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And introduction to FOSS software and licensing


  • 1. Free and Open Source Software An Introduction Rowan Wilson [email protected]
  • 2. What we will be talking about: What is 'free'? What is 'open'? How does FOSS licensing work? Three common FOSS licences
  • 3. What is Free and Open Source Software? Software that the user has the right to adapt and distribute Access to the source code Often available at minimal or no cost Often maintained and developed by a community Basis of later open licences like Creative Commons and Open Database License
  • 4. Some History Until the late 1970s most software thought to have little intrinsic value Exchange of software and its source code normal (with licences that allowed adaptation and redistribution) Arrival of personal computers in the mid 1970s changed the perception of software's value Software became productized, source code kept private Many developers, particularly within academic communities, felt that this was detrimental to software quality
  • 5. The amount of royalties we have received from sales to hobbyists makes the time spent [on] Altair BASIC worth less than $2 an hour. Why is this? As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of you steal your software. Hardware must be paid for, but software is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid? Bill Gates Computer Notes 1976
  • 6. I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others. I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this way So that I can continue to use computers without dishonor, I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I will be able to get along without any software that is not free. Richard Stallman, GNU Manifesto, 1985
  • 7. Some More History In 1985, as a reaction to the growing trend towards closed source software, MIT Artificial Intelligence researcher Richard Stallman wrote a new software licence His licence (the GNU General Public Licence or GPL) permitted free redistribution and adaptation by anyone but mandated that derivative works must carry the same licence (copyleft)
  • 8. Some More History Stallman also founds the Free Software Foundation (FSF) in 1985, committed to maintaining software 'Freedom' as both a pragmatic and political aim Unfortunately, in English, this use of 'Free' is widely thought to refer to price, not liberty (free beer vs free speech) Echoing President Franklin D. Roosevelts 1941 Four Freedoms speech, Stallman created four software-related freedoms that his organisation sought to protect. Being a computer programmer, Stallman started his numbering from 0
  • 9. The FSF's Four Freedoms The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0). The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2). The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • 10. Yet More History In 1991, a Finnish computer science student called Linus Torvalds starts working on Linux, a Unix-like operating system that will run on IBM-PCs and is licensed under the GPL v2 Over the next five years, Torvalds builds a fully functioning Unix operating system with help from other remote programmers leveraging the power of the internet and the freedom to adapt and redistribute provided by FOSS licensing In 1997 programmer Eric Raymond publishes an essay called 'The Cathedral and The Bazaar'
  • 11. Linux is subversive. Who would have thought even five years ago (1991) that a world-class operating system could coalesce as if by magic out of part-time hacking by several thousand developers scattered all over the planet, connected only by the tenuous strands of the Internet? Eric Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, 1996-7
  • 12. Yet More History In early 1998, partly as a result of the success of Raymond's essay, Netscape decides to release the source code of its struggling web browser to the world Some within the Free Software community decide that Raymond's apolitical, business-friendly explanation of the virtues of the Free Software ought to have an advocacy group In February 1998 the Open Source Initiative is founded, with Raymond as its first president. The term 'Open Source' begins to be widely used.
  • 13. Open Source Initiative The OSI adapts the Debian Free Software Guidelines to define what it means by Open Source The resulting Open Source Definition gives ten criteria for an open source licence
  • 14. Open Source Definition Freely Redistributable Source Code Included Derived Works Permitted Integrity of Authors Source Code (diffs and patches) No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavour Distribution of Licence (no additional licences required) Licence Must Not Be Specific to a Product (or distribution) Licence Must Not Restrict Other Software Licence Must Be Technology-Neutral (no 'click wrap')
  • 15. Open Source Initiative Over seventy licences are accredited by the OSI as meeting these criteria The most commonly used are the BSD (permissive) and the GPL (copyleft) For practical purposes OSS Watch defines its remit with reference to the OSI approved licence list
  • 16. Words and Tensions Many Free Software supporters, including Richard Stallman, see the OSI as a deliberate attempt to appropriate their movement while stripping it of its political aims. The language itself has become politicised Whether one says Free or Open has become an indicator of which side one supports The unwieldy phrase Free and Open Source Software is used by those who do not wish to take sides Stallman also campaigns against use of phrases like intellectual property and secure
  • 17. FOSS and Mobile One area where FOSS has made huge inroads in recent years is in mobile phones and other mobile devices Android (based on Linux), Googles smartphone operating system, is seeing very rapid adoption by Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Sony Ericsson, Dell and many others WebKit browser used in all iOS and Android devices, newer Blackberry devices as well as Safari, Opera and Chrome on the desktop Google 'forked' WebKit in early 2013 to create a new project called 'Blink'
  • 18. FOSS and Mobile Increasingly mobile devices compete on UX rather than core functionality Linux provides a way for new entrants to a market to concentrate resources on UX ('differentiating technology') Oracle sued Google, Microsoft sued HTC successfully, Apple suing HTC and Samsung
  • 19. Any questions so far?
