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Archive for August, 2008

Content Owners Must Consider Fair Use

Another big one.

Judge Rules That Content Owners Must Consider Fair Use Before Sending Takedowns | Electronic Frontier Foundation

A judge’s ruling today is a major victory for free speech and fair use on the Internet, and will help protect everyone who creates content for the Web. In Lenz v. Universal (aka the “dancing baby” case), Judge Jeremy Fogel held that content owners must consider fair use before sending takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).


Alas! Community Loses, OOXML Wins ISO Nod

Monday, August 18, 2008: The two ISO and IEC technical boards have given the go-ahead to publish ISO/IEC DIS 29500, Information technology – Office Open XML formats, as an ISO/IEC International Standard after appeals by four national standards bodies against the approval of the document failed to garner sufficient support.

None of the appeals from Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela received the support for further processing of two-thirds of the members of the ISO Technical Management Board and IEC Standardisation Management Board, as required by ISO/IEC rules governing the work of their joint technical committee ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information technology.

If there is, in fact, a silver lining to this, it is that people are paying more attention to open standards.

Open Source Software Licensing Train Wreck Averted

From the Red Hat Press Blog.

Red Hat News | Software Licensing Train Wreck Averted

Court decisions on free and open source software licensing are unusual, and for lawyers who represent open source companies and projects, somewhat anxiety producing. Fortunately, lawsuits over such licenses are rare, because the licenses are effectively enforced informally to the extent necessary by the free and open source community and disputes are generally resolved informally. This is a positive thing; lawsuits are unbelievably wasteful in terms both of money and spirit. But as a consequence, there are few court decisions to serve as legal precedents.

This creates some uncertainties when a case gets to court. Free and open source software is still a relatively new paradigm. A court coming to the area for the first time may not immediately comprehend this paradigm, and in deciding a given case may draw on analogies to older legal rules that do not fit well. That court may just get things wrong. The effect of a single wrong decision is likely to be magnified, because a later court will be more likely to rely on that decision when it is one of few.

The Liability of License Enforcement

The Liability of License Enforcement
By Bryan J Smith, Senior Consultant
Red Hat Global Professional Services (GPS)

Whereart thou run-time?

Everyday users and software vendors argue the merits and cons of software licensing terms, management and enforcement. Nearly every enterprise has had issues with run-time software licensing that has caused their customers downtime. The question always becomes one of cause and fault for that downtime.

Many commercial software vendors, and even the Software Business Alliance (SBA), lobby and argue that run-time software licensing enforcement is a mandatory requirement, and issues are always the cause and fault of the customer. The problem with this default attitude is when software licensing fails on the part of the commercial software vendor. Just when does the software vendor inherit the liability, when it’s partially their fault be it documentation, implementation, confusion, etc…? And what about those circumstances where the end-user is harmless and it’s caused by a bug in the software vendors run-time license enforcement?

What does a software vendor do when the customer has expended countless troubleshooting time and money on a perceived technical issue only to discover it is a “false positive” by the run-time licensing enforcement in their product?

Not our bag, but our customers are sometimes mutual …

The good news for Red Hat customers is that Red Hat long ago decided that run-time licensing, period, was not our bag. Red Hat’s entire
commercial model is based on subscription licensing for updates, not licenses for run-time. We shall never see a corporation go down due to any bugs in our licensing modules. We will always not only believe in our customers as the best people to enforce their own licenses, but we will always share our code with the community. Yes, anyone who believes they can do it better than us can take our code and even offer a competing product to our customers.

But even though we don’t believe in run-time license enforcement doesn’t mean other software vendors won’t push it upon some of our customers.
We don’t like that, not just in principle, but sometimes it takes our products down with it. Today, August 12th, we awoke to find that
several of our customers do not see our Red Hat Enterprise Linux and other products running, because of a license enforcement bug in a virtualization product by another vendor. What makes the headlines in this issue is that the error codes are technical in nature, and only after extensive debugging is the root cause found — a bug in the license enforcement.

Now it’s neither our job nor our place to criticize other vendors, but we do want to do everything we can to help our, often, mutual customers.
It seems that many of our competitors, even partners in some cases, keep pushing the same issue on our customers. That issue is license enforcement, an issue that not only a liability for our customers, but a liability for our competitors and, gasp, even partners. Ironically, while many commercial software vendors are pushing run-time license enforcement, the reality is that all that is required is solid run-time license management.

Choose management, not enforcement …

We plead with our competitors, and even more so with our partners, to empower our mutual customers to help themselves. Many IT and other departments in organizations spend enough resources ensuring they are compliant with their number of run-time licenses. Any product that helps assist them with this overhead will always result in a return on investment (ROI), especially during any software audit (internal or
external). Our Red Hat Network (RHN) service and our RHN Satellite product were designed to make subscription tracking, as well as general
system management easier. We also offer our Red Hat eXchange (RHX) to our partners, and potential partners, in this collective endeavor.

