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Legal

Supercharging your router with third-party Wi-Fi firmware is just fine, says FCC

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LITIGATION VS FREE SOFTWARE

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OSS
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Alice Corporation, a non-practice patent-holding entity, held patents on a method, system, and process for a particular type of financial risk hedging: namely, that one party to a set of financial transactions won’t pay at one or more stages in the set. This risk is known as “settlement risk”. Alice’s patents describe using a computer to keep track of the transactions between the parties. If the computer determines that a party does not have sufficient funds to pay their obligations to the other side, then the transaction is blocked. Litigation against CLS Bank International for alleged infringement of these patented ideas started in 2007, eventually winding its way up to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Writing for a unanimous court, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas begins with a brief description of what the patents claimed. There are effectively three different types of claims made: “(1) the foregoing method for exchanging obligations (the method claims), (2) a computer system configured to carry out the method for exchanging obligations (the system claims), and (3) a computer-readable medium containing program code for performing the method of exchanging obligations (the media claims)” (page 3 of the ruling).

Thomas then goes on to cite the court’s recent ruling in Mayo vs Prometheus, which established a test to determine which inventions incorporating abstract ideas are patent-eligible: “First, we determine whether the claims at issue are directed to one of those patent-ineligible concepts” (page 7). If it is so directed, then the court looks at “the elements of each claim both individually and ‘as an ordered combination’ to determine whether the additional elements ‘transform the nature of the claim’ into a patent-eligible application” (page 7). This is what Thomas refers to as “a search for an ‘inventive concept’” (page 7).

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FCC: We aren’t banning DD-WRT on Wi-Fi routers

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Back in March, the FCC issued a Software Security Requirements document that said manufacturers applying for equipment authorizations should "Describe in detail how the device is protected from 'flashing' and the installation of third-party firmware such as DD-WRT." Applicants also had to answer the question, "What prevents third parties from loading non-US versions of the software/firmware on the device?"

Upon receiving criticism, the FCC insisted that there was no ban on software like DD-WRT and OpenWRT, saying instead manufacturers must prevent devices from working outside their allowed frequencies, types of modulation, and power levels so as not to interfere with other systems.

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GPL Enforcement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

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GNU
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The revelation of this clause has confused our community, as it appears as if this provision, once adopted, might impact or restrict the international operation of copyleft licenses. Below we explain that, while everyone should reject and oppose this provision — and the rest of TPP — this provision has no dramatic impact on copyleft licensing.

First, as others have pointed out, Party is a defined term that refers specifically to government entities that sign the treaty. As such, the provision would only constrain the behavior of governments themselves. There are some obviously bad outcomes of this provision when those governmental entities interfere with public safety and ethical distribution of software, but we believe this provision will not interfere with international enforcement of copyleft.

Copyleft licenses use copyright as a mechanism to keep software free. The central GPL mechanism that copyright holders exercise to ensure software freedom is termination of permission to copy, modify and distribute the software (per GPLv2§4 and GPLv3§8). Under GPL's termination provisions, non-compliance results in an automatic termination of all copyright permissions. In practice, distributors can chose — either they can provide the source code or cease distribution. Once permissions terminate, any distribution of the GPL'd software infringes copyrights. Accordingly, in an enforcement action, there is no need to specifically compel a government to ask for disclosure of source code.

For example, imagine if a non-US entity ships a GPL-violating, Linux-based product into the USA, and after many friendly attempts to achieve compliance, the violating company refuses to comply. Conservancy can sue the company in US federal court, and seek injunction for distribution of the foreign product in the USA, since the product infringes copyright by violating the license. The detailed reasons for that infringement (i.e., failure to disclose source code) is somewhat irrelevant to the central issue; the Court can grant injunction (i.e., an order to prevent the company from distributing the infringing product) based simply on the violator's lost permissions under the existing copyright license. The Court could even order the cease of import of the infringing products.

In our view, the violator would be unaffected under the above TPP provision, since the Court did not specifically compel release of the source code, but rather simply ruled that the product generally infringed copyrights, and their distribution rights had fully terminated upon infringement. In other words, the fact that the violator lost copyright permissions and can seek to restore them via source code disclosure is not dispositive to the underlying infringement claim.

