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Why OSI License Approval Matters

Filed under
OSS
Legal

Does it really matter if a copyright license is OSI Approved or not? Surely if it looks like it meets the benchmark that’s all that matters? I think that’s the wrong answer, and that OSI license approval is the crucial innovation that’s driven the open source revolution.

“Open Source” describes a subset of free software that is made available under a copyright license approved by the Open Source Initiative as conforming with the Open Source Definition. Having a standards body for licenses — one which ratifies the consensus of an open community of license reviewers — saves individuals from needing to each seek out a legal advisor to tell them whether a given license does in fact give them the rights they need to build or deploy the software they want. By providing easy certainty, open source gives people permission in advance to meet their own needs and innovate with technology.

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Defending GPL, Bashing GPL

Filed under
GNU
OSS
BSD
Legal
  • Permissive and Copyleft Are Not Antonyms

    Using the term “permissive” as an antonym to “copyleft” – or “restrictive” as its synonym – are unhelpful framing. Describe license reciprocity instead.

    Some open source licenses implement a clever hack invented by Richard Stallman where, as a condition of the copyright license, anyone creating derived versions has to agree they will license the new version the same way as the original. In a play on words, this concept is called “copyleft” and many open source licenses implement this hack.

    In its strongest form, the “copyleft” idea can place a condition on the licensing of all the other code compiled together to make the eventual binary executable program. Complying with this requirement can prevent use of business models that deny software freedom to the end user; as a consequence, many commercial software developers avoid the strongest forms of copyleft licensing.

    There are less stringent forms of copyleft. Licenses like the MPL (Mozilla Public License) only require individual files that are modified to be licensed under the same license as the original and don’t extend that requirement to other files used to build the executable. The Eclipse Public License (EPL) has a copyleft provision that’s triggered by distribution of the source code. These scope-restricted variants are all described as “weak copyleft.”

    In discussing these licensing approaches with clients, I’ve often found that these terms “strong copyleft” and “weak copyleft” lead to misunderstandings. In particular, developers can incorrectly apply the compliance steps applicable to one “weak” license to code under another license, believing that all such licenses are the same. As a consequence, I prefer to use different terms.

  • Should the Fair License Replace the GPL?

    Read the full license, and if you find yourself thinking, “That sounds impossible to enforce,” you aren’t alone. To me, the Fair Source License looks like another one of the many attempts I’ve seen to come up with something that looks like a free or open source license, but really isn’t.

News and e-press echos after EUPL v1.2 publication

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OSS
Legal

The publication of the new EUPL v1.2 has been echoed widely across Europe, starting with the official Europa.eu: “The European Commission has released a new version of the European Union Public Licence (EUPL), a tool for publishing any copyrighted work as open source. The licence is legally consistent with the copyright law of all EU countries and is especially well-suited for public administrations sharing IT solutions.”

If the licence is especially suited for public sector, it is also widely used by the private sector. In fact, the majority of the 15.000 EUPL licensed works are distributed by economic actors, developers and enterprises.

In Germany, the announcement was promptly commented by IfrOSS, the German Institute for legal questions on free and open source software (EU-Kommission veröffentlicht neue EUPL-Version). Pro-Linux.de focuses on the extended compatibility of the EUPL (i.e. with the GPL v3) and point out that in various European Member States like The Netherlands, France, Spain etc. the licence has been selected for distributing, when convenient and applicable, software applications made by governments.

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Also: Romania opens new procurement portal for testing

Getting Started with Open Source Licenses

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OSS
Legal

With proprietary software, it's easy for a developer to know where he or she stands. Unless you or the company for which you're working owns the copyright to the code, it's off limits -- end of story. There's usually not even any temptation to use the code, because the source code is usually not available.

Moving into open source opens up a whole new world that can make things a lot easier. Suddenly, you're not constantly having to reinvent the wheel by writing code for processes where there's code already written and waiting at the ready. In some circumstances, you can even use open source code inside a proprietary project.

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GPL Win in Court Explained

Filed under
GNU
Legal
  • US Court Upholds Enforceability Of GNU GPL As Both A License And A Contract

    Free software dominates modern computing, from smartphones to supercomputers -- only the desktop remains a stronghold of proprietary code. Most of that free software has the Linux kernel at its heart, and a key element in the success of Linux -- and of thousands of other coding projects -- is the GNU General Public License. Although the first version of the GNU GPL was released by Richard Stallman back in 1989, and version 3 was issued in 2007, there have been surprisingly few court cases examining it and other open source licenses, and whether they are legally watertight.

    A key case is Jacobsen v. Katzer from 2008. As a detailed Groklaw post at the time explained, the US appeals court held that open source license conditions are enforceable as a copyright condition. Now we have another important judgment, Artifex v. Hancom, that clarifies further the legal basis of open source licenses. It concerns the well-known Ghostscript interpreter for the PostScript language, written originally by L. Peter Deutsch, and sold by the company he founded, Artifex Software. Artifex was a pioneer in adopting a dual-licensing approach for Ghostscript. That is, you could either use the software under the GNU GPL, or you could avoid copyleft's redistribution requirements by taking out a conventional proprietary license.

