☞ Unplanned Consequences

  • Very interesting article. The practice of “legal blackmail” extends further than this, of course. That would also be an excellent description of the use to which software patents are put by their owners.

    While geeks across Europe are comforted by the fact that there are no software patents “as such” in most European countries, the fact is that they exist sufficiently to allow this sort of “legal blackmail” to be conducted throughout Europe. Legal certainty about a claim by a patent owner can only really be obtained at the end of a court case. Given such things are punishingly expensive, it is enough just to threaten most companies in order to trigger settlement.

    This is why, despite the rumoured non-existence of software patents, they remain a serious problem for all software companies.

  • Each time I see an article like this, I wonder whether today’s legislators realise the position they are taking protecting the interests of the lobbyists around them are both untypical of their predecessors and also harmful to their constituents.

☞ Transitions

  • This is a good and balanced article that is worth reading. At Sun I tried several times to get a Foundation started for OpenOffice.org and it had to happen in the end.

    Today was the day that the OpenOffice.org community (apart, significantly, from the Oracle-owned team in Hamburg) got tired of waiting for the fulfillment of the commitment at OSCON in 2000 to liberate the project into an independent Foundation and did it themselves. The Document Foundation has been a long time in the making, and has been created rather reluctantly, but it is broadly-based (not a Google or Novell initiative, regardless of what people are going to try to tell you) and stands every chance of success. I warmly welcome it, both personally and on behalf of OSI.

  • The new initiative was being weighed down by its association with Microsoft, so this rebrand is an essential step if they are to achieve the potential they speak about.
  • Key Solaris ZFS developer Jeff Bonwick quits Oracle.
  • The natural pathway for great ideas is for them to be integrated into the platform they use, and that’s finally happened to XMarks (originally FoxMarks). Maybe if they had use d a community-centric strategy they would have been the locus of innovation for web sync?

✈ Travel Security – A Modest Proposal

Jetting awayI have been travelling this week on Europe’s low-cost airlines, and have realised that there is only one way to make air travel secure, and that is to take security seriously and prioritise it above all other factors. We should learn from the most secure flights to date – operated by the US military for select trips to the Caribbean.

In future, all passengers aboard planes must:

  • Wear secured headphones for safety education and approved entertainment throughout flights, so that passengers cannot communicate with each other for co-ordinated attacks. It’s possible Apple or Sony might sponsor these, reducing costs. This measure will also reduce incidents of unlicensed use of music, especially as people cross market boundaries, so maybe the RIAA will support this.
  • Travel blindfolded. This prevents any awareness of location or time and ensures no targetted use of devices. This additionally defeats attempts to benefit from unlicensed movies, so MPAA sponsorship for the blindfolds is possible.
  • Travel naked. This reduces opportunities for concealment of devices, although security staff will still need to use powerful scanners pre-boarding.
  • Undergo sensory disorientation pre-travel, so that passengers do not know where they are seated or what the time is. This could be combined with the blindfolds and headsets.
  • Travel in limb restraints fastened to the seat. In addition to protecting against unexpected turbulence, this will prevent any attempt to operate devices. Airlines could consider tube-feeding so they don’t lose revenue from in-flight paid catering.
  • Require a pre-flight “hotel night” where they spend 12 hours before boarding naked in solitary confinement under observation. This will eliminate the possibility of devices being ingested. Boarding will only be permitted with evidence of defecation.
  • Flights must operate to unpublished departure and arrival schedules using undocumented routes. This has the added benefit that flights can no longer be late.
  • Business class passengers might benefit from loin-cloths during boarding and in-flight sedation so they are less impacted by security measures. They can also purchase use of video goggles instead of blindfolds.
  • First class passengers benefit from anesthesia and are boarded on stretchers. Choice of approved drugs available pre-boarding.

There are huge cost-savings achievable for the airlines here, as well as potential new revenue opportunities and sponsorships such as those indicated. The pre-flight “hotel night” will naturally be charged extra, the need for in-flight entertainment systems is eliminated since no-one can see, hear or operate them, on-board toilets and galleys can be removed and replaced with extra seating and on top of all this far fewer staff are needed and training can be reduced.

