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Legal

Leftovers: FSF/GNU

Filed under
GNU
Legal
  • Software Freedom Conservancy Launches 2015 Fundraiser

    Today Software Freedom Conservancy announces a major fundraising effort. Pointing to the difficulty of relying on corporate funding while pursuing important but controversial issues, like GPL compliance, Conservancy has structured its fundraiser to increase individual support. The organization needs at least 750 annual Supporters to continue its basic community services and 2500 to avoid hibernating its enforcement efforts. If Conservancy does not meet its goals, it will be forced to radically restructure and wind down a substantial portion of its operations.

  • GIMP 2.8.16 Has Been Released
  • 20 Years of GIMP Evolution: Step by Step

    GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) – superb open source and free graphics editor. Development began in 1995 as students project of the University of California, Berkeley by Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball. In 1997 the project was renamed in “GIMP” and became an official part of GNU Project. During these years the GIMP is one of the best graphics editor and platinum holy wars “GIMP vs Photoshop” – one of the most popular.

  • Infinity status

    I’m winding down for a month away from Infinity. The current status is that the language and note format changes for 0.0.2 are all done. Y

European Patent Office Threatens Blogger With Defamation Lawsuit For Criticism

Filed under
Legal
Misc

In fact, to argue that Schestowitz's post is defamatory is crazy. Threatening Schestowitz with a defamation claim is much crazier and dangerous than even Schestowitz's own interpretation of the EPO's memo. If you're working for a government agency, such as the EPO, you have to be willing to accept some amount of criticism, even if you disagree with it. To claim it's defamation and to threaten a lawsuit is really, really screwed up.

[...]

I'm having trouble thinking of any other governmental agency that has ever threatened a public critic with defamation. Basic concepts around free speech suggest that the EPO should suck it up. If it disagrees with Schestowitz's interpretation of what it's doing, then it can come out and explain its side of the story. Threatening him with defamation actually only makes me think that perhaps his interpretation hits closer to home than I originally believed.

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TPP Article 14.17 & Free Software: No Harm, No Foul

Filed under
GNU
Legal

The first official public release of the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (known universally as the TPP) on November 5, 2015 generated much heated speculation. The ideal of “open agreements, openly arrived at” remains regrettably unattainable in international affairs. “Fast track” trade negotiating authority in the US means that parties excluded from the negotiating process have a short time in which to mobilize for or against the treaty as a whole in light of their specific concerns. The premium on speed of response to a very lengthy and complex legal document—and the presence of intense public attention—guarantees that hasty judgment and occasional self-promotion will always outrun professional analysis; this is one of the inherent defects of secret legislation.

In this context, early commentary on the TPP draft included much speculation that one provision in the draft’s chapter on electronic commerce might have serious negative consequences for free software and open source licensing, distribution, or government acquisition. Some lay readers marched immediately to the conclusion that, in less than 200 words ostensibly about something else, the negotiators had (a) abolished free licensing; (Cool prohibited governments from acquiring, supporting or preferring free software; or (c) had interfered with the enforcement of free licenses. Other non-professional readers invented complex demonstrations that one or more of these catastrophes had not occurred.

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

Filed under
OSS
Legal

LITIGATION VS FREE SOFTWARE

Filed under
OSS
Legal

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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Legal

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

Filed under
GNU
Legal

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

Filed under
OSS
Legal

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

Filed under
OSS
Legal

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

Filed under
Legal

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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today's leftovers

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  • On the killing of intltool
    Say thanks to Daiki Ueno for his work maintaining gettext and enhancing it to make change practical, and to Javier Jardon for pushing this within GNOME and working to remove intltool from important GNOME modules.
  • On discoverability
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