Software Freedom Conservancy

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Calling all Tesla owners: let's discuss the source code for the GPLed parts of your car!

by Denver Gingerich on October 30, 2019

It has been many years since we started working with Tesla to help them resolve their ongoing GPL violations. However, Tesla has still not provided the necessary source code for their cars (a benefit of ownership enshrined in the GPL, which Tesla chooses to use) and the incomplete versions of source they have released are more than 17 months old (at the time of this writing), despite new firmware being continuously delivered to Tesla vehicles. There have even been several updates within the past month. We know Tesla owners that care about software freedom are frustrated that they cannot exercise theirs.

We are looking for new ways to approach this issue. In particular, we are hoping to engage with interested Tesla owners to determine how we can work together and collectively improve the situation.

If you own a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3, or know someone who does (especially in Canada, where I live) and would be interested in joining a discussion with Conservancy and other Tesla owners about this issue, please email us indicating your interest in the Tesla discussion. We'll get back to you in a day or two with details on how to join the conversation.

Please spread the word. Help us continue our work to bring meaningful software freedom to new classes of hardware, one manufacturer at a time.

Tags: GPL

We Support GNOME Foundation's Fight Against a Patent Troll

by Deb and Karen on October 23, 2019

Conservancy is always opposed to the use of patents to curtail free software development and use. In the recent case against GNOME, we also care deeply about the code base. The Yorba Foundation, Shotwell's original home, assigned its copyrights on the image management program to Conservancy in 2016. The GNOME Project is now the target of patent troll, Rothschild Patent Imaging, LLC, for maintaining and shipping the Shotwell code.

GNOME was recently contacted by a patent troll claiming to have rights that cover the image management software Shotwell, a free software program that is maintained by GNOME and is designed to be part of the GNOME desktop. GNOME responded by declining to settle, filing a motion to dismiss and by filing a counter-suit against the troll with the aim of invalidating their patent. We are in complete solidarity with GNOME's decision to fight this troll so that no other users or developers are in danger of being sued by this bad-faith actor over this matter.

As Shotwell's copyright holders and as a software freedom-focused charity, Conservancy wants people to be able to use this software without fear of retaliation or rent-seeking. Patents and patent trolls create a chilling effect for both developers and users. Shotwell was originally developed by a nonprofit organization and is now maintained by the community. Rothschild should not be harassing GNOME with its frivolous claim. We support GNOME's countersuit and encourage other stakeholders and free software activists to support GNOME in this suit however they can.

Tags: FOSS Sustainability, Shotwell

Coming to Your Town? We'd Love to See You!

by Deb Nicholson on October 11, 2019

Conservancy staff are on the road this month. Check and see if we're coming to your town!

WineConf in Toronto, Canada

Karen will keynote WineConf, please say hello if you're there.

All Things Open in Raleigh, NC

Deb will be at All Things Open on October 14th and 15th. We're having a Supporters event on Tuesday night at 8pm, at Humble Pie in downtown Raleigh.

LISA in Portland, OR

Conservancy has booth 12 at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront, during LISA -- taking place October 28 and 29. We could use your help between noon and 7pm on Monday the 28th and from 10am to 2pm on Tuesday the 29th.

If you can help with the booth at LISA please email us -- we'd really appreciate it!

Tags: Wine, events

When companies use the GPL against each other, our community loses

by Denver Gingerich on October 2, 2019

Our Executive Director, Karen Sandler, has warned for years about the dangers of lawsuits between two for-profit companies engaged in a legal dispute in which the GPL is tangentially featured. Unlike Conservancy, companies don't use legal action as the last resort, and they don't select their cases, as we do, focused on what's best for the software freedom of users. Nevertheless, these cases happen, and the GPL gets caught in the crossfire. With the assistance of our legal counsel, Pam Chestek, Conservancy has been carefully following the case of Ubiquiti Networks, Inc. v. Cambium Networks, Inc.

Cambium and Ubiquiti have been engaged in this lawsuit with each other for a little over a year now. Ubiquiti sued Cambium, claiming that Cambium violated RICO, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Digitial Millennium Copyright Act, and the Copyright Act, along with other causes of action. Cambium responded alleging that the Ubiquiti products included code under the GNU General Public Licenses and Cambium's own use of the portions of the Ubiquiti code subject to the GPL would not be an infringement. The case is still in very early stages.

As experts in GPL compliance, we carefully investigated the situation with each company. Ubiquiti was already known to us as we had received independent GPL violation reports from the public regarding their behavior. (The suit itself brought Cambium to our attention.) We have found that neither company complies properly with the GPL. Specifically, in our analysis of the facts, we have found that both Cambium and Ubiquiti fail to provide any source code for their respective routers and access points, even when we repeatedly asked over the course of several weeks, starting more than 30 days ago. This is not an issue of incomplete source or partial source; we have received no source code at all to review. Furthermore, even if we do receive some source code, the firmware images currently available indicate that there may be additional serious, overarching GPL compliance problems that are not easily resolved.

As for-profit GPL violators, these companies financially benefit from GPL non-compliance by for-profit companies. Their litigation around GPL is a distraction from the bigger issue of companies' repeated violations of the GPL. We lament the irony that two companies have begun a fight regarding GPL compliance (and deployed immense legal resources in the process), yet neither complies with GPL's most basic provisions. Because of this, it's unlikely this suit will yield GPL compliance by either party, and makes the suit another example of how for-profit legal disputes inevitably fail to prioritize the software freedom of users. In essence, we believe their dispute is not about empowering their users with the ability to augment their devices by improving and upgrading the software on them, but rather is about who is able to keep more of their code proprietary.

Conservancy will not stand by while this occurs. As such, we have today opened (at this point, non-litigation) GPL enforcement actions against both companies. We are informing the public of this situation in this blog post, since we gave both companies the industry-accepted standard amount of time to comply, and since the two companies have already made their violations public through the lawsuit filings. We call on both companies to immediately comply with the requirements of Linux's license, GPLv2.

Tags: GPL, licensing

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