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Open-source community stresses worries on new Copyright Directive in open letter to EU

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OSS
Legal

This week, more than 80 organisations involved in open source software wrote an open letter to the Council of the EU and the European Commission expressing their concerns on the new Copyright Directive as it is currently proposed. According to the signatories, Article 13 in particular will cause irreparable damage to their fundamental rights and freedoms, their economy and competitiveness, their education and research, their innovation and competition, their creativity and their culture.

Article 13 obliges Internet service providers that store and provide public access to large amounts of works or other subject matter uploaded by their users to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders. Where such agreements do not apply, service providers must prevent the availability of the rightholders' intellectual property on the service. To that purpose, service providers should cooperate with rightholders and implement measures such as the use of effective content recognition technologies.

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GPL Predictability

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OSS
Legal
  • Tech leaders team up to improve predictability in open source licencing

    Red Hat, Inc., Facebook, Inc., Google, and IBM Corp. are joining forces to help alleviate open source licence issues, including compliance errors and mistakes.

    The GNU General Public Licence (GPL) and GNU General Public Licence (LGPL) are two of the most common open source software licences, covering almost all software, including parts of the Linux system. The third version of GPL (GPLv3) includes an express termination approach that gives users the opportunities to fix errors in licence compliance in a faster and more efficient manner than before.

    Now, the trio has committed to extending the express termination feature to the previous two versions of GPL to provide better predictability to users of open source software.

  • Four companies extend terms of open source licensing

    Google, Facebook, IBM and Red Hat have taken steps to increase the predictability of open-source licensing, extending additional rights to fix open source licence compliance errors and mistakes.

    The move follows a recent announcement by many kernel developers about licence enforcement.

    The Linux kernel, which is used widely by the four companies named, is released under the GNU General Public Licence version 2.0. A later version of this licence includes an approach that offers users an opportunity to comply with the licence.

  • Adopting a Community-Oriented Approach to Open Source License Compliance

    Today Google joins Red Hat, Facebook, and IBM alongside the Linux Kernel Community in increasing the predictability of open source license compliance and enforcement.

    We are taking an approach to compliance enforcement that is consistent with the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement. We hope that this will encourage greater collaboration on open source projects, and foster discussion on how we can all continue to work closely together.

  • Facebook, Google, IBM and Red Hat team up on open-source license compliance

    “We are taking an approach to compliance enforcement that is consistent with the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement. We hope that this will encourage greater collaboration on open source projects, and foster discussion on how we can all continue to work closely together,” Chris DiBona, director of open source for Google, wrote in a blog post.

  • Technology Industry Leaders Join Forces to Increase Predictability in Open Source Licensing

    Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE: RHT), Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced efforts to promote additional predictability in open source licensing, by committing to extend additional rights to cure open source license compliance errors and mistakes.

  • Copyleft Licensing: Applying GPLv3 Termination to GPLv2-licensed Works

    Today a coalition of major companies—led by Red Hat and including Google, IBM and Facebook—who create, modify and distribute FOSS under copyleft licenses have committed to the use of GPLv3’s approach to license termination for all their works published under the terms of GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1. Following last month’s statement to similar effect by the developers of the Linux kernel, the world’s most widely-used GPLv2 program, today’s announcement establishes a broad consensus in favor of the “notice and cure period” approach to first-time infringement issues that Richard Stallman and I adopted in GPLv3 more than a decade ago. This adoption of GPLv3’s approach for GPLv2 programs is an enormously important step in securing the long-term viability of copyleft licensing. All computer users who wish to see their rights respected by the technology they use are better off.

    GPLv2, which was written by Richard Stallman and Jerry Cohen, is a masterpiece of legal innovation and durability. First released in mid-1991, GPLv2 transformed thinking around the world about the viability of copyright commons, and gave birth to a range of “share alike” licensing institutions, not only for software but for all forms of digital culture. It is still in unmodified use after more than a quarter-century, attaining a degree of institutional stability more often associated with statutes and constitutions than with transactional documents like copyright licenses.

Technology Industry Leaders Join Forces to Increase Predictability in Open Source Licensing

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OSS
Legal

Red Hat, Facebook, Google and IBM have announced efforts to promote additional predictability in open source licensing, by committing to extend additional rights to cure open source license compliance errors and mistakes.

The GNU General Public License (GPL) and GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) are among the most widely-used open source software licenses, covering, among other software, critical parts of the Linux ecosystem. When GPL version 3 (GPLv3) was released, it introduced an express termination approach that offered users opportunities to cure errors in license compliance. This termination policy in GPLv3 provided a more reasonable approach to errors and mistakes, which are often inadvertent. This approach allows for enforcement of license compliance that is consistent with community norms,

To provide greater predictability to users of open source software, Red Hat, Facebook, Google and IBM today each committed to extending the GPLv3 approach for license compliance errors to the software code that each licenses under GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 and v2.

