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Legal

On Navigating Laws and Licenses with Open Source Projects

Filed under
OSS
Legal

A few years ago, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst made the prediction that open source software would soon become nearly pervasive in organizations of all sizes. That has essentially become true, and many businesses now use open source components without even knowing that they are doing so.
For these reasons and other ones, it is more important than ever to know your way around the world of laws and licenses that pertain to open source software. Leaders of new projects need to know how to navigate the complex world of licensing and the law, as do IT administrators. Here is our latest collection of resources to help you navigate in the arena of law and licenses.

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Bad Microsoft Android patents may lie behind Samsung lawsuit

Filed under
Android
Microsoft
Legal

Microsoft's wrestling match with Samsung may just be a contract fight, or it could be the beginning of a war over the validity of Microsoft's Android patents.

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Microsoft files Android patent-royalty suit against Samsung

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Android
Microsoft
Legal

Microsoft is seeking a ruling as to whether its acquisition of Nokia's handset and services business negates its intellectual-property licensing agreement with Samsung that dates back to 2011. Microsoft also is seeking unpaid interest from Samsung, resulting from the period of time last year when Samsung withheld patent royalties from Microsoft -- royalties which Samsung later paid.

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Lawsuit threatens to break new ground on the GPL and software licensing issues

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OSS
Legal

GPLv2 is one of the most widely used FOSS licenses, if not the most. It is the license for some of the most important and commercially valuable FOSS projects, including the Linux kernel, whose contributors include such uncomfortable bedfellows as Oracle and Google, Intel and AMD, and Cisco and Huawei. If XimpleWare is right, and a license under GPLv2 offers no protection from the licensor's patents, Linux would be a landmine for these companies, and really for any company with fewer patents than IBM.

Even without an explicit patent grant, lawyers advising businesses on FOSS issues generally agree that GPLv2 protects licensees (at least those in compliance with the license terms) from patent suits by licensors. This is because the law provides for an implied license (or judicial estoppel) where a licensor's conduct leads the licensee to believe it will not be sued, or where fairness otherwise demands that the licensor should be prevented from suing. Because the GPL encourages licensees to copy, modify, and distribute the licensed software—all conduct that would infringe any patents on the software absent a license—licensees can reasonably expect that the software's producers won't sue them for doing those things. (Adam Pugh and Laura A. Majerus of Fenwick & West discuss GPLv2's implied patent license in greater detail in this paper.)

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Tyler Livingston is one of the Licensing Team's summer intern

Filed under
GNU
Legal

Hello. I am a rising Third Year law student at SMU Dedman School of Law in Dallas, TX. I am working hard to master the technical aspects of law, electronics, and software. My current interests involve protecting individuals and investigating new technology, particularly in the communications field by utilizing licenses for authorship, art, and inventions. Prior to law school, I attained a bachelor's degree in History at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Licensing is where I began to be involved with free software; the FSF in particular utilizes a great strategy of working within the current licensing jurisprudence by using copyleft to support freedom and empowerment for users over their computers and software. My computer science skills are lacking, but I have worked with UNIX systems in the past and am now finally feeling comfortable enough to make a permanent switch to enjoy software on my own terms. Other interests include electronics and travel (with a trip planned to Eastern Europe later this year).

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FOSS & the IRS: Now We're Talking

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OSS
Legal

We've been watching with great interest this week as the travails of FOSS organizations with the US Internal Revenue Service have become a hot topic. When our client, Jim Nelson of Yorba, discussed blogging about the IRS rejection of Yorba's application for 501c3 status with us, we hoped but did not expect that the situation, to which we had discreetly called community and company attention for years, would finally receive some. We're very glad that's now happening. Unfortunately, it's really too late. Because of the long delays in determination imposed by the IRS in its increasingly anti-FOSS positioning, neither the full consequences of the IRS's present position nor the state of our legal technology in response can be seen from the materials currently under discussion.

