Displaying posts tagged GPL
January 17, 2016 by Karen Sandler
[This blog post received some press coverage. It's now unclear whether Linux community members can run for the Linux Foundation board. I will update here if I learn more. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' article has a good overview of the situation. ]
As we begin a new year, I'm super excited that Conservancy has almost reached our initial target of 750 Supporters (we're just 4 Supporters away from this goal! If you haven't signed up, you can push us past this first milestone!). We launched our Supporter program over a year ago and more recently, in November, we asked you all to become Supporters now so that Conservancy can survive. Conservancy is moving toward a funding model primarily from individuals rather than larger corporate sponsors. While we are about to reach our minimal target, we still have a long way to go to our final goal of 2,500 Supporters — which will allow us to continue all of Conservancy's critical programs, including copyleft enforcement. Many individuals have come forward to donate, and we hope that many more of you do so too! I was really excited about the statement of support published last week by the GNOME Foundation, and in particular their point that enforcement is necessary and benefits GNOME and free software as a whole.
Of course, we're still excited about our for-profit sponsors, and list them at the top of our sponsors page. We'd like to draw particular attention to Private Internet Access, which gave a generous match so that individuals who join this month will double their donations via the match. We have only two weeks left to take advantage of this, so if you are considering donating, please do it soon!
Conservancy is focusing on individual giving via our Supporter campaign because our organization has a very special and unique status, called 501(c)(3) charity status here in the US. That means that Conservancy's constituency is the general public. We do the jobs in the software freedom community that maximize the rights of the general public in the use and development of their software.
We're glad that so many support us in doing those jobs for public good. But Conservancy doesn't imagine that we can do all the jobs in our community. In fact, there's a definite need for companies to have an organization that specifically represents their interests in the software freedom community. In my view, the organization that does the job best is the Linux Foundation. Linux Foundation is a 501(c)(6) trade association, so they advocate ultimately for the common business interest of their members. I've been impressed at Linux Foundation's growth and their increasing ability to market Linux and related free software technologies to new companies; no organization does more to encourage companies to adopt Linux than Linux Foundation.
While trade associations like Linux Foundation usually represent only companies, Linux Foundation seeks to do even more. I've talked a lot, including just a few days ago, with Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin. He often points out how, while there is no public-good mandate for trade associations, nothing stops trade associations from doing work in the public good, since that often does align with the needs of their corporate members. In particular, Linux Foundation did something great to deliver on that idea — unlike most other trade associations, Linux Foundation by laws allow for two Board Seats elected by individuals.1 This gives individuals a minority voice on their Board of Directors, so that companies that control Linux Foundation's board has a direct path to hear for the community.
I signed up last year as an Individual Affiliate of Linux Foundation and nominated myself as a candidate for Linux Foundation's Board of Directors. At my Linaro Connect keynote in late September, I publicly announced my candidacy for the 2016 Linux Foundation Board of Directors. If elected, I look forward to the opportunity to give feedback and help directly with Jim's commitment to help Linux Foundation do good things not just for its corporate members, but for all individuals, too. While Linux Foundation has not yet announced when this years' elections will occur, I hope all Individual LF Affiliates will watch for the election and vote for me. I'll of course update the community here on when I know more about the details.
While the focus of my work is at Conservancy, I really believe that all of us should give time to other organizations in the community to make all of them better. Conservancy announced in the last two years multiple collaborations (such as our GPL enforcement principles and copyleft.org) with the Free Software Foundation, and I have long provided pro-bono legal counsel to both the FSF, GNOME Foundation and Question Copyright, in addition to my job at Conservancy. I also try to contribute whenever I can to the GNOME engagement team. While I do believe prioritizing volunteer work for charities is ideal, I also see an opportunity here, as I said in my Linaro keynote, to help companies understand the needs and mindset of community and non-commercial developers who also collaborate on key software freedom projects. I hope that platform will find resonance with Linux Foundation's Individual Affiliates, and I ask for their votes.
Posted by Karen Sandler on January 17, 2016
December 30, 2015 by Karen Sandler
Before I started working in free and open source software, before I found out I had a heart condition and became passionate about software freedom, I was a corporate lawyer at a law firm. I worked on various financial transactions. There were ups and downs to this kind of work but throughout I was always extremely vocal about how happy I was that I didn't do any litigation.
Litigation is expensive and it is exhausting. As a lawyer you're dealing with unhappy people who can't resolve their problems in a professional manner, whose relationships, however rosy they may have been, have completely broken down. When I started working in free and open source software, I started out primarily as a nonprofits lawyer. As I did more in copyright and trademark, I continued to avoid GPL litigation. I wasn't really convinced that it was needed and I was sure I wanted no part of the actual work. I also was pretty license agnostic. X.Org, Apache Foundation and other permissively licensed projects were my clients and their passion for free software was very inspiring. I did think that the legal mechanisms in copyleft were fascinating.
