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On Thursday, March 16th, in the Spires Conference Centre Belfast, Richard Stallman and Bruce Perens will give keynotes at a whole day event about Free Software/Open Source Software (FOSS) in business. The event, "FOSS Means Business", is tailored toward IT decision makers and consultants, but the topics are sure to attract a crowd that will challenge other events to be the biggest FOSS event so far on the island.

The event was conceived last December when trade associations and business representatives from all across Ireland met in Newry for a workshop on Free Software/Open Source Software.

Perens and Stallman were among the few software developers in the 80s writing FOSS ("Free Software" or "Open Source Software"). Perens moved into business consultancy and has well over a decade of FOSS-related experience talking to CEOs and CIOs and is often seen as the business face of Free Software. Perens currently works as Vice President of developer relations and policy at SourceLabs.

Stallman is the author of the GNU General Public License, and the founder of the GNU project. He will deliver his business-orientated speech "Free Software in Ethics and Practice". A substantial part of his presentation will discuss the redrafting, this year, of Free Software's core software licence: the GNU General Public License (GPLv3). Stallman currently serves as President of Free Software Foundation.

The overall goal of the event is to fuel discussion over transitions toward FOSS solutions, in the private and public sector. As well as the reasons for doing so, the challenges facing such transitions will also be discussed by those with real-world experience.

Ian Graham, Momentum NI, the Northern Ireland ICT Federation, says:

"Free software/Open Source software is rapidly emerging as an alternative to traditional proprietary software, fuelled by the success of products such as Apache, Linux and MySQL and through the support of major corporations such as IBM, Sun and HP. However, questions remain to be answered. For the software user, will open source software really reduce my total cost of ownership and can I really run my business on software that does not have one controlling manufacturer? For software development companies, the key question is how can I make money if I make the source code for my software freely available? Does a new revenue model based on subscription service rather than licence fees make economic sense?

This event will address some of these questions and provide the audience with a real opportunity to question the experts."

Ciaran O'Riordan, Free Software Foundation Europe, adds:

"A lot of individuals and organisations have colloborated to make this event happen, and it shows both the level of interest that there is for Free Software, and the size and energy of the Free Software community here. My aim with this event is to spread awareness within businesses of the unique selling point of free software, and that is that it gives the software user the freedoms to see what the software is doing, to adapt the software for whatever purpose, and to benefit from the adaptations which others publish. For businesses, this means no vendor lock-in, and it means really being in control of their data and their security. Hopefully this gathering will also be used to organise future projects."

Paul McCormack, New & Emerging Technologies Cluster ETC, said:

"The NETC group which is part of the Border Vision programme has a critical mass of OSS users. In seeking to develop this commercial potential we held the meeting in December in order to gauge the all island use of open source software and to explore the potential for further deployment and industry uptake. This conference is the next step in our strategy of establishing an all-island OSS cluster and highlighting the advantages of this platform to business and other potential software developers. This conference provides a mutually beneficial opportunity for all developers and business to collaborate and explore the burgeoning potential of open source software."

Glenn Strong, chairman of the Irish Free Software Organisation, said:

"This conference is a tremendous opportunity for potential users of Free Software to see the advantages it can bring them, and to connect with the substantial community of Free Software developers and users on the island. By making two key figures in the field available for discussion it promises to give business users the chance to hear from the experts how Free Software can bring benefits to their business".

Further information

The FOSS Means Business website:

Ciaran O'Riordan
Free Software Foundation Europe
+32 477 36 44 19

Paul McCormack
New & Emerging Technologies Cluster
Newry & Mourne Enterprise Agency
WIN Industrial Estate
Canal Quay
BT35 6PH
+44 (0) 28302 67011