OSI, FSF and the end of software patents

Just as we did in the case of CPTN’s threatened acquisition of Novell’s patent portfolio in 2011, the OSI and FSF have once again collaborated to file a briefing — this time in the key software patent case CLS Bank vs Alice Corporation, which is being appealed at the US Supreme Court. From my article in InfoWorld today:

I endorse and welcome this joint position calling for firm clarity on software patents. With 15 years of history behind us, there’s far more that unites the FSF and the OSI than divides us. We’ve each played our part in the software freedom movement that has transformed computing. Now all of us in both communities need to unite to end the chilling threat of software patents to the freedom to innovate collaboratively in community.

Two other notable amicus curiae briefs are one from Red Hat and one from the American Civil Liberties Union – especially interesting as they are not obviously an interested party until you read their argument and see how they make an appeal to free speech. They say:

Because Alice’s patent claims monopolize knowledge, thought, and speech, they are invalid as a matter of patent law, which can and must be construed to avoid the constitutional problems that would otherwise arise if the patents were upheld

While I expect the court to remain as cautious as ever, this is an important opportunity for them to undo the harm that allowing patents on abstract ideas has caused, chilling innovation both by enabling direct assault on innovators and by introducing friction into the open collaboration of communities.

OSI License Clinic

In a new departure, the Open Source Initiative will hold a small open source license clinic oriented towards US Federal agencies. The event will be at the Library of Congress on May 9, 2013 starting at 9am.  Places are limited and you’re encouraged to register now.

About OSI

I recorded a short interview explaining OSI Membership while I was at Open World Forum.

[youtube http://youtu.be/c0c5IsST_9w]

Thanks to openworldforum.tv for the opportunity to tell people how to join!

OSI Membership In Two Minutes

I was approached in the OSI booth at OSCON to explain OSI’s membership categories.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DB5SxVjqBg]

That URL again:  opensource.org/join

Explaining OSI Membership

The video of my keynote at OSCON is now live on YouTube:

That link I mentioned:  opensource.org/join

OSI Opens For Membership

You can finally join OSI. I’ve had a busy day at OSCON in Portland, OR today (apologies if I’ve been missing your messages and/or deadlines…) where interest around the conference has been high. Here are some details.

The Open Source Initiative now has two membership categories; Affiliate Membership for not-for-profit organisations, and Individual Membership for open source supporters to personally drive change. The Board expects to create a third category for corporate membership later this year. Together, these membership categories will eventually drive all the activity at OSI, including its governance.

The goal of all this is to turn OSI into a member-driven non-profit that’s a neutral venue for the things that are inappropriate or impossible anywhere else. Ideas already suggested include

  • a global resource network for open source user groups of all kinds
  • a repository of research on open source (like the late lamented opensource.mit.edu)
  • a social fund to help developers attend open source conferences

Of course, all these will only happen if there are people to make them happen – the OSI Board is too small for this. The new Individual Membership category is the powerhouse of the change, connecting the resources from the Affiliates and future corporate members and staffing working groups to achieve concrete, time-bounded deliverables that benefit open source. As the membership grows – in all categories – so will the resources available, both practical and reputational. In future the OSI Board will facilitate rather than staff all OSI’s work.

There are so many things our global community could do together if even a small percentage of us were to unite in this way. The specifics of our different projects, the characteristics of our licenses and our differing approaches to software freedom vary, but that doesn’t mean we need to allow those differences to block our unity. As OSI’s president you’de expect me to say this, but all the same:  please join!

As OSI’s president you’de expect me to say this, but all the same:  please join!

OSI Affiliate Scheme Live

The move to membership at the Open Source Initiative continues. OSI just published a list of the last five “invited” non-profit Affiliate Members, and opened for general applications. As well as open source development communities, I would also love to see open source user groups all over the world apply to join OSI, as the French user association AFUL has done.

Among the other (very welcome!) Affiliates joining OSI, I’m also pleased to see a non-profit open source user organisation; the Wikimedia Foundation. This is another step towards OSI fulfilling the core of the vision with which it was initially founded back in 1998; “to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open source community.” (my emphasis).  It’s time.

Going to OSCON

My proposal has been accepted for OSCON in Portland this July, so I’m planning on attending once again – I’ve been to most of them since 2000 when Sun created the OpenOffice.org project (now LibreOffice). I’ll be leading a session about the reboot of OSI, together with other OSI Board members, and I hope we will have some very exciting news to announce there.

“Open” Standards? OSI Did That In 2006!

Back then, a detailed discussion at the Open Source Initiative – where I am today a director – led to the creation of a statement about what makes a standard open, and a set of criteria for determining if the requirement was met and a standard compliant. Both are very simple as well as fully explained. So why is there even a need for a UK Government Standards Consultation? I discuss in detail on ComputerWorldUK.

☆ OSI Affiliate Scheme Grows

It’s been an open secret all month, but two new members have joined the Affiliate scheme at OSI – Spain’s CENATIC (the national open source competency centre that’s been so important to the government adoption of open source in Spain’s regions) and the venerable Debian Project. Both bring a much-needed international flavour to OSI, along with a wealth of hard-won experience.

Having Debian join OSI is especially sweet. When OSI formed at the end of the 90s, the basis for the definition of what constituted an open source license – the Open Source Definition – was derived directly from the earlier Debian Free Software Guidelines by a former Debian Project Lead, Bruce Perens. The DFSG in turn was part of the Debian Social Contract, a pragmatic and specific response to the ethical imperative of free software.

By opening up as it has, OSI offers a place to gather the clans of open source. OSI is not the only, the first or the best exemplar of open source – it would be rash for any organisation to make such claims. But its decade-long stewardship role, along with the vision of the new Board to draw in members from ever country and every aspect of open source and software freedom, makes it a fine gathering point which could have tremendous value to us all in the future.

%d bloggers like this: