On January 31, the Open Source Initiative announced
expansion of its efforts and the appointment of Russ Nelson as its
president. Mr. Nelson was kind enough to answer a few questions from LWN
on the OSI and where he thinks it is headed. The questions, and his
answers, can be found below. We thank Russ for taking the time to fill us
LWN: So you're the new president of OSI. Why did you take on that role, and
where do you anticipate taking the OSI in the near future?
To Infinity ... and Beyond!
No, wait, that's Bruce Perens' line [Bruce worked for Pixar and is in
the Toy Story credits].
Never before in history have we had a time when one person of ordinary
intelligence can write a program which becomes used by half the
worldwide computer-using population. This creates so many problems
between countries that I really feel they have to be addressed with a
I think that the end goal is an international treaty concerning Open
Source. Just to take one tiny portion of that issue: today somebody
asked us for an "official Spanish version de license MIT". We can't
do that. I mean, we could translate it (or more properly find a
volunteer to translate it and publish it on opensource.org), but the
problem is that almost certainly the author of the MIT-licensed
software didn't give us permission to license his software under the
Spanish-language MIT license.
In many ways, the OSI appears to have fallen from view. Until this news
hit, the most recent item listed on the front page was dated October,
2001. The OSI gets called upon to put its stamp on a license
occasionally; what else does the OSI do now? Is it relevant to the free
software development process, and how?
When were we ever relevant to the free software development process?
We've always been an education/advocacy group. If you're already
convinced that open source is a good thing, what more would we say to
you? Really, the only time somebody inside the open source community
needs to be concerned with us is when they talk to someone outside the
community. If that person needs to be whupped around a little, send
'em to us and we'll give 'em what for.
We continue to do what we've always done: talk to people about open
source. Calm their fears, and renew their hopes.
The press release states that OSI will set out on "the establishment of
principles of Open Source development and best practices" and "the
creation of a registry of software projects that adhere to those
principles." What need is driving the creation of these principles and
the associated registry?
I believe that there is such a thing as an "Open Source effect". That
effect requires more than just a license that complies with the Open
Source Definition (OSD). We need to be more clear about that, because
we sometimes have people who come along and want to create a license
which complies with the letter of the OSD but not the spirit. The
trouble is that the benefits come with the spirit. We need to do a
better job of codifying the spirit.
When you talk about "inclusion of international perspectives and
initiatives related to Open Source," what do you mean?
Working towards the end goal (as above) and adding board members from
outside the US. We're starting to get some non-US, non-Europe (if you
look at the map of locations of Debian developers, there are a LOT of
them in Europe) countries that are signing on to open source in a BIG
way. Take Brazil for example. We need better representation in those
Why does the OSI need *two* legal counselors? What do they do?
Why does a computer need *two* power supplies? We felt that the job
had grown to the point that one sole-proprietor lawyer (Larry Rosen)
couldn't do the job anymore, and Larry's open source practice had
expanded. It's possible that one law-firm lawyer could have brought
in enough resources, but we wanted to share the work. In essence,
Mark is inward-facing and Laura is outward-facing. She has been on
the license-discuss mailing list for years now. She has also started
to help with legally-oriented correspondence. Mark will help us with,
among other things, registering the OSI-Certified mark, and with
overhauling our bylaws.
How will the new OSI board members be selected? In general, how is the
OSI kept accountable to the community it hopes to represent?
We are still a small, self-selecting board. We expect to change that
in some way, but the details are still in the air. Having a larger
board will take us in that direction no matter what.
How do you expect OSI to work with other free software-oriented groups,
such as OSDL and the FSF? Will there be more cooperation in the future?
CAGE MATCH!! BLOOD, GORE, AND DEATH! Er, um, sorry. We had a dinner
last summer with OSDL to talk about license proliferation issues. We
are on cordial relations with the FSF, AND EXPECT TO TAKE THEM OVER
SHORTLY! Sorry, I must apologize for all these capital letters. I
don't know where they're coming from. I'll be in Boston in a couple
of weeks for Linux World. I expect that I'll run into Bradley Kuhn
and HE'LL DIE we'll talk about further ways in which the OSI and FSF
could cooperate. I know of no reason why any animosities between us
cannot be overcome AND CRUSHED LIKE A BUG.
Is there anything else which you would like to communicate to LWN
Is this the point at which I add various mealy-mouthed corporate
I think it's great to be President of the OSI at this point in time.
We've had a strong president in Eric Raymond who took us from nothing
to a highly respected member of the open source community. As
corporations and governments come to be part of the community, we have
to double and redouble our educational and advocacy efforts. We need
to make sure that corporations know how to work with individual
developers, and that governments know how to set the rules so
everybody can work together. And we have to squash software patents,
but that's a different interview.
