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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We have become used to think of DRM-related laws in terms of one-sided issues that consider only the publishers and completely ignore the general public as well as the potential authors of new material. The EUCD, DMCA and other implementations of the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
Reading the articles on PRM as the next step by Ed Felten, about how the reasons put forward to justify DRM-related laws have shifted, I started reasoning about what such a law should look like. So, here I present some thoughts on what a law regarding DRM, that really considers the general public (society) and potential new authors, should look like.
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Drivers for Graphic Cards has been a pain in the ass for open source communities. Since the market is still evolving very fast, the vendors are reluctant to give any information to their competitors. The problem is that they consider open source drivers to be one way of giving away information. I will not comment on that one right here, just mention it as a fact: vendors have been very reluctant to deliver open source drivers or even information to others who would be able to create those drivers. Hence, the end-user in most cases has the choice of using a less-featurefull, lower-performance but open source driver or to use a binary-only driver provided by the vendor.
The open source driver is generally of lower performance because of the lack of information, making it difficult for the programmers to make use of the hardware capabilities. They need to go through a long and difficult process of reverse engineering in order to guess the way the hardware works.
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The 2006 OSS Watch Survey is available (you may also take a look at the executive summary). This survey studies the usage of Open Source Software (FLOSS) in Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) institutions in the UK. The previous survey was from 2003 and some improvements have been made. This time, 23 institutions answered the questions.
The study not only looks at the usage but also into the reasons behind it, contribution to the OSS community and others. Contrary to the 2003 version, this time the vendor lock-in was said to be an issue among the institutions. The study is definitively worth a look.
One of the results states that 56% of the FE institutions use Moodle. This is consistent with the feeling you get about the issue here in Chile, but I would not be surprised that the usage percentage would be higher here (mostly because of the lack of legacy systems and because licensing costs tend to have a greater impact).
Thiru Balasubramaniam writes an interesting entry about Public Domain and Open Standards. The position of Chile is particularly interesting, since our delegate gave an impassioned defence of why WIPO should engage in further examination of proposals to “consider the protection of the public domain within WIPO’s normative processes” and to draw “up proposals and models for the protection and identification of, and access to, the contents of the public domain”. However, the laws governing the country do not consider such an agenda. The following are the main points:
- There are no exceptions related to disability of certain users
- There is no right to private copies
- There is no specific exception for libraries
- Exceptions for educational development are excessively restrictive
- Right of illustration has been derogated
- Right of quotation has been excessively restricted through a regulation
The details of this schizophrenia are explained in a public letter (spanish version also available). It is to hope that the face shown to the outside world will have an impact on how the law regulates the life inside the country. It is a step in the right direction to have this new speech, so at least somebody has the right intentions. Let us hope that somebody will prevail. At least that somebody has a lot of support on the part of civil society.