Tag Archives: FSFE

FLOSS in the Cloud: EOLE, Brussels, Dec 6

Happy Saint Nicholas day everybody! What better purpose could the day be used for to than to travel to Brussels through a storm, and attend the 2013 incarnation of EOLE, the “European Open Source & Free Software Law Event”, held today in Brussels. Philippe Laurent opened the conference with the still blurry question of what cloud is, quoting the FSF: “[cloud] … is a marketing buzzword with no clear meaning…” that is best to avoid. The whole world did not listen and now uses the term widely. The post reflects both what was discussed, and what I learned from the event.

It seems that while the cloud is still opaque, a common understanding is emerging on what cloud computing means. It represents a convergence of all the individual bits of running a service – software, platform, infrastructure, storage, hosting, billing, scaling and more – into a single, standardised, comparable offer. Essentially, it is the message to the engineers that nobody cares about the details, the individual twiddly bits, and clients want one unified package of hosting something that is actually used by a user. Economically, it is another critical step towards massive standardisation of IT operations, making procurement easier because all relevant bits are integrated, and improving competition by making the offers of various providers comparable. We should expect average service prices per user to fall, pretty dramatically, and especially fixed cost overhead in companies that formerly self-hosted to go down as well. In a couple of years, owning your own metal might sound like getting milk delivered to your door in cans.

It helped that Christian Verstraete from HP opened with a detailed overview of OpenStack. It showed the audience that there is a strong convergence of the market towards one free software solution, with backing from 95% of the relevant industry players. A standard test similar to the JavaScript Acid test can be expected to emerge for compatibility between offerings by different cloud providers. With that, migrating from one provider to another should pose no technical issues, only contractual ones. Based on the ForgeRock experience, Lasse Andresen underlined that by stressing that solutions have to be completely free software, not open-core. And the fact that if there is a well-adopted Open Source solution, it cannot easily be killed. In this, the freedoms provided by the licenses do prove useful – companies may fail, but the technology remains.

So far, that was all good, but not very law-related. Things became interesting from a legal point of view when Patrice-Emmanuel Schmitz opened the panel, with his background as one of the authors of the European Union Public Licence. However, he summarised the issues of current licenses and the debate of what distribution or conveying software means for web services, and it seems like that is still mostly murky. The concentration of services into cloud offerings has led to the rise of new licenses (a trend nobody was hoping for, considering the mess of tons of mostly identical not-invented-here licenses that were used a couple of years back). The underlying problem, though, is fundamental: Open Source licensing is based on copyright, which governs reproduction, distribution, adaption and performance of a copyrighted creation. None of these happen under auspices of the user of the site, and therefore there is no copyright relationship regarding the software between the site provider and the consumer. There is a remainder of code being distributed to the user, like JavaScript libraries. It is hard to construe a derivative work relationship between that code and the rest of the application that runs server-side, especially because these JavaScript libraries are often treated more like data than code and not even linked server-side at all. It is more similar to an client-side running interpreter than to a program part. If the web application is not a derivative work of the distributed libraries, the chain is broken, and a provider can claim not to be at fault with Open Sources licenses and not offer the source code for their modifications of the server application. The Affero GPL solves this problem partially by requiring the provider to offer the source code to the user when it is run on the server. This again ties the licensing to an element of the copyright rights bundle, performing. But it leaves a trace of a bad taste, because now there is a problem of proof – the user usually does not know what software was involved in rendering a response. Also, not all server software is licensed under the AGPL or similar licenses.

Contributing to Open Source is not something people do just because the license says so, but because they are somehow driven to collaborate. Web applications can still benefit from the Open Source way. What is different is that for libraries and applications, what the licenses are modelled for, users and developers are effectively treated the same and the distinction only exists in what they do. For web applications, users do not necessarily acquire a right to use, study, modify and improve the source code even if the developers published their product under a copyleft license. This is the norm that made it fun and enjoyable to contribute to Open Source projects. New norms and governance setups should be designed to maintain that situation and thus keep the motivation of contributors (individuals as well as institutions) intact. Compliance should be the norm by now, and I hope that the distrust sometimes underlying the relation – “Are they really showing all the software that is running?” will be a thing of the past.

Many thanks to the organisers!


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“Open Source in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft” an der Sommeruni 2013 des evangelischen Studienwerks

Jedes Jahr wieder findet die Sommeruni des evangelischen Studienwerks statt. In diesem Jahr mit dabei war das Seminar “Open Source in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft” von Mirko Boehm. Paul Adams unterstützte als Ko-Referent. Karsten Gerloff, Präsident der FSFE, trat als Gastredner auf. Da sich die Teilnehmer ihre Seminare nach eigenem Interesse selbst aussuchen, fand sich ein bunte Mischung von Medizinern über Naturwissenschaftlern bis zu Theologen zusammen. Die Verbindung aus Neugier, Heterogenität der Gruppe und inspirierender Umgebung sorgte für explosive Debatten, hitzige Diskussionsrunden und eine wie Flug vergangene Woche.

Schwerpunkte des Seminars waren die Fragen, wie Open-Source-Communities eigentlich funktionieren, was Einzelne zur Mitwirkung motiviert, wie sich freie Produkte in die Wirtschaftsordnung integrieren und welche politischen Herausforderungen und Veränderungen zu bewältigen sind. Während schnell Einverständnis herrschte darüber, das der Open Source Way ein gesellschaftliches und kein technisches Problem ist, wurde zu anderen sonst in der Netzgemeinde als selbstverständlich vermutete Ansichten wie “das Internet gehört den Benutzern” gut argumentiert hinterfragt. Wer trägt die Verantwortung für durch unvorsichtige Bewertungen beschädigte Reputation, muss alle Teilhabe in Zukunft im Netz stattfinden, braucht es eine Internetpolizei, das Strafrecht der realen Welt erweiternde Sanktionen, die Regulierung des Netzes? Durch die diversen Blickwinkel war manchmal nicht klar, wer mehr von wem lernte, die Seminarleitung oder die Teilnehmer.

Karsten Gerloff berichtete über die politische Bedeutung von Freier Software und offener Innovation, die Bedrohung durch Softwarepatente und die Kampagnenarbeit der FSFE.

CAM00409

Paul, Karsten und Mirko bei der Sommeruni

Die Beschäftigung mit der Materie war dabei von deutlicher Ernsthaftigkeit geprägt. Zum Beispiel brauchten die Teilnehmer etwa fünf Minuten, um den systematischen Unterschied bei der Integration von Copyleft- oder Permissive-lizensierten Beiträgen zu verstehen – ein Prozess, der bei nicht wenigen Freie-Software-Communities entweder gar nicht oder erst recht spät verstanden wird. Paul Adams war sichtlich beeindruckt. Dieses tiefe Eintauchen ins Thema steht beispielhaft für das allgemein starke Engagement der Stipendiaten, die ihr Studienwerk in weiten Bereichen selbst verwalten – bis hin zur Zusammenstellung des Programms der Sommeruniversität selbst.

Bei der traditionell turbulenten Abschlussveranstaltung am Donnerstagabend wurden die Vier Freiheiten anhand der kollaborativen Beschwörung des Geists von Villigst illustriert – wenn das nicht eine erfolgreiche Wissensvermittlung verdeutlicht… Unser einstimmiges Fazit – definitiv eine Woche lohnend investierter Zeit, die Paul Adams und ich in guter Erinnerung behalten werden. Neben den Teilnehmern war auch das Organisationsteam (ebenfalls sich freiwillig engagierende Stipendiaten) ausgesprochen engagiert und sorgte für einen reibungslosen, angenehmen Ablauf von insgesamt sechs parallel verlaufenden Seminaren. Sehr beeindruckend.

KDE rejects Fairsearch initiative claims: Free Software is competitive

The Fairsearch initiative is a Microsoft-led consortium that aims at activating European policy makers to indirectly achieve a competitive advantage against Google’s dominance as a search engine. Its recent complaint to the European Commission raised serious concerns in the Free Software ecosystem by calling the distribution of Android at below-cost anti-competitive behaviour and predatory pricing. While the methods with which companies compete for the market share of their search offerings are not relevant to software freedom, every Free Software platform is distributed below cost. Creating Free Software is not free, and a price of zero will never cover cost. The issue was quickly picked up by FSFE and other parties, and now the KDE community approached the European Commission about the issue. The response is available here, and also in PDF format. The KDE response was announced on the Dot.

Some reviewers have taken issue with the aspect that by opposing the Fairsearch claim of anti-competitive behaviour, we are endorsing Google’s strategies to promote the use of their services, including search and others. It is important to understand that there are two separate components to Fairsearch’s claims – one where Fairsearch complains about Google’s behaviour, and one where it lobbies against the distribution of a Free Software platform. As a community, only the latter is of relevance to us. We are neither endorsing nor condemning other actions of the parties involved in the debate. We do care about Software Freedom, and that is where Fairsearch crossed the line.

Qt Project and Defensive Publications

Open Source communities are amazingly innovative. Linux Defenders encourages them to document their ideas in the form of defensive publications, so that this body of knowledge becomes relevant prior art for later patent applications and patent invalidations. The Qt community is especially relevant for defensive publications for two reasons – it is highly innovative, and Qt’s functionality covers pretty much all topics that are relevant in software engineering today. At the Qt Contributor Summit that is currently on its way in Bilbao, Spain, Armijn Hemel and me started a process to make defensive publications a routine part of the Qt release process.Akademy 2013 and Qt Contributor Summit poster

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Fan-taz-tic: Document Freedom Germany Award goes to TAZ

taz café

taz café at Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse

Today is the international Document Freedom Day. There are always local actors that serve as good examples for respecting document freedom and enabling users to participate in the digital society. The international documentfreedom.org communities award such exemplary local actors with the Document Freedom Award. The Document Freedom Germany Award this year goes to *drumroll* the TAZ newspaper.

Ralf Klever, head of IT for TAZ, explained how it’s political mission since the turbulent founding of the newspaper was to allow everybody to form their political opinion relatively independently of their financial means. It is a priority for TAZ to be available in various electronic and printed channels. In essence, this means giving readers the freedom of choice, and that is exactly what the Document Freedom Award is about. TAZ is available in various DRM-free electronic formats, even plain text.

In Document Freedom Germany Award was presented by FSFE and FFII. FSFE works to enforce software and data freedom for users and consumers. FFII is dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition and open standards. As Erik Albers said for FSFE: “We are awarding the TAZ with the Document Freedom Award for their longstanding commitment to Open Standards and continuos efforts in offering their newspaper without restrictions”.

There are a press release and a few other mentions of the award, but… In the collaborative fashion the award called for, FSFE brought the cake and TAZ the coffee. Here you will find a few more original impressions from the scene, like coffee decorated with edible document freedom stickers and the whole TAZ, FSFE and FFII crew hard at work devouring the cake. It was good. And I realised I need a better camera.

Document Freedom Cake

The cake for the 2013 Document Freedom Germany Award


Cake no more

Cake no more


taz café coffee

taz café coffee


document freedom edibles

document freedom edibles


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