Comments (34 posted)
With the KDE 3.4 and GNOME 2.10 releases on the horizon, we decided to take
a look at both projects to see where both desktop teams were focusing their
efforts. To get a feel for the priorities of each team, this reporter "test
drove" the KDE 3.4 beta 1 using the SUSE 9.2 packages and GNOME
2.9.4 with Ubuntu's Live CD. We also spoke to KDE core developer Zack Rusin
about the 3.4 release and GNOME release team member Luis Villa about
GNOME's 2.10 release.
Both KDE 3.4 and GNOME 2.10 are incremental releases. That is to say,
neither desktop is undergoing dramatic changes in the upcoming release and
casual users may not notice many changes. Instead, there are a number of
small improvements and enhancements to the current desktop that users will
find in each release.
Both projects are concentrating on backward compatibility. KDE's Rusin said that
the 3.x series is basically in "maintenance" mode, with the KDE team trying
to add features that users want, without major changes that would
compromise compatibility with older releases. He noted that one of the goals
for the 3.4 release is to maintain binary compatibility with the earlier
3.x releases. GNOME's Villa said that the GTK core toolkit has a strict ABI/API
compatibility policy. "If you build against GTK 2.0, you should be
able to run against GTK 2.6 with no problems." He also said that
other core GNOME libraries provide the same guarantee, "that's why we
have Firefox and Eclipse building against us."
According to Villa, the 2.10 release will see more bugfixes than
usual. He said that, depending on how you track bugs, the 2.10 release
already includes between 1,000 and 5,000 closed bugs -- and that's before
the final feature freezes and bug fixing before the final release. Villa did
note that the GNOME team always places a high priority on quality control,
but that this release seemed to have a higher than normal number of
Another focus for the GNOME team in 2.10 is implementation of
freedesktop.org standards agreed upon by the GNOME and KDE teams. Villa
noted that the GNOME team had revamped the menu structure to comply with
the freedesktop.org menu
The GNOME release adds a new "Places" menu to the panel that allows the
user to quickly navigate between their home folder, the desktop, CD-ROM and
network locations. Villa said that the GNOME team has also addressed some
of the complaints about the file chooser from the last version of GNOME,
and that the typeahead feature has returned.
Both desktops are increasingly friendly for users with disabilities. Villa
said that the 2.10 release did not focus on improvements to accessibility
because GNOME is "already far and away the leaders in
The KDE team, on the other hand, has made accessibility a major priority in
3.4. One major new feature that users will find in 3.4 is the text to
speech system in 3.4, which would be available in many applications. Rusin
said there is also a new "mono" theme for 3.4 that would be better for
users who had difficulty with the high-color styles used in KDE. Rusin
noted that working on accessibility was difficult because it is "such
a hugely complicated area," and that the KDE team will continue to
add functionality in future releases.
Multimedia has also gotten a boost in GNOME 2.10. According to Villa, the
Gstreamer integration is greatly improved in GNOME 2.10. This is the first
release where Totem has been integrated into the GNOME release process, and
Villa also said it was the first release where the Totem team had worked
more closely with the Gstreamer team. Totem had previously worked with
Xine, but Villa said that Xine had "legal encumbrances" that
made it more difficult for vendors to distribute. There is also a new and
improved mixer applet in GNOME 2.10 that hides some of the complexity from
the user, at least at first. Villa said users would still be able to get to
all of the functionality of their sound card with the mixer, but wouldn't
be presented with it at first glance.
Both KDE and GNOME teams have been beefing up their groupware
offerings. Rusin told LWN that KDE PIM
had been "hugely improved" for 3.4. Kontact has expanded its
support of GroupWare servers with support for Novell GroupWise and
OpenGroupware.org, and partial support for Microsoft Exchange Server
2000. Kontact also supports OpenExchange Server, eGroupWare and Kolab.
Evolution's latest release includes eplugin, a plugin architecture to allow
developers to extend Evolution with new features. Some of the plugins
available now include an inline audio player for Evolution, an Exchange
account setup plugin and an "automatic contacts" plugin that creates
address book entries when a user replies to e-mails. Evolution already
includes the Exchange plugin, and Villa said that Evolution was also
getting a lot of work to be compatible with Novell GroupWise.
KDE 3.4 marks the first inclusion of aKregator, a feed aggregator for
KDE. This writer found aKregator very easy to use, and its integration with
Konqueror and Kontact makes it a great choice for KDE users. The KDE team
has also beefed up KPDF to include support for the text-to-speech features.
From talking to developers on both teams, it's clear that both
desktops are trying to move towards better "enterprise" capability, and
making it easier for others to develop applications for the respective
desktops. From using both, it's clear to this writer that GNOME and
KDE view users differently. GNOME continues to move towards a simple
end-user interface, while KDE is more about adding features that users want
-- even if it increases complexity.
Users who want to try out GNOME 2.10, without the hassle of compiling GNOME
or installing it, should look to the Ubuntu Live CD
for the upcoming Hoary Hedgehog release. Rusin said he wasn't aware of any
Live CDs with KDE 3.4 beta just yet, but something might pop up on the
Comments (12 posted)
|February 2, 2005|
|By Pamela Jones, Editor of Groklaw|
is the Little Engine That Could. So far, against
overwhelming odds, it has successfully dodged every legal bullet a massive
horde of entertainment companies - some 28 of them, representing the
interests of the music recording and movie industry - have thrown at
it. Now, there is one more hill, and it's the steepest of them all, a
hearing before the US Supreme Court in March.
