SFLC News: 2009 [RSS]

Dear friends of SFLC,

I know that the annual campaign missives have been arriving in shoals the last few weeks; my list of organizations to support has been growing longer, precisely because so many of us are having to do more with less, and need the help. With your support, the SFLC can continue its long-term mission of providing legal services to the hundreds of thousands of dedicated people who produce wonderful technology just because they want to share.

New York, NY, December 14, 2009//Best Buy, Samsung, Westinghouse, and JVC are among the 14 consumer electronics companies named in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed today in New York by the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC).

New York, NY (12/11/09): Eben Moglen, the founder and executive director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), will assure European Regulators today, that the open source license under which MySQL is distributed can protect the program from any proprietary threats that could emerge from the merger of Oracle and Sun Microsystems.

Moglen, the leading expert on the law of free software, will present his opinion on the stalled merger at the closed-door European Commission (EC) hearing in Belgium. Though Moglen’s testimony will not be made public, he plans to argue that Oracle’s ownership of the MySQL copyright will not threaten the freedom to access, modify, and distribute the program’s source code under the terms of the GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2). “The GPL was designed to prevent the very type of scenario the Commission is currently reviewing,” Moglen said, summarizing his testimony shortly before he was scheduled to appear. “It was designed to level all barriers to competitive entry, including the purchase of copyright by a potentially hostile hand. If the GPL couldn’t ensure the freedom of the MySQL’s code-base now, then it never would have worked in the past.”

Moglen was invited to testify after submitting a letter to the Commission earlier this month that addressed certain concerns about Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL in the Statement of Objections the EC issued on November 9.

To read a draft of the SFLC’s letter to the Commission, please visit the following link on our website: http://www.softwarefreedom.org/news/2009/dec/04/software-freedom-law-center-submits-opinion-oracle/

For further information, contact Lysandra Ohrstrom, SFLC communications director, at (212) 461-1915 or by e-mail at lohrstrom@softwarefreedom.org.

New York, NY (12/03/09): The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) submitted an independent opinion to European Union regulators to consider in the ongoing merger approval investigation of Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

Eben Moglen, the founder and executive director of the SFLC and a leading expert in free software law, sent a letter to the commission on November 19 responding to portions of the Commission’s Statement of Objections, issued on November 9, concerning the GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2) and MySQL.

At Issue

The Commission’s Statement of Objections argues that MySQL currently imposes “a competitive constraint” on Oracle’s pricing and marketing of its flagship Oracle 11 database product. The Committee’s statement views the GPLv2 as an inadequate protection of the rights of non-Oracle parties to freely improve and redistribute MySQL.

Moglen believes the Commission has underestimated the robustness the GPL has consistently demonstrated over the past 18 years.

“The GPL was designed specifically to ensure the permanent freedom of software, and the ability of everyone to improve and share their improvements to the program, no matter who acquires the copyrights to the code,” Moglen said of the argument he presented to the Commission. “The whole point of GPL as a copyright license is to deal with every contingency that could result in hobbling or destroying the freedom of code shared under it. The drafters of GPL versions 2 and 3 considered scenarios very similar to the ones that the Commission is concerned about now. The design of the license, and the experience we have had using it, show that it can be counted upon to operate as intended in situations like this one.”

Historical Perspective

Programs released under the GPL, including Linux, Samba, and the GNU Compiler Collection, have continually proven to be resistant to anti-competitive conduct in the marketplace. “GPL’d programs competing effectively against offerings of the richest and most powerful monopoly in the history of information technology have resisted the efforts of the monopolist to find a chink in its armor,” Moglen writes.

Moglen and the SFLC issued their opinion, pro bono publico and without fee, at the request of Oracle’s counsel; it has been incorporated in Oracle’s response to the Commission’s Statement of Objections. A hearing on the Objections, and Oracle’s response, is scheduled to occur in Brussels on December 10.

Oracle is a donor to the Software Freedom Law Center, which has also received donations from other parties with diverse views on the merger, and on the future of MySQL. For disclosure of all relevant details, please consult the text of the opinion.

The PDF is available here.

For further inquiries, please contact Lysandra Ohrstrom, SFLC Communications Director, at (212) 461-1915 or by e-mail at lohrstrom@softwarefreedom.org.

UPDATE: Moglen sent a letter to the European Commission on Dec 4, asking to be heard as an independent party at next week’s hearing. A copy of the request is available here.

On November 9, The Supreme Court of the United States will hear opening arguments in the most high stakes patent law case on its docket in more than two decades, Bilski v. Kappos.

The case centers around the US Patent Office’s rejection of Bernard Bilski’s application on a computer-assisted method of hedging risk in the commodities trade, but the court’s decision will have much wider implications.

At issue in Bilski is a patent system that has come to stifle rather than spur innovation over the past 20 years by awarding patents to “business methods” that are central to the operations of pharmaceutical companies, financial services firms, and insurance providers, among others. Activities that have become part of peoples’ daily lives, from online shopping to searching Wikipedia, will also be affected by Bilski.

As a non-profit legal services firm for Free and Open Source Software programmers, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) is one of the many organizations with an interest in the outcome of Bilski. Google, Bank of America, J.C. Penney, and Bloomberg LLC are some of the other third-parties that submitted briefs to the court.

The SFLC has published a new Bilski resource page to guide anyone interested in the history and significance of the case. It includes short summaries of some of the briefs submitted to the court, background documents, previously published SFLC commentary about the case, and links to other web resources.

On November 9, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in Bilski v. Kappos, a case that could fundamentally alter the application and scope of U.S. patent law and be felt across the economy, from banking and e-commerce to software and pharmaceuticals.

Today SFLC filed a letter with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York objecting to the Google Book Search Copyright Class Action Settlement. In the letter, filed on behalf of the FSF and author Karl Fogel, SFLC asks the court to consider the impact of the settlement upon members of the class who have distributed their works under Free licenses.

The Software Freedom Law Center is looking for a motivated individual to join our staff in a new and challenging public relations position, “Project Liaison and Media Relations”. Details and instructions for applying are available on the opportunities page.

The Software Freedom Law Center is looking for a motivated individual to join our staff in a new and challenging public relations position, “Project Liaison and Media Relations”. Details and instructions for applying are available on the opportunities page.

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