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Also: Tech leaders join forces to increase predictability in Open Source licensing

Eben Moglen is no longer a friend of the free software community

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Legal

Eben Moglen has done an amazing amount of work for the free software community, serving on the board of the Free Software Foundation and acting as its general counsel for many years, leading the drafting of GPLv3 and giving many forceful speeches on the importance of free software. However, his recent behaviour demonstrates that he is no longer willing to work with other members of the community, and we should reciprocate that.

In early 2016, the FSF board became aware that Eben was briefing clients on an interpretation of the GPL that was incompatible with that held by the FSF. He later released this position publicly with little coordination with the FSF, which was used by Canonical to justify their shipping ZFS in a GPL-violating way. He had provided similar advice to Debian, who were confused about the apparent conflict between the FSF's position and Eben's.

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OpenChain and copyleft

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GNU
Legal
  • How OpenChain can transform the supply chain

    OpenChain is all about increasing open source compliance in the supply chain. This issue, which many people initially dismiss as a legal concern or a low priority, is actually tied to making sure that open source is as useful and frictionless as possible. In a nutshell, because open source is about the use of third-party code, compliance is the nexus where equality of access, safety of use, and reduction of risk can be found. OpenChain accomplishes this by building trust between organizations.

    Many companies today understand open source and act as major supporters of open source development; however, addressing open source license compliance in a systematic, industry-wide manner has proven to be a somewhat elusive challenge. The global IT market has not seen a significant reduction in the number of open source compliance issues in areas such as consumer electronics over the past decade.

    [...]

    The OpenChain Project, hosted by The Linux Foundation, is intended to make open source license compliance more predictable, understandable, and efficient for the software supply chain. Formally launched in October 2016, the OpenChain Project started three years earlier with discussions that continued at an increasing pace until a formal project was born. The basic idea was simple: Identify recommended processes for effective open source management. The goal was equally clear: Reduce bottlenecks and risk when using third-party code to make open source license compliance simple and consistent across the supply chain. The key was to pull things together in a manner that balanced comprehensiveness, broad applicability, and real-world usability.

  • Software Freedom Strategy with Community Projects

    All of those led me to understand how software freedom is under attack, in particular how copyleft in under attack. And, as I talked during FISL, though many might say that "Open Source has won", end users software freedom has not. Lots of companies have co-opted "free software" but give no software freedom to their users. They seem friends with free software, and they are. Because they want software to be free. But freedom should not be a value for software itself, it needs to be a value for people, not only companies or people who are labeled software developers, but all people.

    That's why I want to stop talking about free software, and talk more about software freedom. Because I believe the latter is more clear about what we are talking about. I don't mind that we use whatever label, as long as we stablish its meaning during conversations, and set the tone to distinguish them. The thing is: free software does not software freedom make. Not by itself. As Bradley Kuhn puts it: it's not magic pixie dust.

    Those who have known me for years might remember me as a person who studied free software licenses and how I valued copyleft, the GPL specifically, and how I concerned myself with topics like license compatibility and other licensing matters.

    Others might remember me as a person who valued a lot about upstreaming code. Not carrying changes to software openly developed that you had not made an effort to put upstream.

    I can't say I was wrong on both accounts. I still believe in those things. I still believe in the importance of copyleft and the GPL. I still value sharing your code in the commons by going upstream. But I was certaily wrong in valuing them too much. Or not giving as much or even more value to distribution efforts of getting software freedom to the users.

Copyleft and Licensing

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OSS
Legal
  • FSFE makes copyrights computer readable

    The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is proud to release its next version of our REUSE practices designed to make computers understand software copyrights and licenses.

    The REUSE practices help software developers make simple additions to license headers which make it easier for a computer to determine what license applies to the various parts of a programs source code. By following the REUSE practices, software developers can ensure their intent to license software under a particular license is understood and more readily adhered to.

    Together with the updated practices, which mostly clarify and make explicit some points, the FSFE is also releasing a set of developer tools and examples which show the REUSE practices in action. Three example repositories, together with an example walkthrough of the process used to make the cURL project REUSE compliant, are complemented with a simple tool to validate whether a program is REUSE compliant.

  • Apple Will No Longer Be Developing CUPS Under The GPL

    One decade after Apple bought out CUPS as the de facto printing system for Unix-like operating systems, they are changing the code license.

    The CUPS Common UNIX Printing System up to now had been developed under the GPLv2 license while now Apple will be switching it to the Apache 2.0 software license.

  • Software Freedom Law Center and Conservancy

    There’s been quite a bit of interest recently about the petition by Software Freedom Law Center to cancel the Software Freedom Conservancy’s trademark. A number of people have asked my views on it, so I thought I’d write up a quick blog on my experience with SFLC and Conservancy both during my time as Debian Project Leader, and since.

