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06.01.18

Three Years After Openwashing Its Patents Panasonic Gives These Patents to Patent Trolls

Posted in Deception, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Red Hat at 1:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A reminder of how worthless and futile patent pledges can be in practice

Panasonic

Summary: Panasonic has begun feeding large patent trolls and a Microsoft-connected law firm frames the victims of Microsoft’s patent trolls as the principal threat, not the trolls themselves

REMEMBER Novell’s promises regarding patents? Well, Microsoft has those patents now (they’re under CPTN). What about Red Hat, which claims to have established a patent “standstill” with Microsoft?

“Basically, all those patent pledges or promises are worthless; they’re a way of keeping one’s cake while eating it in the back room.”Well, Red Hat is still pursuing actual software patents at the USPTO. What does that tell us about Red Hat? Truth be told, the only way to ensure these patents don’t pose a danger is to altogether eliminate them, not make some pledges (mere words on paper that can be thrown away in case of a takeover, even if not especially a hostile takeover). Basically, all those patent pledges or promises are worthless; they’re a way of keeping one’s cake while eating it in the back room. They reserve the right to pass such patents around.

Not too long ago Panasonic was openwashing its patents. We were highly sceptical of Panasonic at the time and very critical of all the media which repeated the claims from Panasonic. It turns out that we were right because Panasonic finally gives a lot of these to patent trolls. Re-armament by Canada’s truly massive patent troll WiLAN has just been reported in this press release; the patents are handed over to a subsidiary (proxy) of the troll:

Wi-LAN Inc. (“WiLAN”), a Quarterhill Inc.(“Quarterhill”) company (TSX: QTRH) (NASDAQ: QTRH), today announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Security Video Camera Systems, Inc., has acquired a portfolio of patents from Panasonic Corporation (“Panasonic”). The portfolio contains 34 patent families comprising 96 patents worldwide. The acquisition was made under WiLAN’s partnership program which features the sharing of revenues generated from a licensing program.

We wrote about Wi-LAN last month; Canada needs to get these thugs under control.

Meanwhile, as per this Microsoft-connected firm (Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. is the firm of Microsoft’s former patent chief), “Cloud Cybersecurity Solutions Under Siege From Patents, Again: Cybersecurity Companies Protect Customers From Malicious Attacks, But Can They Protect Themselves?”

Jonathan Barnard writes (at the very end):

Regardless of the outcome in this case, the question still remains–while companies like Symantec and Trend Micro continue to protect their customers from malicious cloud-based cyber-attacks, can they protect themselves from the continued onslaught of competitor-based lawsuits? Trend Micro may have an “easier” time protecting its cybersecurity solutions and IP as it’s currently only facing patent infringement litigation on one front from CUPP. The task may prove more difficult for cybersecurity giant Symantec however, since in addition to playing defense in a patent infringement lawsuit against Finjan, it’s also playing offense by enforcing several of its own web security, threat prevention, and antivirus patents against other cybersecurity competitors like Zscaler.

Funny how this Microsoft-connected firm neglects to mention the Microsoft-funded patent troll Finjan (in the same space, security) until the very end. They make some of the victims of this troll (i.e. companies that actually make something) seem like the biggest risk. Isn’t that an odd reversal? A self-serving one for sure…

05.15.18

A Google-Centric and Google-Led Patent Pool Won’t Protect GNU/Linux But Merely ‘Normalise’ Software Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, IBM, OIN, Patents, Red Hat at 8:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

LOT Network: A WHOLE LOT OF SOFTWARE PATENTS

Summary: Patent pools, which are basically the wrong solution to a very clear problem, continue to expand and promote themselves; the real solution, however, is elimination of abstract patents, notably software patents

OIN is no longer the only ‘game’ in town. IBM is the foremost player in OIN and OIN is not against software patents (same as IBM). A key staff from OIN recently left to join the Conservancy, which is strongly against software patents.

“…perhaps, to use OIN’s explanation, it’s trying to prevent such patents from ending on the laps of patent trolls. Just perhaps… in which case, wouldn’t it be better to work toward these patents’ elimination (using Section 101)?”The Google-led, Red Hat-backed LOT Network is in some headlines these days. It’s described as “defensive”, as usual. It’s not new, it’s just making another ‘charm offensive’, this time with Lenovo in the mix. Engine recommends LOT Network, which was mentioned in the puff piece from Bloomberg (copied a lot by Indian media) the other day. Some more Indian media has licensed and published it since. What was it all about? Did the author liaise with LOT Network for a puff piece, knowing that she would soon see further coverage like this? We now see two sites that habitually write about EPO scandals perpetuating the myth of “free patents and membership”. There’s no such thing as “free” patents because patents are something being taken away to begin with, it’s not a “charity” to give it ‘back’. It’s a PR stunt of large firms with many patents which they refuse to bury. To quote WIPR:

Non-profit LOT Network has announced two new programmes to “enrich and protect the global start-up community”, in efforts to incentivise innovation and encourage responsible patent use.

LOT, which lists Google, Canon, and Dropbox as its members, announced its new programmes on Thursday, May 10.

Mike Lee, head of patents at Google, said: “We think the protections afforded by LOT should be available to established and start-up companies alike, and do not want cost to be a barrier to participation.”

