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IEEE Hates Software Freedom, Now Makes it More Official

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 12:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The IEEE’s promotion of proprietary software is made more apparent by its position on software patents after deals with Microsoft and other monopolistic entities; Centrify wants to put Microsoft tax in Red Hat and Fedora

ONE OF THE world’s leading computer scientists is against them, but the IEEE is in favour of them. What are they? Monopolies on algorithms. Professor ‘Algorithm’ Knuth has already explained that “there are far better ways to protect the intellectual property rights of software developers than to take away their right to use fundamental building blocks.” He must be referring to copyrights and/or trade secrets.

The disparity between these views of Knuth (creator of LaTeX, which is Free software TeX) and the views of the IEEE (where Knuth is a special person for several different reasons) ought to be resolved because it’s rather shocking to find this new press release which chooses neither to be neutral nor to reject software patents.

IEEE-USA pleased that Supreme Court’s ruling preserves software patents

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Monday that a new method of doing business can be patented, and that the ability to patent software should not be limited.

What’s not too shocking is the IEEE’s active lobbying for software patents, especially given what we already know about the IEEE and Microsoft, for example. Over the years we have accumulated numerous examples where the IEEE takes a position which is hostile towards software freedom and towards computer science in general. Software patents are bad for all programmers in general, except the large employers of programmers (whose managers exclude competition and thus increase profits, using software patents). It’s “time to boycott IEEE,” writes the president of the FFII in relation to the press release shown above.

Bradley M. Kuhn (FSF/SFLC) takes a constructive approach. Yesterday he released this oggcast/audiocast which analyses the Bilski decision.

Dan Ravicher joins Karen and Bradley to discuss the Bilski case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This show was released on Tuesday 29 June 2010; its running time is 1:14:22.

Kuhn also posted in his blog some advice for those who want to dodge software patents in the United States, using software licences. He endorses APGLv3, GPLv3, LGPLv3, and Apache-2.0 (they have ‘teeth’ to defend against software patents ambush).

Lots of people are opining about the USA Supreme Court’s ruling in the Bilski case. Yesterday, I participated in a oggcast with the folks at SFLC. In that oggcast, Dan Ravicher explained most of the legal details of Bilski; I could never cover them as well as he did, and I wouldn’t even try.

Anyway, as a non-lawyer worried about the policy questions, I’m pretty much only concerned about those forward-looking policy questions. Looking back at how our community responded to this Bilski situation over the last 18 months, some of it seems similar to what happened while the Eldred case was working its way to the Supreme Court. In the months preceding both Eldred and Bilski, there seemed to be a mass hypnosis that the Supreme Court would actually change copyright law (Eldred) or patent law (Bilski) to make it better for freedom of computer users.


License your software APGLv3, GPLv3, LGPLv3 or Apache-2.0. Among the copyleft licenses, AGPLv3 and GPLv3 offer the best patent protections; LGPLv3 offers the best among the weak copyleft licenses; Apache License 2.0 offers the best patent protections among the permissive licenses. These are the licenses we should gravitate toward, particularly when now that it is certain that companies with software patents are coming after Free Software. At least when such companies contribute code to projects under these licenses, we know those particular codebases will be safe from that particular company’s patents.

GNU/Linux ought to watch out for Microsoft offshoots of sorts, such as Centrify [1, 2, 3]. Their proposition is compatibility with Microsoft, but what they actually sell is access to Microsoft’s software patents, which have been more or less upheld in the United States but nowhere else. Centrify is trying to bring this Microsoft patent tax to Fedora 13 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5 right now whilst Microsoft continues to mock the need for server interoperability. The company called Likewise also has roots in Microsoft and it operates similarly, by offering a Samba-type product with Microsoft patent tax [1, 2, 3, 4]. For those who still wonder why Microsoft protocols and software patents are counter productive, look no further.


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