Make no mistake, run-time license enforcement is a liability and a question of ethics, regardless of what laws may protect or otherwise find software vendors without fault in various locales. Automated processes that shut down software and prevent run-time execution without due process is just that, lack of due process. This is a breach of contract in many locales, with several legal cases have resulting from such. Run-time license management, should be the absolute maximum implementation, to avoid these ethical and legal liabilities as well as empower your (and possibly our) customers.

There are many ways to combine automated, run-time license management with the due process of software licenses and agreements. Although we cannot condone such behavior, and will never agree to such run-time licensing in our products and services, such agreements on enforcement can include a “report” that is provided to the software vendor from the client on their run-time usage. From this “report,” enforcement can and should only be done under due process, off-line.

On-line, run-time license management.
Off-line, run-time license enforcement.
Empower your customer.

In any and all cases, Red Hat will continue to avoid run-time licensing altogether, regardless of what our competitors and, gasp, even some of partners decide. We’ll continue to do our best to focus on the interests of the community and trying to get our competitors to see the errors of their ways.

Bryan J Smith, Senior Consultant
Red Hat Global Professional Services (GPS)

Universities grow weary of pirate chase

Antipiracy Campaign Exasperates Colleges –

Now, feeling burdened and betrayed, some of those universities are quietly fighting back, resisting requests for information and trying to quash subpoenas. Those that do so, though, find that their past compliance — and the continued compliance of their peer institutions — is being held against them.

“We feel like we’ve been led down the garden path, and our interest in working in partnership and leading our mission as educators is now being used against us,” said Tracy Mitrano, director of IT policy at Cornell University.

Twelve steps to building an open source community

Building an Open Source Community | FOSSBazaar

There are many books published that explain how to build communities, but not so many explaining how to build a developer community, and hardly any which focus on open source communities. Some might say that open source communities “just happen”, and that they operate on intuition and unwritten social rules, but this logic overlooks the vast quantity of open source projects that fail.

Given the importance of the communities around open source software, it’s essential to understand the hallmarks of successful open source communities when starting your own open source project. Creating an effective framework in which the community can operate often makes the difference between success and failure.

Doing this properly involves thought and effort, both up front and in life. It’s best for you and your organisation to be aware of this before you get started, rather than being under the illusion that the framework will somehow create and manage itself!

So you want to be a kernel developer?

1: A Guide to the Kernel Development Process | Linux Developer Network

Working with the kernel development community is not especially hard. But, that notwithstanding, many potential contributors have experienced difficulties when trying to do kernel work. The kernel community has evolved its own distinct ways of operating which allow it to function smoothly (and produce a high-quality product) in an environment where thousands of lines of code are being changed every day. So it is not surprising that Linux kernel development process differs greatly from proprietary development methods.

The kernel’s development process may come across as strange and intimidating to new developers, but there are good reasons and solid experience behind it. A developer who does not understand the kernel community’s ways (or, worse, who tries to flout or circumvent them) will have a frustrating experience in store. The development community, while being helpful to those who are trying to learn, has little time for those who will not listen or who do not care about the development process.

Silver lining of the open standards battle

IBM VP: Office OpenXML a dead end, Microsoft will back ODF

Allegations of procedural irregularities in the OOXML approval process have raised serious questions about the integrity of ISO. Some national standards bodies complained that their views were disregarded or ignored during the OOXML ballot resolution meeting because of unreasonable time constraints. Some critics fear that the problems that arose during the ISO evaluation of OOXML will contribute to disillusionment and apathy towards open standards.

I asked Sutor if he thinks that the murky OOXML process will lead to uncertainty about standards in general. He doesn’t accept that possibility and argued instead that the widespread public scrutiny received by OOXML is a sign that people are beginning to care deeply about open standards. He says that the extensive mainstream press coverage and public discussion about the OOXML decision helped to boost the visibility of ODF and increase awareness of standards-based technology.

Open Source in Poland

Metamorphosis – Poland: Ministry of Education recommends Open Source

The Polish Ministry of National Education is advising schools and universities to use Open Source software. The recommendation comes at the end of a volunteer campaign to help schools switch to Open Source.

The Ministry recommended in a statement that schools and universities use OpenOffice. The application suite is sufficiently mature and advanced to be used for teaching and for office use in education and science institutes. “OpenOffice can successfully substitute proprietary applications and will result in significant savings on licenses.”

The ministry published the statement on its website on 17 July, three days before the official end of the ‘WiOO w Szkole’ (‘Free and Open Software in Schools’) campaign, a promotion tour run by 150 volunteers of the Polish Foundation on Open Source (Fwioo).

Lessig on free license victory

huge and important news: free licenses upheld (Lessig Blog)

In non-technical terms, the Court has held that free licenses such as the CC licenses set conditions (rather than covenants) on the use of copyrighted work. When you violate the condition, the license disappears, meaning you’re simply a copyright infringer. This is the theory of the GPL and all CC licenses. Put precisely, whether or not they are also contracts, they are copyright licenses which expire if you fail to abide by the terms of the license.

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