The first scheme is the Patent Transfer Program, which will allow qualifying start-ups to receive three free patents from LOT. The second is the organisation’s plan to expand free membership to LOT to any operating company which has up to $25 million in annual revenue.

Here’s the other new article about it:

The LOT Network, a Google-led patent initiative that aims to combat so-called ‘patent trolls’, has announced a new extended free membership, available to any company having up to $25 million in annual revenue.

Alongside the new membership, the LOT Network is granting qualifying startups three free patents, provided they have a membership in the LOT Network.

The group said it believes that “startups fuel innovation” and has “committed to share patents provided by its members with startups to promote and fuel further innovation and encourage these startups to join the LOT Network.

The first 200 operating companies in the LOT Network with $500,000 to $25 million in annual revenue or $500,000 to $25 million in financing over the past 18 months are eligible to receive patent assets at no cost.

The problem is that rather than work towards elimination of software patents they sort of ‘normalise’ them. Meanwhile, as IAM noted yesterday, RPX hoards more such patents:

RPX has acquired a small portfolio of patents from former search behemoth Lycos, according to an assignment recorded late last week with the USPTO. In total, the defensive aggregator picked up 24 assets from the tech company which grew rapidly during the 1990s dotcom bubble before quickly being eclipsed by the likes of Google and seeing a massive fall in value. The deal assignment was executed last November but has only just shown up on the PTO assignment database.

Those Lycos patents are likely software patents which are about to expire (almost 20 years since the dotcom bubble burst). What will RPX do with these? It did not buy these just for vanity; perhaps, to use OIN’s explanation, it’s trying to prevent such patents from ending on the laps of patent trolls. Just perhaps… in which case, wouldn’t it be better to work toward these patents’ elimination (using Section 101)?

Companies like Red Hat and Google try to “add value” by compiling a patent “portfolio”; if or when they die or get sold to another company those patents can be used offensively; see Sun and Oracle. Patents are never defensive; that’s just not how patents work. To call them “defensive” is part of the PR stunt, which IBM did a lot of a decade or more ago.

05.14.18

It Doesn’t Take a Genius to See That Microsoft Still Attacks GNU/Linux With Patents to Make Billions of Dollars in ‘Protection’ Money

Posted in Microsoft, OIN, Patents, Red Hat at 1:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recent: Patent Trolls Roundup: The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), Microsoft Trolls, and the Eastern District of Texas

Moon as satellite
Microsoft is still attacking GNU/Linux, it’s just using what’s sometimes known as ‘satellite’ entities

Summary: Intellectual Ventures, Finjan, RPX, and other Microsoft-connected trolls cannot be countered by LOT Network and the likes of it (notably OIN); Microsoft continues to shrewdly distribute patents to trolls, offering ‘protection’ from them (for a fee) [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16] and pressuring OEMs to bundle Microsoft 'apps' or risk retaliatory patent lawsuits

AS LONG as the USPTO continues to grant software patents and as long as already-granted US software patents are not expired (or voided by PTAB) Microsoft can carry on blackmailing the whole world. Microsoft isn’t alone in this; IBM, for example, does similar things. But this post will focus on Microsoft because it claims to “love Linux” and Microsoft-funded groups like the Linux Foundation (which nowadays pays even the marketing person, McPherson, more than it pays Linus Torvalds) repeated this lie as recently as Friday. It said “Microsoft Proves Linux Love” in the headline! Alluding to Microsoft fixing a trivial bug more than 3 decades late.

“…this post will focus on Microsoft because it claims to “love Linux” and Microsoft-funded groups like the Linux Foundation (which nowadays pays even the marketing person, McPherson, more than it pays Linus Torvalds) repeated this lie as recently as Friday.”Let’s start with Finjan, an Israeli patent troll which was backed financially by Microsoft and was (re)armed by IBM as recently as last year. Finjan basically does nothing but patent litigation. It’s hardly a promising business model after Alice and Oil States, but somehow they managed to defend one of their patents earlier this year at CAFC (a decision in January against Symantec). Several days ago Finjan “Announce[d] $10 Million Share Repurchase Program”. Signs of tough time and ‘damage control’, amid just lots of lawsuits and blackmail these days? Even former staff of theirs is turning against them. From the press release:

Finjan Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:FNJN), a cybersecurity [sic] company [sic], today announced that the Company’s Board of Directors has authorized a share repurchase program of Finjan’s outstanding common stock of up to $10 million.

Maybe Microsoft wishes to invest again? It’s well known that Microsoft is investing in a lot of patent trolls, including the world’s biggest. Irish media very recently revealed it had invested in the world’s largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, giving it a major lifeline. “Changes in personnel and strategy at Microsoft,” IAM noted yesterday, “along with a new patent climate in the US – spelled the end for IV’s final acquisitions fund.”

“It’s well known that Microsoft is investing in a lot of patent trolls, including the world’s biggest.”IAM, the rather prominent propaganda outlet of patent aggressors and trolls, merely entertained the ‘new’ Microsoft narrative — a fictional framing that many GNU/Linux proponents grew tired of. Joff Wild’s Windows site (with occasional pieces from Microsoft executives and former executives) ended up including spin about RPX as well. To quote yesterday’s column of his:

Last week we reported on a filing made by a Microsoft subsidiary in Ireland which provided details of a $136.5 million write down of an investment the company had made in Intellectual Ventures’ Invention Investment Fund 3 (IIF3). The filing also revealed that the software giant was by far the biggest investor in the fund – contributing over 70% of the cash that had been raised.

