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Legal

A Cycle of Renewal, Broken: How Big Tech and Big Media Abuse Copyright Law to Slay Competition

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Legal

In 1950, a television salesman named Robert Tarlton put together a consortium of TV merchants in the town of Lansford, Pennsylvania to erect an antenna tall enough to pull down signals from Philadelphia, about 90 miles to the southeast. The antenna connected to a web of cables that the consortium strung up and down the streets of Lansford, bringing big-city TV to their customers — and making TV ownership for Lansfordites far more attractive. Though hobbyists had been jury-rigging their own "community antenna television" networks since 1948, no one had ever tried to go into business with such an operation. The first commercial cable TV company was born.

The rise of cable over the following years kicked off decades of political controversy over whether the cable operators should be allowed to stay in business, seeing as they were retransmitting broadcast signals without payment or permission and collecting money for the service. Broadcasters took a dim view of people using their signals without permission, which is a little rich, given that the broadcasting industry itself owed its existence to the ability to play sound recordings over the air without permission or payment.

The FCC brokered a series of compromises in the years that followed, coming up with complex rules governing which signals a cable operator could retransmit, which ones they must retransmit, and how much all this would cost. The end result was a second way to get TV, one that made peace with—and grew alongside—broadcasters, eventually coming to dominate how we get cable TV in our homes.

By 1976, cable and broadcasters joined forces to fight a new technology: home video recorders, starting with Sony's Betamax recorders. In the eyes of the cable operators, broadcasters, and movie studios, these were as illegitimate as the playing of records over the air had been, or as retransmitting those broadcasts over cable had been. Lawsuits over the VCR continued for the next eight years. In 1984, the Supreme Court finally weighed in, legalizing the VCR, and finding that new technologies were not illegal under copyright law if they were "capable of substantial noninfringing uses."

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REUSE makes copyright and licensing easier than ever

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The licensing of a software project is critical information. Developers set the terms under which others can reuse their software, from individuals to giant corporations. Authors want to make sure that others adhere to their chosen licenses; potential re-users have to know the license of third-party software before publication; and companies have to ensure license compliance in their products that often build on top of existing projects. The REUSE project, led by the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), helps all of these parties.

REUSE aims to have all copyright and licensing information stored as close to the source files as possible. This is achieved by directly adding this information to the file in a standardised and machine-readable form. If a file does not support that, a .license file or central DEP-5 configuration file can be used instead. This way, developers can be assured that re-users will not oversee copyright holders and their intended license.

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Open Invention Network, the Linux-based patent non-aggression community, exceeds 3,000 licensees

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Linux
Legal

OIN's mission is to enable Linux, its related software, and its programmers to develop and monetize without being hogtied by patent fights. In Linux's early years, this was a constant threat. Now, thanks largely to the OIN's efforts to get everyone to agree on the basic open-source principle -- that's it's better and more profitable to share than to cling to proprietary property -- open-source software has taken off in the marketplace.

The OIN isn't the first to take this concept and apply it to the Unix/Linux operating system family. After Novell bought Unix from AT&T, rather than keep fighting with Berkeley Software Design Inc. (BSDO) over possible Unix IP rights violations in BSD/OS, an early, commercial BSD Unix, Noorda famously declared that he'd rather compete in the marketplace than in court. This Unix case was settled in 1994.

That was a one off. The OIN, which has grown by 50% in the last two years, has turned patent non-aggression into policy for thousands of companies. By agreeing to the OIN license, members gain access to patented inventions worth hundreds of millions of dollars while promoting a favorable environment for Linux and related open source software.

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My personal journey from MIT to GPL

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GNU
Legal

As I got started writing open source software, I generally preferred the MIT license. I actually made fun of the “copyleft” GPL licenses, on the grounds that they are less free. I still hold this opinion today: the GPL license is less free than the MIT license - but today, I believe this in a good way.

[...]

I don’t plan on relicensing my historical projects, but my new projects have used the GPL family of licenses for a while now. I think you should seriously consider it as well.

