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Court Upholds Enforceability of Open Source Licenses

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GNU
OSS
Legal

The District Court for the Northern District of California recently issued an opinion that is being hailed as a victory for open source software. In this case, the court denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging violation of an open source software license, paving the way for further action enforcing the conditions of the GNU General Public License (“GPL”).

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Is The GPL Really Declining?

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GNU
Legal

At the huge FOSDEM developer meetup in Brussels in early February, I attended a panel where speakers discussed whether the use of “permissive” open source licenses like the Apache License is now outstripping use of “viral” licenses, such as the GPL. The discussion was spirited, with advocates associated with the Free Software Foundation pushing back on the assertion the GPL is “dying”.

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FOSS Licensing (and Lack Thereof)

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OSS
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  • Portugal to harmonise usability of govt portals

    All of the code, information and tools are made available for reuse.

  • JRC: ‘Releasing code without a licence hinders reuse’

    Projects that publish source code without a licence weaken the reusability of their code, warns Stefano Gentile, a copyright and trademark specialist working for the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). Currently just 20 % of all projects published on GitHub, one of the most popular source code sharing platforms, have selected a licence for their work - down from about 60% in 2008, Gentile said, quoting numbers published in 2015 by GitHub.

  • React to React

    The Additional Grant of Patent Rights is a patent license grant that includes certain termination criteria. These termination criteria are not entirely unprecedented when you look at the history of patent license provisions in OSI-approved licenses, but they are certainly broader than the termination criteria [or the equivalent] in several familiar modern licenses (the Apache License 2.0, EPL, MPL 2.0, and GPLv3).

  • BetConstruct declares the source code for its front-end as open source

    The project is distributed under MIT license.

Why GPL Compliance Education Materials Should Be Free as in Freedom

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GNU
Legal

I am honored to be a co-author and editor-in-chief of the most comprehensive, detailed, and complete guide on matters related to compliance of copyleft software licenses such as the GPL. This book, Copyleft and the GNU General Public License: A Comprehensive Tutorial and Guide (which we often call the Copyleft Guide for short) is 155 pages filled with useful material to help everyone understand copyleft licenses for software, how they work, and how to comply with them properly. It is the only document to fully incorporate esoteric material such as the FSF's famous GPLv3 rationale documents directly alongside practical advice, such as the pristine example, which is the only freely published compliance analysis of a real product on the market. The document explains in great detail how that product manufacturer made good choices to comply with the GPL. The reader learns by both real-world example as well as abstract explanation.

However, the most important fact about the Copyleft Guide is not its useful and engaging content. More importantly, the license of this book gives freedom to its readers in the same way the license of the copylefted software does. Specifically, we chose the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 license (CC BY-SA) for this work. We believe that not just software, but any generally useful technical information that teaches people should be freely sharable and modifiable by the general public.

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Defending copyleft

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Legal

For some years now, Bradley Kuhn has been the face of GPL enforcement. At LibrePlanet 2017, he gave a talk about that enforcement and, more generally, whether copyleft is succeeding. Enforcing the GPL is somewhat fraught with perils of various sorts, and there are those who are trying to thwart that work, he said. His talk was partly to clear the air and to alert the free-software community to some backroom politics he sees happening in the enforcement realm.

Most of the work that Kuhn's employer, the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), does is not dealing with licensing issues. But people love hearing about copyleft, he said. In addition, free-software developers like those at LibrePlanet have a right to know what's going on politically. There is a lot of politics going on behind the scenes.

Kuhn works for a charity, not a traditional company or a trade association. That means he has the freedom and, in some sense, the obligation to give attendees the whole story from his point of view, he said. He is lucky to be able to work in that fashion. Kuhn then took a bit of a spin through his history with copyleft and why he decided to step up for it.

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Also: Open Source Licenses: How They're Similar, How They're Different

Linux Foundation blocks access to open source risks article

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GNU
Legal

The Free Software Foundation's John Sullivan was one of the first to criticise the article, pointing out on Twitter, "There are many sites where I'd expect to see this article but not the Linux Foundation."

In reference to a claim in the article, he wrote, "Copyleft is not 'riskier'. Permissive licenses allow proprietary reuse, and *proprietary* licensing is far more complicated and risky."

And he added, "Copyleft is also not 'restrictive'. See above. Proprietary licensing is restrictive. Copyleft guarantees absence of restrictions."

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Do GitHub's updated terms of service conflict with copyleft?