    It’s clear to me that for some time, there’s been quite a bit of animosity between SFLC and Conservancy, which for me started to become apparent around the time of the large debate over ZFS on Linux. I talked about this in my DebConf 16 talk, which fortunately was recorded (ZFS bit from 8:05 to 17:30).

Software Freedom Law Center/Conservancy Dispute Update

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GNU
Legal
  • Concerning a Statement by the Conservancy

    On Friday, while we were putting on our annual conference at Columbia Law School, a puff of near-apocalyptic rhetoric about us was published by SFLC’s former employees, Karen Sandler and Bradley Kuhn, who now manage the Conservancy, which was originally established and wholly funded by SFLC, and still bears our name. We were busy with our conference when this happened, which seems to have been the point. We are glad to have the chance now, after a little much-needed rest, to help everyone avoid unnecessary hyperventilation.

  • Concerning a Statement by the Conservancy (Software Freedom Law Center Blog)

    The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has responded to a recent blog post from the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) regarding the SFC's trademark. SFLC has asked the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to cancel the SFC trademark due to a likelihood of confusion between the two marks; SFC posted about the action on its blog.

Red Hat Explains GPL, New Dispute Surfaces

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GNU
Legal
  • Shedding light on foggy GPL licenses

    The terms in GPL v3 clause 14 are very similar to those in the GPL v2.

    Over the years, I've seen many open source projects that say they are GPL licensed without explicitly indicating a version number, while also including the text of an entire GPL license (e.g., v2 or v3). The ambiguity this potentially creates may be beneficial or detrimental to you, depending on factors such as whether you are the licensor or the licensee.

  • GPL bodies in bizarre trademark fight

    Senior Linux kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman has claimed he asked the Linux Foundation to withdraw funding from the Software Freedom Conservancy back in 2016, because he was unhappy with the way in which the SFC went about enforcing compliance with the GPL, the licence under which the Linux kernel is published.

    Kroah-Hartman's claim was made as part of a long discussion about a spat between the SFC and the Software Freedom Law Centre, a body provides pro-bono legal services to developers of free, libre, and open source software, in which the SFLC has asked a court to cancel the trademark of the SFC due to what it claims is "priority and likelihood of confusion" to its own trademark.

    The bizarre aspect of the legal fight between the two bodies, both of which are involved in activities around the GPL, is that the SFLC launched the SFC in 2006 to carry out GPL enforcement.

SFLC Files Bizarre Legal Action Against Its Former Client, Software Freedom Conservancy

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GNU
Legal

About a month ago, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), the not-for-profit law firm which launched Conservancy in 2006 and served as Conservancy's law firm until July 2011, took the bizarre and frivolous step of filing a legal action in the United States Patent and Trademark Office seeking cancellation of Conservancy's trademark for our name, “Software Freedom Conservancy”. We were surprised by this spurious action. In our eleven years of coexistence, SFLC has raised no concerns nor complaints about our name, nor ever asked us to change it. We filed our formal answer to SFLC's action yesterday. In the interest of transparency for our thousands of volunteers, donors, Supporters, and friends, we at Conservancy today decided to talk publicly about the matter.

SFLC's action to cancel our trademark initiated a process nearly identical to litigation. As such, our legal counsel has asked us to limit what we say about the matter. However, we pride ourselves on our commitment to transparency. In those rare instances when we initiated or funded legal action — to defend the public interest through GPL enforcement — we have been as candid as possible about the circumstances. We always explain the extent to which we exhausted other possible solutions, and why we chose litigation as the last resort.

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GitLab Changes its Contributor Licensing to Better Serve Open-Source Projects

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Development
Legal
  • GitLab Changes its Contributor Licensing to Better Serve Open-Source Projects

    Self-hosted Git repository management tool GitLab today announced that it is abandoning its Contributor Licensing Agreement (CLA) and adopting a Developer Certificate of Origin (DCO) and license.

    According to the company, which claims 67% market share in the self-hosted Git market, "the DCO gives developers greater flexibility and portability for their contributions."

  • GitLab Transitions Contributor Licensing to Developer Certificate of Origin to Better Support Open Source Projects; Empower Contributors

    GitLab, a software product used by 2/3 of all enterprises, today announced it was abandoning the industry-standard Contributor License Agreement (CLA) in favor of a Developer Certificate of Origin (DCO) and license. The DCO gives developers greater flexibility and portability for their contributions. The move has already attracted the attention of large open source projects who recognize the benefits. Debian and GNOME both plan to migrate their communities and open source projects to GitLab.

    GitLab's move away from a CLA is meant to modernize its code hosting and collaborative development infrastructure for all open source projects. Additionally, requiring a CLA became problematic for developers who didn't want to enter into legal terms; they weren't reviewing the CLA contract and they effectively gave up their rights to own and contribute to open source code.

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