Article 13 – An Existential Threat

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a letter from more than 70 leaders in the emerging meshed society (including me) which criticises Article 13 of the European Union’s proposed new copyright regulations. This Article starts from the assumption that the only role of an individual is to consume copyrighted works and hence deduces that any act of publication on the part of an individual must be infringing the copyrights of a corporation unless proven otherwise. The text doesn’t state things that clearly, but the effect is unmistakable. It’s as if a politician was proposing to ban syringes because addicts use them, without considering that hospitals do too.  Continue reading

One Last Push To Save The API

A group of computer experts – including me – asked a US court to think again about fair use of APIs this month.

Tomás Saraceno artworks at SF MOMA: Stillness in Motion—Cloud Cities

It was an unlucky fact that Oracle’s case against Google over Android started with patents. Their initial case fell apart almost immediately, with almost all the patent claims invalidated. The implausable backstop copyright case Oracle made against Android’s use of language-essential definitions in the Java APIs (and thus against the freedom of developers everywhere) carried on though. The initial patent case meant that the appeal when Oracle soundly lost ended up at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) — the specialist patent appeals court in the USA — and not at a court competent to dispense copyright justice.  Continue reading

Control Or Consensus?

You’re entitled to your opinion but in open source licensing only the consensus of the community really matters.

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In a recent conversation on the Apache Legal mailing list, a participant opined that “any license can be Open Source. OSI doesn’t ‘own’ the term.” He went on to explain “I could clone the Apache License and call it ‘Greg’s License’ and it would be an open source license.”  Continue reading

On Butter and Triangulation

Data protection laws are about controlling triangulation, not (just) direct privacy

Squirrel peering from behind log

At the end of May 2018, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect in Europe. It creates a whole set of new responsibilities that are causing concern for businesses across the EU. It has effects outside Europe as well, because it will control the way businesses located in Europe can share data across borders, both within their company and with other companies.  Continue reading

No To “No Hacking” Clauses

Trying to ban clever hacks in an open source licence is not OK.

Rocks

A correspondent asks about the Open Source Definition (OSD):

“Does OSD 6 mean I can’t include a clause in a new open source license that prohibits hacking?”

Yes, you are correct – that’s called a “field of use restriction” (FoU) and copyright licenses that contain field of use restrictions are not approved as open source. Open source licenses are for guaranteeing software freedom, nothing more or less. Continue reading

Apache Bans Facebook’s License Combo

The Apache Software Foundation has moved the “Facebook BSD+Patent grant” license combination (FB+PL) to its “Category X” licensing list, effectively banning inclusion of any software under FB+PL from Apache projects. That included RocksDB, which has consequently just dropped FB+PL and added the Apache License v2 on Github, and React.JS which does not look like it will resolve the issue so fast.

Update, 22 September: Facebook has announced it will switch React to the MIT license.
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Here’s what we know so far (subject to updates, last day’s in green, latest marked 🆕): Continue reading

Permissive and Copyleft Are Not Antonyms

Using the term “permissive” as an antonym to “copyleft” – or “restrictive” as its synonym – are unhelpful framing. Describe license reciprocity instead.

Assorted Empty Frames On A Wall

Some open source licenses implement a clever hack invented by Richard Stallman where, as a condition of the copyright license, anyone creating derived versions has to agree they will license the new version the same way as the original. In a play on words, this concept is called “copyleft” and many open source licenses implement this hack.

Continue reading

Assume Good Faith

You feel slighted by a comment on a mailing list, or a forum post has failed to be moderated live. How should you react?

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A recent exchange on a user forum caught my eye, one that’s typical of many user interactions with open source communities. Someone with a technical question had apparently had the answer they needed and to help others in the same situation had posted a summary of the resolution, complete with sample code. When they came back later, the summary was gone. Continue reading

Public Domain Is Not Open Source

Open Source and Public Domain are frequently confused. Here’s why it’s a mistake to treat the two terms as synonyms.

Coade Stone lion in London

Plenty of people assume that public domain software must be open source. While it may be free software within your specific context, it is incorrect to treat public domain software as open source or indeed as globally free software. That’s not a legal opinion (I’m not a lawyer so only entitled to layman’s opinions) but rather an observation that an open source user or developer cannot safely include public domain source code in a projectContinue reading

7 Rules For Engaging Communities On Legal Matters

When you need to discuss a license, a legal document like a CLA or a governance rule with an open source community, what’s the best approach to take?

Squirrel pops up behind log to check things outHaving watched a fair number of people attempting to engage both the Open Source Initiative’s licensing evaluation community and the Apache Software Foundation’s legal affairs committee, here are some hints and tips for succeeding when your turn comes to conduct a discussion over legal terms with an open source community. Continue reading