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Legal

Understanding Copyleft

Filed under
GNU
Legal

The concept of copyleft means making a software program or other work free to use and additionally requiring all modified and extended versions of that program to be free as well. It’s important to note that “free” in this sense refers to freedom – not cost – and you may hear the commonly used phrases “free as in speech” and “free as in beer” used to make this distinction.

According to the LINFO website, “the origin of the term copyleft is not certain. It may have first appeared in a message contained in Tiny BASIC, a free version of the Basic programming language that was written by Dr. Li Chen Wang in the late 1970s.”

[...]

As Joe Casad states in a Linux Magazine article, “The GNU General Public License was born of the simple idea that freedom matters. Yet this simple tool for protecting freedom has another important feature that makes it even more powerful, and that is the ability to build communities.” The amazing growth of projects and communities that make up the open source ecosystem stems in part from this ability to modify and extend tools to meet changing needs.

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Software patents are another kind of disease

Filed under
Legal

On Friday May 8th, the USPTO announced the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program. Doctored up to look like a helpful response to a global pandemic, it's actually the exact opposite. Under the program, the USPTO will waive some fees associated with accelerated application review for patents on works that require US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. They'll also work to try and get these applications granted within six months. These changes will make it easier and faster for people to gain patents on any technology related to the pandemic, including patents on software. It's not in our scope to determine the impact of other kinds of patents, but we know specifically that they are terrible for software, and at a time where software is critical to saving lives, expediting software patent applications will only cause harm.

To be clear, this program does not speed up FDA approval, or help to get lifesaving technology to the people who need it most. It doesn't create supply chains or help fund the development of medical technologies and software. All it does is make it easier for someone to "own" that technology, to make it quicker and cheaper to restrict others from implementing and sharing tools that people need to survive. It rushes the patent application process so that someone could be able to sue others trying to save seriously ill patients around the world before the global pandemic is over.

While the crisis was unfurling, the GNOME Foundation was still expending resources fighting off a patent suit started in 2019. On May 20, 2020, the GNOME Foundation succeeding in securing a release and covenant not to sue from the patent aggressor for all software released under a free license. This was a major win for software freedom that took months and months to realize. But the threat remains, and the only reason someone would need to get their patent granted sooner is because they want to start their lawsuits sooner, to disrupt the flow of medical technology in order to siphon off profits from those seeking to alleviate the worst pandemic in a century.

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Also: FSF Calls Software Patents A Disease Amid COVID-19 Crisis, USPTO A Super-Spreader

CEO of Open Technology Fund Resigns After Closed-Source Lobbying Effort

Filed under
OSS
Legal

In a resignation email sent to an OTF mailing list, Libby Liu, the inaugural OTF CEO, mentioned that the Trump administration had recently sworn in Michael Peck as the new head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which is the OTF's grantor. She said that she learned of lobbying efforts to push money to closed-source tools.

"As you all know, OTF's flexible, transparent, and competitive funding model has been essential to our success in supporting the most secure and effective internet freedom technologies and innovative projects available," she wrote. "I have become aware of lobbying efforts to convince the new USAGM [U.S. Agency for Global Media] CEO to interfere with the current FY2020 OTF funding stream and redirect some of our resources to a few closed-source circumvention tools."

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Licensing: Qt Online Installer 3.2.3 Released

Filed under
Development
Legal
  • Qt Online Installer 3.2.3 Released

    We are happy to announce Qt Online Installer / Maintenance Tool 3.2.3 has been released.

    We have fixed a few translation issues. Please read the details in ChangeLog.

    The page, introducing Qt Open Source usage, has been slightly modified. The goal has been to clarify the Qt Open Source usage.

  • Qt Updates Its Online Installer To Clarify Open-Source Obligations

    Following yesterday's release of Qt 5.15 LTS as the last series before Qt 6.0, The Qt Company has now released a new Qt Online Installer.

    Qt Online Installer 3.2.3 is out with a few translation fixes and they have reworked their "Qt Open Source usage" page. The page lays out the open-source usage obligations for the toolkit under the GPLv2/GPLv3/LGPLv3. The page also allows users to buy Qt or choose the right license and lays out the various obligations when using the open-source version.

Patent case against GNOME resolved

Filed under
GNOME
Legal

Today, on the 20th of May 2020, the GNOME Foundation, Rothschild Patent Imaging, and Leigh M. Rothschild are pleased to announce that the patent dispute between Rothschild Patent Imaging and GNOME has been settled.