[...]

Meanwhile, what does this news tell us about Microsoft? While some of the usual blogging and Tweeting suspects have been talking about the write down as showing that the company is the facilitator of the world’s biggest patent troll, arming it with a view to going after competitors and everyone else to beat them down to a pulp – or words that effect, those that have actually bothered to follow developments at Redmond over recent years will see something different.

[...]

On top of that, of course, those changes to the US patent landscape also make the kind of defensive buying that IV sold as a significant benefit to its corporate investors much less of a pressing need. Don’t forget that Microsoft has also recently decided not to renew its membership of RPX.

The simple fact is that Microsoft no longer needs IV: its IP strategy has changed and it is less exposed to damaging patent assertions than it once was. When the fundamentals change so much for an investor that has a 70%+ stake in an entity of whatever kind, that entity is going to struggle to recover. That is exactly what has happened to IIF3.

Intellectual Ventures did not only depend on Microsoft; Bill Gates had been backing it too (it’s his personal friend, whose role in the firm recently grew further). Sure, Microsoft left RPX, but only after it gave a lot of money to RPX, which almost everyone seems to be leaving these days (it’s collapsing and it was recently sold to private hands for a ‘paper’/virtual price that was a joke: 555).

Based on Indian media, as of a few days ago, it sure sounds like RPX has just swallowed some more software patents. The Economic Times wrote:

Bangalore-headquartered Zeno Security Corporation has entered an agreement to sell its portfolio of network security patents to San Francisco based RPX Corporation. The terms of the agreement are undisclosed. The deal includes the sale of three issued US Patents, and one pending US Patent Application.

[...]

Transactions IP LLC brokered the deal between Zeno and RPX.

They don’t even name a price.

Going back to Microsoft, remember that Microsoft used software patents to sue a rival it had committed antitrust violations against (Corel). It nowadays tries to crush it completely using patent litigation. A few days ago Law 360 wrote about it:

Microsoft’s Win Reduced, Atty Fees Denied In Corel IP Spat

A California federal judge has reduced an award for Microsoft from a jury that found Corel willfully infringed its Office software patents, dropping the payout from $287,000 to $124,000, and declined to make Corel pay Microsoft’s attorneys’ fees, saying there was nothing exceptional about the case.

In a decision unsealed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila said that Corel Corp.’s willingness to stipulate to infringement and drop its invalidity defenses against Microsoft Corp. early in the case, in an effort to reduce costs, was “rare”…

Don’t believe in the ‘new’ Microsoft myth. The company is still suing, both directly and indirectly. The corporate media mostly turns a blind eye and the above case was mostly/only covered by Law 360, which is a niche site. Why aren’t technology news sites mentioning it? Does that not suit the “Microsoft loves Linux” narrative? Remember that Corel was a major player in the GNU/Linux scene before Microsoft undermined it (a decade ago we wrote many articles about what had happened).

“Those ‘free’ patents would be trouble when Red Hat is dead or sold (either of those is an inevitability, it’s just a matter of time).”Meanwhile, “Red Hat Inc. and Lenovo Group Ltd. are giving away free patents,” says the corporate media. This is not how patents work. Red Hat basically continues to actively pursue software patents and it means that Red Hat is part of the problem. The company and its patents can be taken over. Those ‘free’ patents would be trouble when Red Hat is dead or sold (either of those is an inevitability, it’s just a matter of time). Red Hat staff should simply refuse to apply for patents (some told us they have) because these patents expiry date will likely outlive the company itself. Where might these patents end up?

Here is Bloomberg’s Susan Decker with her report on Ira Blumberg and LOT Network — a report that has just been licensed and reposted by Indian media (Economic Times) [1, 2]. The relevant parts:

Red Hat Inc. and Lenovo Group Ltd. are giving away free patents to any startup that joins a group of more than 200 companies devoted to keeping its members and their patents out of court.

It’s a carrot to entice startup companies to join the LOT Network, a non-profit created by Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Canon Inc. four years ago to combat litigation by patent assertion companies, known derisively as “trolls,” that don’t make any products but seek royalties by challenging patents. By joining LOT, a company agrees that if they sell patents to such firms, all group members will have a free license to them.

“You’re binding yourself to the mast and saying ‘I’m not going to give in to the siren song of trolls,”’ said Ira Blumberg, vice president of intellectual property and litigation for Lenovo.

[...]

“It is difficult to get a sufficient number of companies to coalesce around a single solution that will address the problem,” McBride said. “There is a mesh of overlapping efforts and LOT is a significant player.”

It’s easy to attract larger companies, said Ken Seddon, chief executive officer of LOT, which stands for license on transfer. The group’s members collectively own some 1.1 million patents and patent applications worldwide. That provides immunity from a fraction of the patents in force worldwide — more than 347,000 were issued last year in the U.S. alone.

