472,952 Members | 2,205 Online
Bytes | Software Development & Data Engineering Community
Post Job

Home Posts Topics Members FAQ

Join Bytes and contribute your articles to a community of 472,952 developers and data experts.

Can the Open Source Community Slay the Patent and Copyright Trolls?

If there’s one thing that unites development teams big and small — besides open source software — it’s fear and loathing of patent trolls.

Every once in awhile, a story of a multi-multimillion dollar patent infringement lawsuit will hit the news, and send a collective shiver down everyone’s spine. From the youngest of software development entrepreneurs to the biggest big wigs at Facebook, Microsoft or IBM, no one is ever fully immune.

Patent Trolling & the Giants: The Open Source Community vs. Facebook’s Open Source License Patent Clause

This past summer, the open source community once again questioned the motives behind Facebook’s unusual BSD + Patents open source license when the Apache Foundation decided to disallow the Facebook open source license in all Apache projects. Developers voiced concern that this clause allowed Facebook to initiate patent lawsuits while restricting defensive lawsuits against them. Many in the open source community were wary of the legal-savvy tech giant using a hatchet to deal with fears of patent trolls when a scalpel approach would have sufficed.

While Facebook stood firmly behind their unique open source license for years, insisting that the patent clause is necessary in order to avoid “meritless lawsuits”, they finally caved at the end of this summer, and replaced their BSD + Patents license with a standard MIT license, and order was restored.

The Apache Foundation’s ban caused a domino effect throughout the community and finally drove Facebook into adopting an open source license that was more permissive, easier to understand, and ultimately more developer friendly. Many in the open source community put this down as a win over the corporates, securing the developer’s ability to write software without fear of being ensnared in messy lawsuits, or signing off their patents to the Man.

Does this mean that open source software projects are the last safe haven for developers that want to create software without the looming threat of patent infringement lawsuits, where the community can come together to affect change?

Copyright Trolls: The Shady Cousin of the Patent Troll

The mean-spirited mutation of the patent troll — the copyright troll — has reared its ugly head in one of the biggest and most established open source projects.

This October, the Linux Community Technical Advisory Board published a “Linux Kernel Community Enforcement Statement” to be included in Linux documentation, in order to ensure that contributions to the kernel aren’t exploited for copyright litigation.

But why was this necessary in a community founded on principles of freedom and collaboration? Aren’t they supposed to know how to play nice with each other?

The story behind this move is a dark mark in the open source history. Linux leaders felt the need to call out to Patrick McHardy, the former chair of the Netfilter core development team — who has been actively pursuing litigation around alleged copyright infringement, winning “at least a few million Euros.”

The Netfilter community suspended McHardy from contributing to the project for violations of their principles of enforcement, and published their own FAQ which stated that they “fear that the enforcement actions of Patrick McHardy have caused considerable harm to the reputation of the netfilter project. There are serious allegations that his GPL enforcement activities are prioritizing personal financial gain over compliance.”

For Every Action, there is a Reaction

Senior members of the Linux community explained in a blog post that they believe that the statement was needed “to help clarify what the majority of Linux kernel community members feel is the correct way to enforce our license,” because not all contributors to the kernel understand the obligations in the GNU Public License 2.0 (GPL 2.0).

It’s understandable why Linux community leaders took this step to address the growing apprehension around McHardy’s actions As they see it, his lawsuits for personal gain go against everything the open source software movement believes, and could deter developers from using GPL 2.0 Licensed software.

Lawyer and open source software licensing expert Heather Meeker addressed McHardy’s shenanigans in a blog post, stating that, “Because the ownership of large projects like the Linux kernel is often spread out among many authors, individual owners can take enforcement actions that are inconsistent with the objectives of the community. While the community may have a range of views on how best to encourage adherence to the GPL’s terms, most agree that enforcement should be informal (not via lawsuits) and that the primary goal should be compliance (rather than penalties).”

The outcry around Facebook’s open source licensing patent clause and the efforts that the Linux community made to clarify GPL terms and enforcement policies, show us that even open source projects can be leveraged for personal gain.

This raises some troubling questions moving forward for developers who depend on open source components for building their products.

Can the open source development community ensure that the licenses they produce allow users to develop and innovate without fear that the lawyers will come popping out of the woodwork with frivolous yet devastating lawsuits over licensing issues?

From our vantage point, the path forward will likely be tricky, filled with plenty of curves. Some bad apples will continue to look for ways to enrich themselves off the backs of the community, making unfair claims on projects if they think that they can use it to get ahead. They are simply a part of the scenery and need to be taken into account.

At the same time, there is a consciousness that some level of self policing is necessary if we want open source to continue to be the building block of how we develop software. When the community does come together to take decisions to remove those bad apples, they help to maintain a better ecosystem that allows for freer development, and hopefully less politics.

Developers and organizations need to keep track of their open source licenses, and keep compliance high on their list of priorities if they want to starve the trolls.

