"We think in generalities, we live in details"
RE: virus: Nuclear War over Software Patents?
« on: 2006-07-05 14:27:14 »
[Blunderov] Taking advantage of the wonders of mashing up, I would like to
introduce the above titled article with one of the reader responses to its
publication. (Some Marxist principles, in particular the ideal of the
collective, and this especially in the context of the intellectual space,
are still very tenable. IMV.)
Furthermore, the question arises
Nickname: Peter Stone
Review: We can limit capitalists! We are upgrading our software better due
to collective nature of work. In this way we can quickly undercut
capitalists. GNU will not allow them to gain super-profits by closing source
code and our main goal will be achieved, as stated by K. Marx--capital of
buorgeois class will be decreasing. Dictatorship of proletariat is our goal.
In Linux there's no API functions designed especially for capitalists (for
creating proprietary software). All projects and core system is under
protection of GPL. We quickly undercut them by creating competitive GNU
products. In this way the dictatorship of proletariat will work perfectly.
With GNU we will force them to be free, we will free them from evil--
capitalism in the software industry. We will show them freedom of software
is the proof that collective work is better than private egoism. And
collective property rights are more effective than private ownership. GNU is
a symbol of liberation of proletariat in 21st Century.
Date reviewed: Feb 11, 2006 4:07 PM
Nuclear War over Software Patents?
Richard Stallman's Free Software Foundation wants radical rule changes for
open-source code. Others disagree. Can diplomacy save the day?
In 1991, open-source pioneer Richard M. Stallman warned that software
patents -- then something of a novelty -- would create enormous havoc for
industry. His concern? Locking software behind patent walls, away from
developers, would have a chilling effect on a nascent open-source movement,
with its promise of sweeping innovation. He was dismissed as an alarmist.
But 15 years later, most sophisticated observers admit that his prediction
Now, Stallman again is stepping in again, this time with more than just a
warning. As founder of the Free Software Foundation, he's the father of the
popular General Public License (GPL), which governs the use of a wide swath
of free, collaborative software, including the Linux operating system.
Stallman is preparing to update that contract with radical provisions
intended to curb the growth and influence of patent-protected, or
proprietary, software and digital content.
CODE CATALOG. As open-source software becomes more ubiquitous -- and thus
more valuable to the broader consumer-electronics and information technology
industries -- calls are growing for a recognized set of rules to govern the
relationship between open-source and proprietary code. While Stallman
embarks on what could grow into a defensive nuclear arms race, others in the
open-source community are using diplomacy to protect their turf and search
for common ground.
Enter the statesmen. This month, IBM (IBM), a giant in both proprietary and
open-source software, will lead a team of industry players, including Red
Hat (RHAT), Open Source Development Labs (which manages Linux code), and
Sourceforge, to begin brainstorming for ways to improve the quality of
software patents, while protecting against attempts to patent programs
already in wide use, including open-source code. The first order of
business: Develop a catalog of existing code -- so-called prior art -- that
can't be patented because it's already in use (see BW Online, 1/13/06, "A
Code Catalog for Software Patents").
Creating the catalog will be a long and cumbersome process. And it runs
completely counter to Stallman's take-no-prisoners approach. The first draft
of GPL Version 3, unveiled Jan. 16, includes language that would limit
users' ability to sue for patent infringement, protect downstream purchasers
or users of programs that contain GPL-protected code from
patent-infringement liability, and prohibit GPL code from being used to
protect digital content such as music and movies.
PROTECTING HOLLYWOOD. Stallman's aim is nothing short of utopian. He wants
to capitalize on the economy's growing addiction to open-source code as a
means of forcing his social vision -- free software for everyone -- on
information technology and consumer electronics writ large.
"In the world we're living in right now, no one can make small, cheap
consumer electronics without our software," says Eben Moglen, general
counsel of the Free Software Foundation and co-author of GPL3. "Our
pre-market clout, our use as a raw material of manufacturing, is now large
enough to bring an industry coalition into being."
But here's the rub: As drafted, GPL3 could essentially nullify existing
software patent protections and hobble creative content distributors that
want to secure their digital works against theft. The proposed changes could
have a serious effect on the entertainment industry. Big Hollywood studios
rely on open-source code to protect their digital property rights, and a
growing number of consumer devices, including TiVo DVRs, are based on Linux.
If the new license is adopted, almost no consumer device or digital content
would be unaffected.
OPEN COMMUNICATION. With opposing camps in the open-source movement
proceeding down completely different paths, a showdown looms. Linus
Torvalds, father of the Linux operating system, already has objected to the
provisions proposed for GPL3, stating flatly that he'll simply stick to
terms of the old license for the Linux kernel even after the new version is
issued sometime next year.
The widening split has industry leaders alarmed. Stallman's free-software
utopians are far outnumbered by the more pragmatic open sourcers, but his
camp is home to an incredible talent pool that could be lost to the
software-developer community at large if Stallman digs in his heels.
Theoretically, a world that abandons GPL-protected works would no longer
have access to their innovation. That's why IBM -- the nation's most
prolific patenter, but also a huge and growing user of open-source code --
and others are eager for a diplomatic fix that makes everyone happy -- and
thus keeps open-source innovations coming.
FIRE FIGHT. In the end, Stallman's aggressive tack might be his undoing.
"He's the one who ultimately gets to decide what's in GPL, but he can't
force anyone to use the license," says Jonathan Zuck, president of the
Association for Competitive Technology, a Washington (D.C.) trade group
whose members include proprietary software developers. "He can ask that
there be a bonfire in the square and burn all the impure software, but
whether or not people show up for the bonfire is to be determined."
"There will be hot resistance" to GPL3, Moglen admits. But Stallman shows no
signs of budging. And peaceful coexistence doesn't seem compatible with his
Woellert is a correspondent in BusinessWeek's Washington bureau
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