derStandard.at: Coming back to the question of copyright assignment: Isn’t Novell doing the same with some of its own projects like Mono?
Meeks [of Novell]: That’s a really good question. If you look at Mono, it’s true that Novell has a stated company policy of requiring copyright assignment for the core – the JIT – which is some tiny proportion of the code, less than 15 percent. So Mono is a huge thing, there are the class libraries, there is all this infrastructure, all these pieces are usable in other places. It’s the core that is kept LPGL and it’s done so for commercial reasons and we are very upfront about that. So if you want to contribute to Mono, you can contribute in 80+ percent of the project without assigning rights to anyone. We’d love that to be the case with OpenOffice.org, honestly.
Sun is actually trying to push the problem off to plug-ins, by not requiring copyright assignment there. So the software ships pretty broken and in order to actually open your document you have to be online and download this thing from the public extension repository. And the OpenOffice.org user experience is already bad enough without anyone saying “your are going to have to install this, go to this webpage, look at our advert and then download it”.
derStandard.at: Which parts are you referring to?
Meeks: Interestingly there are several pieces which are deliberately not installed by default to drive traffic to the plug-ins-site. There is this thing called “report builder”, which is really a key part of the database thing. So as you get where it should be it says “There is something which isn’t here, why don’t you get it from the plug-in repository” and that’s just an appalling user experience, there is no need for that, it doesn’t offer you any efficiency wins.
derStandard.at: Being fed up with the current situation with Sun, you seem to be pushing harder for your own OpenOffice.org version with Go-oo.
Hardcore and dedicated users of SuSE Linux were either receptive or cautiously optimistic when Novell snatched SuSE. This whole thing happened with IBM’s assistance and endorsement, but both IBM and Novell are proprietary software companies. As we mentioned the other day, a substantiated rumour came up about Red Hat's past consideration or attempts to buy SuSE and it’s interesting to find out now about Sun’s involvement too (before it entered the open source arena).
Chew on that last one for a bit. Way back in 2002/2003, Sun might have been in the Linux business, while Novell might have kept fiddling with NetWare (but more likely would have gone actively into the open-source applications realm, following on its acquisition of Ximian). We would have been living in a very different open-source industry if things had gone Sun’s way back then.
Sun is to open source the last closed-source parts of Java, a move that should make it possible to fully integrate the software into Linux distributions.
Will Novell jump on board? Miguel is boasting Google’s investment in Mono projects, which is pretty much a move against Java (the GPL’s new friend), if not Google as well. What is Novell thinking? It is a lot more committed to Microsoft than it is to Sun, let alone Red Hat and Ubuntu. Diplomacy plays a considerable role here, but if Novell increasingly sidles with Microsoft, then it will — by association — become a greater enemy of the GPL. For shame, Novell. █
The (patent) Troll Tracker marks it 100th post and talks about a mind-boggling trend that contradicts with what the Establishment wished us to believe. According to some statistics, as mentioned in recent weeks on numerous occasions, patent trolling is rising fast.
This is really the year of the patent troll. Last year, approximately 6,000 defendants were sued nationwide in about 2,800 patent cases. This year, the 6,000th defendant was sued sometime in early October. With the number of cases up nationwide probably 5% over last year, we’re still projected for at least a 30% increase in the number of defendants sued. More on that data in a later post.
Acacia is among those that are listed. Needless to mention, this backs suggestions for a reform. In fact, this shows us that lawyers are entering a jubilant era at the expense of developers and end-users/consumers. As evidence of these troublesome affairs, here is one patent case that was seen as news coverage-worthy.
Japan’s Canon won a patent lawsuit against a recycled ink cartridge supplier as the country’s Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed an appeal against a lower court decision in favor of the camera and office gear maker.
We must all be wondering about the mother of all patent trolls (at least the one most relevant to GNU/Linux). Mother ship is still up to no good.
Microsoft is trying to patent automatic goodbye messages, including “Have a great afternoon!” and “Ciao, Harry!”
Other than a reform, from a FOSS developer’s point-of-view, the least one can do is make use of the GPLv3, which extends patent coverage. The FSF has just released a quick guide to GPLv3.
Listed below are a bunch of older patents from Microsoft that take some nerve to file.
However, Meeks is not ruling out an eventual forking of OOO if Sun refuses to give up its control of the project and establish an independent non-profit foundation to govern it.
Concerns about a possible fork arose because the Go-OO build, an OpenOffice implementation maintained by Meeks and others, decided to include a feature that Sun rejected for inclusion in the next OpenOffice because the developer refused to sign Sun’s contributor agreement.
Meeks said in an interview that it is customary for Go-OO to include new technologies and that the latest build should not be viewed as a fork. But he hinted that a fork is not out of the question if Sun doesn’t loosen its grip on the OpenOffice project.
“It’s clear that if Sun continues to refuse to include changes under their own license then you will see a growing set of changes that can’t be included in OpenOffice, and then we’d see that delta increasing over time. Eventually, users can understand they can get a better OpenOffice than at OpenOffice.org,” Meeks said this week during a telephone interview.
It would appear, that according to Simon Phipps, Sun is at this time content with the changes that they have made in recent weeks – including the replacing of the Contributor Agreement and creation of a Community Advisory Board. Phipps goes on to question Meeks’ motivation for mounting this challenge now, after having been an historical supporter of the contributor agreement.
In his blast at Novell’s Meeks, Phipps points to great strides made by OpenOffice over the past several months, including new participation by Red Flag 2000 and IBM.
