VP8 Safe For Open Source Use

A few weeks ago we put up a critique of Google’s proposed VP8 license. The associated article drew the attention of the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), a law firm that provides pro bono support to the open source software community. Dialogue with the SFLC left Simon with a few important clarifications to make with regard to his article.

The key observation to take away is that the VP8 is in no way incompatible with open source licensing. The license is for the benefit of OEMs and patent holders who might otherwise get a bit twitchy. For most open source developers the VP8 license doesn’t need to be used.

Furthermore, the license includes a clause offering “release from past infringement”. This means that developers really don’t need to worry about using the license at all; in the unlikely situation that an MPEG-LA patent holder actually tried an attack on the basis of your VP8 implementation, you could then sign onto the license and cover yourself against those claims retrospectively. Read the full story in today’s InfoWorld article.

Practical Step to Protect Your Digital Rights

Open Rights GroupPerhaps you find yourself concerned by the ongoing resurgence of the Snooper’s Charter (CDB) in the media and want to know about practical steps you can make towards keeping it at bay. Open Rights Group champion that cause and you can both support their work and find out more information by attending one of their local meetings.

Wherever you are there are active ways to get involved. Simon will be speaking at the local ORG gatherings in Sheffield and Manchester on the 11th and 12th of June respectively. There’s another event in Edinburgh on the 13th when there’ll be a panel discussion with Ian Murray MP, Marco Biagi MSP, and ORG’s own Jim Killock.

Alternatively ORGCon is coming up fast. The UK’s biggest digital rights conference is taking place in London on the 8th of June. There’s a packed and varied programme covering all manner of digital rights issues. So whatever it is that gets you fired up, from the Snooper’s Charter to censorship to the digital arms trade, ORGCon2013 is well worth attending.

Resurgent CDB

What does the Woolwich murder teach us about the need for the Communications Data Bill? Nothing at all; the security services seem to have known all about the suspect using existing powers.

Yet somehow it’s being used as a pretext to keep the CDB agenda firmly in the public eye. Cynical and repulsive as this is it’s not a big surprise. In fact, it very much echoes the predictions of Simon’s previous blog post on the CDB.

What can we do to stop the CDB from piggybacking itself onto every fresh news item? The treatment remains the same. New legislation needs to be put forward which deals with specific security concerns in a more appropriate, less invasive way. Read more in today’s ComputerWorldUK article.

Ubuntu Phone

UbuntuFor a work in progress Ubuntu Phone has a lot of things going for it. Great appearance, an efficiently smooth user experience through the use of the phones edges as  universal start points to summon menus and start searches and a dedicated existing community of advocates and end users. But there are a number of big questions that still need to be resolved.

Ubuntu Phone is still very much a work in progress. The developers claim to be entering the “dogfooding stage” of the OS’s creation; using it on their own devices to get a working understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. That’s still a long way off completion and even a way behind Firefox OS which is available on an actual device via Geeksphone.

Talking to Canonical’s Jono Bacon revealed that they’re currently framing the lack of associated app store as a strength rather than a weakness. That’s a hard position to justify in today’s mobile market. It was also interesting to hear his views about how Ubuntu Phone fits into the market as a whole. Read more in today’s InfoWorld article.

Recognition for Open Access Innovators

What do you know about Public Library of Science (PLOS)? Since 2003 they’ve been providing us with an example of what open access can mean for the advancement of science. They publish scientific papers and articles in a freely available, online format. They’re also keen advocates for open access generally, as they see it as a key force in efforts to speed up the progress of science.

At the moment they’re running a recognition scheme called the “Accelerating Science Award Program”. ASAP is designed to honour those who have used or applied scientific research available via Open Access to make an impact in science, medicine, business, technology, or society more widely. As well as public recognition at an event in Washington DC and in a widely distributed portfolio book, the three winners of the award will receive $30,000 prizes. So if you know someone who’d make a good nominee, someone who’s applied scientific research to innovate and make a difference (in any field), now is a great time to let them be known.

Google’s VP8 License Proposal

Google have released a draft agreement designed to help VP8 adoption by licensing a number of relevant patents on a royalty free basis. It sounds good, but the details of the license still need some work. Hopefully we’ll see some changes to this draft before the final license is released.

There are a number of issues with the document as it stands. One key problem is that it’s not sub-licensable; every user wanting to benefit from the agreement would need to make an individual response. Continue reading

US Federal Circuit Finds CLS Software Patents Invalid

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit published an opinion last week in the CLS vs Alice case. You’ll recall this was a crucial hearing that has the potential to decide whether software is patentable in the USA.

The opinion published by the court — sitting en banc with all but one of the Circuit’s judges represented — found that the software in question was not a patentable subject. That’s very good news and if the finding stands could strike at the heart of the software patent problem.

But the story isn’t over here. The document actually includes six separate opinions by different groups of the judges. A majority of them were able to agree to the overall court verdict, but it is clearly inconclusive. As a consequence, it seems almost certain this finding will itself be appealed to the US Supreme Court. So celebrate, but hold back a little – it’s not over yet.

No One Speaks For Me

“Thoughts on Open Innovation” is the title of a recently released OpenForum Academy publication collecting essays on a range of open innovation topics designed to “deliver a snapshot of important developments for policy-makers, business leaders and researchers to consider”. Simon contributed a chapter entitled “No One Speaks For Me”, looking at the concept of a meshed society and some of the ways in which the old world naturally excludes and even fights the onset of the new. The book can be downloaded free, either as a whole or by individual chapters; so have a look, there’s plenty there to get your teeth into!

OSI Board Meeting

Last week the new board of the Open Source Initiative met in Washington DC. Decisions were made with regard to a range of issues including a move to become a member-based organisation and the decision to hire a general manager for the group (details and availability of the role to be advertised shortly). Read the full meeting report here.

SVG Everywhere

Some landmark news you may have missed recently is the reality that all the major web browsers now support the open standard for scalable vector graphics, SVG. SVG was of course created and standardised long ago, but it’s taken some 14 years from the initial development through to this position of receiving full support from all the big name browsers.

Resistance to the standard came from Microsoft. They attempted to have their own technology become the standard — first by submitting it as a candidate for the basis of the SVG standard and then, when the rest of the community rejected their submission, by leveraging their other software monopolies to promote their own format and by dragging their feet over supporting SVG.

But the inevitable attractor of open standards has finally had its effect, and the power of this important open standard is finally unleashed across Firefox, Chrome, IE8 and most others. SVG allows very small image downloads to deliver rich, potentially interactive graphics that work on any device at any resolution. To get a hint of the power, take a look at the web site of SVG pioneer Kelvin Lawrence.