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GNU is Not Unix

Submission + - European Interoperability Framework v2 - a Defeat (

Glyn Moody writes: After two years of leaks, the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) version 2 has been published [.pdf] — and it's a disaster for free software. Where EIF version 1 specified that patents in open standards should be "made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis", we now have "FRAND terms or on a royalty-free basis in a way that allows implementation in both proprietary and open source software." Of course, that doesn't say *which* open source licence, and conveniently allows the GNU GPL to be excluded by terms that are incompatible with it. So the lobbyists won: I can't wait for Wikileaks or the new Brussels Leaks to tell us what happened behind the scenes when EIF v2 was being drawn up.

Submission + - Is Linux at the End of its Life Cycle? ( 3

Glyn Moody writes: That's what Nikolai Pryanishnikov, president of Microsoft Russia, seems to think. Quoted in the context of continuing questions about Russia's plans to create its own national operating system based on GNU/Linux, Pryanishnikov said [via Google Translate]: "We must bear in mind that Linux is not a Russian OS and, moreover, is at the end of its life cycle." An off-the-cuff comment, or something more?

Submission + - Today is Turing/Berners-Lee Day (

Glyn Moody writes: Today is a doubly-special day for the world of computing: on 12 November 1937, "Alan Turing’s paper entitled "On Computable Numbers with an Application to the Entscheidungs-problem" appeared"; while on 12 November 1990, another historic text appeared, which began: "The attached document describes in more detail a Hypertext project." Perhaps we should be marking this in some way: how about establishing a world-wide Web Day on this date?

Submission + - UK to Repeat US Mistakes with Patents? (

Glyn Moody writes: Alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron's surprise announcement that he wanted to make UK copyright law "fit for the internet age" was a comment from David Willetts, the UK science and universities minister, who said: "The US rule is that 'anything man has invented under the sun you should be able to patent'. That's something we do wish to investigate." Unfortunately, he seems to be under the impression that Google built its success through being "able to patent some work", when in fact, Google has relatively few patents compared to other companies like Microsoft, say. Is the UK about to suffer problems of overburdened examiners approving too many weak patents that then lead to patent thickets and spiralling levels of litigation, as has happened in the US? What would you say to discourage him from taking this step?

Submission + - BSA's Flawed Software Piracy Impact Study (

Glyn Moody writes: The Business Software Alliance is making some big claims in its latest study: "Reducing the piracy rate for PC software by 10 percentage points — 2.5 points per year for four years — would create $142 billion in new economic activity while adding nearly 500,000 new high-tech jobs and generating roughly $32 billion in new tax revenues by 2013." Digging through the documents backing up those figures, it becomes clear that this analysis omits to take into account the *negative* effect on other sectors that moving from unlicensed to licensed copies would have. After all, if people have to pay for software they currently use for free, they will spend less on other sectors, all things being equal. That will lead to less tax revenue, and fewer jobs for the local economies, not more, as the study suggests.
GNU is Not Unix

Submission + - Could Free Software Exist Without Copyright? (

Glyn Moody writes: The GNU GPL depends on copyright to work: "Developers that use the GNU GPL protect your rights with two steps: (1) assert copyright on the software, and (2) offer you this License giving you legal permission to copy, distribute and/or modify it." So what would happen if copyright were abolished (OK, I know...)? Would that mean that free software also disappears? Richard Stallman thinks not — and has a plan, just in case. But don't worry, RMS doesn't actually want to abolish copyright: "My proposal to make copyright last 10 years from date of publication is meant to be conservative. I agree that 5 years might be enough, and I have nothing against a shorter period. But I don't want to push for it to be that short." Who said he wasn't a pragmatist?

Submission + - Has Oracle Been a Disaster for Sun's Open Source? (

Glyn Moody writes: It's now over a year since Oracle announced it was buying Sun. Its latest financial results suggest the acquisition is paying off: "We estimate that the acquired business [Sun] will contribute over $1.5 billion to Oracle’s non-GAAP operating profit in the first year, increasing to over $2 billion in the second year. This would make the Sun acquisition more profitable in per share contribution in the first year than we had planned for the acquisitions of BEA, PeopleSoft and Siebel combined,” said Oracle President Safra Catz." That's great — for Oracle's shareholders, but what about the the other *stakeholders* — the developers and users of Sun's open source software? There, things aren't looking so good. Oracle has lost Java's creator, James Gosling; MySQL and OpenOffice both seem to be floundering; and one open source project — OpenSSO Express — has been abandoned. Is Oracle already a disaster for open source, or should we give the company more time to prove that it can help free software flourish — and not just extract money from it?

Submission + - Is the CodePlex Foundation Truly Independent Now? (

Glyn Moody writes: Microsoft created its CodePlex, "an online collaborative software development portal", four years ago, as the latest in a string of attempts to play nicely with open source. Well, maybe not: Microsoft saw the open source software projects it hosted there as reflecting "the open community-building spirit of Microsoft’s Shared Source Initiative." In September last year, it tried again, launching the CodePlex Foundation, "a forum in which open source communities and the software development community can come together with the shared goal of increasing participation in open source community projects," and not to be confused with, "a Microsoft owned and staffed forge that encourages the development of open source software based on Microsoft technology." The only problem is that all the funding for the CodePlex Foundation still comes from Microsoft. But the new Technical Director of the CodePlex Foundation, Stephen Walli, thinks it can become truly independent of Microsoft, open to all companies to create open source software for any platform using only OSI-approved licences. Will the CodePlex Foundation take its place alongside existing foundations addressing this sector, like Apache and Eclipse, but complementary to them? Or is it forever doomed to be ignored by the open source world because of its origins?

