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Ciarán O'Riordan : Page d'accueil

Out of date.
This translation hasn't been updated in years. / +32 485 118 029 (<- NEW!)
Ceci est mon site web personel.
(Pour le site web d'IFSO, voir; Pour le site web d'ESP, voir

Mon activité actuelle: - le wiki de brevets logiciels
and FSF's Bilski brief which I worked on and a transcript of my March 2009 ESP presentation.

Sur cette page-ci:

  1. Qui je suis et le travail que je fais
  2. Ce que je fais
  3. Le Roadshow de Ciarán: Présentations
  4. Articles et mon (ancien) blog
  5. Lectures conseillés (livres, sites web, Wikipédia)
  6. Plus sur moi
  7. Bio (courte, images)


Qui je suis et le travail que je fais

Je suis un dirigeant de campagne et un lobbyiste. Mon domaine est celui du droit des utilisateurs d'ordinateur d'écrire des logiciels, de modifier et de redistribuer les logiciels qu'ils utilisent. Un bon point de départ pour envisager ce domaine est peut-être de le voir comme une branche très précise des droits des consommateurs. Vu sous un autre angle, il s'agit de protéger les utilisateurs d'ordinateur contre le droit d'auteur et le droit des brevets qui vont beaucoup trop loin.

À la fin des années nonante, j'ai commencé à m'inquiéter de la façon dont les utilisateurs d'ordinateur étaient traités par les entreprises de logiciel. Leur vie privée est envahi, le logiciel est volontairement rendu incompatible, les gens sont forcés de mettre à jour leurs logiciels alors qu'ils fonctionnent correctement, etc. Ces problèmes existent parce que ces entreprises ne sont pas tenues de laisser les utilisateurs s'aider eux-mêmes ou aider les autres. Même quand un logiciel a un million d'utilisateurs, ces derniers ne peuvent pas corriger les problèmes [qu'ils rencontrent].

Puis un jour j'ai découvert un mouvement qui s'appelle le mouvement pour le logiciel libre et qui s'efforce d'apporter une solution à tout ça. J'ai donc commencé à travailler avec ce mouvement.

L'objectif du mouvement pour le logiciel libre est de garantir, pour tous les utilisateurs de logiciels, la liberté de s'aider eux-mêmes et celle de collaborer avec les autres, s'ils le veulent, à des fins commerciales ou non-commerciales. Le principal moyen d'obtenir ces droits pour les utilisateurs d'ordinateur est d'écrire des logiciels qui les offrent (nous les appelons "logiciels libres") et de demander aux gens de les utiliser à la place des logiciels courants, qui ne les offrent pas.

What is free software?

Below I've attempted to describe the set of key rights that computer users should have. They are a set because they are not very useful on their own, the combination is necessary.

1. The right to know for sure what the program does

Software is usually distributed in a form which can be run by a computer, but which is all meaningless 1s and 0s to a human. This means that users cannot check for spyware or security issues, users cannot know for certain what happens the data which the public entrusts to them. Generally, people cannot evaluate the software and make an informed decision before using it, and cannot get out of a bad situation. Software users should have the right to see the program's complete corresponding source code - that's the human readable form which can tell you with certainty what the program does.

2. The right to modify the behaviour of the program

When the software is doing something the user is not happy with, or when it crashes, or when it has a limitation, the user should be able to modify the program to fix this. Currently this is prevented by the same means which prevents the software's behaviour from being studied: the source code is distributed in a computer-readable way only, not a human readable way which could be modified.

3. The right to distribute modifications and modified versions

Most people are not programmers, and even programmers will not have sufficient time to review and fix all the software they use. So for these rights to benefit the general public, the minority of software users that do make modifications must be allowed to publish their improved versions and to collaborate with others, commercially and non-commercially. This ensures that non-programmers will benefit from the general freedom of everyone to modify the software.


My work: What I do

  1. I try to build awareness of software packages that give software users these rights. There is no clear, unambiguous name for software that comes with these rights. Experience has taught me that "free software" is the best name. It has the disadvantage that "free" can be misunderstood as refering to the lack of price instead of the lack of restrictions, but other terms have proved worse.
  2. I work within the political system of the European Union to ensure that the development and use of free software is not hampered by new legislation. The best known example of a legislative project I worked on is the "software patents directive". I've made a webpage about the issue of software patentability: software patents.
  3. Raise awareness of the eighteen month public consultation process for drafting GNU GPL3, this includes making many transcripts.
  4. I try to help coordinate organisations which are doing work similar to mine, and I try to assist collaboration between teams, networks, communities, etc.


The Ciarán RoadShow

I am available to give talks about free software, about campaigning against software idea patents, and about GPLv3. If you'd like me to give such a talk, please email me. I can give talks in English or French.

Unless otherwise arranged, talks are about 40 minutes in length and I am very happy to take questions at length afterward. I do not give technical talks, but I have a programming/networking background and can take technical questions from audiences.

Upcoming (soonest first)

(Nothing currently scheduled.)

Past (most recent first)









Articles and my (old) blog (RSS feed)

Below is a selection of articles I've written.








Technical HOWTOs



In 2002 and 2003 I put some time into writing a book for learning to write software in the C programming language, but I never finished it: Learning GNU C. More info about that can be found on the c-prog-book page on


Reading recommendations

Some good books

  1. Free Software: Free Society, by Richard Stallman.
    Collected essays of Richard Stallman. These essays and many more can be found online on the GNU philosophy page.
  2. A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking.
    An amazingly information-dense book. Tough but worthwhile, mind stretching stuff. He has also published a simplifed, and very slightly updated, book called A Briefer History of Time, which is indeed a lighter read.
  3. Information Feudalism, by Peter Drahos with John Braithwaite.
    A great book on the politics and dirty tricks of global copyright and patent agreements. Most decent lobbyists I've talked to have read this book and can't recommend a better alternative.
  4. Free Culture, by Lawrence Lessig.
    Lessig's best book, good light reading.
  5. 1984, by George Orwell.
    I generally find fiction boring, but I like Orwell's books. 1984 is the best of his that I've read. Shooting an Elephant, and other essays is excellent too, and Burmese Days is a nice read. Homage to Catalonia is good too.
  6. Pat Ingoldsby's books of poems. They're just nice poems.