There is a lot more at stake than just the fate of a couple of peer-to-peer file
sharing services. What's at stake, to quote from one of the many
amici briefs filed in this high-profile case (this
one by the Computer & Communications Industry Association and
NetCoalition) is nothing less than this: it's a push to overturn the
court's ruling in
Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, 464 U.S. 417
(1984) (the "Betamax case") and replace it "with new standards that
would as a practical matter
give the entertainment industry a veto power over the development of
innovative products and services."
[Editor's note: due to the length of this article, we have not put the
whole thing inline in the Weekly Edition. The
full text of PJ's Grokster article may be found on its own page.]
Comments (2 posted)
On 24 September 2003, after 19 months of consideration, the European
Parliament voted on the software patent directive, and made substantial
amendments to exclude patents on pure software and business
methods. However, regular rows between the European Council and Parliament;
the Council ignoring many of the Parliaments amendments; and the Committee
for Legal Affairs of the European Parliament's (JURI) subterfuge tactics to
try and push it through, mean that pure software patents in Europe are
still a scary possibility
Restart the process?
Under the co-decision rules for European lawmaking, the European
Parliament, Commission and the Council all have to agree to the text of the
directive before it can come into force. However at this stage in the
legislative process (it is now at its second reading), if the European
Council continues to ignore the Parliament's amendments, it will be
extremely difficult for the European Parliament to keep them.
An absolute majority (two thirds of all MEPs, or at least 367 votes) is
required in a second reading for each Council amendment the Parliament
wishes to reject. Every MEP absent in the plenary chamber that day and
every abstention vote would count in favor of the Council proposal. In
2004, the University of Duisburg-Essen released a study which showed that
on average only 56.2% of Italian MEPs took part in the 4,437 roll call
votes held in European Parliament between 1999 and 2003. The most diligent
MEPs are from Luxembourg with a presence of 85.2%. We would, in other
words, have to encourage an abnormally high turnout of MEPs for an issue
that struggles to capture their imaginations.
This is even more worrying when you consider that a majority of the MEPs
currently in parliament were elected in 2004 and did not even participate
in the first reading of the directive. Ten new countries, with no previous
say in the directive, also joined the EU in 2004. If the council position
is officially announced, the Parliament will be forced to vote on the
second reading within three to four months. This would give a relatively
new Parliament little opportunity for discussion and consultation, and
could lead to software patent loopholes if critical amendments were left
On the 2nd of February, JURI is set to decide whether or not to restart the
procedure. This decision has only been possible because of a motion, signed by 61
members of the European Parliament, calling for a new first reading of the
software patent directive. Poland has also helped significantly by
repeatedly postponing the adoption of the Council's software patent
agreement, but can only do this for so long before other states pressure
them on issues more important to the Polish economy.
A complete restart is one of the best (and only) feasible solutions
left. As there are no absolute majority requirements in first readings, it
would be easier for European Parliament to pass amendments. The Council
would have to have a new first reading, canceling their current
pro-software patent position and putting pressure on them to avoid adopting
a similar stance so contrary to the will of Parliament. A restart would
also enable new member states to have their say from the beginning, making
it a more democratic directive.
What can you do?
The only reason we don't have software patents in Europe is because of
the efforts of activists protesting and lobbying against them. In Europe,
according to the European Patent Office, already 7% of applicants hold more
than 50% of patents. If we don't want to go down a path whereby a start-up
or open source company with no patents will be forced to pay whatever price
larger corporations choose to impose, we must get out there and fight to
stop it happening. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Help spread the word about software patents by joining the Web
Demo. Register your site at http://demo.ffii.org/.
- Contact a member of JURI with your concerns about software patents and
your support for a restart of the software patent directive. The JURI
committee has members from many different European member states, and
these MEPs are best contacted by people from their own countries, since
they will be much more likely to respond and raise your concerns within
JURI. Find your MEPs here.
- Contact your local MEPs to lobby members of JURI on your behalf. If you
don't have time to seriously lobby a member of JURI, get your local MEP
to do it for you. MEPs are supposed to represent their constituents, so
let them help you get your message across. Find out who they are here.
- Visit European Parliament in Brussels to lobby MEPs (especially the JURI
committee) about software patents. Ask for more information on this mailing
- If you are too busy to do any of the above, you might consider donating
to organizations like the FFII and the
Electronic Frontier Foundation, who are
trying to ensure that software patent legislation is compatible with
small and medium enterprises as well as free or open source
software. Large software companies employ people to do nothing but
patent lobbying, so we need to support those people who are opposing
them as much as possible.
(Edward Griffith-Jones contributed to the writing of this article).
Comments (13 posted)
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