LOT Network does absolutely nothing about Microsoft and its trolls. Just like OIN, it seems to be a pact whose purpose is to protect software patents from critics (software developers) rather than protect developers from such patents. These are relatively weak, corporates-led attempts to appease technical people.

“Just like OIN, it seems to be a pact whose purpose is to protect software patents from critics (software developers) rather than protect developers from such patents.”Red Hat bragged that it pocketed a “patent standstill” with Microsoft, but how does that help developers who don’t work for Red Hat? It does not. Generally speaking, Microsoft has bought the silence it needed from many of its potential critics (Canonical, SUSE, Red Hat, the Linux Foundation, even OSI), so don’t expect them to lash out, file a complaint etc. It’s a “divide and rule” tactic and money helps Microsoft tremendously with this strategy.

04.26.17

PatentShield is Not the Solution and It Won’t Protect Google/Android From Patent Trolls Like Microsoft’s

Posted in America, Google, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 7:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The problem is the underlying software patents and trolls

PatentShield

Summary: A new initiative called “PatentShield” is launched, but it’s yet another one of those many initiatives (Peer-to-Patent and the likes of it, LOT Network, OIN, PAX etc.) that serve to distract from the real and much simpler solutions

FIGHTING patents with patents is a worthless exercise of endless war and sometimes just reckless stockpiling which accomplishes nothing at all. We wrote about this in relation to Red Hat 8 years ago.

“This is why Microsoft loves using trolls as satellites, including Intellectual Ventures, which has thousands of satellites of its own and is controlled by Microsoft.”A decade or more ago, around 2005, Red Hat helped fight against software patents at the EPO, but later on both Red Hat and Google started accumulating software patents of their own, falsely arguing that they need these for “defence”. Acacia, a patent troll with Microsoft connections, repeatedly disproved them. One cannot sue trolls; there’s nothing to sue over. This is why Microsoft loves using trolls as satellites, including Intellectual Ventures, which has thousands of satellites of its own and is controlled by Microsoft.

“There is a lot of hype this morning about PatentShield, which wrongly assumes that what we need to shield us from patent attacks are more patents.”Not too long ago Google bragged about something called “PAX” (or Pax, i.e. peace), which we criticised several times. It doesn’t really help address the underlying problems. It tackles neither trolls nor software patents. See this latest new example where the buzzword “AI” gets used as a loophole for post-Alice software patent grants. There were two puff pieces about it this morning [1, 2], the latter of which says: “A new patent for “whole brain” systems for autonomous robotic control has been issued by the U.S. Patent Office to Neurala, the software company that invented The Neurala Brain, a deep learning neural networks platform. This new invention will enable AI to function more like a human brain because it integrates multiple brain areas.”

I have personally developed programs in this area (machine learning, autonomous vehicles etc.) and it’s abundantly clear that it’s all about software.

“What PatentShield is likely to accomplish is little but distraction from the real solutions (which Google isn’t genuinely interested in).”There is a lot of hype this morning about PatentShield, which wrongly assumes that what we need to shield us from patent attacks are more patents. We found quite a few articles early this morning [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], accompanying several copies of the press release (there was clearly a large, well-coordinated effort to get the word out, including paid press releases and probably PR agencies). No doubt there are many more articles on the way and almost none will go beyond repeating quotes from the press release (and those who paid for these, or their PR agents).

For those who think that PatentShield is a sort of “Eureka moment” or some brilliant thing “to Defend Startups from Patent Litigation” (as the headline of the press release claims) we have a good offer; land on the Moon and on Mars!

“Microsoft, for instance, habitually sends out trolls to attack its competition.”What PatentShield is likely to accomplish is little but distraction from the real solutions (which Google isn’t genuinely interested in). Meanwhile, MOSAID (now known as Conversant) gears up for more litigation. IAM has just been writing about this Microsoft-fed patent troll that pays IAM too. “According to USPTO data,” IAM wrote yesterday, “Conversant was assigned 29 US patent assets by Seoul-based semiconductor foundry Dongbu HiTek and its affiliate Dongbu Electronics in a transfer executed at the end of last year. The patents appear to relate to CMOS image sensor technology.”

It’s not hard to imagine what will happen next. The industry is already suffering from trolls abundance (there is a new site called “Don’t Bully My Business”) and Conversant/MOSAID is just one of many. Microsoft, for instance, habitually sends out trolls to attack its competition. It’s a convenient loophole. Microsoft is like Qualcomm in that sense and regarding the FTC (critic of PAEs in its recent report) which we wrote about some days ago, IAM says this:

The FTC’s case against Qualcomm was filed amid the dying embers of the Obama White House and accused the chipmaker of anti-competitive practices in the supply of its baseband processors and in its patent licensing. But the move was not without controversy. In a 2-1 decision in favour of bringing the suit, Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen wrote a strongly worded dissent in which she claimed the court action was “based on a flawed legal theory”. Trump has appointed Ohlhausen the acting FTC chairman as the administration searches for a permanent appointee and, should the new head share her sentiments, the government’s support of the suit against Qualcomm may become lukewarm at best. The letter is a clear attempt to try to ensure that doesn’t happen.

We very much doubt that a corporations’ government — be it Obama’s or Trump’s — will tackle the underlying issues. So far it has been mostly SCOTUS which contributed to progress with decisions like Alice and hopefully TC Heartland some time soon.