  • 20. How FOSS Licensing Works... What is an FOSS Licence? A licence to exercise rights normally reserved to the owner by copyright law Consistent with Open Source Definition (or Four Freedoms) Either explicitly perpetual or practically so A licence which offers a grant of rights to anyone
  • 21. How FOSS Licensing Works... How does copyright law protect FOSS software? No explicit communicated acceptance necessary Copyright law effectively prevents copying, adaptation and distribution of copyright material without a licence FOSS licences provide an avenue to licensed use if the user abides by the conditions Without the licence, it is likely no permission exists, and the author can take action for copyright infringement Generally considered to work, but little case law
  • 22. How FOSS Licensing Works... FOSS Case Law Since 2004 District Courts in Germany have repeatedly confirmed the enforceability of the requirements of the GNU General Public License v2 In 2005 a US District Court rejected a suit against the Free Software Foundation alleging anti-competitive behaviour: "[The GPL] acts as a means by which certain software may be copied, modified and redistributed without violating the softwares copyright protection As such, the GPL encourages, rather than discourages, free competition and the distribution of computer operating systems, the benefits of which directly pass to consumers. These benefits include lower prices, better access and more innovation." Verizon, BT, D-Link, Gigabyte and many other large technology players have met requirements under GPL once legal action was threatened
  • 23. How FOSS Licensing Works... FOSS Case Law Jacobsen vs Katzer (US, California, 2009-10) - Conditions in the licence serve to limit the scope of the grant. Amicus briefs submitted by Wikipedia, Creative Commons, The Linux Foundation, The PERL Foundation, The Open Source Inititiative, Software Freedom Law Center. Compliance is usually all that plantiff demands Social and community pressures play a large role (SCO, Blackboard) Large companies like IBM, Novell and Oracle have a stake in the enforceability of FOSS licences
  • 24. How FOSS Licensing Works... FOSS-adjacent Case Law Oracle v Google (US, California, 2011-13) Oracle alleged that the Java-compatible runtime Dalvik used in Googles mobile Android operating system infringed their copyright by reproducing Java API definitions Oracle lost heavily, but got a reversal on appeal to the Federal Court. The case is now back in District Court to consider Googles fair use defence.
  • 25. How FOSS Licensing Works... FOSS-adjacent Case Law SAS v. WPL (UK then ECJ 2011-12) WPL created a runtime environment for a language SAS created. SAS argued that this infringed on their copyright in the language itself. UK and ECJ found that computer languages, like natural languages, are not copyrighted expressions in themselves but structures for the building of copyrighted expressions The same judgement found that the structures of data files could be protected by copyright
  • 26. How FOSS Licensing Works... How do FOSS Licences deal with patents? Some licences (Apache 2, Nokia, Microsoft Reciprocal Licence and many others) explicitly grant rights to licensor's patents that are necessarily infringed by use or distribution Even those that do not will grant implied licences (in some jurisdictions) by permitting acts that would require a patent licence Some licences terminate their patent grants if the licensee initiates patent infringement litigation against the licensor
  • 27. How FOSS Licensing Works... FOSS-adjacent Case Law Versata, Ameriprise, Ximpleware (US 2014-) Case covers a selection of FOSS issues: What is distribution? Are FOSS licences conditioned licences or licences via covenant? Does a FOSS licence include an implied patent grant? Still going on Passed back to state court, so no Federal precedent Interesting in that it represents an example of the Doomsday Scenario that opponents of FOSS have been warning of for years
  • 28. Any questions on that stuff?
  • 29. Three Common FOSS Licences GNU General Public License v2 Modified BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) License Mozilla Public License v2
  • 30. Three Common FOSS Licences GNU General Public License v2 Significant Features All modified versions of GPL-licensed software must also be distributed under the GPL (if they are distributed at all) (section 2) All modified versions must advertise prominently what has been modified, who modified it, and when it was modified. Source code must be provided with all GPL-licensed software, either directly or via a request to the distributor (section 3)
  • 31. Three Common FOSS Licences GNU General Public License v2 Significant Features All licensees of the software gain their licence directly from the original licensor (section 6). No redistributing licensee may impose further restrictions on recipients (section 6) Additional restrictions placed on a licensee by a court mean that the licensee cannot distribute the software at all (section 7)
  • 32. Three Common FOSS Licences GNU General Public License v2 Notes Section 2 embodies the 'copyleft' or 'viral' aspect of the GPL. Where GPLed code is used to produce a 'derivative work' (US term) the resulting work must also be licensed under the GPL if it is distributed The intention of this section is to prevent code that has been released to the community under an open source licence being 'closed' again by licensee who wishes to redistribute a work based on GPL'd code without also providing the source code to those who receive it. This usually happens when someone wants to make a closed-source commercial product using GPL'd code.
  • 33. Three Common FOSS Licences Modified BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) License Significant Features Short Unmodified versions of the software must retain the copyright statement, the licence conditions and the disclaimer of warranties. Prior permission must be obtained from the licensor before their name can be attached to any modified version.
  • 34. Three Common FOSS Licences Modified BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) License Notes The BSD licence does not prevent the code it licenses being absorbed into a closed source derivative. It is most appropriate for software which the author wishes to be as widely used as possible, regardless of whether it remains open source for example code that implements a standard. The Modified BSD License is compatible with the GPL code licensed under it can be combined with GPL'd code and the whole released under the GPL with no problems.
  • 35. Three Common FOSS Licences Mozilla Public License v2 Significant Features Additions to files under the MPLv2 must themselves be licensed by the author as MPL v2 Entirely new files added to MPL v2 projects can be under the whatever licence the file author chooses Code under the MPL v2 can be incorporated into GPL and variant-licensed projects
  • 36. The End... Questions?
  • 37. Links OSS Watch Free Software Foundation - Open Source Initiative SFLCs Legal Issues Primer for Open Source and Free Software Projects The International Free and Open Source Software Law Review