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Legal

Open source's identity crisis

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Interviews
Legal

For Karen Sandler, software freedom isn't simply a technical matter. Nor is it a purely ideological one.

It's a matter of life and death.

Sandler, Executive Director of the non-profit Software Freedom Conservancy, says software freedom became personal when she realized her pacemaker/defibrillator was running code she couldn't analyze. For nearly a decade—first at the Software Feedom Law Center, then at the GNOME Foundation before Conservancy—she's been an advocate for the right to examine the software on which our lives depend.

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Qualcomm DMCA Notice Takes Down 100+ Git Repositories

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Development
Legal

Using the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), Qualcomm has forced GitHub to take down over 100 Git repositories on the basis of "Cyveillance has recently discovered the unauthorized publication, disclosure, and copying of highly sensitive, confidential, trade secret, and copyright-protected documents on the below web site. Specifically, we have confirmed that the documents whose locations and filenames identified below are confidential and proprietary to Qualcomm and were posted without Qualcomm’s permission."

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THE NEW 501(C)(3) AND THE FUTURE OF FREE SOFTWARE IN THE UNITED STATES

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Legal

I believe what the IRS is inadvertently requiring here is copyright assignment. Since Yorba does not require copyright assignment from our contributors, the IRS appears to think our software cannot be a public work.

Copyright assignment is controversial in the free software community. (A nice overview can be found here; the controversy up-close and in-person can be found here and here.)

I hope I’m wrong about this. I doubt they’re going to start enforcing this in the future for organizations that already enjoy exemption. If they do, it will be a royal mess for those projects having to contact every author of every non-trivial contribution and get them to sign over their rights. This is all a big if, of course.

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Something Rotten in the State of...Europe: the Unified Patent

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Legal

That's particularly the case for software patents, where the US experiences shows us how much damage trolls can cause. The UPC will open up Europe for software patent trolling on a massive scale.

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FSF statement on Court of Appeals ruling in Oracle v Google

Filed under
Android
Google
Legal

The situation then is substantially similar to the situation today. The key difference is that some of Google's affirmative defenses to claim non-infringement have been eliminated by this new ruling. The FSF now sincerely hopes for the next best thing to Alsup's original ruling: that Google is successful in its fair use defense.

Notwithstanding our support of Google's fair use defense, the FSF urges caution to all prospective Android users. Even though the core of the Android system is free, every Android device sold comes pre-loaded with a variety of proprietary applications and proprietary hardware drivers. The FSF encourages users to support the development of Replicant, a distribution of Android that is 100% free software. The FSF also encourages users of any Android-based system to install F-Droid, a free replacement for the Google Play app that allows users to browse, install, and receive updates from a repository of free software Android apps. Replicant uses F-Droid as its default repository.

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A settlement between Apple and Samsung may be on the horizon

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Legal

The long and drawn out battle between Samsung Electronics and Apple over the ownership of various intellectual properties may be coming to a close.

According to The Korea Times Samsung and Apple have resumed discussion of settling their patent disputes. Recent developments such as Apple’s deal with Google show that times may be changing on how these types of disputes are handled. There is a different air surrounding these discussions compared to the countless court battles and negotiations that preceded.

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Ending the Embedded Linux Patent War Before It Begins

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Legal

The next big intellectual property battle has been forming over hardwired and programmable chips made for mobile devices that leverage Linux code. However, the Open Invention Network has strategically deployed forces to keep Linux-powered smartphones, tablets and other computer technologies out of harm's way. Its goal is to create a patent litigation no-fly zone around embedded Linux.

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Oracle continue to circumvent EXPORT_SYMBOL_GPL()

Filed under
GNU
Legal

So, in the face of a technical mechanism designed to enforce the author's beliefs about the copyright status of callers of this function, Oracle deliberately circumvent that technical mechanism by simply re-exporting the same function under a new name. It should be emphasised that calling an EXPORT_SYMBOL_GPL() function does not inherently cause the caller to become a derivative work of the kernel - it only represents the original author's opinion of whether it would. You'd still need a court case to find out for sure. But if it turns out that the use of ktime_get() does cause a work to become derivative, Oracle would find it fairly difficult to argue that their infringement was accidental.

Of course, as copyright holders of DTrace, Oracle could solve the problem by dual-licensing DTrace under the GPL as well as the CDDL. The fact that they haven't implies that they think there's enough value in keeping it under an incompatible license to risk losing a copyright infringement suit. This might be just the kind of recklessness that Oracle accused Google of back in their last case.

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Interview with Ciaran Gultnieks of F-Droid

Filed under
Android
GNU
Legal

This is the latest installment of our Licensing and Compliance Lab's series on free software developers who choose GNU licenses for their works.

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Dangerous Decision in Oracle v. Google: Federal Circuit Reverses Sensible Lower Court Ruling on APIs

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Android
Google
Legal

We're still digesting today's lengthy decision in the Oracle v. Google appeal, but we're disappointed—and worried. The heart of the appeal was whether Oracle can claim a copyright on Java APIs and, if so, whether Google infringed that copyright. According to the Federal Circuit today, the answer to both questions was a qualified yes—with the qualification being that Google may have a fair use defense.

Quick background: When it implemented the Android OS, Google wrote its own version of Java. But in order to allow developers to write their own programs for Android, Google relied on Java APIs. Application Programming Interfaces are, generally speaking, specifications that allow programs to communicate with each other. So when you type a letter in a word processor, and hit the print command, you are using an API that lets the word processor talk to the printer driver, even though they were written by different people.

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Munich Switching to Windows from Linux Is Proof That Microsoft Is Still an Evil Company

Reports about the city of Munich authorities that are considering the replacement of Linux with Microsoft products mostly comes from one man, the Deputy Mayor of Munich, who is also a long-term self-declared Windows fan. Munich is the poster child for the adoption of a Linux distribution and the replacement of the old Windows OS. It provided a powerful incentive for other cities to do the same, and it's been a thorn in Microsoft's side for a very long time. The adoption of open source software in Munich started back in 2004 and it took the local authorities over 10 years to finish the process. It's a big infrastructure, but in the end they managed to do it. As you can imagine, Microsoft was not happy about it. Even the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, tried to stop the switch to Linux, but he was too late to the party. Read more

Dangling the Linux Carrot

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Red Hat Sets New 12-Month High at $61.97 (RHT)

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Systemd 216 Piles On More Features, Aims For New User-Space VT

Lennart Poettering announced the systemd 216 release on Tuesday and among its changes is a more complete systemd-resolved that has nearly complete caching DNS and LLMNR stub resolver, a new systemd terminal library, and a number of new commands. The systemd 216 release also has improvements to various systemd sub-commands, an nss-mymachines NSS module was added, a new networkctl client tool, KDBUS updates against Linux 3.17's memfd, networkd improvements, a new systemd-terminal library for implementing full TTY stream parsing and rendering, a new systemd-journal-upload utility, an LZ4 compressor for journald, a new systemd-escape tool, a new systemd-firstboot component, and much more. Read more