The bottom line is, small trolls and ‘institutionalised’ trolls continue to prey on the system, both directly and indirectly. PatentShield is more like a PR ploy of Google and Intertrust; it won’t actually help victims of trolling. Ignore and move on.

06.28.16

Today’s Media Coverage Says Microsoft Loves Linux, But Today Microsoft Extorted Linux Using Software Patents Again

Posted in Microsoft, Red Hat at 6:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Relying on mass deception using the media while blackmailing companies behind closed doors

BP loves puppies

Summary: Luna Mobile has just been extorted by Microsoft (using dubious software patents, as usual) for using Android/Linux, but Microsoft-influenced media carries on spreading the lie that “Microsoft loves Linux”

RED HAT’S own event has just been hijacked by Microsoft again (see articles below along with the comments) and Microsoft used Red Hat’s platform to call its proprietary (Open Core) platform “Open Source”, to say it “loves Linux” (the infamous old lie), and so on. On the other hand, Microsoft’s own booster Mary Jo Foley says that “Microsoft signs Android patent-licensing deal with Luna Mobile”. She insists that “Microsoft has signed an Android patent deal with Luna Mobile, even though its announcement of the arrangement never mentions the word ‘Android’.”

Yes, so much for love. It must love all that ‘protection money’ it is silently amassing.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Red Hat Delivers More Secure Containers with New Scanning Capability [Ed: helping Microsoft’s parasite]
  2. Microsoft unveils .NET Core 1.0, extends partnership with Red Hat [Ed: Red Hat is so focused on meeting short-term profit goals that it forgot Microsoft's past]
  3. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Unveils .NET Core 1.0 Availability
  4. Microsoft Releases Open Source .NET Core 1.0 For Linux, Windows, And macOS [Ed: Another reminder that’s needed here is that open core is not open source]
  5. Microsoft Announces Open .NET Core 1.0 at Red Hat Summit [Ed: stealing Red Hat's thunder at its own event]
  6. Microsoft releases cross-platform .NET Core 1.0 at Linux event [Ed: How Microsoft turns Linux events into its own. Microsoft love love love… if they keep saying it often enough, preferably with “Linux” in headlines, then maybe fools will believe it.]
  7. Microsoft starts proving its Linux love [Ed: As big a lie as it gets; when will it stop taunting Linux with patents then?]
  8. Microsoft announces open-source Language Server Protocol
  9. Microsoft’s Open Source .NET Core Project Hits v1.0, Gets General Availability
  10. Microsoft launches Net Core 1.0 for Linux, OS X and Windows
  11. Microsoft’s open sourcing of .NET hits a major milestone
  12. Microsoft Proves Its Love For Linux With Net Core Software, Open Source And Ready To Go [Ed: People don't want Microsoft love. They just want Microsoft to start obeying the law.]
  13. Codenvy, Microsoft and Red Hat Collaborate on a Protocol for Sharing Programming Language Guidance
  14. Microsoft further embraces open source with cross-platform version of .Net Framework
  15. MapR, Microsoft make announcements at Hadoop and Red Hat summits
  16. Microsoft brings .NET Core to MacOS and Linux
  17. Microsoft launches its cross-platform .Net Core
  18. Microsoft announces general availability of .NET Core and ASP.NET Core 1.0
  19. Latest Microsoft Mechanics video shows Red Hat Linux running on Azure [Ed: Does anyone really believe (literally) Microsoft loves Linux ? All I see is Microsoft boosters and ghostwriters claiming such people exist.]
  20. Microsoft announces .NET Core 1.0 for Linux, MacOS and Windows
  21. Announcing .NET Core 1.0
  22. Microsoft finally introduces ASP.NET Core 1.0, supported inherently by Red Hat
  23. .NET Core 1.0 Released

06.17.16

Canonical’s and Red Hat’s Shameful War Against One Another… and Against the Already-Marginalised Linux Media

Posted in GNU/Linux, Red Hat, Ubuntu at 4:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Or: why I hardly cover GNU/Linux news (with original articles) anymore

The feuding cups

Summary: In an effort to trip each other up and in order to become the ‘industry standard’, Canonical and Red Hat hurt each other and alienate the media (what’s left of it)

TECHRIGHTS, with the exception of the daily links, does not cover GNU/Linux matters all that often. Not anymore. There’s a reason for this and it’s not just the growing role of software patents in the destruction/elimination of software freedom.

I wouldn’t be the first person to state that the GNU/Linux world can be harsh and brutal. People have free speech, which is absolutely fine (I’m a big opposer of censorship and self-censorship). But what happens when people cross the line of common sense and begin to personally attack writers and pundits? What happens when they do this on behalf of big and wealthy corporations? A lot of the abuse I received from the Mono crowd over the years (unimaginable abuse, comparing me even to a criminal) is ever more fascinating now that those very same people are Microsoft employees.

“A lot of the abuse I received from the Mono crowd over the years (unimaginable abuse, comparing me even to a criminal) is ever more fascinating now that those very same people are Microsoft employees.”I recently encountered or was the eyewitness of truly shameful attacks on Phoronix, both from developers and from sites like Reddit, which effectively blacklisted Phoronix, calling it “blogspam”. Reddit is full of censorship for those who don’t know it yet (our daily links have many articles about its political censorship too), but it’s rather unbelievable if not cynical when they block the whole of Phoronix (recently the subject of renewed debate over there and maybe a reversal/overturning of the ban, for the first time in a very long time).

