Open Source Licensing based on Patents rather than Copyright

Posted in FLOSS, Legal at 12:53 pm by Jens Hardings

This is a very interesting proposal by Larry Rosen and Fred Popowich as explained in an interview on linux.com.

The consequences are interesting, particularly regarding dual licensing. One of the issues (whether it is a problem or a benefit depends on your point of view) regarding dual licensing is that the original licensor cannot embrace code from an external contributor, even if that code is available under the original license, and distribute it both under the original license and under the other, presumably proprietary, license. This is due to the original work of that external contributor being also covered by copyright, unless that contributor voluntarily and explicitly grants the right to re-license the contribution. This does not happen with patents, since the external contribution does not necessarily include any patented aspects.

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Chile no ha votado en el JTC-1

Posted in IT, Standards at 4:29 pm by Jens Hardings

Una de las consecuencias del súbito interés en todo el mundo por participar en las discusiones de estándares en el área de las Tecnologías de Información es que Chile pasó de ser país observador (O) a ser país participante (P). Extraigo del acta lo siguiente:

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¿Países que han adoptado políticas de “neutralidad tecnológica”?

Posted in FLOSS, IT at 12:53 pm by Jens Hardings

José Antonio Barriga, National Technology Officer de Microsoft en Chile, habla de FLOSS y la coexistencia con software privativo en su primera entrada de su blog.
Primero que nada, creo que es una excelente iniciativa que publique sus opiniones, que finalmente representan también a la empresa para la cual está trabajando. Ojalá que pueda continuar con esa forma de diálogo.
Hay un punto en que toca el tema de la neutralidad tecnológica, diciendo que

“Este principio económico es el que sustenta la política de neutralidad tecnológica adoptada precisamente por los países más avanzados en tecnologías de la información del mundo.”

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¿Licitar o no licitar?

Posted in State, Transparency at 3:44 pm by Jens Hardings

En un artículo muy interesante de Francotirador se cuestiona el hecho que no haya habido licitación en algunos puntos relevantes. El argumento de Cristián va por el lado que efectivamente, si bien no existe un pago del Gobierno (o Estado) hacia Microsoft, sí hay costos asociados. Pero creo que esto se puede considerar desde otro punto de vista.
Veamos primero que es posible identificar 3 criterios por los cuales se podría determinar si es o no necesario exigir licitación o concurso público:

  1. si existe o no pago por parte del estado hacia el oferente
  2. si existe o no un costo asociado que deberá solventar el estado
  3. si existe o no un beneficio directo para el oferente por haber sido elegido

Es bastante evidente que en el primer punto, si existe un pago (puede ser a partir de cierto monto y no cambiaría mucho la lógica), entonces debe haber un proceso transparente de adjudicación.
En el segundo caso pueden surgir mayores discrepancias. Pero al fin y al cabo, el estado debe velar por los recursos de los ciudadanos y por ende debe fijarse que “aceptar regalos” no se transforme en algo más caro que simplemente decir “no, gracias”.

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Free Software and Open Source Software

Posted in FLOSS at 4:14 pm by Jens Hardings

gnu-osi.pngThe main difference among the free software and open source software concepts are the motivation of the people identifying with each (that is why I tend to use the term FLOSS when I do not want to be specific about either group. From time to time the question of whether some software is open source or rather free software appears. For example, Linus said that the Linux kernel:

… has never been an FSF project, and in fact has never even been a “Free Software” project.

Whether the kernel is or is not a Free Software project is arguable, because it depends on how the developers feel about it or what their intentions are. But what can we say about the set of software grouped under the label of “Free Software” and the set of software gropued under the label of “Open Source Software”? This is far more objective, although not absolutely objective.

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Intellectual Property or Exclusion Rights?

Posted in Legal, Terms at 10:58 am by Jens Hardings

I am sitting in a seminar dealing with promotion of access to knowledge, mainly through the use of open licenses that provide much more access then the minimum required by law. It has become more clear than ever yo me that the term “intellectual property” is very misleading.
Several arguments say that the term is basically propaganda, just as the term “piracy” is when applied to infringement to copyright and similar laws. But it should be enough to see how misleading it is to go and change it.
Several critics of the term suggest no alternative name for “Intellectual Property”, argumenting that there is no reason why you would have to group the several unconnected legal constructs (copyrights, patents, trademarks, industrial secrets) that form the group. I disagree. If you want to refer to all those legal constructs in a single name, you should just figure out what they have in common. It turns out all of them have something in common that is also very characteristic: they provide exclusion rights (whether they are justified or not). One single person gets the right to exclude everybody else to do or use something under certain circumstances.