Submission + - German Publishers Want Monopoly on Sentences (

Glyn Moody writes: You think copyright can't get any more Draconian? Think again: in Germany, newspaper publishers are lobbying for "a new exclusive right conferring the power to monopolise speech e.g. by assigning a right to re-use a particular wording in the headline of a news article anywhere else without the permission of the rights holder. According to the drafts circulating in the internet, permission shall be obtainable exclusively by closing an agreement with a new collecting society which will be founded after the drafts have matured into law. Depending on the particulars, new levies might come up for each and every user of a PC, at least if the computer is used in a company for commercial purposes." Think that will never work because someone will always break the news cartel? Don't worry, they've got that covered too: they want to "to amend cartel law in order to enable a global 'pooling' of all exclusive rights of all newspaper publishers in Germany in order to block any attempt to defect from the paywall cartell by single competitor." And rest assured, if anything like this passes in Germany, publishers everywhere will be using the copyright ratchet to obtain "parity".

Submission + - Why No Billion-Dollar Open Source Companies? (

Glyn Moody writes: If open source is such a success, why aren't there any billion-dollar turnover open source companies? A recent briefing by Red Hat's CEO, Jim Whitehurst, to a group of journalists maybe provides an answer. Asked why Red Hat wasn't yet a $5 billion company, as he suggested it would be one day, he said getting Red Hat to $5 billion meant “replacing $50 billion of revenue” currently enjoyed by traditional computer companies. If, as is likely, that's generally true for open source companies, it means they will need to displace around $10 billion of proprietary business in order to achieve a billion-dollar turnover. Few are likely to do that. Perhaps it's time for managers of open source startups to stop chasing the billion-dollar dream. If they don't, they will set unrealistic ambitions for themselves, disappoint their investors and allow opponents of free software to paint one of its defining successes – saving money — as a failure.

Submission + - Are Trade Secrets and Trademarks the Future? (

Glyn Moody writes: The Internet's perfect copying machine makes the ideas behind copyright — now in its 301st year — largely irrelevant today: once a copy is online somewhere, it's impossible to take it down everywhere. Could the arrival of low-cost, high-quality desktop 3D printers do the same for patents, by enabling anyone to download and print off analogue objects? With copyright and patents nullified, what might manufacturing companies turn to in order to fight back against these perfect counterfeit versions? How about trade secrets and trademarks?

Submission + - Should *Mozilla* Fork Firefox? (

Glyn Moody writes: Against a background of Google Chrome's growing market share in the browser sector, and doubts about Firefox's long-term prospects, Mozilla needs to come up with an effective response. How about going back to the project's roots, and forking the Firefox code? Creating a small, independent team with permission to break all the rules, which would work in direct competition with the main Firefox branch, would give Mozilla the best of both worlds: rapid-fire releases of innovative code plus steady improvement of the main Firefox browser, with the latter adopting features from the former as and when appropriate. After all, if Mozilla doesn't fork Firefox, somebody else probably will...

Submission + - Diaspora: The Future of Free Software Funding? (

Glyn Moody writes: Diaspora, the free software project to create a distributed version of Facebook, has been much in the news recently — not least because it has raised $170,000 in just a few weeks. But what's also interesting is the way they've raised that money: through a series of graded rewards for pledges of financial support. This is an approach adopted by some forward-thinking musicians: for example, Jill Sobule funded her last album in the same way, garnering $75,000 in pledges from fans. Is this a model that could be applied to other free software projects, or is it just a one-off?

Submission + - European Commission Betrays Open Standards ( 2

Glyn Moody writes: The final version [.pdf] of the important Digital Agenda for Europe has been leaked – and shows that the European Commission has betrayed open standards. Where an earlier draft [.doc] had an entire section headed “Open Standards and Interoperability”, the latest version only uses the word “open” once in the corresponding section “Interoperability and standards.” It also contains nonsense like this: “Every IT product or service relies on one or more standards. Interoperability between these standards is the only way to make our lives and doing business easier – smoothing the way to a truly digital society.” But it's not interoperability *between* standards that is important – that's just engineering – but interoperability between *implementations* of a given standard: that's where the battles are, as the history of HTML and ODF has shown. So, are they fools or knaves?
GNU is Not Unix

Submission + - Why Making Money from Free Software Matters (

Glyn Moody writes: People have been making money from free software ever since Richard Stallman started selling GNU Emacs on tapes for $150 a time. That's been good for hackers, who have often managed to make a living from their coding by working for one of the startups based around free software. And as companies like Red Hat and Google have grown in size and profitability, so have the credibility and clout of free software. But there is another reason why the success of these new kinds of businesses is so crucial: in many respects they offer a glimpse of coming shifts in other industries that need to grapple with the conundrum of how to make money from goods that are freely available. In particular, they offer the music and film industries an example of an alternative to fighting people's natural instinct to share digital abundance, by making money from new scarcities.

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