Like Keith Packard, my view has changed considerably over the years. I became frustrated seeing companies wrest control of permissively licensed projects, or more often, engineer that from the outset. I've seen developers convinced that the only way a new project will gain adoption is through a lax permissive license only to find down the road that so much of their code had been proprietarized. I think there are times that a permissive license may be the right choice, but I'm now thoroughly convinced about the benefits of copyleft. Seeing the exceptional collaboration in the Linux kernel, for example, has sold me.
But as Bradley put it in our oggcast, “ The GPL is not magic pixie dust.” Just choosing a license is not enough. As you surely have too, I've seen companies abuse rights granted to them under the GPL over and over again. As the years pass, it seems that more and more of them want to walk as close to the edge of infringement as they can, and some flagrantly adopt a catch-me-if-you-can attitude.
As a confrontation-averse person who has always hated litigation, I was certain that I would be able to help with the situation and convince companies to do the right thing. I really thought that some plucky upbeat bridge building would make the difference and that I was just the woman to do it. But what I found is that these attempts are futile if there are no consequences to violating the license. You can talk about compliance until you are blue in the face, run webinars, publish educational materials, form working groups and discussion lists but you cannot take the first step of asking for compliance if at some point someone isn't willing to take that last step of a lawsuit. We at Conservancy are committed to doing this in the ways that are best for long-term free software adoption. This is hard work. And because it's adversarial, no matter how nicely we try to do it, no matter how much time we give to companies to come into compliance and no matter how much help we try to give, we can't count on corporate donors to support it (though many of the individuals working at those companies privately tell me they support it and that it helps them be able to establish budgets around compliance internally).
Conservancy is a public charity, not a for profit company or trade association. We serve the public's interest. I am deeply convinced that GPL enforcement is necessary and good for the free software ecosystem. Bradley is too. So are the members of our Copyleft Compliance Projects. But that's simply not enough. It's not enough from a financial perspective and it's not enough from an ideological one either. What matters is what the public thinks. What matters is what you think. This fundraiser is not a ploy to raise more money with an empty threat. If we can't establish support for enforcement then we just shouldn't be doing it.
Despite the fact that I am an employee of the organization, I am myself signing up as a Conservancy Supporter (in addition to my FSF associate membership). I hope you will join me now too. GPL enforcement is too important to hibernate.
Posted by Karen Sandler on December 30, 2015
December 18, 2015 by Bradley M. Kuhn
[ This is a blog post is the fourth in our series, Conservancy 2015: Year in Review . ]
For 7 years, culminating in a major victory this year, Conservancy has fought for your right to do cool things with your digital television. As part of the review process for exceptions to the DMCA, Conservancy fought for and won an exception for so-called “Smart TVs”.
We continued in this process, even though we have extremely limited resources compared to other organizations working in this area. We funded travel expenses for our pro-bono attorney on this matter, Aaron Williamson of Tor Ekland P.C., to testify at a hearing on the matter.
What does that mean for your software freedom? If you own a television with a digital Linux-based firmware on it, you can extract that firmware, and figure out how to replace it with a more Free-Software-friendly firmware stack like SamyGo without fearing a DMCA violation.
The road to this type of software freedom was even longer for Conservancy. We sued Samsung (along with many other defendants) back in 2008, and assured that Samsung released the copylefted components in their firmware. Like the OpenWRT project, the SamyGo project exists thanks to active GPL enforcement by non-profit charities like Conservancy. With this DMCA exception, we can be assured of a clear and equal playing field for hobbyists and life-hackers who wish to modify the devices in their home.
Would you like us to continue this important work? This is precisely the type of activity we'll cut from our budget if we don't get meet our target of 2,500 Supporters.
Posted by Bradley M. Kuhn on December 18, 2015
December 16, 2015 by Bradley M. Kuhn and Karen M. Sandler
[ This is a blog post is the third in our series, Conservancy 2015: Year in Review . ]
At the end of January 2015, Bradley and Karen came back from LCA and left almost immediately for FOSDEM 2015, where they co-organized the FOSDEM 2015 Legal & Policies Issues DevRoom with Tom Marble and Richard Fontana. Karen gave an amazing FOSDEM-wide keynote (in the giant room :) entitled Identity Crisis: Are we who we say we are?, and Bradley gave a talk in the DevRoom.
Sadly, it looks like the cameras were not functioning for Karen's keynote, but you can read her interview with the FOSDEM organizers about the talk. Fortunately, there is video for Bradley's talk, entitled Fork and Ignore: Fighting a GPL Violation By Coding Instead (The Story of Kallithea). The video of the talk is included here (and is also available on Youtube). The slides aren't clear on the video, but you can follow along with the slides on Bradley's website.)
Bradley's talk in particular tells a story of one of Conservancy's successes from the previous year, the launch of the Kallithea project. Just a few weeks ago, Conservancy launched its own Kallithea instance for Conservancy's public repositories.
Karen and Bradley are again co-organizers of the Legal & Policy DevRoom at FODEM 2016.
Posted by Bradley M. Kuhn and Karen M. Sandler on December 16, 2015