Bonum Certa Men Certa

Trolling Community Developers of GNU/Linux Via Patent Trolls -- Part III: The Technical and Legal Burden as Weapon Against the Community

Video download link



Summary: Community-led and Free software-based GNU/Linux distributions ("distros") are under attack from software patents; the monopoly wannabes of GNU/Linux (companies like IBM) contribute to the problem with their awful and self-serving patent policies

TODAY we continue a series that was started earlier this month (background in Part I and Part II is essential albeit summarised in the video above; more background information was published here last year [1, 2]). The short story is, community-led distros of GNU/Linux are under attack and methods are split among two main categories: technical and legal.

To put it in simple terms, those looking to monopolise the GNU/Linux market (in effect turning it into the "new UNIX") make it hard to catch up with technical developments and releases (technical barrier). On top of that, they support software patents, which become a legal threat (legal barrier, also financial).

"Where's IBM in all this? Nowhere. IBM is busy trying to get itself another monopoly."Notice how much of the GNU/Linux stack IBM/Red Hat hopes to dominate, how frequent releases of systemd have become (the same is true for Chrome; Google uses similar tactics and has recently made Chrome releases even 50% more frequent than before while shutting out derivatives from its 'disservices').

We need to talk about those things. The community isn't assisted but obstructed by some companies. OIN won't help us; OIN works for companies like IBM.

"Via said that as administrators of the patent pool, they will now take [legal] action," one community distro recently told us, "but this was some time ago and I haven't heard from them since."

They keep threatening distro developers with patent litigation. Even just to scare them, perhaps hoping they would abandon development altogether and move on to something else in their lives.

"I'm now aware of what got the attention of Via Licensing," the distro source told us. "We requested specs for Dolby Vision from Dolby a few years ago. That fell on deaf ears, but we recently got a response stating that if we want to license Dolby Vision, we'll need to fix our licensing for AAC, AC3 (thought that had expired), TrueHD etc etc. That doesn't sound FRAND to me -- but who knows."

So it is a form of blackmail. People who care about the law, including copyright (basis of copyleft) law, are being bullied. "I haven't reached out to OIN/Unified Patents yet," the source noted, "and won't do so until I get a legal threat in writing."

We won't name the distro or any persons, but Dolby and Via Licensing would likely know or can speculate about identities.

"We sell our own device based on AMLogic SoCs and have access to AMLogic BSPs," the source said. "AMLogic's SLA and NDAs permit redistribution of GPLv2 code -- but prevent access to Git history, which I suppose is no different to what Red Hat did years ago to slow down CentOS progress. It goes without saying that we do not ship these files as part of our open source platform."

For those who missed it, we wrote about a GPL violation, as specified in Part II.

In the next part we'll talk about reverse engineering efforts and what sort of huge burden (e.g. re-implementation) serves to slow down the evolution of community-led distros. This teaches us about the great harm of European software patents being granted by the EPO. People who fight for other people's rights, e.g. privacy, are coming under vengeful and retaliatory attacks. Where's IBM in all this? Nowhere. IBM is busy trying to get itself another monopoly.

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