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GNU
Legal

GitHub's updated terms caused a great deal of concern, but while they are confusing, they do not appear to be incompatible with copyleft. The Free Software Foundation (FSF), though, still recommends using other code hosting sites.

GitHub recently updated their terms of service (ToS). Users of the site are raising many concerns over the new terms, fearing that the ToS could be incompatible with the copyleft licenses on works uploaded to GitHub. In particular, section D of the new terms, which handles rights granted to GitHub and GitHub users, makes many hackers very uncomfortable.

Section D.4 states, "You grant us and our legal successors the right to store and display your Content and make incidental copies as necessary to render the Website and provide the Service. " At first glance that might appear to grant permissions on your work without the concomitant protective guarantees found in copyleft licenses like the GNU General Public License (GPL). Users who care about ensuring that their software never becomes proprietary would not want to give such unconditional permission. And those uploading works that incorporate third-party copylefted code may not even be able to grant such permissions.

But licenses like the GNU GPL already give the necessary permissions to make, use, and modify local copies of a work. Are the new GitHub ToS asking for more than that? It's not fully clear. While the grant language could fit within the scope of the GPL, other words used in the section like "share" or "distribute" could be understood to mean something that wouldn't line up with the GPL's terms.

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BSD and GPL

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GNU
BSD
Legal
  • Booting FreeBSD 11 with NVMe and ZFS on AMD Ryzen

    We recently took one of our test systems and tried an experiment: could we boot FreeBSD 11 from a NVMe SSD using ZFS root file system using AMD Ryzen. At STH we have many FreeBSD users and developers so when there is a new hardware class out, we tend to try it in FreeBSD and sometimes popular FreeBSD appliance OSes such as pfSense and FreeNAS. You can see an example with our Knights Landing Xeon Phi x200 system booting FreeBSD OSes. In our recent testing with AMD Ryzen we found major installers with the latest CentOS 7.3 and also had issues with Ubuntu crashing using current LTS image kernels. We wanted to see how FreeBSD would fare given it normally lags in terms of hardware support.

  • VMware becomes gold member of Linux Foundation: And what about the GPL?

    As we can read in recent news, VMware has become a gold member of the Linux foundation. That causes - to say the least - very mixed feelings to me.

    One thing to keep in mind: The Linux Foundation is an industry association, it exists to act in the joint interest of it's paying members. It is not a charity, and it does not act for the public good. I know and respect that, while some people sometimes appear to be confused about its function.

    However, allowing an entity like VMware to join, despite their many years long disrespect for the most basic principles of the FOSS Community (such as: Following the GPL and its copyleft principle), really is hard to understand and accept.

    I wouldn't have any issue if VMware would (prior to joining LF) have said: Ok, we had some bad policies in the past, but now we fully comply with the license of the Linux kernel, and we release all derivative/collective works in source code. This would be a positive spin: Acknowledge past issues, resolve the issues, become clean and then publicly underlining your support of Linux by (among other things) joining the Linux Foundation. I'm not one to hold grudges against people who accept their past mistakes, fix the presence and then move on. But no, they haven't fixed any issues.

    They are having one of the worst track records in terms of intentional GPL compliance issues for many years, showing outright disrespect for Linux, the GPL and ultimately the rights of the Linux developers, not resolving those issues and at the same time joining the Linux Foundation? What kind of message sends that?

Should the U.S. Army Have Its Own Open Source License?

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OSS
Legal

This question has generated many pixels’ worth of traffic on the OSI License discuss email list. This post is just a brief summary of a little of the discussion, which has been going on for some weeks and shows no sign of slowing down.

There are currently 80 Open Sourse Initiative-approved open source licenses. It’s nice that the Army (I’m a veteran) wants to not only write software licensed as open source, but OSI-approved open source software. (Go Army!)

But does the Army really need its own special OS license? Should the Air Force have a different one? Will the Navy want a Coastal Combat Open Source License, along with a separate Blue Water Open Source License? That might sound far-fetched, but Mozilla has three separate open source licenses, Microsoft has two, and Canada’s province of Québec also has three. So why shouldn’t the U.S. Department of Defense have a whole slew of open source licenses?

There are five different GPL licenses alone, and I assure you that even the Coast Guard dwarfs the Free Software Foundation in both personnel and resources.

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Also: US Department of Defense Launches code.mil Open Source Effort

Microsoft Pays GPL Foes, Free Software Talks GPL, GPL Violator Pays the Linux Foundation

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GNU
Legal
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