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Legal

Reuse Licensing Helper

Filed under
KDE
Legal

For the past couple of years Andreas Cord-Landwehr has done excellent work on moving KDE in a more structured licensing direction. Free software licensing is an often overlooked topic, that is collectively understood to be important, but also incredibly annoying, bureaucratic, and complex. We all like to ignore it more than we should.

If you are working on KDE software you really should check out KDE’s licenses howto and maybe also glance over the comprehensive policy. In particular when you start a new repo!

I’d like to shine some light on a simple but incredibly useful tool: reuse. reuse helps you check licensing compliance with some incredibly easy commands.

Say you start a new project. You create your prototype source, maybe add a readme – after a while it’s good enough to make public and maybe propose for inclusion as mature KDE software by going through KDE Review. You submit it for review and if you are particularly unlucky you’ll have me come around the corner and lament how your beautiful piece of software isn’t completely free software because some files lack any sort of licensing information. Alas!

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US Supreme Court rules for Google over Oracle

Filed under
Development
Google
Legal

The long saga of Oracle's copyright-infringement against Google, which copied much of the Java API for use in Android, has come to an end with this ruling [PDF] in favor of Google. "Google’s purpose was to create a different task-related system for a different computing environment (smartphones) and to create a platform—the Android platform—that would help achieve and popularize that objective. The record demonstrates numerous ways in which reimplementing an interface can further the development of computer programs. Google’s purpose was therefore consistent with that creative progress that is the basic constitutional objective of copyright itself."

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IBM, Red Hat face copyright, antitrust lawsuit from SCO Group successor Xinuos

Filed under
Red Hat
Legal

Xinuos, formed around SCO Group assets a decade ago under the name UnXis and at the time disavowing any interest in continuing SCO's long-running Linux litigation, today sued IBM and Red Hat for alleged copyright and antitrust law violations.

"First, IBM stole Xinuos' intellectual property and used that stolen property to build and sell a product to compete with Xinuos itself," the US Virgin Islands-based software biz claims in its complaint [PDF]. "Second, stolen property in IBM's hand, IBM and Red Hat illegally agreed to divide the relevant market and use their growing market powers to victimize consumers, innovative competitors, and innovation itself."

The complaint further contends that after the two companies conspired to divide the market, IBM then acquired Red Hat to solidify its position.

SCO Group in 2003 made a similar intellectual property claim. It argued that SCO Group owned the rights to AT&T's Unix and UnixWare operating system source code, that Linux 2.4.x and 2.5.x were unauthorized derivatives of Unix, and that IBM violated its contractual obligations by distributing Linux code.

[...]

"While this case is about Xinuos and the theft of our intellectual property," said Sean Snyder, president and CEO of Xinuos, in a statement. "It is also about market manipulation that has harmed consumers, competitors, the open-source community, and innovation itself."

An IBM spokesperson told The Register that the company has not yet been served with a copy of the complaint. Red Hat did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Owning Your Own Copyrights in Open Source

Filed under
OSS
Legal

Owning your own copyrights in open source is possible provided you’re careful. The strategies outlined above are based on my own experiences (all in the US) as a contract employee from 1995-2008 there after as a regular employee but are not the only ones you could pursue, so ask around to see what others have done as well. The main problem with all the strategies above is that they work well when you’re negotiating your employment. If you’re already working at some corporation they’re unlikely to be helpful to you unless you really have a simple own time open source project. Oh, and just remember that while the snippets I quoted above for the contract case may actually have been in contracts I signed, this isn’t legal advice and you should have a lawyer advise you how best to incorporate the various points raised.

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Third time's a harm? Microsoft tries to get twice-rejected compression patent past skeptical examiners

Filed under
Microsoft
Sci/Tech
Legal

In June, 2019, Microsoft applied for a US patent covering enhancements to a data encoding method known as rANS, one of several variants in the Asymmetric Numeral System (ANS) family that form the foundation of data compression schemes used by Apple, Facebook, Google, various other companies, and open source projects.

Its US patent application was published on the last day of 2020. Recently, the inventor of ANS, Jarosław Duda, assistant professor at Institute of Computer Science at Jagiellonian University in Poland, expressed concern that if Microsoft's patent application is granted, anyone using software that incorporates an ANS-based encoder could be at risk of a potential infringement claim.

[...]

"Google ended up abandoning that application," said Alex Moss, staff attorney for the EFF and Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents, in an email to The Register. "But it looks like Microsoft picked up right where it left off."

"Professor Duda’s concerns about the Microsoft application are similarly well-founded: these are broad claims that implicate practically any use of ANS without adding anything new and non-obvious," said Moss.

The USPTO has already said as much, Moss explained: It has rejected this application twice before, including a final rejection for obviousness.

The USPTO issued a non-final rejection of the application on May 21, 2020. Microsoft sought a review of the decision and the patent agency then issued a final rejection on October 27, 2020.

Yet on March 2, 2021, Microsoft tried one more time to get its patent application approved. In a USPTO explanatory filing, attorney Kyle Rinehart said, "The Applicant respectfully disagrees with the rejections."

"Microsoft’s recent filing takes advantage of what’s called the "After Final Consideration Pilot 2.0" program," Moss explained. "This program was started under former Director of the Patent Office, Andrei Iancu, and before leaving office, he extended the program through September 30, 2021."

