Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

EU lawmakers threaten open source

Filed under
OSS

The European Commission has proposed a law that could allow criminal charges to be pressed against businesses using software that is believed to infringe upon another company's intellectual property (IP).

The proposed directive, which was adopted by the European Commission last month, would allow criminal sanctions against "all intentional infringements of an IP right on a commercial scale".

Richard Penfold, a partner at law firm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, said last week that the proposed directive could "quite possibly" allow the imprisonment of the boss of a company that is using infringing software, although it would depend on whether the defendant can argue that the infringement was unintentional.

Although it is unusual for companies to target the users of software, rather than its manufacturers, there is one well-known example — the cases brought by the SCO Group against car maker DaimlerChrysler and auto-parts retailer AutoZone over their use of Linux. SCO claimed that AutoZone infringed on SCO Unix copyrights through its use of Linux and that DaimlerChrysler had breached its contract with SCO.

Ross Anderson, the chair of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, said the proposed directive could help SCO or other companies in future IP infringement cases against open source software.

"In future somebody like SCO will have another course of action open to them — the threat of criminal charges. This threat would enable SCO to cast a larger legal cloud," said Anderson.

The European branch of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) was also worried that SCO could use the directive to its advantage. Joachim Jakobs from FSF Europe said that not only could company managers face being tried in a criminal court, but SCO could also be allowed to join the criminal investigation — as the directive calls for "Joint Investigation Teams", where the holder of the IP rights in question can assist the criminal investigation.

But Paul Stevens, a partner at Olswang, said it was unlikely that software users would be affected by the directive, as any company that pursues criminal cases against users is likely to suffer from the bad publicity.

"It's not that often that companies who have IP rights pursue cases against users," he said. "Most IP owners want you to continue buying their product and to continue dealing with them. If they started threatening someone with prison or a criminal record, how do you think their customers will feel?"

The proposed directive, which has not yet been approved by the European Parliament, includes various penalties to those caught infringing IP rights four years' imprisonment; fines; seizure and destruction of the offending goods; closure of the establishment used to commit the offence; a ban on engaging in commercial activities; and denial of access to legal aid.

The proposal is described as a "European Parliament and Council directive on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of IP rights". For more information on this law and how it may impact free software, file sharers and patent infringement lawsuits, please click here.

By Ingrid Marson
ZDNet UK

More in Tux Machines

Red Hat: Ansible Tower, Patent Promise, and Shares Declining

  • Red Hat’s automation solution spreading among APAC enterprises
    Red Hat recently shared revealed its agentless automation platform is spreading among enterprises in APAC countries like Australia, China, India and Singapore. The company asserts its Ansible Tower helps enterprises cut through the complexities of modern IT environments with powerful automation capabilities that improve productivity and reduce downtime. “Today’s business demands can mean even greater complexity for many organisations. Such dynamic environments can necessitate a new approach to automation that can improve speed, scale and stability across IT environments,” says head of APAC office of technology at Red Hat, Frank Feldmann.
  • Red Hat broadens patent pledge to most open-source software
    Red Hat, the world's biggest open source company, has expanded its commitment on patents, which had originally been not to enforce its patents against free and open source software.
  • Red Hat expands Patent Promise
    Open-source software provider Red Hat has revised its Patent Promise, which was initially intended to discourage patent aggression against free and open-source software. The expanded version of the defensive patent aggregation scheme extends the zone of non-enforcement to all of Red Hat’s patents and all software under “well-recognised” open-source licenses. In its original Patent Promise in 2002, Red Hat said software patents are “inconsistent with open-source and free software”.
  • Red Hat Inc (RHT) AO Seeing a Consistent Downtrend
  • Red Hat, Inc. (RHT) noted a price change of -0.14% and RingCentral, Inc. (RNG) closes with a move of -2.09%

Add-on board expands i.MX6 UL SBC

MYIR released an add-on board for its Linux-driven, i.MX6 UL-based MYS-6ULX SBC that adds a second LAN port, plus CAN, RS485, camera, audio, and RTC. In April, MYIR released a Linux-powered MYS-6ULX SBC, which was notable for being available in two different versions using NXP’s low power, Cortex-A7 i.MX6 UltraLite (UL) or the more affordable, and almost identical i.MX6 ULL SoC. Now, MYIR has released an “MYB-6ULX Expansion Board” designed to stack onto either model. The $21.20 accessory adds a second 10/100 Ethernet port to the MYS-6ULX, as well as new CAN, RS485, audio, micro-USB, RTC, and camera functions. Read more

Hardware: PocketBeagle, Purism Librem 5, Aaeon Embedded PCs

Finding the Mainframers of the Future Through Open Source Ecosystem Development

Speak the word “mainframe” to many millennial techies, and the first things that likely come to mind are in the form of grainy sepia photos of floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall computers with big spinning tapes. But that’s far from the reality of the modern mainframe. Imagine instead up to 240 10-core, 5.2ghz processors, 32TB of RAIM (redundant array of independent memory), hardware-based encryption, and fully hot-swappable hardware components. Those are the specs of the newly released IBM z14 – a single machine that could replace the computing resources of an average corporate data center with room to spare. Read more