The point I am trying to get across here is that it’s not easy to cover GNU/Linux news because there’s always someone, somewhere who isn’t happy. Thick skin is required. I hardly cover GNU/Linux matters (compared to past years), though it’s not because I’m offended or put off by personal attacks; it’s because I don’t always feel appreciated for the investigative work which I do. I generally snub any PR person or company spokesperson. I don’t trust them. I try to come up with an independent point of view; so do some journalists like Sam Varghese, who have earned nothing for that other than scorn and abuse.

I am not alone in this. Not many people are willing to speak out about it, perhaps fearing backlash. Consider Canonical with their disgusting blacklists of journalists who are not sucking up to Canonical and swallowing every ounce of Kool-Aid from Canonical, as pointed out not just by yours truly but also other bloggers/journalists (both privately and publicly, with those who do so privately fearing that these blacklists would treat them even more maliciously if they dared to rant).

“I try to come up with an independent point of view; so do some journalists like Sam Varghese, who have earned nothing for that other than scorn and abuse.”Red Hat is not much better by the way. The giant Linux firm is alienating people who often/always write out of passion, not for profit (financial gain) or for glory. Red Hat has a massive PR operation now (publicly and behind the scenes) and it’s not something which is pleasant to see because it reminds me of how Microsoft games the media, often bordering the unethical. When companies hire patent lawyers they tend to bring a lot of their (the latter’s) self-serving anti-etiquette and the same thing happens when companies hire PR people. Mass-mailing people is just one of their professional ‘skills’ and — at risk of saying something politically-incorrect — these tend to be women, preferably attractive women (this gives more impact to their work, along various different aspects beyond the scope of this post).

The other day I noticed a certain flamewar brewing between Red Hat and Canonical. They try to keep it on ‘low fire’, but it’s impossible to ignore the bigger picture.

openSUSE’s Twitter account, for example, wrote: “Of course kudos also go to http://flatpak.org . But canonical at least trying to behave and collaborate deserves respect” (that’s a polite way of saying that Fedora/Red Hat does not collaborate or does not deserve respect). Prior to that openSUSE mentioned Swapnil Bhartiya and said: “Kudos to @Canonical for working with other distributions on a new method of packaging applications #linux #respect https://twitter.com/swapnilbhartiya/status/743555291535519744″

“I soon learned of Fedora employees bashing the media wherever they could because some sites wrote about Canonical’s Snap initiative being an actual competitor to their Flatpak universal binary package.”OpenSUSE is trying not to take sides. They first retweeted Swapnil’s tweet saying “Kudos to Canonical for working with other distributions.” And then they say “Also kudos to http://flatpak.org” (as if someone from Fedora got in touch). In another tweet or a bunch of them we see what indicates that there is strong rivalry between Canonical and Red Hat. It makes us bloggers/journalists feel like collateral damage (or ‘tools’), and unlike these people who push us around, we don’t receive huge salaries for our work. For me, reporting is a purely voluntary activity with no financial gain. I decided to ask around and find out what the heck was going on, having seen how Red Hat strong-armed some distributions into embracing the “Red Hat way” — to the point where Canonical had to abandon some of their own projects.

I soon learned of Fedora employees bashing the media wherever they could because some sites wrote about Canonical’s Snap initiative being an actual competitor to their Flatpak universal binary package.

As a reminder for those who are not paying close enough attention, Flatpak is loosely connected to Systemd, probably Red Hat’s most controversial ‘lock-in’ at the moment. On the other hand, Canonical is trying to push its own ‘standards’, which it can probably do given its dominant position on the desktop (and almost on the server as well).

“Red Hat was apparently so pissed off by the whole thing that one Fedora employee (i.e. Red Hat) started chastising reporters.”One interesting fact I have learned is that several days ago Canonical basically spoon-fed some sites a so-called ‘scoop’, in order to ‘generate’ some coverage for Snaps. Not so atypical or unexpected from Canonical, but there we go…

Red Hat was apparently so pissed off by the whole thing that one Fedora employee (i.e. Red Hat) started chastising reporters. That employee was James Hogarth. He baselessly started accusing Softpedia on the fedora-devel mailing list, claiming that Softpedia said, to quote, “Canonical state that they have been working with Fedora developers…” (this was not said at all). There’s this reply from Michael Catanzaro of the GNOME Project. At that time, he took James Hogarth’s words for granted, assuming that Softpedia claimed something it didn’t. Here is a later response from him:

Just for the record… the Softpedia article doesn’t actually say “Canonical state that they have been working with Fedora developers to make this the universal packaging format.” It does say they’ve been “working for some time with developers from various major GNU/Linux distributions” and that “the Snap package format is working natively on popular GNU/Linux operating systems like [...] Fedora [...],” so it’s clear why there was confusion, but it doesn’t say that they’ve been working with Fedora specifically.

Later on Hogarth cited his colleague, Adam Williamson, with a rather offensive piece (“Canonical propaganda department”), adding “AdamW responds to the Canonical Snappy PR piece.”

