Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

EU lawmakers threaten open source

Filed under
OSS

The European Commission has proposed a law that could allow criminal charges to be pressed against businesses using software that is believed to infringe upon another company's intellectual property (IP).

The proposed directive, which was adopted by the European Commission last month, would allow criminal sanctions against "all intentional infringements of an IP right on a commercial scale".

Richard Penfold, a partner at law firm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, said last week that the proposed directive could "quite possibly" allow the imprisonment of the boss of a company that is using infringing software, although it would depend on whether the defendant can argue that the infringement was unintentional.

Although it is unusual for companies to target the users of software, rather than its manufacturers, there is one well-known example — the cases brought by the SCO Group against car maker DaimlerChrysler and auto-parts retailer AutoZone over their use of Linux. SCO claimed that AutoZone infringed on SCO Unix copyrights through its use of Linux and that DaimlerChrysler had breached its contract with SCO.

Ross Anderson, the chair of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, said the proposed directive could help SCO or other companies in future IP infringement cases against open source software.

"In future somebody like SCO will have another course of action open to them — the threat of criminal charges. This threat would enable SCO to cast a larger legal cloud," said Anderson.

The European branch of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) was also worried that SCO could use the directive to its advantage. Joachim Jakobs from FSF Europe said that not only could company managers face being tried in a criminal court, but SCO could also be allowed to join the criminal investigation — as the directive calls for "Joint Investigation Teams", where the holder of the IP rights in question can assist the criminal investigation.

But Paul Stevens, a partner at Olswang, said it was unlikely that software users would be affected by the directive, as any company that pursues criminal cases against users is likely to suffer from the bad publicity.

"It's not that often that companies who have IP rights pursue cases against users," he said. "Most IP owners want you to continue buying their product and to continue dealing with them. If they started threatening someone with prison or a criminal record, how do you think their customers will feel?"

The proposed directive, which has not yet been approved by the European Parliament, includes various penalties to those caught infringing IP rights four years' imprisonment; fines; seizure and destruction of the offending goods; closure of the establishment used to commit the offence; a ban on engaging in commercial activities; and denial of access to legal aid.

The proposal is described as a "European Parliament and Council directive on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of IP rights". For more information on this law and how it may impact free software, file sharers and patent infringement lawsuits, please click here.

By Ingrid Marson
ZDNet UK

More in Tux Machines

today's leftovers

'Turbo Boost Max 3.0' and Mesa 17.2.4

  • Turbo Boost Max 3.0 Support For Skylake Fixed With Linux 4.15
    The platform-drivers-x86 updates have been sent in for Linux 4.15 and include a range of improvements for Intel hardware support. One of the bigger items is support for Skylake CPUs with Turbo Boost Max 3.0.
  • Mesa 17.2.4 Graphics Stack Lands for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and Ubuntu 17.10 Gamers
    Canonical's Timo Aaltonen reports on the availability of the Mesa 17.2.4 open-source graphics drivers stack on the X-SWAT updates PPA for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and Ubuntu 17.10 systems. Ubuntu systems have always lagged behind the development of the Mesa 3D Graphics Library, the Linux graphics stack containing open-source drivers for Intel, AMD Radeon, and Nvidia GPUs, but they usually catch up with it through a specially crafted PPA (Personal Package Archive) repository that can be easily installed by users.

OSS Leftovers

  • The Future of Marketing Technology Is Headed for an Open-Source Revolution
  • Edging Closer – ODS Sydney
    Despite the fact that OpenStack’s mission statement has not fundamentally changed since the inception of the project in 2010, we have found many different interpretations of the technology through the years. One of them was that OpenStack would be an all-inclusive anything-as-a-service, in a striking parallel to the many different definitions the “cloud” assumed at the time. At the OpenStack Developer Summit in Sydney, we found a project that is returning to its roots: scalable Infrastructure-as-a-Service. It turns out, that resonates well with its user base.
  • Firefox Quantum Now Available on openSUSE Tumbleweed, Linux 4.14 Coming Soon
    Users of the openSUSE Tumbleweed rolling operating system can now update their computers to the latest and greatest Firefox Quantum web browser.
  • Short Delay with WordPress 4.9
    You may have heard WordPress 4.9 is out. While this seems a good improvement over 4.8, it has a new editor that uses codemirror.  So what’s the problem? Well, inside codemirror is jshint and this has that idiotic no evil license. I think this was added in by WordPress, not codemirror itself. So basically WordPress 4.9 has a file, or actually a tiny part of a file that is non-free.  I’ll now have to delay the update of WordPress to hack that piece out, which probably means removing the javascript linter. Not ideal but that’s the way things go.

Red Hat and Fedora Leftovers