Displaying posts by Bradley M. Kuhn and Karen M. Sandler
2015 YIR: Karen Sandler Speaks about IRS Charity Issues
byon December 11, 2015
[ This is a blog post is the first in our series, Conservancy 2015: Year in Review. ]
Conservancy's 2015 started with the filing of our FY 2013 Form 990. That's the IRS tax(-exempt) form that every charity and trade association in the USA must file annually. Typically, most non-profits ask for the two three-month extensions for filing deadline for the Form 990, and since Conservancy's fiscal year ends in February, our Form 990 is filed by 15 January.
This is the type of essential work that Conservancy does for our member projects. Each member project need not file their own complicated forms to maintain their charitable status and ability to accept earmarked donations for their projects. Instead, Conservancy files one Form 990. We're “looking forward” to spending this holiday season preparing our next FY 2014 Form 990 and completing our mandated annual audit. (Our FY 2013 annual audit is of course already available.)
Fitting with this annual work that Conservancy does, immediately after filing the 990, both Karen and Bradley — thanks to generous travel funding by the conference — quickly boarded flights to LinuxConf Australia in Auckland, New Zealand. At the conference, on the very date of Conservancy's IRS filing deadline, Karen gave talk entitled The Low Down on IRS status for Free and Open Source Software Nonprofits in the US.
Even almost a year later, many of the issues Karen discussed in her talk are not well known in the Free Software community and there are still many confusions in the Open Source and Free Software community about non-profit status and how it works. Enjoy this video now to see more about what Conservancy does for its member projects, and generally to learn more about how both charities and trade associations operate and what they do in our community.
Become a Conservancy Supporter now to help us continue this work in 2016!
The video in this post is also available on Youtube.
Jeremy Allison Wants You To Support Conservancy
byon December 9, 2015
In this video below, Jeremy Allison, Samba Project co-founder and member of Conservancy's Board of Directors, explains briefly how valuable Conservancy is for the Samba project and explains how you can help support Conservancy!
(Also available on YouTube.)
GPL Enforcement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
byon November 9, 2015
Many people have criticized the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty since the text was released. In particular, some of the terms in the agreement are bad for software freedom and other social justice causes. Despite the TPP's stated intention to bring "social benefits" in addition to economic growth, the terms of TPP work against social benefits and awards too much power and control to large multinational corporations, including proprietary software companies.
The agreement text is lengthy and complex, filed with bad provisions. A few days ago, the Free Software community uncovered the following text from the TPP:
1. No Party shall require the transfer of, or access to, source code of software owned by a person of another Party, as a condition for the import, distribution, sale or use of such software, or of products containing such software, in its territory.
2. For the purposes of this Article, software subject to paragraph 1 is limited to mass-market software or products containing such software and does not include software used for critical infrastructure.
3. Nothing in this Article shall preclude:
(a) the inclusion or implementation of terms and conditions related to the provision of source code in commercially negotiated contracts; or
(b) a Party from requiring the modification of source code of software necessary for that software to comply with laws or regulations which are not inconsistent with this Agreement.
4. This Article shall not be construed to affect requirements that relate to patent applications or granted patents, including any orders made by a judicial authority in relation to patent disputes, subject to safeguards against unauthorised disclosure under the law or practice of a Party.
The revelation of this clause has confused our community, as it appears as if this provision, once adopted, might impact or restrict the international operation of copyleft licenses. Below we explain that, while everyone should reject and oppose this provision — and the rest of TPP — this provision has no dramatic impact on copyleft licensing.
First, as others have pointed out, Party is a defined term that refers specifically to government entities that sign the treaty. As such, the provision would only constrain the behavior of governments themselves. There are some obviously bad outcomes of this provision when those governmental entities interfere with public safety and ethical distribution of software, but we believe this provision will not interfere with international enforcement of copyleft.
Copyleft licenses use copyright as a mechanism to keep software free. The central GPL mechanism that copyright holders exercise to ensure software freedom is termination of permission to copy, modify and distribute the software (per GPLv2§4 and GPLv3§8). Under GPL's termination provisions, non-compliance results in an automatic termination of all copyright permissions. In practice, distributors can chose — either they can provide the source code or cease distribution. Once permissions terminate, any distribution of the GPL'd software infringes copyrights. Accordingly, in an enforcement action, there is no need to specifically compel a government to ask for disclosure of source code.
For example, imagine if a non-US entity ships a GPL-violating, Linux-based product into the USA, and after many friendly attempts to achieve compliance, the violating company refuses to comply. Conservancy can sue the company in US federal court, and seek injunction for distribution of the foreign product in the USA, since the product infringes copyright by violating the license. The detailed reasons for that infringement (i.e., failure to disclose source code) is somewhat irrelevant to the central issue; the Court can grant injunction (i.e., an order to prevent the company from distributing the infringing product) based simply on the violator's lost permissions under the existing copyright license. The Court could even order the cease of import of the infringing products.
In our view, the violator would be unaffected under the above TPP provision, since the Court did not specifically compel release of the source code, but rather simply ruled that the product generally infringed copyrights, and their distribution rights had fully terminated upon infringement. In other words, the fact that the violator lost copyright permissions and can seek to restore them via source code disclosure is not dispositive to the underlying infringement claim.
While TPP thus does not impact copyright holders' ability to enforce the GPL, there are nevertheless plenty of reasons to oppose TPP. Conservancy therefore joins the FSF, EFF, and other organizations in encouraging everyone to oppose TPP.
Help support Conservancy and its efforts to defend the GPL by becoming a Supporter today.