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GPL Dodge and Compliance

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GNU
Legal
  • Why does macOS Catalina use Zsh instead of Bash? Licensing [iophk: "s/patents/software patents/g; :("]

    So, it’s no surprise that Apple’s moving its users away from Bash. I’m also not surprised to see Apple favor Zsh. For starters, it’s licensed under the MIT License, and therefore doesn’t contain the controversial language surrounding patents and Tivoization.

  • The Redmi S2, aka Y2, gets its Android Pie update

    That may not be a huge deal to some users, however. Xiaomi is also obliged to release the S2/Y2's kernel sources in order to remain compliant with GNU's general public licence.

EFF and Open Rights Group Defend the Right to Publish Open Source Software to the UK Government

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Security
Legal

EFF and Open Rights Group today submitted formal comments to the British Treasury, urging restraint in applying anti-money-laundering regulations to the publication of open-source software.

The UK government sought public feedback on proposals to update its financial regulations pertaining to money laundering and terrorism in alignment with a larger European directive. The consultation asked for feedback on applying onerous customer due diligence regulations to the cryptocurrency space as well as what approach the government should take in addressing “privacy coins” like Zcash and Monero. Most worrisome, the government also asked “whether the publication of open-source software should be subject to [customer due diligence] requirements.”

We’ve seen these kind of attacks on the publication of open source software before, in fights dating back to the 90s, when the Clinton administration attempted to require that anyone merely publishing cryptography source code obtain a government-issued license as an arms dealer. Attempting to force today’s open-source software publishers to follow financial regulations designed to go after those engaged in money laundering is equally obtuse.

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Licensing Changes

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GNU
OSS
Legal
  • CockroachDB changes its open-source licensing model [Ed: Waffling tom avoid saying it became proprietary]

    Cockroach Labs has announced that it is switching CockroachDB away from the Apache License version 2 (APL).

    According to Cockroach Labs, its business model has long relied on the assumption that “companies could build a business around a strong open source core product without a much larger technology platform company coming along and offering the same product as a service.” But this is no longer the case, the company explained.

  • Another open-source database company will tighten its licensing strategy, wary of Amazon Web Services [Ed: Another reminder that all the cloudwashing by corporate media is an assault on FOSS because people are shamed into ceding control, giving all money and data to GAFAM]

    Cockroach Labs, the New York-based database company behind the open-source CockroachDB database, will change the terms of the license agreement in the next version of the open-source project to prohibit cloud providers like Amazon Web Services from offering a commercial version of that project as a service.

  • CockroachDB shelters from AWS extermination under Business Software License [Ed: Amazon's assault on FOSS using the AWS/cloudwashing craze yields results; FOSS becoming proprietary software and GAFAM couldn't care less.]

    Cockroach Labs has become the latest open source vendor to run for cover from AWS and other cloud vendors, by relicensing its CockroachDB under the Business Source License.

    In a post explaining the move, the companies’ founders wrote “We’re witnessing the rise of highly-integrated providers take advantage of their unique position to offer “as-a-service” versions of OSS products, and offer a superior user experience as a consequence of their integrations.” They cited AWS’ forked version of ElasticSearch.

  • Latest FSF Updates To Software Licenses

    If you've ever felt confused about open source licensing you are not alone. The good news is that the Free Software Foundation has a highly informative and well-maintained list of licenses, not only for software but also for documentation and for other works, drawing a distinction between free and non-free.

    The fact that that the Personal Public Licence Version 3a and the Anti-996 Licence have both been added to the non-free list isn't really the important bit of this news item. It is that the existence of the Various Licences and Comments about Them that deserves being better known.

Licensing: Companies That Close Down FOSS 'in the Cloud' and Latest GPL Compliance at OnePlus

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OSS
Legal
  • Confluent says it has the first cloud-native Kafka streaming platform

    Open-source unicorn Confluent Inc. is ready to go head-to-head with cloud computing giants with the release of a cloud-native and fully managed service based upon the Apache Kafka streaming platform.

