New OSI Directors

The announcement of the new board at the Open Source Initiative reflects its international and diverse character as well as the introduction of strong community skills. OSI was founded in 1998-9 as a non-profit organisation with the aim of supporting and promoting the open source movement, in part by  maintaining a concrete definition of open source, along with a list of licenses which line up with that definition.

The gradual change to a member selected board is part of a broader restructuring move, also involving the appointment of a general manager and the expansion of community activities (such as fostering of closer ties with the Free Software Foundation). The board is made up of members selected by both individual members and OSI “Affiliate” members, non-profit open source-related organisations which select directors to serve for three year terms.

To find out more about OSI and to hear about some of the individuals now making their mark in the OSI board of directors, read Simon’s full article on ComputerWorldUK.

Data Retention Directive Scrapped

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided to scrap the data retention directive on Tuesday, declaring it to be in violation of Europeans rights to a private life and protected personal data. In place since March 2006 the data retention directive required member states to store citizens’ telecommunications data for six months to two years to serve the needs of police and National security agencies.

The ECJ observed that the directive makes possible the discernment of the means, time, place, and frequency of communication between a subscriber or registered user of a site as well as the identity of the person they’re messaging. The ability to collect this information is considered disproportionate to the objectives of the directive and therefore counter to the EU proportionality principle.

The removal of the directive creates it’s own set of issues, questions and grey areas. What will happen to National regulations drafted in accordance with the directive? Can Telecom and Internet Service Providers still store personal data for over six months or is it now to be considered outright illegal? How about ongoing contracts in favour of such data retention? Both governments and the companies involved have got some fast thinking and acting to do. The responses of governments to this move will reveal much about the future of the way European Directives are handled at national scale. Read Simon and Alexandra’s full analysis on ComputerWorldUK.

“… and the filters don’t work/they just make it worse…”

The UK government has pressured ISPs to apply content filters to their customers’ connections, in the name of protecting children from unsuitable content. During 2014, ISPs will be approaching their customers and trying to persuade them to turn on filtering. But this is a mistaken approach arising from magical thinking — “this thing should exist so it must be possible”.

Content filters can’t work, for several reasons. Just a sample: Continue reading

Pirates in Politics

The European Pirate Party launched itself last month to create a common platform for the various Pirate Parties of Europe. With Swedish Pirate MEP Amelia Andersdotter as the chairperson of their first elected board and a manifesto which outlines a raft of ideals ranging from transparent institutions to copyright reform and from defense of civil rights to new opportunities for democratic participation, the European Pirate Party seems well set to make its mark on European politics.

Whilst the Meshed team found the Party launch to be lacking a certain focus and sense of historicity, the fact of the event itself is encouraging. Representing a commitment to organisation and co-operation between the various groups that come under the Pirate banner, the founding of this pan-European body represents the beginning of a new political dynamic for the continent’s geeks. Read Alexandra’s full write up at ComputerWorldUK.

FFII’s April 1st gag takes aim at OIN

In a satire of OIN‘s stated aim “to promote the Linux system by using patents to create a collaborative ecosystem”, the FFII used the opportunity provided by April 1st’s traditional gag pulling to announce two new “initiatives”, labelled “Coin2Patent” and “Offensive Publications”. Directly playing on the names and concepts of two OIN programs “Peer-to-Patent” and “Defensive Publications”, the initiative descriptions closely mirror those of their OIN counterparts but with a hard satirical edge.

The actual Peer-to-Patent program describes itself as a “system that aims to improve the quality of issued patents” and Defensive Publications are called “powerful preemptive disclosure [which] prevents other parties from obtaining a patent on the product, device or method.” The FFII gag paints their alternative projects as crowd funding for patent trolls and “basically the patents themselves” respectively. Read Alexandra’s full write up in the ComputerWorldUK spot.

More cautious excitement as Microsoft opens .Net

The Microsoft news is coming thick and fast. A few days ago we discussed Office for iPad, Microsoft’s confession of unethical behaviour and its release of MS-DOS code under a prohibitive license. This weeks news seems even bigger: open source for .Net and $0 pricing for mobile Windows. There’s cause to be excited, yet as ever caution is required.

The excitement comes from the .Net news. The formation of the .Net Foundation and the hosting of 24 projects within it should liberate developers to innovate in a way that seemed impossible under previous leadership. This move has seemed an obvious one for the open source community for a long time, as it offers a new lease of life for .Net through contributor innovation and should help create a rich, monetisable market.

The caution relates to the news that Windows for mobile will be free of charge. Whilst unarguably a big move, it’s not open source — the license terms still restrict how you can use the software. This is important, as whilst a “first hit is free” approach to getting people using mobile Windows might bring some results, the key to sustained innovation and therefore sustained increase in the user base comes from removing the need to ask for permission before you can innovate.

Read Simon’s full analysis in the InfoWorld article.

The Document Liberation Project

The problem of old document formats being unreadable by newer software is especially frustrating. It removes effective control from the hands of the original authors, with potentially very damaging effects. Individuals, businesses and even governments have been known to get locked out of their own files after upgrading to newer releases of their preferred office software. Unless something changes though, the problem is only going to get worse as the years go by. Thankfully though, the newly formed “Document Liberation Project” has a plan to help rectify the situation. They aim to do this by collecting samples of all known document formats, documenting them, and building import filters so they can be imported into open source software like LibreOffice.

Sponsored by The Document Foundation, the Document Liberation Project also aims to help governments, companies and individuals to migrate to the Open Document Format (ODF) standard as a long-term storage format for their creative work. Remaining backward compatible even as new versions are released, the spread of the ODF offers real hope for those who think that control of digital content needs to be kept out of the hands of proprietary vendors.

Read Simon’s full announcement on InfoWorld.

Software Patent Supreme Court Case Begins

Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank, the landmark case over the legality of software patents, has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The journey to get there has been long and drawn out, but now that it’s being discussed by SCOTUS, what are the chances that their eventual decision will be broad, decisive and clear? Simon’s been looking over the transcript of Monday’s hearing in an attempt to assess the direction the questioning seems to be taking.

Highlighting “a good deal of apparent scepticism” on the part of the Justices, Simon picks out a number of quotes in which the Justices state and restate the problem, seemingly unsatisfied by the response each time. One Justice Scalia statement helps us understand the core of the problem under discussion: “If you just say ‘use a computer,’ you haven’t invented anything.” Despite this scepticism, Chief Justice Roberts expressed doubts that their  ruling will “bring about greater clarity and certainty,” and this wasn’t the only sign that the court might be reluctant to provide the strong clarification the Solicitor General asked for and that the technology economy needs.

Read Simon’s full analysis of the hearing on InfoWorld.



Microsoft – Reading the Signs

Perhaps it’s too soon to be jumping to conclusions, but is it possible that Microsoft’s promotion of Satya Nadella into the CEO spot is a sign of willingness to change? Holding out for a future in which Microsoft embraces open source, Simon explains in InfoWorld this week why despite the ‘true to character’ release of MS-DOS code under particularly unhelpful licensing terms, the first few weeks of Nadella’s leadership still leave him with a of tinge of hope.

The two incidents he examines are the release of Office for iPad and Microsoft’s moves towards higher ethical standards regarding the privacy of their customers. Whilst there is much caution and qualification, Simon’s reading of the signs seems to be that Nadella is the man to open doors for Open Source at Microsoft. Read his full article on InfoWorld here.