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TPP Article 14.17 & Free Software: No Harm, No Foul

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GNU
Legal

The first official public release of the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (known universally as the TPP) on November 5, 2015 generated much heated speculation. The ideal of “open agreements, openly arrived at” remains regrettably unattainable in international affairs. “Fast track” trade negotiating authority in the US means that parties excluded from the negotiating process have a short time in which to mobilize for or against the treaty as a whole in light of their specific concerns. The premium on speed of response to a very lengthy and complex legal document—and the presence of intense public attention—guarantees that hasty judgment and occasional self-promotion will always outrun professional analysis; this is one of the inherent defects of secret legislation.

In this context, early commentary on the TPP draft included much speculation that one provision in the draft’s chapter on electronic commerce might have serious negative consequences for free software and open source licensing, distribution, or government acquisition. Some lay readers marched immediately to the conclusion that, in less than 200 words ostensibly about something else, the negotiators had (a) abolished free licensing; (Cool prohibited governments from acquiring, supporting or preferring free software; or (c) had interfered with the enforcement of free licenses. Other non-professional readers invented complex demonstrations that one or more of these catastrophes had not occurred.

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Supercharging your router with third-party Wi-Fi firmware is just fine, says FCC

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OSS
Legal

LITIGATION VS FREE SOFTWARE

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OSS
Legal

Alice Corporation, a non-practice patent-holding entity, held patents on a method, system, and process for a particular type of financial risk hedging: namely, that one party to a set of financial transactions won’t pay at one or more stages in the set. This risk is known as “settlement risk”. Alice’s patents describe using a computer to keep track of the transactions between the parties. If the computer determines that a party does not have sufficient funds to pay their obligations to the other side, then the transaction is blocked. Litigation against CLS Bank International for alleged infringement of these patented ideas started in 2007, eventually winding its way up to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Writing for a unanimous court, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas begins with a brief description of what the patents claimed. There are effectively three different types of claims made: “(1) the foregoing method for exchanging obligations (the method claims), (2) a computer system configured to carry out the method for exchanging obligations (the system claims), and (3) a computer-readable medium containing program code for performing the method of exchanging obligations (the media claims)” (page 3 of the ruling).

Thomas then goes on to cite the court’s recent ruling in Mayo vs Prometheus, which established a test to determine which inventions incorporating abstract ideas are patent-eligible: “First, we determine whether the claims at issue are directed to one of those patent-ineligible concepts” (page 7). If it is so directed, then the court looks at “the elements of each claim both individually and ‘as an ordered combination’ to determine whether the additional elements ‘transform the nature of the claim’ into a patent-eligible application” (page 7). This is what Thomas refers to as “a search for an ‘inventive concept’” (page 7).

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FCC: We aren’t banning DD-WRT on Wi-Fi routers

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Back in March, the FCC issued a Software Security Requirements document that said manufacturers applying for equipment authorizations should "Describe in detail how the device is protected from 'flashing' and the installation of third-party firmware such as DD-WRT." Applicants also had to answer the question, "What prevents third parties from loading non-US versions of the software/firmware on the device?"

Upon receiving criticism, the FCC insisted that there was no ban on software like DD-WRT and OpenWRT, saying instead manufacturers must prevent devices from working outside their allowed frequencies, types of modulation, and power levels so as not to interfere with other systems.

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GPL Enforcement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

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GNU
Legal

The revelation of this clause has confused our community, as it appears as if this provision, once adopted, might impact or restrict the international operation of copyleft licenses. Below we explain that, while everyone should reject and oppose this provision — and the rest of TPP — this provision has no dramatic impact on copyleft licensing.

First, as others have pointed out, Party is a defined term that refers specifically to government entities that sign the treaty. As such, the provision would only constrain the behavior of governments themselves. There are some obviously bad outcomes of this provision when those governmental entities interfere with public safety and ethical distribution of software, but we believe this provision will not interfere with international enforcement of copyleft.

Copyleft licenses use copyright as a mechanism to keep software free. The central GPL mechanism that copyright holders exercise to ensure software freedom is termination of permission to copy, modify and distribute the software (per GPLv2§4 and GPLv3§8). Under GPL's termination provisions, non-compliance results in an automatic termination of all copyright permissions. In practice, distributors can chose — either they can provide the source code or cease distribution. Once permissions terminate, any distribution of the GPL'd software infringes copyrights. Accordingly, in an enforcement action, there is no need to specifically compel a government to ask for disclosure of source code.

