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Legal

Microsoft-Led GPL Violations and the FSF

Filed under
GNU
Legal
  • GitHub is my copilot [Ed: Microsoft is attacking the GPL using the guise or excuse of "HEY HI" (plagiarism, copy-paste)]

    Your editor has worked in the computing field for rather longer than he cares to admit; for all of that time it has been said that a day will come when all that tedious programming work will no longer be necessary. Instead, we'll just say what we want and the computer will figure it out. Arguably, the announcement of GitHub Copilot takes us another step in that direction. On the way, though, it raises some interesting questions about copyright and free-software licensing.

    Copilot is a machine-learning system that generates code. Given the beginning of a function or data-structure definition, it attempts to fill in the rest; it can also work from a comment describing the desired functionality. If one believes the testimonials on the Copilot site, it can do a miraculous job of figuring out the developer's intent and providing the needed code. It promises to take some of the grunge work out of development and increase developer productivity. Of course, it can happily generate security vulnerabilities; it also uploads the code you're working on and remembers if you took its suggestions, but that's the world we've built for ourselves.

    Machine-learning systems, of course, must be trained on large amounts of data. Happily for GitHub, it just happens to be sitting on a massive pile of code, most of which is under free-software licenses. So the company duly used the code in the publicly available repositories it hosts to train this model; evidently private repositories were not used for this purpose. For now, the result is available as a restricted beta offering; the company plans to turn it into a commercial product going forward.

  • FSF-funded call for white papers on philosophical and legal questions around Copilot

    We already know that Copilot as it stands is unacceptable and unjust, from our perspective. It requires running software that is not free/libre (Visual Studio, or parts of Visual Studio Code), and Copilot is Service as a Software Substitute. These are settled questions as far as we are concerned.

  • FSF job opportunity: Operations assistant — Free Software Foundation

    The Free Software Foundation (FSF), a Massachusetts 501(c)(3) charity with a worldwide mission to protect and promote computer-user freedom, seeks a motivated and organized Boston-based individual to be our full-time operations assistant.

    Reporting to the executive director, this position works on the operations team to ensure all administrative, office, and retail functions of the FSF run smoothly and efficiently, preserving our 4-star Charity Navigator rating and boosting all areas of our work.

GPL Enforcement and Violations: Stockfish and More

Filed under
GNU
Legal
  • Our lawsuit against ChessBase

    The Stockfish project strongly believes in free and open-source software and data. Collaboration is what made this engine the strongest chess engine in the world. We license our software using the GNU General Public License, Version 3 (GPL) with the intent to guarantee all chess enthusiasts the freedom to use, share and change all versions of the program.

    Unfortunately, not everybody shares this vision of openness. We have come to realize that ChessBase concealed from their customers Stockfish as the true origin of key parts of their products (see also earlier blog posts by us and the joint Lichess, Leela Chess Zero, and Stockfish teams). Indeed, few customers know they obtained a modified version of Stockfish when they paid for Fat Fritz 2 or Houdini 6 - both Stockfish derivatives - and they thus have good reason to be upset. ChessBase repeatedly violated central obligations of the GPL, which ensures that the user of the software is informed of their rights. These rights are explicit in the license and include access to the corresponding sources, and the right to reproduce, modify and distribute GPLed programs royalty-free.

  • Stockfish sues ChessBase

    The Stockfish project, which distributes a chess engine under GPLv3, has announced the filing of a GPL-enforcement lawsuit against ChessBase, which has been (and evidently still is) distributing proprietary versions of the Stockfish code.

  • Are you compliant with open-source license obligations?

    A short answer is no. Your piece of software will not be open-source if it doesn’t have an open-source license. Under copyright law, such software is copyrighted by default, with all the restrictions that this implies.

    If you want anyone to use your code freely, you should ensure certain liberties commonly called “the four freedoms“. They say that OS software may be used, studied, modified, and distributed freely, as long as the license is respected.

    For the first three, there are no conditions of any kind; you are free to use, study, and modify the code for any purpose. If you move beyond that and decide to distribute your modified version (or the original), this is when open-source license compliance starts.

