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Legal

Law schools lag behind on open source law

Filed under
OSS
Legal

Many organizations use at least some open source code within their programs. So it is surprising that recent graduates who work with companies using open source software are usually ill prepared (or not prepared at all) to deal with open source legal issues. However, it is not the attorneys’ fault.

Open source legal training is not easy to find, and if available it is not cheap. In the Bay Area, some law schools support an "open movement" policy. For example, some of them create and promote their own commons, meaning that the journals' articles are uploaded and distributed for free online. The schools' open access policies allow attorneys to stay up-­to-­date on their education, without the stress of paying for a subscription. (See SCU commons and UC Hastings.)

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Also: Why I'm not using your open source project

A referendum on GPL enforcement

Filed under
GNU
Legal

One of the key provisions of the GNU General Public License (GPL) is that derivative products must also be released under the GPL. A great many companies rigorously follow the terms of the license, while others avoid GPL-licensed software altogether because they are unwilling to follow those terms. Some companies, though, seem to feel that the terms of the GPL do not apply to them, presenting the copyright holder with two alternatives: find a way to get those companies to change their behavior, or allow the terms of the license to be flouted. In recent times, little effort has gone into the first option; depending on the results of an ongoing fundraising campaign, that effort may drop to nearly zero. We would appear to be at a decision point with regard to how (and whether) we would like to see GPL enforcement done within our community.

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German court addresses GPLv3 section 8 termination provisions

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OSS
Legal

GPLv2, first published in 1991, provides for automatic termination of the license in the event of violation, with no stated opportunity for cure. By the time of the drafting of GPLv3, the Free Software Foundation, steward of the GPL license family, had come to consider automatic termination to be an unduly harsh policy. GPLv3, introduced in 2007, formally retained automatic termination in its section 8 but moderated it in certain ways, including by providing for automatic reinstatement of the license for first-time GPLv3 violators who cure the violation prior to 30 days after receiving notice from the copyright holder. The precise wording of section 8 was drafted with German preliminary injunction procedure in mind.

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FOSS projects and their legal structures

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OSS
Legal

Free Software has been growing pretty much everywhere around the world, and so much so that we now face challenges nobody would have thought possible even ten years ago. One of these unexpected issues is the need for proper legal structures. Traditionally, only a handful of entities used to exist. They could be dedicated to one, large project or act as a hub for a “forge” or a set of more or less related projects: that’s the case with the Eclipse or the Apache Software Foundation. Others were one of kind: Software In the Public interest, SPI, is handling funds for large and small projects and has been doing so for well over 15 years. The Free Software Foundation both directly and through the Free Software Conservancy has also hosted many FOSS projects developments, infrastructure and financial resources.

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Leftovers: FSF/GNU

Filed under
GNU
Legal
  • Fighting For Social Justice Is a Major Contribution to Society

    I have something to say that I'm sure everyone is going to consider controversial. I've been meaning to say it for some time, and I realize that it's going to get some annoyance from all sides of this debate. Conservancy may lose Supporters over this, even though this is my personal blog and my personal opinion, and views expressed here aren't necessarily Conservancy's views. I've actually been meaning to write this publicly for a year. I just have to say it now, because there's yet another event on this issue caused yet another a war of words in our community.

  • Software Freedom Conservancy needs your support!

    Last August, Debian and Conservancy announced a partnership and formed the Copyright Aggregation Project where, among other things, Conservancy will be able to hold copyrights for some Debian works and ensure compliance with copyleft so that those works remain in free software.

  • The Free Software Foundation Updates Its Gift Giving Guide

Leftovers: FSF/GNU

Filed under
GNU
Legal
  • Software Freedom Conservancy Launches 2015 Fundraiser

    Today Software Freedom Conservancy announces a major fundraising effort. Pointing to the difficulty of relying on corporate funding while pursuing important but controversial issues, like GPL compliance, Conservancy has structured its fundraiser to increase individual support. The organization needs at least 750 annual Supporters to continue its basic community services and 2500 to avoid hibernating its enforcement efforts. If Conservancy does not meet its goals, it will be forced to radically restructure and wind down a substantial portion of its operations.

  • GIMP 2.8.16 Has Been Released
  • 20 Years of GIMP Evolution: Step by Step

    GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) – superb open source and free graphics editor. Development began in 1995 as students project of the University of California, Berkeley by Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball. In 1997 the project was renamed in “GIMP” and became an official part of GNU Project. During these years the GIMP is one of the best graphics editor and platinum holy wars “GIMP vs Photoshop” – one of the most popular.

  • Infinity status

    I’m winding down for a month away from Infinity. The current status is that the language and note format changes for 0.0.2 are all done. Y

European Patent Office Threatens Blogger With Defamation Lawsuit For Criticism

Filed under
Legal
Misc

In fact, to argue that Schestowitz's post is defamatory is crazy. Threatening Schestowitz with a defamation claim is much crazier and dangerous than even Schestowitz's own interpretation of the EPO's memo. If you're working for a government agency, such as the EPO, you have to be willing to accept some amount of criticism, even if you disagree with it. To claim it's defamation and to threaten a lawsuit is really, really screwed up.

[...]

I'm having trouble thinking of any other governmental agency that has ever threatened a public critic with defamation. Basic concepts around free speech suggest that the EPO should suck it up. If it disagrees with Schestowitz's interpretation of what it's doing, then it can come out and explain its side of the story. Threatening him with defamation actually only makes me think that perhaps his interpretation hits closer to home than I originally believed.

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

Filed under
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

Filed under
OSS
Legal

LITIGATION VS FREE SOFTWARE

Filed under
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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