While TPP thus does not impact copyright holders' ability to enforce the GPL, there are nevertheless plenty of reasons to oppose TPP. Conservancy therefore joins the FSF, EFF, and other organizations in encouraging everyone to oppose TPP.

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TPP has provision banning requirements to transfer or or access to source code of software

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The TPP E-Commerce chapter has a provision banning requirements to transfer or provide access to software source code. This applies to "mass market software."

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OSI Joins Comment to FCC on ET Docket No. 15-170

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The signers respectfully request that the commission carefully balance the important work of protecting the radio spectrum with the immeasurable value in experimentation, innovation, and freedom for law-abiding users. Additionally, the signers invite the commission and other regulatory agencies to collaborate with industry; free, open source, and proprietary software developers; and device users on developing wireless device policies and recommendations that meet the needs of regulatory agencies and protect the ability of users to inspect, modify and improve their devices.

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Christoph Hellwig Continues VMware GPL Enforcement Suit in Germany

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The lawsuit continues to progress. VMware has filed a statement of defense, in which they assert arguments for the dismissal of the action. Christoph, with the assistance of his lawyer Till Jaeger, has filed his response to these arguments. Unfortunately, VMware has explicitly asked for the filings not to be published and, accordingly, Conservancy has not been able to review either document. With the guidance of counsel, Christoph was able to provide Conservancy with a high-level summary of the filings from which we are able to provide this update. VMware's statement of defense primarily focuses on two issues. First, VMware questions Christoph's copyright interest in the Linux kernel and his right to bring this action. Second, VMware claims vmklinux is an “interoperability module” which communicates through a stable interface called VMK API.

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GNU/FSF/SFLC News

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GNU
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  • 30 Years of Free Software Foundation: Best Quotes of Richard Stallman
  • GNU Spotlight with Brandon Invergo: Sixteen new GNU releases!

    16 new GNU releases in the last month (as of September 24, 2015):

    autogen-5.18.6
    cpio-2.12
    ddrescue-1.20
    gdb-7.10
    gettext-0.19.6
    global-6.5.1
    gnupg-2.1.8
    gnutls-3.4.5
    help2man-1.47.2
    libgcrypt-1.6.4
    libmicrohttpd-0.9.43
    libtasn1-4.7
    linux-libre-4.2-gnu
    parallel-20150922
    sipwitch-1.9.10
    ucommon-6.6.0

  • [FSFE PR][EN] FSFE convinces 1125 public administrations to remove proprietary software advertisements

    The campaign began in 2009 with the intent of removing advertisements for proprietary PDF reader software from public institutions' websites. To start it all off, volunteers submitted 2104 "bugs", or instances of proprietary PDF software being directly promoted by public authorities, and the FSFE listed[2] them online. Since then, hundreds of Free Software activists took action by writing to the relevant public institutions and calling for changes to their websites. We received a lot of positive feedback from the institutions thanking us for our letters, and to date, 1125 out of the 2104 websites (53%) edited their websites by removing links to proprietary PDF readers, or adding links to Free Software PDF readers.

  • GLib now has a datagram interface

    For those who like their I/O packetised, GLib now has a companion for its GIOStream class — the GDatagramBased interface, which we’ve implemented as part of R&D work at Collabora. This is designed to be implemented by any class which does datagram-based I/O. GSocket implements it, essentially as an interface to recvmmsg() and sendmmsg(). The upcoming DTLS support in glib-networking will use it.

  • SFLC Files Comment with FCC Arguing Against Overbroad Rules Prohibiting User Modification of Software on Wireless Devices

    On Friday, October 9th, 2015 the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) submitted a comment with the United States Federal Communications Commission, which has proposed a number of revisions to its rules and regulations concerning approval of wireless devices. Notice of Proposed Rule Making, ET Docket No. 15-170. SFLC takes the position that the Commission does not possess the legal authority to adopt a rule that regulates the software running in devices that does not affect the operation of RF transmitters or create interference. SFLC further argues that, even within the scope of the Commission's regulatory jurisdiction, the Commission must tread carefully to avoid over-regulating radio frequency device software to the detriment of user innovation and after-market software modification. SFLC also urges the Commission to issue a policy statement (1) supporting the use of community developed or free software in networking devices; (2) recognizing the overwhelming social benefits generated from the high-quality software produced by non-profit communities; and (3) stating that preferring proprietary software over software whose source code is publicly available does not meaningfully enhance the security of software.