    Missing license texts are the number one cause of license infringement cases, which, as we’ve seen above, can lead to the loss of ownership rights and enforcement actions such as an interim injunction.

Microsoft's Latest Attack on Free Software

Filed under
GNU
Microsoft
Legal

Should GitHub Be Sued For Training Copilot on GPL Code?

Filed under
Microsoft
Legal

The technology, a bleeding-edge application of deep learning and neural networks, was trained using the public repositories published on GitHub. Training a neural network model means that you take the data (source code of these repositories in our case) and feed it to the network, so that it can learn what to do in future similar cases.

Copilot has seen billions of lines of code, functions, classes and object definitions before, and hence, can suggest the next steps whenever enough information about the programmer’s desire are determined.

However, this brought a large issue into debate: Many of these public repositories were licensed under the GPL license and other copyleft licenses (MIT, AGPL… etc), so is this process legal? Is it OK for GitHub to use free software source code to train its proprietary, paid and commercial service?

Different opinions emerged in the open source community.

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Official Statement Regarding UXDivers Grial Kit and MauiKit.com usage

Filed under
KDE
Microsoft
Legal

Today May 28, 2021, during a routine reverse search of the term “MauiKit,” we came across a rather surprising finding, a Xamarin Technical Partner, UXDivers, had recently started to use a previously registered but unused domain, mauikit.com. Once again, we find ourselves in a rather unfortunate situation as we’re facing very similar circumstances as last year with Xamarin itself.

[...]

As per the ICANN lookup website, the domain mauikit.com was created on the 21st of May 2020. Coincidentally, this is exactly the month when last year Xamarin (a Microsoft subsidiary) decided to rebrand their UI framework “Xamarin.Form”s to “MAUI,” to be specific, it was registered two days after we raised this problem with Xamarin at their GitHub repository.

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A Second Cambrian Explosion of Open Source Licenses Or Is it Time For Open Source Lawyers to Have Fun Again?

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Legal

Eventually, the sprawling nature of this experimentation began to cause problems. The Free Software Foundation’s Free Software Definition and the Open Source Initiative’s Open Source Definition were both attempts to bring some order to the open source software world.
In the specific context of licensing, the Open Source Initiative began approving licenses that met its criteria. Soon thereafter, it released a License Proliferation Report detailing the challenges created by this proliferation of licenses and proposing ways to combat them.
These activities helped to bring order and standardization to the world of open source licensing. While OSI continues to approve licenses, for well over a decade the conventional wisdom in the world of open source has been to avoid creating a new license if at all possible. As a result, for most of this century open source software license experimentation has been decidedly out of style.
Largely for the reasons described in the License Proliferation Report, this conventional wisdom has been beneficial to the community. License proliferation does create a number of problems. Standardization does help address them. However, in doing so standardization also greatly reduced the amount of license experimentation within the community.
Reduced experimentation means that concerns incorporated into approved licenses (access to modifications of openly licensed code) have been canonized, while concerns that had not been integrated into an approved license (restrictions on unethical uses of software) at the moment of formalization were largely excluded from consideration within the open source community.

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Monopolies Versus Right-to-Repair Law

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Legal
  • Apple, Google & Microsoft Have Teamed up to Block the Right-to-Repair Law

    Bloomberg today released a report on how companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are working together to put a stop to laws that would make it necessary for companies to provide device schematics, genuine repair parts, and repair manuals to independent repair technicians.

  • Microsoft and Apple Wage War on Gadget Right-to-Repair Laws

    For years, technology companies have imposed strict limits on who can fix chipped iPhones, broken game consoles and a wealth of other non-working (or defective) gadgets. Components are kept in short supply or simply not shared with independent shops to mend things like USB ports and batteries. After seeing these restrictions firsthand, Millman joined a cadre of small business owners, hobbyists and activists pushing right-to-repair bills across the country. These measures are designed to undo rules businesses set to restrict repairs to authorized providers for a vast range of products from a Kindle to a wheelchair.

