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Ending the Embedded Linux Patent War Before It Begins

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Legal

The next big intellectual property battle has been forming over hardwired and programmable chips made for mobile devices that leverage Linux code. However, the Open Invention Network has strategically deployed forces to keep Linux-powered smartphones, tablets and other computer technologies out of harm's way. Its goal is to create a patent litigation no-fly zone around embedded Linux.

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Oracle continue to circumvent EXPORT_SYMBOL_GPL()

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GNU
Legal

So, in the face of a technical mechanism designed to enforce the author's beliefs about the copyright status of callers of this function, Oracle deliberately circumvent that technical mechanism by simply re-exporting the same function under a new name. It should be emphasised that calling an EXPORT_SYMBOL_GPL() function does not inherently cause the caller to become a derivative work of the kernel - it only represents the original author's opinion of whether it would. You'd still need a court case to find out for sure. But if it turns out that the use of ktime_get() does cause a work to become derivative, Oracle would find it fairly difficult to argue that their infringement was accidental.

Of course, as copyright holders of DTrace, Oracle could solve the problem by dual-licensing DTrace under the GPL as well as the CDDL. The fact that they haven't implies that they think there's enough value in keeping it under an incompatible license to risk losing a copyright infringement suit. This might be just the kind of recklessness that Oracle accused Google of back in their last case.

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Interview with Ciaran Gultnieks of F-Droid

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Android
GNU
Legal

This is the latest installment of our Licensing and Compliance Lab's series on free software developers who choose GNU licenses for their works.

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Dangerous Decision in Oracle v. Google: Federal Circuit Reverses Sensible Lower Court Ruling on APIs

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Android
Google
Legal

We're still digesting today's lengthy decision in the Oracle v. Google appeal, but we're disappointed—and worried. The heart of the appeal was whether Oracle can claim a copyright on Java APIs and, if so, whether Google infringed that copyright. According to the Federal Circuit today, the answer to both questions was a qualified yes—with the qualification being that Google may have a fair use defense.

Quick background: When it implemented the Android OS, Google wrote its own version of Java. But in order to allow developers to write their own programs for Android, Google relied on Java APIs. Application Programming Interfaces are, generally speaking, specifications that allow programs to communicate with each other. So when you type a letter in a word processor, and hit the print command, you are using an API that lets the word processor talk to the printer driver, even though they were written by different people.

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Will Apple sue Amazon for copying the iPhone?

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Android
Mac
Legal

Let’s face it, Apple has never been shy about suing other companies that they think have infringed on their intellectual property. The recent legal fights with Samsung are a good example, but there have been others over the years. At one point Steve Jobs even vowed to use Apple’s billions to destroy Android in court because he regarded it as a stolen product.

Apple has made it clear that they will go after anybody that they think has copied their work. The company has spent millions and millions of dollars trying to protect its patents and products. The end result has been somewhat muddled, but that doesn’t mean that Apple will stop sending its lawyers after those it regards as thieves.

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Easter egg: DSL router patch merely hides backdoor instead of closing it

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Hardware
Security
Legal

First, DSL router owners got an unwelcome Christmas present. Now, the same gift is back as an Easter egg. The same security researcher who originally discovered a backdoor in 24 models of wireless DSL routers has found that a patch intended to fix that problem doesn’t actually get rid of the backdoor—it just conceals it. And the nature of the “fix” suggests that the backdoor, which is part of the firmware for wireless DSL routers based on technology from the Taiwanese manufacturer Sercomm, was an intentional feature to begin with.

Back in December, Eloi Vanderbecken of Synacktiv Digital Security was visiting his family for the Christmas holiday, and for various reasons he had the need to gain administrative access to their Linksys WAG200G DSL gateway over Wi-Fi. He discovered that the device was listening on an undocumented Internet Protocol port number, and after analyzing the code in the firmware, he found that the port could be used to send administrative commands to the router without a password.

After Vanderbecken published his results, others confirmed that the same backdoor existed on other systems based on the same Sercomm modem, including home routers from Netgear, Cisco (both under the Cisco and Linksys brands), and Diamond. In January, Netgear and other vendors published a new version of the firmware that was supposed to close the back door.

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History Repeats Itself: Patent Abusers Successfully Stymie Anti-Patent Troll Bill In The Senate

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Legal

Back in December, we noted that the House Judiciary Committee had approved an unfortunately watered-down, anti-patent troll bill. It was better than nothing, but we hoped that the Senate would approve a much stronger version. For a while it seemed like that was likely to happen, but... those who abuse patents are pretty damn powerful. Even those who have been hit by patent trolls in the past, like Apple and Microsoft, have decided to join forces in lobbying against meaningful patent reform. They've been pushing to water down the Senate's bill, taking out nearly everything that would make the bill useful -- and it appears that they're succeeding.

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Here's Hoping The Supreme Court Does Not Blow Another Opportunity To Fix The Software Patent Problem

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Legal

Four years ago, the Supreme Court had a chance to establish once and for all whether or not software was patentable. The Bilski case got all sorts of attention as various parties lined up to explain why software patents were either evil, innovation-killing monsters or the sole cause of innovation since the cotton gin and everything in between (only slight exaggeration). Rather than actually answer the question everyone was asking, the Supreme Court decided to rule especially narrowly, rejecting the specific patents at stake in the case and saying that the current test used to determine patentability (the so-called "machine-or-transformation" test) need not be the only test for patentability. However, it declined to say what tests should be used, leaving it up to the lower courts to start ruling blindly, making up new tests as they went along. And muddle along blindly they did -- right up to the height of pure absurdism in the CAFC (appeals court that handles patents) ruling in the Alice v. CLS Bank case, in which every single judge disagreed with each other. The ruling was 135 pages of confused mess where all justices only agreed on a single paragraph, which (like Bilski) said this particular patent was invalid, but no one could agree why.

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SCO & NSA: The Great Digital Whack-A-Mole Game

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Legal

Since leaving SCO, McBride’s life has continued with the sort of gangsteresque intrigue that defined him in the days when he was Linux’s public-enemy-number-one. Last May he made news when The Salt Lake Tribune reported that he had turned over a four year old audio recording of a conversation he had with Mark Shurtleff, who had been Utah’s Attorney General when the recording was made.

The conversation turned around a bad debt McBride was trying to collect.

It seems that McBride invested $286,000 with businessman Mark Robbins, who had promised a $5 million return which McBride had hoped to use to cover legal expenses in the SCO vs. IBM case. Unfortunately for McBride, Robbins skipped town to avoid being served a bench warrant in an unrelated civil case and was nowhere to be found. In an attempt to collect the debt, McBride established a website, Skyline Cowboy, which the Tribune described as “a sort of virtual bounty-hunting operation aimed at flushing out Robbins.”

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No Licence Needed for Kubuntu Derivative Distributions

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KDE
Legal

Later last year rumours of this nonsense started appearing in the tech press so instead of writing a grumpy blog post I e-mailed the community council and said they needed to nip it in the bud and state that no licence is needed to make a derivative distribution. Time passed, at some point Canonical changed their licence policy to be called an Intellectual property rights policy and be much more vague about any licences needed for binary packages. Now the community council have put out a Statement on Canonical Package Licensing which is also extremely vague and generally apologetic for Canonical doing this.

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