrew and ExpoCom was shortened by a few days. I learned this was because the Microsoft Adriatic representative and the local Microsoft reseller in Macedonia had contacted the speakers and vendors who were going to attend, and requested they withdraw from ExpoCom and offered other considerations if they would do so.
[PCInfo+] had at one time been a more traditional PC magazine much like [PC Week] or similar publications that cover proprietary software and hardware. When Igor become managing editor, and I think it was some two years ago, he focused attention and coverage on GNU/Linux, and the local hacker community. The immediate result of this was the Adriatic Microsoft rep asked their Macedonian reseller to stop future advertising in [PCInfo+.]
Very recently they had an amusing cover for PCInfo+ where they had a "Tux" penguin suck a "Microsoft" juicebox dry. This prompted the Microsoft Adriatic offices to phone each and every one of the local advertisers of [PCInfo+], and any that would withdraw from further advertising were offered "special" software licensing terms. Most recently, they had contacted the the printing house that [PCInfo+] uses. However, Igor will be telling his story for the world press directly, so I will leave it to him to fill in most of the details first hand.
I suppose in a country with a stronger civil history this would be scandalous. In fact, Macedonia has a poor history for enforcing laws and certainly, especially considering the short history of independence, less strong a connection between civil law and constitutional ideals than we enjoy here. Copyright, as a concept in Macedonia, is actually practiced somewhat on the French model. Authors have permanent and non-transferable "intellectual" rights, but can severably transfer "commercial" rights to others. In practice, actual enforcement on copyright restrictions has been very minimal in Macedonia to date.
With their low experience and civil history, there are many risks that they face. I was told that in Serbia, a separate and specific "software licensing" law was passed last year after much lobbying of that government which are neither based on constitutional, contractual, or civil law as it existed before. These laws permit private software companies to directly audit commercial firms in Serbia at will and permits the state to then close commercial businesses if the business is not in full software license, with "compliance" as defined by the firm initiating a software "audit". This also seems to be a slap to the concept of due process. There is some fear that similar laws may be passed in Macedonia.
As it was, ExpoCom was a much smaller and more intimate event than I had originally anticipated. It was held in a very small convention center. But, while most small Macedonian companies were discouraged from participating, many well known foreign companies unlikely to be effected by pressures choose to attend and present at it anyway. Most of these presentations were actually, for me, rather boring traditional marketing presentations. Most were, for me, somewhat boring, and I have little interest in mostly proprietary products or services from companies like Fujitsu and Assman.
My talk was at the end of the event, the "footnote", if you will. Even so, it was the most heavily attended presentation, even though I actually required the audience to actually think and ask questions rather than just listen to some slick video or slide presentation. I mostly spoke about software freedom and the right to study, and a little about GNU Bayonne. The audience was very receptive and much more energetic than I saw at the other presentations.
Later I had the chance to meet with a number of members of the Macedonian hacker community. I would say there are probably about 200 free software hackers in Macedonia as a whole, with the vast majority being in Skopje itself. While some Macedonian hackers are are in similar circumstances and viewpoint to many we have in the US who work part or full time in various commercial companies, a vast majority of Macedonian hackers are under 20, and perhaps a majority are under 18. It is this latter group which is most visibly prevalent and highly cohesive. I think the small size, uniformity of experience, and geographical proximity (being in one city) of Macedonian hackers accounts for this uniformity of viewpoint and goals and high level of social integration that they share.
Among this group of Macedonian hackers is Angov Arangel. While I would never suggest getting in a car with him, as such cars seem to have a natural tendency to crash into other cars even though he never drives, he is involved in getting this Macedonian hacker community together under a new Macedonian national Free Software organization. This organization was originally going to be formed and announced during ExpoCom itself, but they had not completed everything necessary by that date.
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