Category Archives: Patents and Copyright

Microsoft and Novell

Like most my initial reaction to the Microsoft/Novell deal was to wonder what it actually meant, and if could cause increased risk to the rest of the community. After reading various comments I have instead started to wonder if this deal is worth the paper isn’t written on in terms of the patent deals. Novell and Microsoft have tried to work around the GPL by signing a covenant not to sue over software patents instead of ‘licensing’ the patents in question. But if Microsoft use this deal indirectly as an excuse to sue Red Hat or Canonical I think Novell might find itself in hot water with GPL copyright holders, who probably will start taking them to court for violating section 7 of the GPL. So maybe Novell’s customer got peace of mind from MS patent lawsuits, but on the other hand I don’t think they feel the risk having their rights under the GPL nullified will be any less stress causing.

On ther other hand I would think Microsoft sees this risk and knows that taking down both Red Hat and Novell in one swoop would land them in deep water with anti-trust authorities again, so in essence this deal might mean nada.

On the other hand Novell might have handed Microsoft the best FUD tool since the SCO case. Time will tell.

Kernel hackers and the FSF

A group of kernel hackers came together and wrote a position paper on the current GPL v3 draft. To which
Eben Moglen responds
with a renewed invitation to join the process and the FSF replies by trying to smokescreen the issue by arguing semantics.

Moglen’s invitation is in my opinion pure bullshit. Being invited to partake in a process on terms where the rules are staked against you from the outset is next to valueless. The only thing those kernel developers would accomplish with accepting Eben’s invitation is to have their names used to legitimize the process while in effect not getting any real chance to change the outcome. The FSF have made it very clear in the public statements so far and their reaction to a lot of public feedback on for instance the DRM clauses that they do not intend to change this apart from maybe adjusting the semantics a little.

So Eben if you want to be taken seriously when offering invitations make sure in the future to be invitations to processes which there is realistic give and take possibility. Nobody like getting invitations to use and abuse setups.

Linus Torvalds remark about how explaining the problems with the current draft hit the mark with the FSF. Trying to discuss something with them tend to only lead to the typical FSF way of arguing; trying to derail the debate by arguing about semantics and the words used instead of the issues themselves.

OpenGL to be sold?

I saw this article/blog on businessreview online which features an interview with the SGI CEO. One of the things he says is that OpenGL might be sold as part of SGI’s restructuring. Considering how we are putting all our eggs in the OpenGL basket currently, with projects such as XGL, AIGLX and Glitz I hope this gets picked up by a friendly entity, especially if there are some patents still attached to OpenGL.

Paying people to post on Slashdot?

Was scanning through the slashdot comments on the RIM/NTP
settlement. Scanning through the comments I noticed that the people trying to defend the NTP patent litigation where strangely repetetive in the arguments. Like bringing up the same points in the same order in various posts. Hard to prove, but the postings seemed to alike to purely coincidental. So the question is if companies and groups trying to preserve the current patent regime (and probably other groupings) are now paying PR people to advocate their views on Slashdot and similar forums? Or maybe my own feelings on the subject made me see a conspirancy where there was none. Time to put on the tin foil hat :).
But I think the free/open source software community have become enough of a financial and political force for such things to start occuring, no matter if they actually did happen in this case.

GPL and DRM – the real battle

In an earlier blog entry I commented on the DRM provisions in the GPL 3 draft and why I felt they where empty grandstanding from the side of the FSF. A lot of people from various side of the fence seems to disagree. A moronic Microsoft employee muses that ‘With it’s anti-DRM provisions, …….., open source loses as proprietary software rushes in to fill the void left by GPL code.’. My only reply to that is; yes, as we all know all DRM related software today is using the GPL…..the void caused by DRM implementations no longer being possible to license under the GPL will be overwhelming……. If this is the kind of thinkers Microsoft must hire these days then they are in bigger trouble than I thought.

On the other side the Groklaw crowd is discussing if the current DRM provisions in the GPL v3 draft can be worked around. Yes, once again we see the belief that the amount of people spending energy on trying to do DRM systems under the GPL license is huge. To the Groklaw crowds defence they are also discussing the point the I was trying to make, that the DRM provisions might have uninteded side effects.