“But either way, accusing publications of saying something they did not say is unfair, and it reflects badly on the community as a whole.”Michael Hall from Canonical said on Reddit that they talked with some Fedora people at some point (Michael Hall’s statement here is equally informative). But either way, accusing publications of saying something they did not say is unfair, and it reflects badly on the community as a whole.

I have a personal grudge with Canonical over how they treat media, having witnessed online friends becoming victims of theirs, but I didn’t think Red Hat would stoop down to this level as well. What we are basically witnessing here is a bunch of Red Hat (‘Fedora’) employees attacking the media over Snap/Flatpak war. They want the media to take sides and get upset that the media isn’t telling the story the way they want it to.

This isn’t some kind of epic rant from me, just an observation of something that I noticed in the past. If Softpedia folks and Phoronix (Michael Larabel) can be treated like enemies because they attempt to amicably — without controversy — cover GNU/Linux news, then what hope is there for more outspoken bloggers like myself? It’s sad as it’s not just one case; the above is symptomatic of something that has been going on for years and that’s why I don’t cover Linux issues such as Systemd. It’s almost suicidal. It’s nothing but trouble. Self-censorship ensues.

“They’ll need to learn to respect the media or earn no respect in return.”Why do journalists need to be abused for attempting to cover the news, even when they cover it correctly? There’s also this on LWN (Jimbob0i0 is James Hogarth) where, again, it’s said that Softpedia claimed something it didn’t.

Red Hat needs to respect people’s views, even when these views are not correct (in this particular case these views are correct). They’ll need to learn to respect the media or earn no respect in return. They need to work better with the media or have no media at all, except that which they pay for, e.g. their opensource.com propaganda rag (it spends much of its time just peddling a book that helps pretend Red Hat is “open”, based on the CEO’s words).

The above scenario is corrosive and harmful to the relationship between Free software developers and media. Why are they all still wondering why the GNU/Linux ecosystem is not united? Why the fragmentation? Why some many hundreds of distros? That’s why.

11.30.15

Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen on the Microsoft-Red Hat Deal

Posted in FSF, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 6:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen
Photo source: Professor Conrad Johnson

Summary: Founder of Free software and author of the GPL (respectively) comment on what Microsoft and Red Hat have done regarding patents

WE FINALLY GOT some feedback regarding the baffling patent agreement which seemingly affects every user of GNU/Linux. We got this feedback from Stallman and (indirectly) Moglen, two of the Free software world’s most prominent individuals, especially when it comes to the GPL (GNU Public Licence/License).

Coverage of the Red Hat-Microsoft patent agreement can be found in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. We sought feedback from Red Hat and spoke to low(er) level people for weeks, without ever hearing back from high-level management. After weeks of trying and waiting we ended up asking legal professionals to examine whatever legal contracts — even if under NDA or some other secrecy clauses that legally-binding deals may have — were involved. We first wrote to the FSF as follows:

Dear FSF licensing folks,

As discussed earlier in IRC (freenode), I have been pursuing answers from Red Hat regarding an urgent matter. I previously interviewed their CEO regarding patents and last week I spoke to a fairly senior person from Red Hat (unnamed for his own protection), for the third time this month. I wrote about 10 articles on this subject and it led to others writing about it as well, including some prominent bloggers.

“We need to understand what Red Hat agreed on with Microsoft on as Microsoft can use this behind closed doors against other companies, for pressure/leverage.”To put it concisely, Red Hat signed a deal with Microsoft which not only involved technical work but also what they call patent “standstill”. Who is this “standstill” for? Apparently Red Hat and its customers. I strongly doubt, especially in light of Alice v. CLS Bank, that a “standstill” should be needed. Red Hat does not threaten to sue Microsoft, whereas Microsoft did in the past threaten Red Hat (even publicly). This leaves those outside Red Hat in an awkward position and ever since this deal I have taken note of at least two companies being coerced by Microsoft using patents (over “Android” or “Linux” [sic]) or sued by one of its patent trolls, e.g. Intellectual Ventures. This isn’t really a “standstill”. It’s more like the notorious “peace of mind” that Novell was after back in 2006.

Red Hat has also admitted to me that it is still pursuing some software patents in the USPTO — a fact that does not surprising me, especially given the soaring market cap of RHT and the growing budget. This serves to contradict what people like Rob Tiller say to the courts; it shows double standards and no principled lead by example.

“The analysis and the voice of the FSF may be needed at this stage.”I have asked the FSF’s Joshua if it had looked into the patent agreement between Red Hat and Microsoft. Their lawyers in this case, Mr. Piana and Mr. Tiller (probably amongst others whom we don’t know about yet), would probably claim and even insist that it’s GPL-compatible, but the wording in the FAQ make it look exclusionary and there’s no transparency, so one cannot verify these claims.

We need to understand what Red Hat agreed on with Microsoft on as Microsoft can use this behind closed doors against other companies, for pressure/leverage. I am genuinely worried and fellow journalists who focus on GNU/Linux (Sean Michael Kerner for instance) tell me that they are too.

The analysis and the voice of the FSF may be needed at this stage. I have politely urged Red Hat for a number of weeks to become more transparent, whereupon some in the company said they had escalated these requests, but evidently nothing is being done, hence I feel the need to turn to the FSF.