  • Apple's Efforts to Block 'Right to Repair' Laws Highlighted in New Report

    Apple has opposed bills in other states that include Colorado and Nevada. Independent repair shop owner Justin Millman said that he has a difficult time sourcing iPad screens, which are repairs that school kids often need. He claims that Apple opposes repair programs to get people to buy new devices.

WordPress and DMCA

Filed under
Legal
  • A blog disaster, or: Never trust WordPress

    I actually had a post ready to go today, and there’s a reason why you’re not seeing it. Early this morning, I decided to go over it one more time and make a few edits. While doing so, I accidentally closed my browser tab, and when I came back to the post I discovered that it had reverted to an early version of the post lacking at least 1,500 carefully chosen words that had been added to it as I completed it last night. Going through versions on the WordPress back end failed to find the missing text. Ultimately, disgusted and annoyed, I decided I didn’t have the time or the inclination to try to reconstruct the missing post given that I had to go to work. I don’t know if I’ll take what remains of the post tonight or tomorrow and try to reconstruct what I had written, the better to publish it over the weekend or on Monday. I might. I might not. Right now, I have no motivation to do so. All I have time to do before heading to work is to post a brief explanation.

  • WordPress Rejected 83% of all DMCA Takedown Notices Last Year

    WordPress parent company Automattic reports that the number of DMCA takedown notices it received increased by more than 50% last year. What stands out most, however, is the fact that 83% of all notices were rejected, often as a result of inaccurate automated takedown processes.

  • Angry Joe Tears Into Twitch Over Its One-Sided Approach To DMCA Takedowns

    Famed YouTuber and Twitch streamer Angry Joe, or Jose Antonio Vargas, has made it onto Techdirt's pages in the past. True to his name, we've discussed his responses on a couple of intellectual property issues he's suffered through. When Nintendo flagged a video Angry Joe did about Mario Party 10, preventing him from further monetizing the video, he simply and angrily swore off of doing any Nintendo videos in the future, rightly noting that with the decision all the free advertising he'd given Nintendo just disappeared. When CBS blocked a review video he did because the review used 13 seconds of Star Trek: Picard, he took to Twitter to rip them to shreds as well. The point is that when Angry Joe encounters the frustrations many others deal with thanks to overly restrictive intellectual property practices, he doesn't stay silent. He gets... well... angry.

James Bottomley: The Community Corrosive Effects of CLAs

Filed under
Legal

As one of the kernel DCO advocates, I’ve written many times about using the DCO instead of a CLA for copyright and patent contributions under open source licences. In spite of my obvious biases, I’ll try to give a factual overview of the cases for the DCO and CLA system. First, it should be noted that both the DCO and any CLA are types of Contribution Agreements (a set of terms by which contributors are agreeing to be bound). It should also be acknowledged that the DCO is a far more recent invention than CLAs. The DCO was first pioneered by the Linux kernel in 2004 (having been designed by Diane Peters, then of OSDL) and was subsequently adopted by a broad range of open source projects. However, in legal terms, the DCO is much less well understood than a standard CLA type agreement between the contributor and some entity, which is largely the reason you find a number of lawyers still advocating for the use of CLAs in various open source projects: because they’d like to stick with something that has more miles on it, or because they’re invested in the older model of community, largely pioneered by Apache. The biggest problem today is that the operation of most CLAs is asymmetrical: they take from the contributor more rights than the open source code actually needs, so lets begin with a summary of each type of Contribution Agreement.

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All change: Grafana switches core open source projects from Apache to AGPLv3 licensing

Filed under
GNU
Legal

Grafana Labs is changing the licensing for its core open source projects (Grafana, Grafana Loki, and Grafana Tempo) from the Apache License 2.0 to the Affero General Public License (AGPL) v3. The company says the vast majority of users should be unaffected by this decision, which follows similar moves from other open source software companies.

Grafana made the announcement on its blog, but has also published the results of an internal Q&A with Grafana Labs CEO and co-founder Raj Dutt that outlines some of the reasons.

Dutt said the decision to revamp licensing from the Apache License 2.0 to AGPLv3 came after “almost every at-scale open source company that we admire (such as Elastic, Redis Labs, MongoDB, Timescale, Cockroach Labs, and many others) has evolved their license regime.”

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