The main question moving forward is whether the Linux community’s reaction to McHardy’s behavior be enough to promise that other developers don’t adopt the same practices? Linux’s leadership deserves recognition for showing a zero-tolerance policy for McHardy’s transgression.

With any luck, would-be patent trolls will take notice and the fear of being banned will be enough to keep them on their best behavior.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Patent-and-Copyright-Trolls-768x484.jpg (64.9 KB, 195 views)
Nov 13 '17 #1
1 3653
220 128KB
"If there’s one thing that unites development teams big and small — besides open source software — it’s fear and loathing of patent trolls." That reads like spam.

If someone spends years of their life working and investing time and money into developing an item or process that they can sell for enough money to support their parents and grand-parents in their old age; then if they want to have some time to make enough money from the sale of that item to support their parents or grand-parents in their old age, and they get a patent for the item (patents are limited time constraints on the marketplace); then YOU are calling them a TROLL. To me, you sound evil and wicked for that slander of such a person. Furthermore, you sound like a lazy &$^#% that wants to steal the item and make your own profit (personal, vanity, etc.) from someone else's work. I find you and those like you to be disgusting. Patents are for a limited time each. They are to stop people like you from stealing the first profits from a person's own efforts. Patents are not forever. I find your attitude disgusting.

That which you sow, so shall you reap. Truth to remember.
Jul 22 '20 #2

Sign in to post your reply or Sign up for a free account.

Similar topics

by: Frank Millman | last post by:
Hi all I would like some advice, and I hope that the good people on c.l.p will give me the benefit of their experience. I am busy developing an accounting package, using Python and wxPython,...
by: Unigroup of New York | last post by:
Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary="------------C465DF38DCB38DD2AF7117E0" Lines: 327 Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2005 23:36:38 -0500 NNTP-Posting-Host: X-Complaints-To: abuse@cv.net...
by: lj | last post by:
Computer Associates (CA) issued a million dollar challenge to the open source community today, aimed at fostering the development of migration toolkits for its newly open-sourced Ingres r3...
by: Lane Friesen | last post by:
I've developed a new form of client-based, secure 'Web Memory' that uses the JAVA or dotNET VM to launch a 'terminate and stay resident' program fragment that maintains persistence between web...
by: Roger Jack | last post by:
We have a commercial product, C-Sharpener For VB, that converts Visual Basic ..Net projects to C#. As a service to the Open Source community, we will convert Open Source Visual Basic .Net projects...
by: Afifov | last post by:
Hello All, I am a software engineer, and I got promoted and no longer doing programming as in pure coding. I want to remain in touch with my C programming skills, especially that we are...
by: praz | last post by:
Hi, I am a student studying Business IT Systems (MSc) at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. For my masters dissertation I am investigating the relationship between commercial...
by: =?Utf-8?B?V0o=?= | last post by:
Hi, I'm looking for a ASP.NET open source social network software to build a web-site. so far, I have no luck. If you have any information, can you help? Thanks. WJ
by: Dave | last post by:
With the open source licenses that allow redistribution of modified code, how do you keep someone unaffiliated with the Python community from creating his or her own version of python, and...
by: lllomh | last post by:
Define the method first this.state = { buttonBackgroundColor: 'green', isBlinking: false, // A new status is added to identify whether the button is blinking or not } autoStart=()=>{
by: Mushico | last post by:
How to calculate date of retirement from date of birth
by: tracyyun | last post by:
Hello everyone, I have a question and would like some advice on network connectivity. I have one computer connected to my router via WiFi, but I have two other computers that I want to be able to...
by: giovanniandrean | last post by:
The energy model is structured as follows and uses excel sheets to give input data: 1-Utility.py contains all the functions needed to calculate the variables and other minor things (mentions...
by: NeoPa | last post by:
Hello everyone. I find myself stuck trying to find the VBA way to get Access to create a PDF of the currently-selected (and open) object (Form or Report). I know it can be done by selecting :...
by: NeoPa | last post by:
Introduction For this article I'll be using a very simple database which has Form (clsForm) & Report (clsReport) classes that simply handle making the calling Form invisible until the Form, or all...
by: Teri B | last post by:
Hi, I have created a sub-form Roles. In my course form the user selects the roles assigned to the course. 0ne-to-many. One course many roles. Then I created a report based on the Course form and...
by: isladogs | last post by:
The next Access Europe meeting will be on Wednesday 1 Nov 2023 starting at 18:00 UK time (6PM UTC) and finishing at about 19:15 (7.15PM) Please note that the UK and Europe revert to winter time on...
by: nia12 | last post by:
Hi there, I am very new to Access so apologies if any of this is obvious/not clear. I am creating a data collection tool for health care employees to complete. It consists of a number of...

By using Bytes.com and it's services, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

To disable or enable advertisements and analytics tracking please visit the manage ads & tracking page.