For example, imagine if a non-US entity ships a GPL-violating, Linux-based product into the USA, and after many friendly attempts to achieve compliance, the violating company refuses to comply. Conservancy can sue the company in US federal court, and seek injunction for distribution of the foreign product in the USA, since the product infringes copyright by violating the license. The detailed reasons for that infringement (i.e., failure to disclose source code) is somewhat irrelevant to the central issue; the Court can grant injunction (i.e., an order to prevent the company from distributing the infringing product) based simply on the violator's lost permissions under the existing copyright license. The Court could even order the cease of import of the infringing products.

In our view, the violator would be unaffected under the above TPP provision, since the Court did not specifically compel release of the source code, but rather simply ruled that the product generally infringed copyrights, and their distribution rights had fully terminated upon infringement. In other words, the fact that the violator lost copyright permissions and can seek to restore them via source code disclosure is not dispositive to the underlying infringement claim.

While TPP thus does not impact copyright holders' ability to enforce the GPL, there are nevertheless plenty of reasons to oppose TPP. Conservancy therefore joins the FSF, EFF, and other organizations in encouraging everyone to oppose TPP.

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TPP has provision banning requirements to transfer or or access to source code of software

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The TPP E-Commerce chapter has a provision banning requirements to transfer or provide access to software source code. This applies to "mass market software."

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OSI Joins Comment to FCC on ET Docket No. 15-170

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OSS
Legal

The signers respectfully request that the commission carefully balance the important work of protecting the radio spectrum with the immeasurable value in experimentation, innovation, and freedom for law-abiding users. Additionally, the signers invite the commission and other regulatory agencies to collaborate with industry; free, open source, and proprietary software developers; and device users on developing wireless device policies and recommendations that meet the needs of regulatory agencies and protect the ability of users to inspect, modify and improve their devices.

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Christoph Hellwig Continues VMware GPL Enforcement Suit in Germany

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Legal

The lawsuit continues to progress. VMware has filed a statement of defense, in which they assert arguments for the dismissal of the action. Christoph, with the assistance of his lawyer Till Jaeger, has filed his response to these arguments. Unfortunately, VMware has explicitly asked for the filings not to be published and, accordingly, Conservancy has not been able to review either document. With the guidance of counsel, Christoph was able to provide Conservancy with a high-level summary of the filings from which we are able to provide this update. VMware's statement of defense primarily focuses on two issues. First, VMware questions Christoph's copyright interest in the Linux kernel and his right to bring this action. Second, VMware claims vmklinux is an “interoperability module” which communicates through a stable interface called VMK API.

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GNU/FSF/SFLC News

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GNU
Legal
  • 30 Years of Free Software Foundation: Best Quotes of Richard Stallman
  • GNU Spotlight with Brandon Invergo: Sixteen new GNU releases!

    16 new GNU releases in the last month (as of September 24, 2015):

    autogen-5.18.6
    cpio-2.12
    ddrescue-1.20
    gdb-7.10
    gettext-0.19.6
    global-6.5.1
    gnupg-2.1.8
    gnutls-3.4.5
    help2man-1.47.2
    libgcrypt-1.6.4
    libmicrohttpd-0.9.43
    libtasn1-4.7
    linux-libre-4.2-gnu
    parallel-20150922
    sipwitch-1.9.10
    ucommon-6.6.0

  • [FSFE PR][EN] FSFE convinces 1125 public administrations to remove proprietary software advertisements

    The campaign began in 2009 with the intent of removing advertisements for proprietary PDF reader software from public institutions' websites. To start it all off, volunteers submitted 2104 "bugs", or instances of proprietary PDF software being directly promoted by public authorities, and the FSFE listed[2] them online. Since then, hundreds of Free Software activists took action by writing to the relevant public institutions and calling for changes to their websites. We received a lot of positive feedback from the institutions thanking us for our letters, and to date, 1125 out of the 2104 websites (53%) edited their websites by removing links to proprietary PDF readers, or adding links to Free Software PDF readers.

  • GLib now has a datagram interface

    For those who like their I/O packetised, GLib now has a companion for its GIOStream class — the GDatagramBased interface, which we’ve implemented as part of R&D work at Collabora. This is designed to be implemented by any class which does datagram-based I/O. GSocket implements it, essentially as an interface to recvmmsg() and sendmmsg(). The upcoming DTLS support in glib-networking will use it.

  • SFLC Files Comment with FCC Arguing Against Overbroad Rules Prohibiting User Modification of Software on Wireless Devices

    On Friday, October 9th, 2015 the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) submitted a comment with the United States Federal Communications Commission, which has proposed a number of revisions to its rules and regulations concerning approval of wireless devices. Notice of Proposed Rule Making, ET Docket No. 15-170. SFLC takes the position that the Commission does not possess the legal authority to adopt a rule that regulates the software running in devices that does not affect the operation of RF transmitters or create interference. SFLC further argues that, even within the scope of the Commission's regulatory jurisdiction, the Commission must tread carefully to avoid over-regulating radio frequency device software to the detriment of user innovation and after-market software modification. SFLC also urges the Commission to issue a policy statement (1) supporting the use of community developed or free software in networking devices; (2) recognizing the overwhelming social benefits generated from the high-quality software produced by non-profit communities; and (3) stating that preferring proprietary software over software whose source code is publicly available does not meaningfully enhance the security of software.