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M-Cam casts doubts on Microsoft's Android patent portfolio

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Android
Microsoft
Legal

The company then assessed "Microsoft’s alleged Android portfolio and commercially scored the U.S. granted patents using M-Cam’s commercial asset underwriting systems. This assessment measured the commercial strength and transferability of each patent. Commercial patents are linked directly with cash flows and may have a basis for licensing."

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Open source's identity crisis

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Interviews
Legal

For Karen Sandler, software freedom isn't simply a technical matter. Nor is it a purely ideological one.

It's a matter of life and death.

Sandler, Executive Director of the non-profit Software Freedom Conservancy, says software freedom became personal when she realized her pacemaker/defibrillator was running code she couldn't analyze. For nearly a decade—first at the Software Feedom Law Center, then at the GNOME Foundation before Conservancy—she's been an advocate for the right to examine the software on which our lives depend.

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Qualcomm DMCA Notice Takes Down 100+ Git Repositories

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Development
Legal

Using the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), Qualcomm has forced GitHub to take down over 100 Git repositories on the basis of "Cyveillance has recently discovered the unauthorized publication, disclosure, and copying of highly sensitive, confidential, trade secret, and copyright-protected documents on the below web site. Specifically, we have confirmed that the documents whose locations and filenames identified below are confidential and proprietary to Qualcomm and were posted without Qualcomm’s permission."

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THE NEW 501(C)(3) AND THE FUTURE OF FREE SOFTWARE IN THE UNITED STATES

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Legal

I believe what the IRS is inadvertently requiring here is copyright assignment. Since Yorba does not require copyright assignment from our contributors, the IRS appears to think our software cannot be a public work.

Copyright assignment is controversial in the free software community. (A nice overview can be found here; the controversy up-close and in-person can be found here and here.)

I hope I’m wrong about this. I doubt they’re going to start enforcing this in the future for organizations that already enjoy exemption. If they do, it will be a royal mess for those projects having to contact every author of every non-trivial contribution and get them to sign over their rights. This is all a big if, of course.

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More in Tux Machines

Phoronix on Graphics

OpenWRT Gets Forked By Some Of Its Own Developers As LEDE Project

While the OpenWRT project is a very well known embedded Linux distribution primarily for network devices, a number of their own developers have decided to fork away from the project. In what appears to be a move to have new project leaders, a group of OpenWRT developers announced LEDE, their fork of the project. LEDE considers itself a spin-off of OpenWRT with many of the same goals. LEDE is short for the Linux Embedded Development Environment. Read more

Leftovers: Ubuntu

  • How to Install Cinnamon 3.0 Desktop Environment in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
  • Canonical Patches Multiple OpenSSL Vulnerabilities in All Supported Ubuntu OSes
    Today, May 3, 2016, Canonical has issued a new Ubuntu security notice to inform the community about the availability of new OpenSSL versions that patch various vulnerabilities discovered upstream by various developers. The OpenSSL security notice is valid for the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus), Ubuntu 15.10 (Wily Werewolf), Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr), and Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin). It details a total of five security issues that have been fixed in OpenSSL, which contains the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) cryptographic library and tools.
  • Ubuntu In The Wild: April 2016
    You might not have noticed, but it’s been a wee while since we last featured an ‘Ubuntu in the Wild’ spot (excusing my little editorial last month). The gap isn’t because Ubuntu isn’t being spotlighted in projects. It was more that a couple of readers were vocal in telling us such articles were trivial and didn’t call for a post. So, for the past year or two we’ve been tweeting the odd Ubuntu in the Wild spot rather than posting a blog post about it.
  • Why Your Next Ubuntu Download Could Be a Lot Larger
    Expect to see a larger Ubuntu desktop installation image size by the time the Yakkety Yak is released later this year. Ubuntu Developers are currently discussing a new size limit for the main distribution image, as well those of the distribution’s official flavours.

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