Fighthing DRM the only way it can be fought

Anyway I have come to terms with that most of the extended community at this point follows the policy that they are ready to fight something to their death as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them in
any way. So they spend their morning screaming online against the evils of DRM systems and software patents before going down to the local store to by a new DRM using DVD, sporting patented media formats.

Anyway I figured I should try to actually do something which will have a real effect if more people starts doing it. I signed up for a music store which sells DRM free music. emusic offers DRM free mp3 downloads of their whole catalog, which was much bigger and had more well known names than I had expected. They even give you the first 75 songs for free. True, I will not find the common radio hits there, so I have to live without Brittney and Madonna, but at least I get DRM free music.
To bad they don’t offer Vorbis downloads, but once again if enough free software people sign up and start requesting it then I think they are still small enough to actually listen to us. Anyway I am now listening to some cool music from a band called Ladytron. I also found some nice Frank Zappa songs there. I guess the lesson I am trying to teach is that action speaks much more than words; which maybe is something the Slashdot crowd should take to heart? :)

The GPL v3

So the GPL v3 is out and judging by the relative lack of discussion in the community few people in the community have any big beefs with it. Which is a good thing of course, Eben promised it to be mostly about clarification not about any change of direction and he delivered on that.

There was a lawyer who stated that the interesting part wasn’t really the new GPL, but the new LGPL, which I agree with. The LGPL has stayed unchanged for much longer and its language is much more obscure (it almost has to be read in the light of the GPL to be interpretable). The impact for businesses in and around Free Software will be much bigger if the LGPL changes in a significant way.

Anyway there are a couple of items I am a bit unhappy about regarding the new GPL. The first is the lack of any true clarification of the ‘system libraries clause’, while using X Windows and kernel as examples at least makes the intent a bit clearer, but personally I think they should seriously consider saying that any library standarized by the LSB for instance goes under this clause. And if X Windows is included I guess GTK+ and GStreamer is covered by it too.
And one could muse that if Qt is bundled by the distribution you target with a closed source application, then Qt too would be covered by that clause and thus removing the effects of the GPL upon your application. One could even say that this is the opinion of Troll Tech too, as the systems library clause was something they called upon in their defense when people said it was a license violation to ship GPL apps with Qt in the old days before the Qt relicensing.

Another item which I am not to impressed by is the patent protection one. I mean what exactly does it mean to ‘shield’ downstream users from 3rd party patents lawsuits ? Personally I would think something like the MPL mandatory LEGAL file can be seen as such a shield, as it shields people downstream in the sense that it informs them of what patents apply and thus lets them aquire their own patent licenses before getting sued. On the other hand I guess the FSF interprets it as getting a transferable patent license that follows the code (or maybe not, license compatability was a goal with the new GPL so my interpretation would make the GPL more MPL compatible).

The DRM clause I have to admit I consider posing from the FSF, mostly there to get cheers from the crowd. Yes, they have some clever wording and a good defense against DMCA suits over GPL code, but in reality implementing a DRM systems and licensing under the GPL is a very unlikely action to be undertaken by anyone, DRM clauses or not. For example for the DRM work we have been doing ourselves at Fluendo lately, the amount of time we spent pondering using the GPL for it can be measured in no bigger units than nanoseconds. I also think the new anti-DRM measurements might backfire on the FSF in the sense that it makes the use of the GPL license less likely for a lot of security related software too. The thing is that the vast majority of software developers are not lawyers and seeing statements about having to publish all keys etc., is likely to make them uncertain enough about the implications to decide to choose another license for their security software, no matter how little it has to do with DRM or not.

Of course I am not a laywer, so most of these observations might be completely wrong :)

Where Creative Commons botched

I think Creative Commons is and was a great effort, but I think they made one critical mistake, the non-commerical clause. I can understand that at first glance that making it possible to limit ‘commercial use’ seems like a good idea, at least in order to get people onto the idea of copyleft style licensing, but in practicality it kills the basic purpose of the license, to allow people to freely copy.

For instance many websites which would be interested in distributing this content and provide free downloads of it, use banner adds to pay for or subsidize the cost of the servers and bandwith. Problem is that as soon as you add that banner add, you are enganging in a commerical activity and are no longer allowed to distribute anything with the non-commercial clause.

I ranted on this issue in a recent
mail to the Creative Commons license list
.

