Earlier this week, cloud provider Joyent did a surprising thing: It shared its finely tuned cloud software, SmartDataCenter, under an open-source license.
But while it might seem like the company is giving away its high-value intellectual property at a time when Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have made the public cloud market ultra-competitive, Bryan Cantrill, the company’s chief technology officer, actually has some very smart justifications for the move, which he spelled out in a blog post.
This new site will not only provide a venue for those who constantly update and improve the Comprehensive Tutorial, but is also now home to a collaborative community to share and improve information about copyleft licenses, especially the GNU General Public License (GPL), and best compliance practices.
The Open Government Licence (OGL) is recommended as the default licence for public sector information in the UK.
The licence is part of the UK Government Licensing Framework. This was launched in 2010 to organise best practices and to standardise the licensing principles for government information. By making government-held information public, the government aims to increase openness and allow others to use the information.
“The OGL permits the use and re-use of a wide range of government and other public sector information”, the National Archives said in a statement published Friday. “This supports the government's policy on transparency and open data.”
This column has often explored ways in which some of the key ideas underlying free software and open source are being applied in other fields. But that equivalence can flow in both directions: developments in fields outside the digital world may well have useful lessons for computing. A case in point is a fascinating post by James Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), a non-governmental organisation concerned with public health and other important issues.
It is called "The value of an open source dividend", and is a discussion of the problems the world of pharma faces because of the distorting effect of patents - problems it shares with the world of computing...
Using this form, patent trolls can attack their victims without having to explain why they think the patent has been infringed. A similarly weak charge in any other lawsuit could be brushed aside early in the process. By using the approved, simple form, the attacker can ensure its victims are unable to successfully stem the attack in an inexpensive "motion to dismiss."
Google makes a series of compelling points in its petition. The company asserts that there's split opinion on the applicability of copyrights to APIs in the circuit courts -- a classic cue to SCOTUS to intervene -- and the matter is "a recurring question of exceptional importance." These points alone seem strong to me. But Google also says CAFC has made a serious error that ignores the precedent of earlier SCOTUS decisions and violates the distinction between copyright and patent as monopolies.
On the first point, Google refers back to the SCOTUS Lotus v Borland case in 1996. Google points out that "methods of operation embodied in computer programs are not entitled to copyright protection," then asserts that the Java class APIs are a method of operating the Java class implementations. Since Android's implementations of the Java APIs are Google's original work, the company claims copyright does not apply.
In fact, it is not really that money and Free Software are strange bedfellows. Not only is there nothing prohibiiting anyone to generate revenues with Free Software, it is even encouraged. We have adopted a (sane) practice for years, which is to provide binaries and source code of entire Free Software stacks for free. Reading the GPL you may notice that this is not at all something to be expected; if anything, you may sell your binaries tomorrow, and only give away your source code. The unhealthy part comes when the expectation that not only all this should be free, but that your time, expertise and your entire work should always remain free.
The legal fracas started when Google copied certain elements—names, declaration, and header lines—of the Java APIs in Android, and Oracle sued. A San Francisco federal judge largely sided with Google in 2012, saying that the code in question could not be copyrighted. But the federal appeals court reversed, and ruled that the "declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the API packages are entitled to copyright protection.
Remember the Open Invention Network (OIN)? That's the defensive software patent community set up to protect Linux against patent aggressors. Well, it recently passed 1,000 members, growing nearly 70 percent over the last year.
Growth of this order is an interesting phenomenon. At a time when the tide seems to be turning on patent trolls as a result of the Supreme Court's decision on Alice Corporation v CLS Bank, why are so many companies still seeking mutual protection in use of the Linux System (a term defined by OIN to indicate a vast range of open source software, not just Linux)? Maybe the small trolls aren't the only problem.