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Archive for August, 2008

Another victory: Wikipedia wins dismissal of defamation claims

It’s shaping up to be a good day for openness.

Wikipedia Wins Dismissal of Baseless Defamation Claims | Electronic Frontier Foundation

In a victory for free speech and user-generated content, a New Jersey judge has dismissed baseless defamation claims against the operator of Wikipedia. In a recent ruling, the judge correctly found that federal law immunizes the Wikimedia Foundation from liability for statements made by its users.

This case began when literary agent Barbara Bauer sued Wikimedia, claiming the organization was liable for statements identifying her at one of the “dumbest of the twenty worst” agents and that she had “no documented sales at all.” EFF and the law firm of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton represented Wikimedia, and moved to dismiss the case in May, arguing that under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, operators of “interactive computer services” such as Wikipedia cannot be held liable for users’ comments.

A significant court victory for open source licenses

Michael Tiemann calls this a “HUGE, CELEBRATION-WORTHY DECISION.”

Groklaw – Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit Overturns Jacobsen v. Katzer

This just in: the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has just overturned [PDF] the lower court’s decision in Jacobsen v. Katzer, the model train case. The appeals court held that open source license conditions are enforceable as a copyright condition and that the Artistic License is no different in that respect.


Whew! As the court put it, “Copyright holders who engage in open source licensing have the right to control the modification and distribution of copyrighted material.” So, now the case goes back to the lower court to reconsider, based on this ruling, the question of injunctive relief. So. “The heart of the argument on appeal concerns whether the terms of the Artistic License are conditions of, or merely covenants to, the copyright license,” the court of appeals writes. And it finds that they are conditions, so relief is by means of copyright law, not contract.

Open Source in Latin America

Matt Asay talks to Julian Somodi, Red Hat’s general manager for Latin America.

Red Hat: Gateway to open source in Latin America | The Open Road – The Business and Politics of Open Source by Matt Asay – CNET

Asay: Latin America has always been difficult for North American and European software companies. Between piracy and comparatively low budgets for technology, we’ve struggled to know how to do business in Latin America. You seem to see an opportunity, and have been closing some big customers like the Brazilian Federal Court. Why?

Somodi: The very things that make Latin America difficult for traditional software businesses make them ideal for an open-source business like Red Hat’s. Our business depends on local support. For an Oracle, a company with which I worked for many years, it’s very difficult and costly to provide such support.

For Red Hat, it’s just how we operate. I have a team of core Linux and JBoss engineers here in the countries in which we operate to provide local language and local understanding support. We don’t outsource support. It’s the core of the value we provide to our customers. When a customer in Brazil needs help, they can feel comfort in knowing that Marcello Tosatti, a core Linux kernel developer, is just a phone call away.

Because we’re localized, we can provide support at rates and in a manner that works for Latin American budgets. We operate Red Hat South America as Red Hat South America, and not as a North American company pretending to care about local concerns.

Federal Judge in DefCon Case Equates Speech with Hacking

Federal Judge in DefCon Case Equates Speech with Hacking | Threat Level from

LAS VEGAS — Lawyers with the Electronic Frontier Foundation said a federal judge who granted a temporary restraining order on Saturday to halt a scheduled conference talk about security vulnerabilities came to “a very, very wrong conclusion.” They said the judge’s order constituted illegal prior restraint, which violated the speakers’ First Amendment right to discuss important and legitimate academic research.

“When you discuss security issues, if you are telling the truth, that should be something protected at the core of the First Amendment,” said Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the non-profit EFF, who was at DefCon to participate in an annual ask-the-EFF panel and to launch the organization’s Coders Rights Project. “If you are truthfully telling the world about a dangerous situation, and (it is) a situation which is dangerous not because the security researcher exposes the vulnerability (but) because the person who made the product . . . made the vulnerability, (then) this should be core speech.”

Guiding Principles for Microsoft’s Open Document Format Implementation

Doug Mahugh is Senior Product Manager at Microsoft specializing in Office client interoperability and the Open XML file formats. He is also the moderator of the web site, where Open XML developers share tips, techniques and source code for a variety of development platforms.

Here is a recent blog post about how MS is going to approach ODF 1.1 adoption.

Stay tuned.

Doug Mahugh : Guiding principles for Office’s ODF implementation

Why ODF 1.1?

We’re implementing ODF 1.1 in our initial release of ODF support. We chose this version because it is the most current approved ODF specification, and because it is the version of ODF that current release versions of most other applications such as OpenOffice also support. We will support ODF in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, using the file extensions .odt, .ods, and .odp. The exact release date for Office 2007 SP2 has not been announced yet, but we expect ODF support to be available sometime in the first half of 2009.

Guiding Principles

As we set out to build in support for ODF, we developed a set of principles to guide our implementation team. Those principles are:

* Adhere to the ODF 1.1 Standard
* Be Predictable
* Preserve User Intent
* Preserve Editability
* Preserve Visual Fidelity

One Laptop Per Child: Older and Wiser

An interesting update on the schooling of OLPC.

Are commerce and humanitarianism incompatible? – Times Online

Yet, 3½ years later, the laptop is clinging on to life. It costs around $190 rather than $100 and it is called the XO. It is no longer like a tent, but it can still be solar-powered. It is a technological triumph. But only 370,000 are in use and another 250,000 ordered. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), the company formed to run the project, is still driven by the same old idealism, geekery and technical brilliance. But Negroponte and his young staff are older and wiser. They were stunned by the savagery of the competition they faced – competition plainly intended to destroy a philanthropic idea. “I had wildly underestimated,” says Negroponte, “the degree to which commercial entities will go to disrupt a humanitarian project.”

Microsoft now acknowledges open source as competition. Drops “cancer” label.

Microsoft Applauds Victory Over Linux and Open Source – But is not declaring peace – Softpedia

“In the industry-standard computing space, a number of years ago we faced the challenge of what was going to happen with Linux and the growth of open source. And fundamentally we made a decision that business customers make rational business decisions, and the reason they choose an open source product is because they can solve the problem better than they can with a Windows-based product. So when you put it in those sorts of terms, the way we compete against Linux is very simple: we build a better product and we have a great value proposition. Today our customers know Linux isn’t free and the overall cost of the solution is in fact in most cases quite a bit higher than a Windows-based solution. And if we can offer a better solution at a great price, then customers choose Windows — and they are. So we are growing strongly,” stated Bob Muglia, Senior Vice President, Server and Tools Business.

Just wondering, where are the reaction quotes from the open source community in this article? Must’ve been a tight deadline.

And it also seems as if these very smart proprietary software executives (and some of the writers who cover them) still don’t quite understand the difference between “free speech” and “free beer.”

It is indeed difficult to teach something to someone when their paycheck depends on them not understanding it.

Copyright gone wrong

William Patry (who happens to work for Google as a copyright attorney, although his blog was personal) is shutting down The Patry Copyright Blog, in part, because the state of copyright law and the debate surrounding it are too depressing.

I agree, it can get a little depressing following this stuff. But hopefully, and most probably, someone else will step in to take his place. Without people like Patry explaining things, and creating a forum for discussion, it’s nigh impossible for the rest of us to keep up, let alone do anything to stem the tide.

The Patry Copyright Blog: End of the Blog

Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately.

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