I would gladly provide additional information that I have upon request.

With kind regards,

“In concrete terms,” Stallman responded, “what did they agree to do?”

“It is effectively a technical collaboration,” I told him, “which also involves a ceasefire regarding patents.”

“It is impossible to discuss whether it is good or bad,” he said, “until we know what it is.”

“We know too little about the patent aspects,” I explained.

Referring to Red Hat’s FAQ, Stallman said that I “seem[ed] to be talking about text I [Stallman] have not seen.”

To quote the relevant part for readers:

4. Does the new partnership address patents?

Red Hat and Microsoft have agreed to a limited patent arrangement in connection with the commercial partnership for the benefit of mutual customers.

The heart of the arrangement is a patent standstill that provides that neither company will pursue a patent lawsuit or claim against the other or its customers, while we are partnering. Neither company acknowledged the validity or enforceability of the other’s intellectual property; it is not a patent license or a covenant not to sue and no payment was made or will be made for intellectual property.

The partnership is between commercial companies related to their common customer offerings, spurred by customer demand. Both parties carefully designed for FOSS licensing compliance in building the arrangement and each party’s relationship to the FOSS community stands on its own.

“Covering only customers and not downstream users,” Stallman said, “it is not a good thing, but it may not do a lot of harm.”

“Covering only customers and not downstream users is not a good thing, but it may not do a lot of harm.”
      –Richard Stallman
I responded by saying “I hope that a thorough look into it will help remove uncertainty and get some hard answers. Right now it’s too vague or me and some fellow developers to conclude anything from.”

Days ago I asked whether “there been any progress on this case” because “I just want[ed] to be sure that licensing is looking for answers regarding the matter.”

Stallman, by that stage, seemed to have already spoken to a colleague and friend. “Eben Moglen,” he explained, “told me it doesn’t violate GPLv3. Other than getting that information, I don’t know what progress we could hope for.”

Well, as GPLv3 co-authors, their take on this sure counts. We therefore got an answer without taking a look at the contract itself (they had made access to it highly privileged information).

Assuming the case won’t go any further than this, we believe it helps set the record straight on the Microsoft-Red Hat situation.

11.20.15

Patents Roundup: Alice Decision Still Upsets Patent Lawyers, Microsoft AstroTurf Group Lobbies on FRAND, Google and Red Hat Recalled

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 7:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Korean money

Summary: The reaction of patent profiteers to scope/boundary restrictions, the FRAND lobby by Microsoft’s longtime front group, FRAND matters in Korea (affecting Android), Google’s response to patent threats, and Red Hat still keeping quiet about its patent agreement with Microsoft

THERE is nothing exceptionally surprising in the news today, so we are going to focus on the EPO, which is in a very poor state right now. The management is so frail that the only language it understand is aggression. We shall write several articles about it this afternoon. Before we start, however, here is a potpourri of updates about the patent situation and how it relates to Free/Open Source software (FOSS).

“When they say “patent world” they mean the corners of the world where people pursue patents — those who try to profit from patents without necessarily creating anything.”Patent lawyers’ Web sites are still bemoaning the death of many software patents in the United States (death by Alice). One of the better known ones says that “many software patent holders must feel ─ like they were walking along merrily through the woods when they fell suddenly into a blinding, winding rabbit hole. Where once their patents stood bold and tall, they have now shrunk to a seemingly indefensible size. Whether they can defend their so-called “abstract” patents in court is now as unclear as the Mad Hatter’s riddles. The famed Alice decision has certainly left many in the patent world wondering.”

When they say “patent world” they mean the corners of the world where people pursue patents — those who try to profit from patents without necessarily creating anything.

Remember FRAND lobbying in Europe back in the days (nearly a decade ago)? Well, ACT‘s new face just got mentioned by another who was paid by Microsoft, and also regularly pushes along the FRAND front (against FOSS, relying on Korea at the moment). “ACT | The App Association,” he explained, “has announced a new web resource for innovators, policy-makers, and academics. It’s called All Things FRAND and supported by significant players including Cisco, Intel, and Microsoft. ACT is headquartered in the U.S. but also quite active abroad.”

Well, historically ACT had been little more than a Microsoft lobbyist. Then there is CCIA, which seemingly changed its position after being paid a lot of money by Microsoft. CCIA‘s Matt Levy, who now runs an anti-trolls site, has just released this new video. Don’t expect Levy to criticise CCIA’s funders, which include Microsoft. This monopolist, Microsoft, is acting in ways that resemble patent trolls.

“Well, right now many of the “bad guys” also use FRAND against Android, which Google distributes as Free/Open Source software.”Google, in the mean time, claims to be against patent trolls. As IEEE Spectrum put it some weeks ago: “Google’s Patent Purchase Promotion, which the company says received “thousands” of submissions during a three-week window, may prompt similar experiments in keeping patents out of the hands of what it considers the bad guys of intellectual property.”

Well, right now many of the “bad guys” also use FRAND against Android, which Google distributes as Free/Open Source software.

In other news, we are still pressuring Red Hat to reveal what it did with Microsoft regarding patents. We haven’t forgotten about this and we are not going to give up. The Free/Open Source software world deserves some answers.

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