RyanAir appears to be field-testing some of these ideas already. All for your safety, comfort and convenience, of course. Relax, sit back and enjoy the flight!

☂ Why Open Source Is Free

My classic (read: several years old) essay on Payment At The Point Of Value has finally made it on to the Essays page on this site. Now that community-centric open source is once again returning to centre stage, PPV is a relevant concept to understand the roles different community members play in relation to the software, and especially the different freedoms they are exploiting – beyond free-as-zero-price.

☞ Framing Open Source

  • I can't decide whether I am pleased there are people doing this or concerned that their actions become the focus of public understanding about open source software.

    Not all software is GPL licensed. MIT/BSD/X11/Apache probably lead the pack for integrated/embedded software (by definition there can be no hard data) and thus not every use has the same stringent compliance concerns. Even most uses of GPLed software don't carry serious issues.

    The result of making it seem otherwise is that the more subtle opponents of open source are able to raise Fears about compliance, attaching Uncertainties soluble only via extra costs that aren't really applicable to the majority of uses and thus seeding Doubts that the bother is really worth it. This has all the classic hallmarks of the best FUD, turning the weakness of proprietary software and its BSA-mediated enforcement heavies and by implication tarring open source with it. We should reject the frame.

☞ Copyrights or No Rights

  • It turns out that software publishers really don’t like copyright law alone. It gives their customers far too many rights – in this case “first sale” rights – and they would much rather use contracts that avoid giving any rights similar to ownership.

    Doing so allows them to control and manipulate the customer in ways the framers of copyright law never imagined and which negate the social contract – benefit to society in return for a limited monopoly – that is its foundation. The use of copyrights and patents as a lever to force contractual agreements is common and is rapidly eroding both our liberty and our cultural commons. Used with proprietary EULAs it is the antithesis of both software freedom and the Creative Commons.

    “The American Library Association and eBay argued against the outcome. The library association said it feared that the software industry’s licensing practices could be adopted by other copyright owners, including book publishers, record labels and movie studios.”


  • Just in case you thought the article by Glyn Moody that I linked yesterday was a one-off, this techDirt article from earlier in the year alleges that sophistry is a BSA strategy rather than an accident.
  • Just as ForgeRock did recently, The Mozilla Foundation has become a licensee of the Open Invention Network so they can use OIN resources in the event of a patent attack. Note they are clear to point out that, like us, they are not endorsing software patents, just adopting an obvious and free defence against them.

☞ Old Models

  • Glyn’s research here is very useful. The BSA use of statistics is very regrettable, as is their use of inuendo and framing to build the impression that their outlook is correct. They are a vestige of a passing business model and everything they say should be questioned and disbelieved until independently proven.
  • This is a very worrying development. The creation of an ideological firewall for the US, under the essentially unaccountable control of corporate interests, is a huge threat to the future of internet freedom.
  • No mention of the future of the JCP or a plan to unblock the Apache Harmony issue. Instead, an appeal to populism redolent of a plebiscite: “The decisions regarding the features to be included in the JDK 7 and JDK 8 releases were made with active participation of the Java community.”

☂ Copyright Aggregation Essay

My essay on copyright aggregation in open source projects has finally moved to the Essays section of the web site; future updates and edits will happen there.

☞ Wise Handling

  • Jon Udell argues that the switch to OAuth comes at the cost of a loss of flexibility and the potential for innovation. Interestingly, he doesn’t mention the other problem – the impact on open source software.
  • Excellent approach to trademark stewardship here. The open-by-rule principle – that a community should be an equal place where every participant has the same rights to the collective copyrights, trademarks and patents as everyone else – seems to be scrupulously observed in the WordPress community and I’m very impressed.

✍ Community Types Essay

Nested community layers diagramMy essay on Community Types is now available in the Essays section of the site. It defines what I mean by terms like “co-developer” and “deployer-developer” when I use them in conversation.

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