Mono and GNOME

Red Hat’s decision to start shipping Mono based applications and libraries have altered the landscape quite a bit in the ongoing discussion about Mono’s place in the GNOME development landscape.

Although Sun probably is still negative they do have a partnership currently with Microsoft which should make shipping Mono with their GNOME desktops less of a problem for them.

While I don’t think this makes the decision that Mono is the future of GNOME, I do think it means that Mono have a place in GNOME’s future.

GNU Flash

Frederic Crozat pointed me to a news article about GNU Flash today. My opinion is that GNU Flash is a mostly useless project due to its licensing. Flash today isn’t just playing Flash animations, it also includes audio through mp3 support and 2-3 video codecs non of them free. Which means a GPL flash library will never be usefull is large parts of the world. People should instead get involved in Swfdec which is LGPL and already made to integrate with GStreamer. If GNU thinks flash support is important they should offer it under a license that doesn’t make half their users wait 5 years before they can legally use it. Or if they wanted something to compete with Flash and which is free they should join up with librsvg and help improve it to become a Flash killer. Combining SVG with SMIL should create something very similar to Flash in capabilities.

Stop playing those songs!

So its seems RIAA is topping themselves. I guess their success at stopping the filesharers have left them with lawyers who need something to do. So now going after people who share notes or lyrics too. The argument seems to be that having people sing popular songs around the campfire causes artists to starve. Saddest part is that this ugly behaviour where first started by a Norwegian organisation called Kopinor.

Be aware, their next goal is to have you arrested for humming in the car.

libmms

In what almomst feels like being inconsistent I am happy to announce the availability of libmms 0.2. This latest version now includes mmsh support so you can listen to any MMS stream out there. Check out the download site for details. Edgard Lima updated the MMS plugin to GStreamer 0.10 and this release, so in gst-plugins-bad you know find the mmssrc plugin.

Free Software and politics

Been getting more and more involved with the political side of software recently. Getting market acceptance is hard work and there are many ‘games’ which have to be played in order to get to the goal. There are of course some standarisation stuff happening in the free software world, through things like Linux Standard Base and freedesktop.org. But we are still babe’s in the woods compared to the wider world. But who know’s, maybe we can have GNOME declared an ISO standard at some point :)

The age of litigation

Seems copyright infringement lawsuits are popping up like mushrooms these days. A couple of weeks ago I saw the movie the Island getting sued for beeing similar to an old movie called the Clonus Horrors. This week its the makers of the television series Lost who gets sued by a writer called Anthony Spinner who says he wrote something similar back in the 70’ties. And I have earlier blogged about the lawsuit against The DaVinci code book by Dan Brown. I have for a while held the belief that copyright was a good IP tool as it was weak enough to allow co-existence of a lot of similar works, which I think would be essential to avoid litigation hell in a world where huge amounts of books, songs and movies are made every year. Well hopefully the courts will prove me right and these lawsuits will fail, but if they don’t then I guess my beliefs about copyright are wrong.

Jonathan Schwartz’s thinking good thoughts

I think the Kodak Java lawsuit started a internal process at Sun where they are slowly re-evaluating their stances on a lot of issues
related to IP. Jonathan Schwartz for instance have been writting more and more blogs where he shows some good thinking, this last one showing the double standard of the content industries for instance. Good going Jonathan! Maybe its time to buy some of those Sun/AMD boxes :)

Pure pwnage

So I discovered the internet craze that is Pure Pwnage. Especially episode two is simply hillarious. I can even relate to Jeremy in the clips as I do tend to 0wn at Quake3 here at the office, of course it isn’t hard as everyone else here is a n00b. They also have a good Wikipedia entry.

GStreamer 0.9

We got two important pieces for GStreamer 0.10 in GNOME 2.14 in place yesterday. Wingo finished porting over the mixer interface which is used in things such as the panel volume applet and Ronald ported the FLAC plugin over getting us full coverage of the free codecs. To see if more people was interested to get involved I sent out a mail with a list of plugins that needed porting. Anyone out there who wants to get involved in GStreamer hacking, this is the time and place. Pick something on that list and start porting (or be 0wned)

SVG

Cleaned up my SVG test page yesterday. It now have four different versions and both rendering backend of librsvg on display. Rock on me!