  • For open source vs. proprietary, AWS might have it both ways [Ed: Mac Asay, Adobe, proponent of calling proprietary "open". IDG has just received money from Adobe (“BrandPost Sponsored by Adobe”) and Asay is now publishing articles owing to his employer paying the media. He’s is some kind of editor at InfoWorld (IDG). So the corporations basically buy ‘journalism’ (their staff as editors) at IDG.]
  • Why Open Source Should Remain Open

    On one hand, the validation that comes along with major tech players offering open source fuels growth in the software. On the other, it also changes the platform from one that’s always been free and available to one that is only available with limitations and has red tape all around it. As some of these companies join in the open source community, they’re losing sight of the original goal and community. Instead, they are building artificial walls and shutting down many parts of what makes open source open. This isn’t a unique occurrence, it’s happening more and more frequently and is something that will completely rearrange the core of open source as we know it.

  • BREAKING: OnePlus 7 Pro root achieved on global and Indian variants, kernel source codes released

    OnePlus phones are known for their developer friendliness as well as strong aftermarket development community. The Chinese OEM prefers to mandate GPL and push kernel source codes in a timely manner, which is a godsend compared to most of their competitors.

  • OnePlus 7 / 7 Pro kernel source code is now out, expect custom ROMs soon

    OnePlus announced the most-awaited OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro last week. Both the smartphones are already on sale and can be bought in all the countries they are available. Even the OnePlus 7 Pro received its maiden update which brings April security patch and more. As usual, the kernel source for the OnePlus 7 series is now out too in a timely manner. Thus, users can expect custom ROMS sooner than later.

Google GPL Compliance and Free Software Legal and Licensing Workshop 2019

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OSS
Legal
  • Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL forums and kernel source code are up

    Google’s newly launched Pixel 3a series matches up to the photography skills of the flagship Pixel 3 series, even while being priced at only half. But besides bringing the characteristic photography acumen of a Google Pixel, the Pixel 3a devices also share some part of their DNA with the erstwhile Google Nexus lineup. This is because they’re easy on the pocket (at least in the Western markets) and should, thus, be preferred by developers as devices meant to test the latest features in Android.

  • Renewed focus on REUSE

    Following the Free Software Legal and Licensing Workshop 2019 in Barcelona, I managed to get in touch with some people to put a renewed focus on the REUSE initiative by the FSFE.

  • ClearlyDefined: Putting license information in one place [Ed: Why is an FSFE workshop led by a Microsoft employee? Explains some things I've seen about FSFE lately (not good things). Be careful of ClearlyDefined because mostly Microsoft people promote it (everywhere they can). So you know it's Microsoft-leaning an effort and Microsoft is a serial GPL violator that got caught many times.]

    As the stats page shows, there are nearly five million definitions currently in the database (as of this writing, anyway). Multiple repositories are being harvested, including npm for Node.js, PyPI for Python, Maven for Java, Crate for Rust, GitHub, and others. ClearlyDefined was the subject of a lively workshop at the recent FSFE Legal and Licensing Workshop (LLW), led by project lead Jeff McAffer of GitHub. The project has lots of partners, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Qualcomm, Software Heritage, and Codescoop.

FOSS Licensing Debates at OSI and New Open Data From Recursion

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OSS
Legal
  • April 2019 License-Discuss Summary

    Antoine Thomas asks whether a contributor would be able to revoke/remove their contributions from a project, and how this would affect old versions of a project.

    Kevin Fleming responds that legitimately provided open source licenses are not revocable, but that a project might honor a request out of courtesy.

    Brendan Hickey points out that copyright law may provide special revocation rights, e.g. 17 USC §203. And even without revocation, a contributor could make life difficult for users.

  • April 2019 License-Review Summary

    Van Lindberg submits his Cryptographic Autonomy License (CAL) to the review process. This is a network copyleft license, but with a broader scope than the AGPL. The CAL is motivated by ensuring user autonomy in blockchain-based applications. Lindberg has also written an in-depth blog post that serves as a rationale document. Last month, there had already been preliminary discussion about the license on the license-discuss list (see the summary).

    [...]

    Pamela Chestek provides a careful analysis of unclear language in the license.

    Henrik Ingo is concerned that the anti-DRM provision might not be effective, which leads to some comparisons with the GPLv3 [1,2,3,4].