The importance of community-oriented GPL enforcement

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The Free Software Foundation and Software Freedom Conservancy have released a statement of principles on how GPL enforcement work can and should be done in a community-oriented fashion. The president of the Open Source Initiative, Allison Randal, participated as a co-author in the drafting of the principles, together with the leadership of FSF and Conservancy.

The Open Source Initiative's mission centers on advocating for and supporting efforts to improve community best practices, in order to promote and protect open source (founded on the principles of free software). While the OSI's work doesn't include legal enforcement actions for the GPL or any of the family of licenses that conform to the Open Source Definition, we applaud these principles set forth by the FSF and Conservancy, clearly defining community best practices around GPL enforcement.

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Open Access (Textbooks/Commons)

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More in Tux Machines

today's leftovers

  • Why You Should Consider Open Sourcing Your Software
    Free & Open source software have grown so rapidly in the last few years. Just compare the situation of being ignored and considered like a nerds-movement in the early 2000’s to the situation today in 2017. We surly made a huge advancement so far. Thanks to the amazing ecosystem of open source which links both communities and enterprises together. However, when it comes to individuals, a lot of people are hesitant when it comes to open-sourcing their software. They think that the “secret” behind it will be stolen. They think that they will be releasing their work “for nothing in return” when they do so. That’s definitely false.
  • Caspia Projects and Thunderbird – Open Source In Absentia
    What does this have to do with Thunderbird? I sat in a room a few weeks ago with 10 guys at Clallam Bay, all who have been in a full-time, intensive software training program for about a year, who are really interested in trying to do real-world projects rather than simply hidden internal projects that are classroom assignments, or personal projects with no public outlet. I start in April spending two days per week with these guys. Then there are another 10 or so guys at WSR in Monroe that started last month, though the situation there is more complex. The situation is similar to other groups of students that might be able to work on Thunderbird or Mozilla projects, with these differences:1) Student or GSOC projects tend to have a duration of a few months, while the expected commitment time for this group is much longer.
  • Make Dragonfly BSD great again!
    Recently I spent some time reading Dragonfly BSD code. While doing so I spotted a vulnerability in the sysvsem subsystem that let user to point to any piece of memory and write data through it (including the kernel space). This can be turned into execution of arbitrary code in the kernel context and by exploiting this, we're gonna make Dragonfly BSD great again!

Desktop GNU/Linux

  • [Video] Litebook Alpha Review! | Unboxing, Apps, and Gaming!
  • Beginners Guide To Linux
    Curious about getting into Raspberry Pi or just Linux in general but you're not sure where to start? This post is for you. It's not intended to be a comprehensive guide, rather a gentle intro into the Linux world. I'm not a Linux expert, but I know from experience that it can be an intimidating platform to get started in. I want this post to show you what you need to know to get started with Linux.
  • [Video] 5 Reasons To Switch To Linux
  • System76 Provides Wireless Fixes for Ubiquity
    We are proud to have contributed to Ubiquity in such a way that we feel improves all users’ lives when using Ubuntu. We will continue improving the platform and hope that our users will see value in what we do.
  • GNOME 3.24 Released, See What`s New
    After being in development for six months, GNOME 3.24 was released today, bringing improvements such as Night Light, weather information in the date / time indicator, along with updates to its applications, and more.

