ayers's blog

Free Software on a Free Market

Transfering OpenOffice.org to the Apache Software Foundation

June 2nd, 2011

Dear Apache Software Foundation,

rumors are emerging that Oracle will be donating OpenOffice.org to you.  So OpenOffice.org is finally being transferred to a vendor independent foundation.  That is a good thing, actually that is a great thing!

If I understand the process and licensing policy correctly, Oracle must grant you a perpetual patent license which includes downstream licensing.  I suppose this will include all patents it currently has access to including the ones that are currently being transfered via the CPTN.  Please, pretty please, insure due diligence and secure the Software Freedom together with the source code!

I also assume that you will obtain the OpenOffice.org trademark.  I’d expect that you would like to prefix Apache to your version of the product… (possibly “Apache OpenOffice“?) but please insure that you at least obtain the rights to /potentially/ transfer the trademark of OpenOffice.org proper to The Document Foundation.

Of course the most important part would be for you to become a member of The Document Foundation.  That way all contractual obligations that are driving this process can be honored while bundling the efforts to evolve the productivity suite which will provide so many individuals, institutions and companies across the world the path to Software Freedom.

Your’s truly,
David Ayers – Fellow of the FSFE

GNU GPLv3 added to the FOSS-License Exceptions of libmysql

July 19th, 2010

I have a few hats on in the greater Free Software community which puts me a position where many folks approach me with their licensing issues.  One of those hats is the PR representative of the Open Source Experts Group [sic] of the Austrian chamber of commerce.  In that position I was approached by the APOSDLE project a few months ago, which implemented a learning on the job solution comprising many third party components.  Some of these components were licensed under Apache license, others under the GNU GPLv3 but there was one library that was causing licensing issues due to incompatibility.  This of course was the MySQL client library.

This incompatibility is well known in the MySQL community.  The initial responses from the vendor included an offer to purchase the proprietary license.  Yet that offer doesn’t solve the issue.  The license may save the project from a compliance complaint from the current MySQL copyright holder.  Yet the project would still be in violation of the GNU GPLv3 terms of the other libraries.  This meant that the source of the project could not be published.  The MySQL copyright holder could not offer me any other viable options at that time, which lead to a pretty frustrating situation.

But few days ago I received a follow up mail from the MySQL copyright holders, that they have now added GNU GPLv3 to their FOSS License Exception. I congratulate them to this step.  Many projects licensed under the GNU GPLv2 have removed the users option to distribute the software under the terms of the future versions of the GNU GPL .  This logical contribution will allow many projects to use current software licensed under GPLv3 together with MySQL client library.

I can now announce that the source code of APOSDLE will go public in the upcoming weeks.  I would like to express my gratitude to all those involved, as I’m sure we were not the only ones who approached the MySQL copyright holders to achieve this state.

RF vs. (F)RAND Policy on Open Standards

July 17th, 2009

The goal of a Standard is to define properties that are mutually agreed upon by interested parties, leveling the playing field of the participants and enabling them to independently develop tools, products, i.e. solutions, in particular components thereof, that interoperate.

Any IT Standard which is to be considered an Open Standard must include Free Software in this day when leading analysts claim it penetrates 85% of the IT-industry and counting.
It is a fundamental aspect of Free Software that it insures

2. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor

i.e. that you are free to redistribute the program without royalties. This just as true for the proponents of the marketing term Open Source who formulate it explicitly in their definition:

1. The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

Therefor in the context of the IT-Industry, any patents covering the implementation of any part of an Open Standard must be licensed in a Royalty Free (RF) manor.  A policy that allows (F)RAND licensing on patents that cover the implementation of a standard cannot be considered open in any meaningful way for the IT-industry of today, let alone the future.

Developing Open Standards and the technology which implements them can be costly.  It is purported that patents are the vehicle to finance such development, yet in reality such technologies and standardization processes are currently already subsidized by public spending.  And this is a good thing!  In fact, to help insure vendor independence the public sector should oversee and continue to help finance the development of Open Standards technically developed by parties in the industry.  To verify the sufficiency of an Open Standard, the public sector should finance a Free Software reference implementation based on the Open Standard.

This approach negates the need any further compensation in the form of (F)RAND licensing of patents.  It insures the neutrality of Open Standards and verifies the quality.  Most importantly it insures that the market delivers on the promise of what an Open Standard should achieve for the user, be it corporate or consumer: Interoperability.