Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Being US-centric does not serve GNOME Foundation well

Being US-centric does not serve GNOME Foundation well

The GNOME Foundation has been forced to change the rules for a design contest it is holding after one of its members objected to the exclusion of certain countries.

The contest, to design a new T-shirt, initially excluded people living in Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Sudan, and Myanmar (Burma).

Those living in areas which are restricted by US export controls and sanctions were also not allowed to participate.

Developer Baptiste Mille-Mathias pointed out the hypocrisy of these rules, stating, "GNOME being based on people and openness, I wonder how a Free Software & Non-profit organisation would comply with such US embargo related laws.

"How it could (sic) make sense to refuse a proposal for a contest, but coding contribution and translations are accepted everyday?"

Another developer, Tristan Van Berkom, pointed out, "These rules sound outright offensive to residents of some countries, furthermore they make the GNOME foundation publicly appear to be actively supporting US embargo laws."

Mille-Mathias asked: "If there's no way around such restrictions, could it be possible for the foundation to look for some way to avoid them in the future (by creating a delegation in another country perhaps)?"

Paul Cutler, one of those organising the contest, said the Foundation, being a non-profit based in the US, had no choice but to comply with the government's embargo laws.

Free Software Foundation chairman Richard Stallman then suggested a way out: "If giving the person a prize is what causes the problem, we could still invite people in those countries to enter, but inform them it won't be possible to give them the prize if they win. They would still get the honor (sic) of winning. It is better than excluding them."

The rules were then changed to reflect Stallman's suggestion.



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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.