  • Recursion Releases Open-Source Data from Largest Ever Dataset of Biological Images, Inviting Data Science Community to Develop New and Improved Machine Learning Algorithms for the Life Sciences Industry
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More in Tux Machines

today's howtos

  • A guided tour of Linux file system types

    While it may not be obvious to the casual user, Linux file systems have evolved significantly over the last decade or so to make them more resistant to corruption and performance problems. Most Linux systems today use a file system type called ext4. The “ext” part stands for “extended” and the 4 indicates that this is the 4th generation of this file system type. Features added over time include the ability to provide increasingly larger file systems (currently as large as 1,000,000 TiB) and much larger files (up to 16 TiB), more resistance to system crashes and less fragmentation (scattering single files as chunks in multiple locations) which improves performance.

  • Testing the Linux Malware Detect.
  • Kushal Das: Remember to mark drive as removable for tails vm install

    If you are installing Tails into a VM for testing or anything else, always remember to mark the drive as a removable USB drive. Otherwise, the installation step will finish properly, but, you will get errors like the following screenshot while booting from the drive.

  • How to Set DNS Nameservers on Ubuntu 18.04

Security Leftovers

  • NSA Researchers Talk Development, Release of Ghidra SRE Tool

    The National Security Agency released its classified Ghidra software reverse-engineering (SRE) tool as open source to the cybersecurity community on April 4. NSA researchers Brian Knighton and Chris Delikat shared how Ghidra was built and the process of releasing it at Black Hat 2019. Ghidra is a framework developed by the NSA’s Research Directorate for the agency’s cybersecurity mission. It’s designed to analyze malicious code to give security pros a better understanding of potential vulnerabilities in their networks and systems.

  • Linux Is Being Hit with Zero-Day Exploits/ Zero-Day Attacks [Ed: This is not news. If you have a system that is unpatched for months, despite many warnings, it is a risk, no matter the OS/kernel.]

    It was once the popular opinion that Linux was immune to zero-day exploits. However, even before the Equifax exploit, vulnerabilities were found in Linux distributions like Fedora and Ubuntu. In particular, back in 2016, a security researcher discovered that you could exploit a Linux system by playing a specific music file. Then, in 2017, a group of attackers used Struckshock vulnerability to carry on the attack on Equifax. These zero-day attacks are Advanced Persistent Attacks that exploit recently discovered vulnerabilities. Read on to learn more about what are zero-day exploits and how they can affect a Linux system.

  • Intel, Google, Microsoft, and Others Launch Confidential Computing Consortium for Data Security

    Major tech companies including Alibaba, Arm, Baidu, IBM, Intel, Google Cloud, Microsoft, and Red Hat today announced intent to form the Confidential Computing Consortium to improve security for data in use.

  • Intel, Google, Microsoft, and others launch Confidential Computing Consortium for data security

    Major tech companies including Alibaba, Arm, Baidu, IBM, Intel, Google Cloud, Microsoft, and Red Hat today announced intent to form the Confidential Computing Consortium to improve security for data in use. Established by the Linux Foundation, the organization plans to bring together hardware vendors, developers, open source experts, and others to promote the use of confidential computing, advance common open source standards, and better protect data. “Confidential computing focuses on securing data in use. Current approaches to securing data often address data at rest (storage) and in transit (network), but encrypting data in use is possibly the most challenging step to providing a fully encrypted lifecycle for sensitive data,” the Linux Foundation said today in a joint statement. “Confidential computing will enable encrypted data to be processed in memory without exposing it to the rest of the system and reduce exposure for sensitive data and provide greater control and transparency for users.”

Linux-driven modules to showcase new MediaTek AIoT SoCs

Innocomm is prepping an “SB30 SoM” with the new quad -A35 MediaTek i300 followed by an “SB50 SoM” with an AI-equipped, octa-core -A73 and -A53 MediaTek i500. Both modules ship with Linux/Android evaluation kits. Innocomm, which has produced NXP-based compute modules such as the i.MX8M Mini driven WB15 and i.MX8M powered WB10, will soon try on some MediaTek SoCs for size. First up is an SB30 SoM due to launch in October that will run Linux or Android on MediaTek’s 1.5GHz, quad-core, Cortex-A35 based MediaTek i300 (MT8362) SoC. In November, the company plans to introduce an SB50 SoM based on the MediaTek i500 (MT8385). Read more

Devices: Raspberry Pi and More