“In the midst of all this, I see my friend Michael Meeks has been challenging Sun in a creative way – it even made Slashdot today. I remember the days when Michael used to enthusiastically encourage OpenOffice.org community members to sign the contributor agreement, as recently as last December…,” Phipps wrote on his blog recently, questioning Mr Meeks’ motives. It’s a shame Michael has chosen now – a turning point in OpenOffice.org and a moment when Sun has radically improved the SCA in response to broad feedback from many communities – as a time to mount a fresh challenge to Sun that by implication also harms OpenOffice.org. And when you distill out all the details, that’s what this turns out to be even by Michael’s admission – a competitive issue, not a community one.”
So, it appears that the line in the sand has been drawn between Sun and Meeks, yet we still have not heard anything in an official capacity from Novell. I would expect there to be quite a bit more from both sides on this highly contentious subject in the coming weeks leading up to the first meeting of the Community Advisory Board, and perhaps beyond.
Bear with me now: The OpenOffice.org project is developing import filters for OpenXML, but not export filters. Why? Because, I believe, it does not want to make a service to Microsoft by being the second major office suite to produce OpenXML documents on the fly. Novell sees this issue from a different point of view, but let’s not get carried away. Working with Microsoft on interoperability, as Novell claims, includes working on OpenXML filters and plugins. While Novell contributes quite normally to OpenOffice.org’s import filters, it is also developing an OpenXML export filter that won’t be available in OpenOffice.org– that is, if you choose to use OpenOffice.org and not “Open Office, Novell Edition”. And since these export filters are supposedly developed in collaboration with Microsoft, this technology would logically include Microsoft’s sacred intellectual property that Sun and many others don’t want to see covered by the JCA. This could, perhaps, explain Michael’s odd questions on this list of OpenOffice.org
So these new builds from Novell would thus include new features, but features that will carry sometimes an unverified intellectual property. And that’s certainly an issue if Microsoft joins the game. Would that mean Michael’s move was made in order to serve some corporate interests?
So, it looks like Novell is indeed intent on making available a fully OOXML-compatible, yet likely IP-encumbered, version of Novell OpenOffice.org – features that will not or cannot be sent back upstream. Of course, they cannot rightfully be expected to pay Microsoft their per-unit royalty on all copies of OOO that is distributed, as their thirty pieces of silver just doesn’t stretch that far, so fork they must.
“GPLv3 ensures you are free to remove the handcuffs. It doesn’t forbid DRM, or any kind of feature. It places no limits on the substantive functionality you can add to a program, or remove from it. Rather, it makes sure that you are just as free to remove nasty features as the distributor of your copy was to add them,” he continued.
“Tivoization is the way they deny you that freedom; to protect your freedom, GPLv3 forbids tivoization,” wrote Stallman, who is known for his uncompromising views favoring free software.
Professor Moglen says more on the purpose of GPLv3 in the following short segment of his recent interview with
These points are very important because Microsoft and Novell are likely to argue that GPLv3 is nothing but a well-targetted vendetta. They could call it a nasty sting rather than an evolutionary step that protects developers who embrace an upgraded licence.
GPL 3 is now on track to be finalized in August. Its adoption will be a major milestone in the open-source industry and will force developers of GPL-licensed software to make choices about migrating to the new license or contributing to a potential schism between version 2 and version 3 software.
It gets even better. After hesistation and reluctance from Linux kernel hackers to adopt GPLv3, comes this:
Open source guru Alan Cox has voiced his support for the controversial version 3.0 of the GNU General Public Licence in an exclusive podcast interview with Computer Weekly.
You may also recall an interview where Linus Torvalds said he was pleased with the recent changes to the GPLv3 draft. The following survey showed wide support among developers as well.
A survey of open-source programming experts that start-up OpenLogic pays to resolve software troubles has revealed some favorable feelings about the new third draft of the General Public License (GPL).
Systematic and malovalent attempts to create GPLv3 scare may no longer be effective. Novell’s and Microsoft’s attempts to discredit GPLv3 are proven to have become weaker when people looked and judged the licence for themselves, as well as observed the way the draft had evolved. Several months ago, a few kernel hackers dismissed the new licence despite admitting that they never read it for.
If the licence is accepted adopted widely, then it may be time for Novell shareholders to spend money on a lot of forks (and still be left behind, essentially stuck in 2007 while rivals fly ahead).
In his analysis Wilder claimed that “at some point, efforts to block patent licenses that were legally entered into and fully consistent with contract law, as well as the intellectual property laws enacted by Congress, begin to expose those developing and agreeing to GPLv3 to potential defenses and counterclaims.”
Perens dismissed that as nothing more than words designed to create the impression that the Free Software Foundation is going against the law, violating existing contracts and even running afoul of Congress, all without stating any facts to back up the assertion.
With regard to Wilder’s contention that “efforts by non-parties to force or induce a party to abrogate a validly entered-into contract or forgo entering into a prospective contract can give rise to a cause of action for tortious interference,” Perens said that he cannot see how providing a new version of software under a new license—when another version under another acceptable license like GPL 2 exists—could ever be considered to be tortious interference.
Perens also dismisses allegations of group boycott or refusal to supply, and argues that Microsoft has become a Linux distributor – bound not only by the upcoming GPLv3, but also the current GPLv2 and it’s patent provisions:
But, to Perens, the fact that Microsoft is currently giving to customers coupons that can be redeemed for a copy of SUSE Linux indicates that these coupons are intended to be redeemed for a copy of the copyrighted GPL 2 software.
“So, Microsoft is actively participating in distribution of the GPL2 software today, and must have assented to GPL 2 to do that, because any distribution without assent to GPL2 would be infringement. Under GPL 2, they have already given away the rights to use Microsoft patents that are applied in the Novell distribution, for any use in any GPL software, by anyone, forever,” Perens said.