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Proposal and Steps To Dual-License Gutenberg Under the GPL and MPL

Filed under
GNU
Legal

The GPL is so embedded into WordPress that it is not just the license the platform is under but a part of the community’s culture. Friends have been gained and lost over discussions of it. Bridges burned. Battles waged. People cast out to the dark corners of the web that “we don’t talk about.” There was even a time when one could expect a fortnightly GPL dust-up in which the inner WordPress world argued the same points over and over, ad nauseam.

It might be hard to imagine a world where — outside of third-party libraries — direct contributions to the software are under anything other than the GPL. However, the wheels are now in motion. The Gutenberg project, which is the foundation of WordPress going forward, may soon be under both the GNU General Public License (GPL) v2 and the Mozilla Public License (MPL) v2.0.

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Also: People of WordPress: Olga Gleckler

Open Source Community Critical Of Chessbase, Fat Fritz 2

Filed under
Legal

The development teams behind the two most successful and influential open-source chess programs, Stockfish and Leela Chess Zero, have issued statements denouncing the commercial program Fat Fritz 2 and the company Chessbase that is selling the program for 99,90 euros.

The statements (Stockfish blog, lichess announcement) assert that the engine in Fat Fritz 2 is Stockfish with minimal changes, that Fat Fritz 2 has violated the GNU General Public License under which Stockfish is released, and that Chessbase's marketing has made false claims about Fat Fritz 2's playing strength.

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Carmen Bianca Bakker: Destination status quo

Filed under
GNU
Legal

I recently happened upon an article that argued against the four freedoms as defined by the Free Software Foundation. I don’t actually want to link to the article—its tone is rather rude and unsavoury, and I do not want to end up in a kerfuffle—but I’ll include an obfuscated link at the end of the article for the sake of integrity.

The article—in spite of how much I disagree with its conclusions—inspired me to reflect on idealism and the inadequacy of things. Those are the things I want to write about in this article.

So instead of refuting all the points with arguments and counter-arguments, my article is going to work a little differently. I’m going to concede a lot of points and truths to the author. I’m also going to assume that they are ultimately wrong, even though I won’t make any arguments to the contrary. That’s simply not what I want to do in this article, and smarter people than I have already made a great case for the four freedoms. Rather, I want to follow the author’s arguments to where they lead, or to where they do not.

The four freedoms

The four freedoms of free software are four condition that a program must meet before it can be considered free. They are—roughly—the freedoms to (1.) use, (2.) study, (3.) share, and (4.) improve the program. The assertion is that if any of these conditions is not met, the user is meaningfully and helplessly restricted in how they can exercise their personal liberties.

The aforementioned article views this a little differently, however. Specifically, I found its retorts on the first and second freedoms interesting.

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What You Need to Know About Open-Source and Proprietary Licenses

Filed under
Legal

When it comes to using, developing, and promoting software, the numerous licenses that accompany them can be confusing for even expert users. Open-source and proprietary licenses often butt heads. One promotes a closed and guarded method of licensing, whereas the latter lets people use software more freely.

In this post, we compare both open and proprietary licenses. We also discuss whether they work well together or the relationship is estranged.

[...]

In short, open and proprietary licenses will always rub each other the wrong way. However, there can be a system where companies still retain brand rights while letting users study and tweak the code. The benefits to the codebase and user security are of immense benefit to everyone.

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Free Software Licensing and Controversy

Filed under
Legal
  • What is Open Source?

    The term ‘open source’ started in software development, but it is applicable to anything. If a thing is open source, first and foremost it means you have access to its source code — what makes that thing tick.

    If a thing is open source, it means that the source code of that thing is available for insight and editing, and may even be copied, repurposed and shared with others under certain conditions.

  • Josh Bressers: It’s the community, stupid

    I’ve been thinking about what open source is a lot lately. I mean A LOT, probably more than is healthy. There have been a ton of open source happenings in the world and the discussions around open source licenses have been numerous. There are even a lot of discussions around the very idea of open source itself. What we once thought was simple and clear is not simple or clear it would seem.

    Full disclosure. I work at Elastic and if you pay attention to open source you probably hear that Elasticsearch has a new license. I’m not going to discuss open source licenses today, I will soon, but today I want to talk about community because it keeps popping into my brain and clouding other ideas.

    The term “community” means different things to different people. I’ve heard some people talk about community as some sort of amorphous blob that will give them free work. Some think it’s a bunch of jobless degenerates who need haircuts. Some think it’s where their friends are. Some think it’s where their enemies are. Some people believe community is a mythical beast, something so fantastical that can’t possibly exist, like unicorns, dragons, or Canadians. When we don’t know what something is, it enters the world of myth and it becomes both everything and nothing at the same time. I think many of us have forgotten what community is.

  • Is Elastic Stretching Truth In AWS Spat Over Elasticsearch License? | Data Center Knowledge

    The Elasticsearch and Kibana license change may have less to do with alleged abuse by AWS than Elastic's public statements would have you believe.

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Kernel Leftovers

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  • Patches Resubmitted For Linux With Selectable Intel Graphics Platform Support

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  • Linux Kernel Runtime Guard 0.9.0 Is Released

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  • Hans de Goede: Logitech G15 and Z-10 LCD-screen support under Linux

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Devuan 4.0 Alpha Builds Begin For Debian 11 Without Systemd

Debian 11 continues inching closer towards release and it looks like the developers maintaining the "Devuan" fork won't be far behind with their re-base of the distribution focused on init system freedom. The Devuan fork of Debian remains focused on providing Debian GNU/Linux without systemd. Devuan Beowulf 3.1 is their latest release based on Debian 10 while Devuan Chimaera is in the works as their re-base for Debian 11. Read more