Wikipedia is a set of collaboratively developed, free encyclopedias. The English version is the largest and is very good. It even has audio recordings of some articles.

There is lots of information about free software topics there. A good starting point is the Free Software Portal. Some good articles, or at least good starts are:

And if you would like to contribute to the free software information on Wikipedia, there is a project for coordination: WikiProject Free Software.


More about me

(How did I get so interested in this software rights thing?)

I was born and raised in Ireland. I became interested in software around 1995. Two things happened around 1998. One is that I encountered the GNU+Linux operating system, and the other is that I started to notice that a lot of the annoying things about computers are intentionally made that way by the software developers. Software companies intentionally make their software incompatible with other software, or intentionally make it difficult for other software to be compatible with their software. Sometimes features or conveniences are left out, to frustrate the user until they buy the more expensive version. Software spies on what the user is doing and reports this information to the software company. For example, because I used an external modem, I noticed that whenever I played a movie or listened to music on my computer using a certain piece of software, the lights would flicker on my modem. This means that the software which I was using was sending some information about me to somewhere on the Internet.

Later, I found it strange that Microsoft Windows didn't come with software development tools. I thought that they should want people developing software for their operating system. A year or two later I realised that they don't want their users to write software, they want them to buy software. Software which does what Microsoft decides.

In the Summer of 2003, I got active in the campaign against software patents. In January 2004 I was a founder of Irish Free Software Organisation. In August 2004 I moved to Brussels. In March 2005 I became an employee of Free Software Foundation Europe. (This is my personal website, it isn't affiliated with those organisations.) I also have an interest in western european and east-asian languages.

In early 1998 I began teaching myself computer programming. Programming bit me, I loved it. This interest lead me to experiment with many software packages. In late 1998, a friend got a copy of an operating system called GNU+Linux. So I borrowed the CD and installed it on my computer along side the Microsoft Windows operating system that came pre-installed when the computer was bought.

GNU+Linux was strange because it didn't come with ads, there was no "click here to buy the full version" - so who was it that had written this operating system and was now giving it away?

This lead me to do some research about GNU, and Linux, and "Free Software", and "Open Source".

When I was programming for fun, I used the software tools I wanted, but working in a company I often didn't have choice of what software I used. Most software is terrible. It's sold like a black box, you use it or don't use it. Fixing bugs is not possible, nor is adding features or making things more convenient for your particular use. Someone else controls what you can do with the computer, your free choice is just choice among who your controller is.

One monopoly dominates most desktop computers, and when competition appears, they threaten patent litigation law suits, or they invent a new secret file format which makes it impossible for users of alternative software to collaborate.

So I've stopped writing software and have become a lobbyist. My biggest project so far has been the EU Software Patents Directive.

Why bother? Because I've found that people can have an effect. Most politicians are not in the pocket of Big Business. The biggest problem is that politicians are presented with issues that are too complex for them, and our decision-making and legislative processes are easier for wealthy companies to use than they are for the average concerned citizen.

Much of my inspiration comes from a guy called Richard Stallman who has been working since 1983 to give all computer users the right to use, study, modify, and collaborate on the development of the software they use. His biggests projects have been the Free Software Movement, the GNU project, the GNU General Public License (the GPL), and the Free Software Foundation. His work produced the guts of an operating system which is sadly called "Linux" by most people who use it.

Windows XP sends Microsoft data about what websites you visit, what movies you view, and what data you search for on your computer. RealPlayer does the same. DVD players won't let you fast forward through ads. Then there's spyware, and adware, and malware. And then Yahoo! release an adware remover that leaves Yahoo sponsored adware on your computer. The list goes on. Proprietary software sucks. Free software's the only good thing happening in software at the moment, but Microsoft hates free software. We beat them at the game they say they're playing. We offer better stuff at a lower price and that's called capitalism. And free software can't be bought out or shut down.

Another free (also as in freedom) project I like is the Wikipedia encyclopedia. I started contributing at the start of 2004.

Other than the above, I enjoy cycling, swimming, and reading non-fiction - although I don't actually have/make much time for those things nowadays. I still do a little programming in my spare time, mostly shell and Emacs Lisp. I'm trying to learn a couple of European and Asian languages, as well as learning about copyright, patents, and the EU legislative process. All the while, I'm settling in to life in Brussels.

I'm trying to build a list of news articles that quote me or that were written by me. Here's what I have so far.


A bio

Short (109 words)

Ciarán O'Riordan is a software freedom campaigner, focussed on software patents, software licences, and community coordination. He currently works on the End Software Patents campaign as Executive Director. His has worked on the EU software patents directive, the global GPLv3 licence drafting process, the Bilski court case in the US Supreme Court, and many other legislative issues about copyright and patents in software. From 2005 to 2008, he worked for FSFE as representative for Brussels and patent issues, and before that, he worked as a software developer. He was one of the instigators of Irish Free Software Organisation in 2003 and has been a board member ever since.


Here are two photos I made in a hurry five years ago:

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© Copyright 2011 Ciarán O'Riordan. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved. Distribution of modified versions of all or part of this article are permitted, provided that such works carry three things: (1) this copyright notice, (2) prominent notices stating the that it has been changed, and (3) information for how to obtain the original (such as a URL).