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Killing domain names as means to enforce court rulings

Posted in Internet, Legal at 1:11 pm by Jens Hardings

Ed Felten asks interesting questions regarding the Spamhaus.org case. You can read his post for details, but basically, Spamhaus.org has ignored a ruling in which it should pay a plaintiff for damages and publish a declaration stating that it has erroneously published the plaintiff in its “spammers” lists. It might be possible that a court rules that Tucows (as the registrar managing the domain registration) and/or ICANN has to withdraw the name assignment of Spamhaus.org, so that the domain ceases to exist. Felten’s questions are:

  1. Is it appropriate under U.S. law for the judge to do this?
  2. If the spamhaus.org is revoked, how will spamhaus and its users respond?
  3. If U.S. judges can revoke domain name registrations, what are the international implications?

As for question 1, I reserve my opinions.

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FLOSS, Open Standards, Open Services and Open Infrastructure

Posted in FLOSS, Uncategorized at 11:55 am by Jens Hardings

OpenBusiness runs a very interesting inteview with Last.FM on their project, website or service, whatever you may call it. This is an interesting iniciative that offers what we could call an “open service”, although we still do not have a sound definition for what an open service should entail, but both Tim O’Reilly and Tim Bray have made interesting points. This is further followed by Anthony Coates by concluding:

Data matters. It shouldn’t be an afterthought. It will outlive your applications.

The differences of FLOSS, Open Standards and Open Services and Open Infrastructure are very interesting, since each of these has its particularities. You would not want to make an open standard free for everyone to change on their own will as many times as they want, since one of the value of standars is that software that implements it can interoperate, so it should be chasing a moving target. On the other hand, anyone should be able to participate in the definition of a standard, but without having the design by committee effect of creating a bloated and far from ideal result by including everyone’s opinion. Bob Sutor has given it a thought, as has Bruce Perens who even has come up with a proposed definition of the open standards concept on which I have commented previously in spanish.

Similar differences apply to both Open Services and Open Infrastructure. On the latter, I personally think that FON is something close to the model of how this concept should be like, specifically when considering the Linus way of using it. The basis here is: I give you mine so you let me use yours. This has been the basis of several widely used iniciatives, ranging from subscription libraries to public goods and infrastructure managed by governments. So why should we not apply these principles to our IT infrastructures, with the benefit that this does not depend on a government making decisions for all of a country’s citizens, and not being bound to any geographic region? This topic have been addressed by Jon Udell and Tim O’Reilly, and we can look at projects like BOINC that take a different path than FON.
To conclude: FLOSS, Open Standards, Open Services and Open Infrastructure do have some relations but also meaningful differences. Their use and development in the future is something to keep an eye (and actively work) on.

Update: there is an interesting discussion about what a specific kind “open service” (they talk about web 2.0 sites that enable people to share content) should look like, triggered by Lessig’s post “The Ethics of Web 2.0” and a nice followup by Tim O’Reilly “Real Sharing vs. Fake Sharing“.


Putting money where the security is: Liability

Posted in Efficiency, IT, Legal, Security at 12:48 pm by Jens Hardings

This article in Wired by Bruce Schneier gives another hint at what some people have been arguing for a long time: Liability for software vendors. It describes how fast an organization reacts when there is money in risk. In spite of the promise to focus on security after several worm breakouts with huge financial consequences for customers, the security has not been one of the most outstanding features for Microsoft lately. In Bruce’s words:

In the absence of regulation, software liability, or some other mechanism to make unpatched software costly for the vendor, “Patch Tuesday” is the best users are likely to get.


Last week, a hacker developed an application called FairUse4WM that strips the copy protection from Windows Media DRM 10 and 11 files.


So Microsoft wasted no time; it issued a patch three days after learning about the hack. There’s no month-long wait for copyright holders who rely on Microsoft’s DRM.

You can read more about this article on this blog entry.


Document Formats in Chile

Posted in Standards, State at 10:45 pm by Jens Hardings

Many eyes are paying attention to what is happening in Massachusetts with the Open Format requirement. Good coverage is available via several blogs, in which Bob Sutor’s blog is probably the most complete and up to date.

One of the things I would like to spread a lot more than it is known is the fact that we have very similar requirements in Chile to the ones being put forward in Massachsetts’ Enterprise Technical Reference Model. The requirements are defined in the supreme decree number 77 and supreme decree number 81 (both available in spanish only), issued in the context of the State Reform and Modernization project.

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