TPP Harmful To Open Source

While some may assert that open source is not applicable in every circumstance, the right to demand access to source code in situations where it is appropriate is important to society as a whole. That’s why it is important to note — and protest — a clause in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP), and any other trade agreements carrying the same idea. As the FSF notes, chapter 14 includes a prohibition on governments requiring access to source code as a condition on allowing

the import, distribution, sale or use of such software, or of products containing such software, in its territory.

Just as Volkswagen was able to hide its evasion of emissions regulations behind proprietary code (which the US DMCA and laws like it globally even made it illegal to reverse engineer for scrutiny), so TPP enshrines the ability to hide behind proprietary code and prohibits governments from mandating its disclosure even when that’s in the interests of the citizens they serve. In the future, regulations should increasingly require open source for code critical to regulatory matters; this clause prohibits it. Shutting such an obvious avenue for society’s good seems premature and regressive.

It’s not enough to partially mitigate this ban on open source by allowing secret disclosure to governments. Our perspective is that simply having source made available for viewing by select parties is not sufficient. Source code related to public regulatory matters should be released under an OSI approved license and thus made available to all those who use the software. Doing so allows them to study, improve and share the software as well as to check that their lives are not negatively impacted by its defects. Ideally, all software written using public funds should also be made available as open source.

There’s much else in TPP to be concerned about, as the EFF notes, but this clause is especially regressive and is cause alone to reject the agreement. The clock is ticking — President Obama notified Congress on November 5 that he intends to ratify TPP on behalf of the USA — so the time to protest is now.

[Adapted by OSI as a Board position statement]

Microsoft and Red Hat Make Peace

That’s in the cloud at least. The deal that’s just been announced is certainly more comprehensive than the join marketing and hosting deals that usually show up.

  • .NET will soon be shipping in RHEL and included in OpenShift
  • support staff will be co-located so hybrid cloud customers have a single point of contact
  • there’s some kind of patent standstill between Red Hat and Microsoft

But claims “Microsoft Loves Linux” are premature; this is just the Azure team throwing big money at credibility, not a decision by the whole company to end hostilities. To do that they would need to join OIN.

Full story on InfoWorld.

Simon Says … No More Foundations!

Simon spoke at OSCON Europe on Monday, delivering a keynote calling for a halt to the proliferation of open source trade associations calling themselves “Foundations” — not to be confused with open source public benefit non-profits. Here’s his keynote in full.

Phone Consultations

Arranging the necessary agreements for a business consultation can be heavy lifting, especially if the matter in hand could be discussed in half an hour. To that end, we’ve set up an account on Clarity so you can quickly and easily benefit from our experience! If you book during 2015, we will donate all proceeds to the Open Rights Group.

EU-US Safe Harbour For Personal Data Eliminated

Simon Phipps:

Simon’s quick take on the safe harbour news.

Originally posted on Wild Webmink:

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) handed down a decision declaring EU-US safe harbour for personal data invalid this morning. It has far-reaching implications for cloud services in particular and may presage increased opportunity for open source solutions from non-US suppliers. Looks like a real gift to companies like Kolab.

Here’s my first reaction on reading of the sources. Let me know what I have wrong & I’ll fix it. In the Opinion of the Advocate General (who has a broader but compatible view), he said:

¶183. I am therefore of the view that Decision 2000/520 must be declared invalid since the existence of a derogation which allows in such general and imprecise terms the principles of the safe harbour scheme to be disregarded prevents in itself that scheme from being considered to ensure an adequate level of protection of the personal data which is transferred to the United States from the European…

View original 1,346 more words

FRAND Is Always Discriminatory

I participated in a study asking about the fairness, reasonableness and non-discriminatory nature of FRAND licensing in the context of licensing of patents in standards. I was surprised to find people there asserting there was no conflict between FRAND licensing and open source software. Here’s a simple explanation why that’s wrong.

Since patent licensing is by definition bilateral, and since open source communities that aren’t run by a single vendor are by definition multi-lateral, any standard which includes patents that require licensing discriminates against true multi-participant open source implementation. By definition, patent licensing as a precondition of implementation of a standard cannot ever be non-discriminatory. Even zero-fee licensing is discriminatory as it still requires implementers to seek permission, the antithesis of open source.

Software Freedom, Utility and Maintenance Time

Whilst many may long for a truly open source OS that meets all of their needs, the reality has always been that compromise has a role to play whenever it comes to picking your operating system. Despite the availability and increasing ease of installation of purer open source systems, there remains a trade-off to be made. Systems with a high level of software freedom and an intuitively usable interface seem to require high levels of maintenance to keep them alive. Where a system with high software freedom’s been designed to require less maintenance, the usability seems to suffer. Of course, this triangle has a third point to it too: where a system is both easy to use and maintaining it doesn’t consume too much of your time, it’s software freedom that takes the hit.

What sort of system you choose should depend on which of those three factors you prioritise. Read the details about this theory, along with some pointers for recognising systems that value software freedom in Simon’s InfoWorld Article.