The year 2016 resulted in several important developments that affect the FOSS ecosystem. While they are not strictly "legal developments" they are important for the community.
For one, Eben Moglen, the general counsel of the Free Software Foundation, stepped down. Eben has been a leader on FOSS legal issues since the late 1990s and has been critical to the success of the FOSS movement. The FOSS community owes him a huge debt of gratitude, and I expect that he will continue to be active in the FOSS community. The success of FOSS adoption was dramatically illustrated when Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation and summarized in the article, Open Source Won. So, Now What? in Wired magazine.
There are a lot of problems in our society, and particularly in the USA, right now, and plenty of charities who need our support. The reason I continue to focus my work on software freedom is simply because there are so few focused on the moral and ethical issues of computing. Open Source has reached its pinnacle as an industry fad, and with it, a watered-down message: “having some of the source code for some of your systems some of the time is so great, why would you need anything more?”. Universal software freedom is however further from reality than it was even a few years ago. At least a few of us, in my view, must focus on that cause.
I did not post many blog posts about this in 2016. There was a reason for that — more than any other year, work demands at Conservancy have been constant and unrelenting. I enjoy my work, so I don't mind, but blogging becomes low priority when there is a constant backlog of urgent work to support Conservancy's mission and our member projects. It's not just Conservancy's mission, of course, it's my personal one as well.
The decline of GPL? [Ed: So Bacon is citing Microsoft proxies like Black Duck whose sole initial purpose was to attack the GPL... Microsoft-connected anti-FOSS firm.]
It seems that in recent years that trend has continued. Aside from the Black Duck research, a license study in GitHub in 2015 found that the MIT license was a dominant choice. Even observationally in my work at XPRIZE (where we chose a license for the Global Learning XPRIZE), and my work as a community leadership consultant, I have seen a similar trend with many of my clients who feel uncomfortable licensing their code under GPL.
We've made the point for several years now that the way class action lawsuits are handled in America is flawed in fundemental ways. What was supposed to be a method for enabling large groups of the aggrieved to pool resources against much larger and better-funded entities has instead devolved into a procedure that appears almost perfectly designed to enrich unscrupulous lawyers while the class itself gets a laughable percentage any monetary damages.
We get to see these flaws in practice yet again, this time in an update for the story that simply will not die: the legal action over Sony removing the PS3's ability to run Linux, which it advertised when the console launched. The class action suit had reached a proposed settlement, only to have the presiding judge nix it, essentially over concerns that the class was being victimized all over again, this time by its own lawyers.
In November 2016, Microsoft became a platinum member of the Linux Foundation, the primary sponsor of top-drawer Linux talent (including Linus), as well as a leading organizer of Linux conferences and source of Linux news.
Does it matter that Microsoft has a long history of fighting Linux with patent claims? Seems it should. Run a Google search for "microsoft linux patents", and you'll get almost a half-million results, most of which raise questions. Is Microsoft now ready to settle or drop claims? Is this about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? Is it just a seat at a table it can't hurt Microsoft to sit at?
There’s a piracy app that lets users find any TV show, movie, or song you can imagine. Streams and downloads are both easy to find, and the software is already used by hundreds of millions of people.
The name of this dastardly program? Google Chrome.
That’s a crazy thing to report, right? Sure, it’s strictly true that you can use Chrome to pirate movies and TV shows: just search for any movie’s name followed by the words “streaming,” “torrent,” or “download.” You’ll find a pirated option on the front page basically every time. But if a mainstream media outlet called Chrome a piracy tool, you’d ridicule them for it, and deservedly so.
But that’s pretty much how Kodi, the open source media player, is being reported on lately, particularly in the UK. The BBC called Kodi a piracy epidemic in a headline. The Mirror pointed out that Kodi offers a “way to find illegal streams of movies and sports presented with a friendly Netflix-style user interface.” The Birmingham Mail helpfully informed readers that downloading Kodi will result in you getting a scary letter.
Reading these headlines, you’d think Kodi is the second coming of Popcorn Time. It’s not. Kodi is merely a (very good) media player and organizer. If Kodi is a piracy app, so is Google Chrome (and, for that matter, QuickTime or VLC).
They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and nowhere is that more clear than in the controversy over the open source Kodi media player. Kodi has been characterized as a “piracy app” by some in the media, but the Kodi developers beg to differ with them.
MythTV 0.28 was released nearly one year ago while today we have the first point release for this once very active open-source DVR/PVR software for HTPCs.
On the Law and Your Open Source License [Ed: Black Duck is just a parasite selling proprietary software by bashing FOSS]
"Looking back five or ten years, companies managing open source risk were squarely focused on license risk associated with complying with open source licenses," notes a report from Black Duck Software. Fast-forward to today, and the rules and processes surrounding open source licensing are more complex than ever.
This condition was intended to apply mainly to what would now be considered SaaS deployments, although the reach of "interacting remotely through a computer network" should perhaps be read to cover situations going beyond conventional SaaS. The objective was to close a perceived loophole in the ordinary GPL in environments where users make use of functionality provided as a web service, but no distribution of the code providing the functionality occurs. Hence, Section 13 provides an additional source code disclosure requirement beyond the object code distribution triggered requirement contained in GPLv2 Section 3 and GPLv3 and AGPLv3 Section 6.
M&A deals imperilled by failure to manage open source software risk, says expert [Ed: As is so common these days, today it's Microsoft's proxy Black Duck attacking FOSS and trying to scare people]
Open Source: Know It Before You Embrace It [Ed: By Josh Software, not Black Duck FUD about security and licences]
Open source has already taken the world by storm. Businesses from across industries are embracing it. Earlier open source was just a tiny revolutionary idea that was not given any hope, but it has now become not just mainstream but possibly the only stream. The world has realized its importance and benefits over other closed source languages and tools. More importantly, start-ups have started embracing open source whole heartedly to gain an edge over their competitors. But the question is, how are they utilizing it to their advantage and how is it benefiting them?