  • The GNU GPL Is An Enforceable Contract At Last [Ed: Misleading headline; it was always valid and enforceable, tested in US courts too.]
  • Artifex Software v Hancom: Guidance from US District Court on enforcement of open source software licences

    Open source software is regularly used as a way of leveraging the collective knowledge of the software development community by allowing anyone to improve and contribute to the code, provided they ‘pay it forward’ and allow their improved code to be used by the community. Open source software is often incorporated into proprietary software to avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’ – why develop from scratch what has already been prepared and improved upon by the collective wisdom of developers worldwide? This can, however, create a risk of “infection” (requiring the proprietary software to be released on open source terms) – the risk varies based on the terms of the open source licence under which the software is released.

GNU, GPL, and 'Contamination'

Filed under
GNU
Legal
  • GDB 8.0 Released, Adds Many New Features, Drops Java GCJ Support

    GDB 8.0 has been released as the newest feature release for this widely-used GNU Debugger.

  • [Older] Understanding the “GPL is a Contract” court case

    There’s been a lot of confusion about the recent Artifex v. Hancom case, in which the court found that the GPL was an enforceable contract. I’m going to try to explain the whole thing in clear terms for the legal layman.

  • [Older] Google's New Mobile OS Will Have a Distinctly Non-Linux Hue [Ed: less GPL]
  • Not Open, Not Closed: The Future of Hybrid Licenses

    With proprietary software pressured and giving ground to open source competition, however, the process for selling software has become more challenging. It is possible, of course, to monetize open source software directly. A variety of mechanisms have been tried, from dual licensing to support and service to open core. It is inefficient and significantly less profitable than selling proprietary software was, however. Even the best in the industry depended heavily on volume to make up for the difficulty in converting users of free software to paid customers. MySQL, for example, reportedly was at its peak able to convert one in a thousand users to a paid product. Combined with generally lower margins (though Pivotal might disagree) due to increased competition from other open source projects, and it’s not difficult to understand why it’s harder for commercial organizations to extract revenue relative to proprietary competitors. Red Hat, then, is the exception that proves the rule.

EUPL Becomes GPLv3-compatible, GPL Defended by Courts

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GNU
Legal
  • European Commission updates EUPL open source licence

    The European Commission has updated the European Union Public Licence (EUPL). Version 1.2 has a wider coverage, making it easier to use the licence to publish data, documents, technical specifications and standards, as well as software source code. In addition, the new licence is compatible with a wider range of other free and open source software licences, including the GNU Public Licence v3.

  • 100 Million Reasons For Open Source Compliance

    CoKinetic Systems Corporation filed suit against Panasonic Avionics Corporation, seeking damages in excess of $100 million, in part, for violation of the GPL v2 open source license. CoKinetic alleged that Panasonic blocked competitors from having the ability to develop software for Panasonic’s In-flight Entertainment (IFE) hardware by refusing to distribute the source code for its open-source Linux based operating system. CoKinetic alleged that this software controls the basic functions of Panasonic IFE hardware systems. According to CoKinetic, this is a willful violation of the GPL License, exposing Panasonic as a willful infringer of the copyrights of thousands of software developers that have contributed to Linux. The suit includes other very interesting legal claims, detailed below.

  • Artifex v. Hancom: Open Source is Now an Enforceable Contract

    Today, as much as 50 percent of the code used in all software (including Internet of Things devices) is comprised of open source software. While open source provides a convenient short cut for software developers to be more agile and efficient – there’s also a hidden risk: The law. While open source components are by definition free and available for anyone to use – there are limitations and most open source components have licensing obligations that developers must comply with.

The Licensing and Compliance Lab interviews AJ Jordon of gplenforced.org

Filed under
GNU
Legal

So basically Bradley Kuhn gave a talk at FOSDEM '17 about GPL enforcement and I was like, wow, it sucks how many companies and people think that enforcing the GPL is a bad idea. I mean, if you disagree with copyleft that's fine (though I personally would argue with that position), but then you should use a suitable license. Like MIT. The very idea that we shouldn't enforce the GPL just doesn't make sense to me because it suggests that the text of the license is watery and unimportant. I don't know about you, but when I say I want my programs to respect users' freedom, I mean it.

So GPL enforcement is important. It seemed to me that there are probably a lot of developers out there who want to support GPL enforcement but don't have a good way to voice that support. gplenforced.org is essentially a quick and dirty hack I wrote to make that dead-simple.

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A federal court has ruled that an open-source license is an enforceable contract

Filed under
GNU
Legal

When the South Korean developer of a suite of productivity apps called Hancom Office incorporated an open-source PDF interpreter called Ghostscript into its word-processing software, it was supposed to do one of two things.

To use Ghostscript for free, Hancom would have to adhere to its open-source license, the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GNU GPL requires that when you use GPL-licensed software to make some other software, the resulting software also has to be open-sourced with the same license if it’s released to the public. That means Hancom would have to open-source its entire suite of apps.

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No More MP3 (Software) Patents is Good News for GNU/Linux

Filed under
Red Hat
Legal

  • Full MP3 Support Being Added To Fedora Linux

    Fedora Workstation last year enabled support for MP3 decoding on this Red Hat Linux distribution while now they are enabling MP3 encoding support too.

    With the last of the MP3 patents expiring, there is MP3 encoding support being added to Fedora to finally provide a full MP3 support experience atop this distribution.

  • Full MP3 support coming soon to Fedora

    Both MP3 encoding and decoding will soon be officially supported in Fedora. Last November the patents covering MP3 decoding expired and Fedora Workstation enabled MP3 decoding via the mpg123 library and GStreamer. This update allowed users with the gstreamer1-plugin-mpg123 package installed on their systems to listen to MP3 encoded music.

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