The importance of community-oriented GPL enforcement

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OSS
Legal

The Free Software Foundation and Software Freedom Conservancy have released a statement of principles on how GPL enforcement work can and should be done in a community-oriented fashion. The president of the Open Source Initiative, Allison Randal, participated as a co-author in the drafting of the principles, together with the leadership of FSF and Conservancy.

The Open Source Initiative's mission centers on advocating for and supporting efforts to improve community best practices, in order to promote and protect open source (founded on the principles of free software). While the OSI's work doesn't include legal enforcement actions for the GPL or any of the family of licenses that conform to the Open Source Definition, we applaud these principles set forth by the FSF and Conservancy, clearly defining community best practices around GPL enforcement.

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More in Tux Machines

OpenSUSE 42.2 Alpha

Android/Chromebook

  • No more Android Wear watches says Samsung, Tizen all the way !
    Samsung has been getting pretty serious about its Smartwatches and has certainly excelled with its latest creation, the Tizen based Gear S2. The company has had a little dabble with Android wear in the past, with the Galaxy Gear Live, and since has been focusing on Tizen. According to a report from Fast Company stating that “no more Samsung Android Wear devices are in development or being planned.” This is according to a Samsung executive. The report goes further to say that Samsung executives are going with Tizen because it’s “far more battery-efficient than Android Wear” and “the standard OS on other Samsung products from TVs to refrigerators.”
  • Are games too easy to pirate on Android?
    It's long been known that game developers make much more money on iOS than they do on Google's Android platform. The most recent example of this is Monument Valley. The developers of the game posted an article on Medium with infographics that show that 73% of their revenue comes from iOS, while only 17% comes from Android.
  • Google Trust API Will Replace Your Passwords With A ‘Trust Score’
    In the wake of increasing security threats and password leaks, Google is working on Project Abacus that will introduce Trust API in Android devices. This API will calculate your Trust Score and use them to give you access to various services. This score will be calculated by using a variety of user patterns.
  • Monument Valley in Numbers: Year 2
  • And the winners of the Google Play Awards are…
  • Why are Chromebooks outselling Macs?
  • Fancy ChromiumOS, Ubuntu, And Android TV All-In-One System
    If you are looking for a mini PC that is capable of running ChromiumOS, Ubuntu LTS, and Android TV operating systems, you may be interested in a new mini desktop computer system that has been created by Dylan Callahan. The Fancy mini PC is a “handcrafted personal computer” that is now available to purchase price to $225 plus shipping and is powered by a Quad Core x86 2.0 Ghz processor supported by 4K AMD Radeon graphics that is supported by 4GB of DDR3 RAM.

Leftovers: OSS

  • Linksys Sees Value Open Source Market for WRT Wireless Routers
    The wireless router world remains safe for open source -- at least for users of certain Linksys Wi-Fi devices, which will still allow the installation of open source firmware like DD-WRT after new FCC rules take effect next week. Here's the back story: Last fall, the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) introduced new regulations that required device manufacturers to ensure "that third parties are not able to reprogram the device to operate outside the parameters for which the device was certified." Those rules go into effect June 2.
  • Keynote: How Enterprises are Leveraging Open Source Analytics Platforms
    In this Keynote, Luciano Resende, Architect, Spark Technology Center at IBM, will showcase Open source Analytic platforms. Luciano will also discuss how they are being leveraged by different organizations to upend their competition, as well as enable new use cases.
  • Verizon’s Open Source Network Points Way For Enterprises
  • An open source toolbox for pure mathematics
    The field of pure mathematics has always depended on computers to make tables, prove theorems and explore new theories. Today, computer aided experiments and the use of databases relying on computer calculations are part of the pure mathematician's standard toolbox. In fact, these tools have become so important that some areas of mathematics are now completely dependent on them.
  • Asa Dotzler: My New Role @ Mozilla
    After a couple of years working on Mozilla’s mobile operating system project, I’m coming back to Firefox! I’ll be doing some familiar things and some new things. My official title is Product Manager, Firefox Roadmap and Community. What that means, first and foremost, is that I’ll be returning as our storyteller, making sure that we’re communicating regularly about where Firefox is heading, and that we’re fully engaged with Firefox users, fans, and contributors.

Big Data and Databases