Late Night Linux, Bad Voltage, and Effective Communication in Podcasting

  • Late Night Linux – Episode 06
    Jesse is back but this time Félim is in his sick bed so it’s a 3 man show yet again. Some heated debates about Nextcloud’s actions, Ubuntu extended support and PowerPC distros, followed by a deep dive into the world of HiDPI 4k support in Linux.
  • Bad Voltage Live at SCaLE 15x
    The Bad Voltage live stage show, from SCaLE 15x in Pasadena, March 2017!
  • Effective Communication in Podcasting
    When I got serious about doing Linux videos on YouTube, I drew on all of that Old Media experience plus I took a few classes to make sure I knew what I was talking about before handing out advice to others. That has led to the EzeeLinux project. The goal of EzeeLinux is to educate folks about Linux and get them started on the right path to success… I have been truly humbled by the response it has gotten. That said, I don’t feel like I’m competing with anyone – the more, the merrier! I honestly feel that Linux and Open Source Software are arguably one of the few truly good things happening in the world today. It brings people from all over the world together and provides a means to get cutting edge technology into the hands of anyone, anywhere who wants to take the time to learn how to use it regardless of their financial situation. That is the kind of power that can quite literally change the world, folks. No one should be left behind in this Information Age. Come to think of it, Ed Murrow would probably do a documentary about Linux if he was still around today… It would be right up his street, I think. It’s the kind of thing he liked to talk about.

Leftovers: Software

  • [Video] Linux Audio Programs Compared 2017
    I made this video for those that are new to, or just interested in making music on the Linux OS. I go over the features, goods and bads of Rosegarden, LMMS, Ardour, Mixbus, and EnergyXT, as well as touch on Qtractor. I don't don't go much into details of the particular versions I am using, but the video was made in the early part of 2017 and I'm running Ubuntu 16.04LTS.
  • Green Recorder: A Simple Desktop/Screen Recorder for Linux
    Green Recorder is a simple, open source desktop recorder developed for Linux systems built using Python, GTK and FFmpeg. It supports most of the Linux desktop environments such as Unity, Gnome, Cinnamon, Mate, Xfce and so on. Recently it has been updated to work with Wayland too in Gnome session.
  • Komorebi: A New Way To Enhance Your Desktop Using Animated/Parallax Wallpapers
    In past there were applications that allowed us to run videos/Gif as wallpaper on the desktop and make desktop look much cooler but than all of sudden the development of such Apps stopped and I can't name any App that exist for this purpose. Komorebi is fairly new application designed to make your desktop experience much better and make desktop cool as well, we can say it is kind of 'live wallpaper' situation here or 3D wallpaper. It is developed by Abe Masri and available under GPL license for free.
  • Stacer Sytem Optimizer: A Must Have Application For Ubuntu/Linux Mint
    There are multiple ways to optimize your Linux, the most geeky way is using Terminal, there are also applications available that performs such actions like Bleachbit, Ubuntu cleaner and so on. Stacer is simple, open-source, quick and new application designed to offer you all-in-one optimizer for your Ubuntu/Linux Mint (It's alternative to CCleaner but only for Linux).
  • Qtox: Open Source and Fully Secure Skype Replacement for Linux
    Long years ago, we've talked about a Skype alternative called Tox which was still in its early developmental stages. Tox was supposed to become the anti-thesis of Skype by being a fully open-source video and voice chat client that placed user privacy and security at its center. Well, guess what, there are now fully active and well-maintained chat clients that are built on top of Tox protocol. qTox is one of them.
  • Rclone 1.36 Released With SFTP And Local Symlinks Support, More
    Rclone 1.36 was released recently, bringing support for SFTP, local symbolic links support, mount improvements, along with many other new features and bug fixes. For those not familiar with Rclone, this is a cross-platform command line tool for synchronizing files and folders to multiple cloud storages, which supports Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, Amazon Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Yandex Disk, and more. It can be used to sync files either from your machine or from one cloud storage to another.
  • Streamlink Twitch GUI 1.2.0 Adds Support For Communities And Team Pages, Basic Hotkeys
    Streamlink Twitch GUI (previously Livestreamer Twitch GUI) is a multi-platform Twitch.tv browser. The application is powered by Node.js, Chromium and Streamlink, though it can still use Livestreamer (which is no longer maintained) too.
  • Code Editor `Brackets` 1.9 Released, Available In PPA
    Brackets is a free, open source code editor focused on front-end web development (HTML, CSS and JavaScript).
  • Terminix Terminal Emulator Renamed To Tilix, Sees New Bugfix Release
    [Quick update] Terminix, a GTK3 tiling terminal emulator, has been renamed to Tilix due to some trademark issues.