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 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.

☆ OSI Opposes SOPA and PIPA

I was pleased to be able to send OSI’s sign-on to the civil society letter protesting the bad laws being considered by the US legislature at present. You can read more about it on my OSI blog.

☞ Google Fixes WebM Licence

I’m delighted to say that Google has responded and fixed the licence for WebM so that they don’t need to submit it to OSI any more – they are now just using a BSD licence with a separate patent grant. Read more over on my ComputerWorldUK blog.

✍ OSI Opposes BBC DRM

§ The Open Source Initiative Board has added OSI to the list of organizations asking that the BBC not be allowed to add digital restriction measures to digital broadcasts in the United Kingdom. The BBC’s request to do so is being reviewed by the UK regulator, OfCOM, and OSI is supporting the position statement from the UK’s Open Rights Group and encouraging others to do likewise.

Read more…

✍ Software Freedom Has A Posse

OSfA Logo§ Software freedom has a posse – in Washington DC, at least.

You’ll recall I posted a long analysis of the sick position the IIPA took urging the US Trade Representative (USTR) to discriminate against countries around the world if they have a preference for software freedom. That analysis become an input for the excellent position statement, written collaboratively by the OSI Board and posted by OSI President Michael Tiemann, calling for action by national groups.

I hear today that this has indeed resulted in positive action in Washington DC. Campaigning group Open Source for America issued a press statement yesterday, and wrote a two page position statement that they submitted to USTR. I gather they also met personally with a USTR representative to assert the position on behalf of America’s open source communities. I’m pretty sure this is the first time open source has been actively represented in Washington – about time!

This is an excellent development – kudos to the team that made it happen. We formed OSfA so that software freedom would have a political posse in Washington DC, and this first outing has shown that was the right move.

✍ Change at OSI

The OSI Logo§ I gather that the Board of Directors of the Open Source Initiative met on Sunday to elect the board for their 2010-11 financial year. I am both honoured and delighted to discover that they have elected me as a Director, with effect from April 1st.

That’s an auspicious date 🙂 . One or two friends have asked why on earth anyone would want to commit time to OSI. They point out that the OSI has had a much lower profile over the past few years as the more notable founding members have moved on. It has been criticised for allowing too many licenses to be approved – including some of questionable merit.  It’s easy to find people ready to criticise – some apparently just for the sake of it – and hard to find much more than grudging respect. Continue reading

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