In this walk-away settlement, GNOME receives a release and covenant not to be sued for any patent held by Rothschild Patent Imaging. Further, both Rothschild Patent Imaging and Leigh Rothschild are granting a release and covenant to any software that is released under an existing Open Source Initiative approved license (and subsequent versions thereof), including for the entire Rothschild portfolio of patents, to the extent such software forms a material part of the infringement allegation.

Neil McGovern, Executive Director for the GNOME Foundation said “I’m exceptionally pleased that we have concluded this case. This will allow us to refocus our attention on creating a free software desktop, and will ensure certainty for all free and open source software in future.”

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FSFE calls for a more inclusive competition law in Europe

Filed under
OSS
Legal

In order to contribute to the EU Commission assessment of the Market Definition Notice, the FSFE has taken part in the public consultation to call for more attention to smaller stakeholders and civil society in topics of EU competition law.

The European Commission has launched an evaluation of some central concepts of EU competition law. The so-called EU Market Definition Notice (the "Notice") enables the Commission to identify actual competitors of relevant products and geographic markets to enforce prevailing competition policy and law. The purpose of this evaluation is to determine whether the Notice, introduced in 1997, remains fit for its purpose in light of recent developments. This is especially necessary when we also consider the dramatic digitalisation of the European markets that has occurred in the past 23 years.

In order to contribute to a fair and inclusive assessment, the FSFE took part in the public consultation to highlight the necessity of having the experience of grassroot organisations and civil society actors heard by the Commission. Notwithstanding the deep expertise in competition law in the software and telecommunications field these smaller stakeholders have, they might be disadvantaged in raising attention to essential competition topics, since the Commission might hear a biased account of the needs of the market when only large and well-funded business organisations have sufficient resources to effectively provide feedback in consultation procedures.

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FSFE nudges emergency ventilator project towards a Free Software License

Filed under
Legal

After a nudge by the FSFE, the Dutch OpenAIR initiative has provided licenses on their material to support reuse.

In the Netherlands an initiative has started to cope with COVID-19 by developing an easy producible emergency ventilator for which parts could mainly be sourced locally: OperationAIR. This project was started on 16 March by professor Harlaar and students of the Department of BioMechanical Engineering of Delft Technical University in order to ensure enough ventilator capacity for treating COVID-19 patients. The team intended their design to be publicly available for reuse. To adhere to the principles of Open Science all documentation, technical design and source code was published in a coherent fashion on their website.

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Licensing: FSF Against "Hippocratic License" (Denial of Freedom) and SPDX 2.2 Specification Outsourced by Linux Foundation to Microsoft

Filed under
Legal
  • A roundup of recent updates to our licensing materials: November 2019 to April 2020

    The Hippocratic License 1.1

    This license is the latest addition to our license list, but unfortunately, it falls in the nonfree category. It restricts uses of the software "that actively and knowingly endanger, harm, or otherwise threaten the physical, mental, economic, or general well-being of individuals or groups in violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights." While avoiding harm like this is of vital importance, a copyright license isn't necessarily the correct tool for achieving it. A restriction like this on Freedom 0 (the freedom to run the program for any purpose) may be difficult to enforce, as well as for users to understand, and may cause unintended consequences that could worsen the same problems it aims to solve.

  • SPDX 2.2 Specification Released [Ed: Linux Foundation outsourced SPDX to Microsoft]

    The SPDX technical community is delighted to announce that the 2.2 version of the specification has been released! We started working on the first version of the SPDX specification 10 years ago, and it has continued to improve and evolve to support the automation of more software bill of materials information over the years. This release incorporates a significant amount of input from our tooling and user communities to enable new use cases to be better represented.

    [...]

    The project members would like to thank our recent contributors to this release, who have enriched it with their new perspectives, as well as our ongoing participants. A full list of those who have contributed by participating in the many discussions, adding comments, and making suggestions for improvements to the SPDX specification as it’s evolved over the last 10 years can be found at the Credits page!

The Linux Ownership System Demystified

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Legal

Hence Linux would no longer be just a kernel. Torvalds ended up licensing Linux under the GNU general public license (GPL). This license allows users to modify and distribute the source code. However, whoever distributes Linux has to do so under the same terms. The terms basically assure that any modifications made to the Linux kernel also have to continue being free.

But none of that means that Torvalds himself or any other single entity has ownership of the Linux source code in full. Torvalds himself approves a number of changes made to Linux, but that doesn’t give him the copyright to those changes. Therefore you can contribute code to Linux, which then gets approved by the community, but you get to retain the copyright to that piece of code.

That means you will become one of the thousands of collective owners of Linux. But keep in mind that because of the terms of the GPL, you can’t forbid anyone else from using or modifying your code in the future. Very many people own a copyright in the different parts of the Linux source code. That makes it hard to imagine that the terms Linux is licensed under will ever change.

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Licensing and Tricks/Openwashing

Filed under
OSS
Legal
  • April 2020 Zeta Alliance Weekly Call Summaries

    Changes To Zimbra’s Open Source Policy
    John E. explained that Zimbra 9 introduces a change to Synacor’s open source policy for Zimbra. Starting with Zimbra 9, a binary version of Zimbra 9 will no longer be released to the community and will instead only be made available to Zimbra Network Edition customers. There are currently no plans to release the source code for Zimbra 9 to the community. Zimbra 8.8.15 will remain open source for the community and continue to be supported for the remainder of its lifecycle through December, 31, 2024 (https://www.zimbra.com/support/support- ... lifecycle/). Version 8.8.15 will also continue to receive patches during this time frame. John E. described this new model for Zimbra 9 as “open core” where the open source products on which Zimbra is built will continue to be freely available, but the Zimbra 9 product itself will not be open source. Marc G. asked if Synacor’s plans involved introducing new features to Zimbra 8.8.15, or if the focus for introducing new features will shift exclusively to version 9. John E. said that he did not have the answer to this question. John also shared that starting with Zimbra 9, a source code license will be made available to customers who are licensing Zimbra Network Edition.

    Reactions To Zimbra Open Source Policy Change
    Noah P. said that part of his customer base values that Zimbra is open source and that it has been a marketing advantage over other proprietary email platforms. Marc G. said he felt this change will be hard for the open source community to support. John E. shared his personal opinion that Zimbra has struggled for several years to engage the open source community, as the ratio of people using Zimbra, compared to the number of people contributing back to Zimbra, has been very low. He said the biggest difference currently between Zimbra 8.8.15 and 9.0 is the addition of the new, Modern UI and welcomes feedback from Zimbra partners and the open source community on this policy change. Mark S. shared that many developers he has discussed it with have said that they have found it very difficult (if not impossible) to contribute to the Zimbra project in the past, mainly due to issues with an earlier version of the contributor’s agreement, which was finally updated a couple of years ago. Randy L. mentioned that another open source project, VyOS (https://www.vyos.io/community/), overcame issues with soliciting contributions back to their open source project by making binaries available to those who could demonstrate a meaningful contribution to the project in code or documentation work and suggested that such an approach might be something that Synacor should look at too. John E. invited Zimbra partners concerned about continued open source access to make a business case explaining how the loss of open source access would have a financial business impact for Synacor.

  • Changes To Zimbra's Open Source Policy

    The Zimbra email and collaboration suite will change its open source policy. This post from the Zeta Alliance notes the changes for Zimbra 9. "John E. explained that Zimbra 9 introduces a change to Synacor's open source policy for Zimbra. Starting with Zimbra 9, a binary version of Zimbra 9 will no longer be released to the community and will instead only be made available to Zimbra Network Edition customers.

  • Free Software Legal and Licensing Workshop 2020 cancelled due to COVID-19 outbreak

    This year's FSFE's Free Software Legal and Licensing Workshop has been cancelled. The FSFE thanks our contributors and looks ahead to organizing the event next year.

    Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 currently gripping the world, in early March the FSFE had to make the difficult decision to cancel our upcoming Free Software Legal and Licensing Workshop 2020 (the "Workshop"). Originally scheduled to take place from 15 - 17 April in Barcelona, Spain, the Workshop is an annual conference held every year since 2008 for the FSFE's Legal Network, and serves as a meeting point for FOSS legal experts to discuss issues and best practices surrounding Free Software licensing.

    Many exciting sessions were scheduled for this year's Workshop, including discussions on the technological relevance of copyleft licenses, on the challenges facing Free Software with machine learning and big data, on ongoing litigation from various jurisdictions on software licensing, as well as many other talks and workshops.

  • Update from the CommunityBridge Development Team [Ed: The Linux Foundation works for Microsoft. Not for Linux;
    watch who drives this thing...]
  • TOC Welcomes Dragonfly Into CNCF Incubator

    The CNCF Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) has accepted Dragonfly as an incubation-level hosted project. Dragonfly, which was accepted into the CNCF Sandbox in October 2018, is an open source, cloud native image and file distribution system. The goal of Dragonfly is to tackle distribution problems in cloud native scenarios.

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