Two of the Democratic candidates for president have announced open source
efforts to help their campaigns. Howard Dean's campaign has launched DeanSpace
, a software package for
running websites for Dean supporters. Wesley Clark's campaign recently announced
the creation of Clark's TechCorps
, which is supposed to
provide "a framework for involving open source software developers in the
Since both campaigns are boasting their use of open source, we decided we
should get in touch with the Clark and Dean campaigns to see where they
stand on open source and related issues. The high-profile usage of open
source by the Dean and Clark campaigns may have given the open source
community the impression that 2004 might be "the year" that open source and
tech issues will become a high profile issue in election-year debates. It
might also cause people to get the impression that both candidates are
staunch supporters of open source usage.
Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. We managed to get in touch
with representatives from both campaigns, to find out if their use of open
source would translate into advocating open source in government, and saner
polices regarding tech policy We also wanted to get a lead on their
positions on other issues, such as software patents and the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Due to the rigors of the campaign trail,
neither candidate was personally available for questions.
We first spoke with Josh Lerner, who is the director of technology for the
Clark campaign. Lerner said that they have "no bias in favor of, for or
against any particular model, we can't afford to be religious about it."
Lerner said that the Clark campaign had decided to use open source out of
We didn't have the time to do a lot of evaluation of software, you go with
what works. The OS and tools and all that stuff just works for the most
part... we are [also] using proprietary software where it makes sense.
According to Lerner, Clark is "putting together a bunch of heavy-weight
technology people" to form a policy on technology use in government. At
this time, however, Clark has not yet put forth an official policy on tech
issues and it may be some time before any policies are forthcoming. We also
asked Lerner if he thought that these issues would play a big part in the
upcoming election. He said that he thought it might be an issue, and that
"people in the campaign are talking about it. Not everything makes it out
Unfortunately, we were unable to schedule a phone interview with anyone
from the Dean campaign. However, we did manage to track down Zephyr
Teachout, the director of Internet Organizing & Outreach for the Dean
campaign via e-mail. We asked why the campaign had chosen open source
software for DeanSpace, whether
cost was a factor or if proprietary software wasn't up to the task.
Cost is only one of the factors in our use of open-source software. We
also greatly value the reliability and security that is inherent in mature
open-source software. Additionally, using open-source allows us to focus
our resources more effectively. Recently, we launched an official Dean web
site for every state. Rather than building all of the site functionality
from scratch, we chose to build on top of DeanSpace (an open-source tool
developed by our grassroots supporters for creating Dean-related community
websites). DeanSpace itself was built on top of the open-source Drupal
community system. This is just one example of how open-source software has
allowed us to focus our energy on getting Howard Dean elected.
Not everyone is a fan of the use of open source by the campaigns. Dave
Winer had some harsh words
for both campaigns, which elicited a response from Jim Moore --
the Director of Internet and Information Services for the Dean campaign:
At Dean for America, it is our policy to purchase software rather than to
make it, and to work with vendors large and small to help them be
successful while also pursuing our own success as a grassroots-powered
presidential campaign. We strongly support small businesses for a variety
of reasons, including that they are the major contributors to employment
growth in our nation.
...Like most enterprises we prefer to buy software and services, but
sometimes must make our own. The make/buy decision can be tough. In many
cases, vendors do not provide solutions that integrate the features that
campaigns need, and companies may not see campaigns as a particularly
attractive market. In such cases we sometimes need to make internal changes
to existing software and services or develop our own. This is particularly
the case in a campaign like ours that is innovating in grassroots
philosophy and the use of information and communication technology.
We asked the Dean campaign about Moore's response, and asked if they had a
position on the use of open source in government.
We do not have a position on open-source in government.
Within our campaign, we use a mix of open-source and commercial software.
Often, we work with commercial vendors when deploying open-source tools.
We recently put our main website into the open-source Bricolage content
management system, but did so with the assistance of Kineticode a vendor
that supports this open-source product. Our primary goal is to focus our
human and financial resources on winning the Democratic nomination and the
election next November. Sometimes this goal is best accomplished by buying
a commercial product, often it means deploying open-source, and other times
it means developing tools in-house.
We also asked if the Dean campaign had a position on the DMCA or digital
rights, and got this response:
Issues of intellectual property are very important to a knowledge-based
society. Ultimately we are going to need to find a solution that both
encourages innovation and protects consumers from out-of-control corporate
Finally, since open source development is based on collaboration, we asked
both campaigns if there was any cross-pollination between DeanSpace and
TechCorps. At the moment, it would appear not. Neither campaign was aware
of any collaboration between the two efforts. Lerner did say that his group
is "hoping we can get some of these other independent efforts to join
up, and we'll announce it as it happens." He also said that he wants
to see TechCorps continue, even past Clark's campaign. "Our stuff is
out there and it's going to stay out there... as a separate issue, we want
the TechCorps site to live on and be self-sustaining."
Comments (34 posted)
(LCA) is the down-under
implementation of the classic Linux
developers' conference pattern. This conference takes an interesting
approach in that it is organized by a different group of people, in a
different city, every year. Linux Australia helps to ensure the
continuity of the operation, and Rusty Russell, organizer of the first
Linux.Conf.AU, maintains an influential presence. But the real work falls
to a new set of volunteers each year. That organization ensures a steady
supply of organizers with fresh energy, and gives each event a distinct
The 2004 Linux.Conf.AU landed in Adelaide (2005 will be in Canberra; the rumor mill says that New Zealand is being considered for 2006). The
conference facility, provided by the University of Adelaide, is beautiful,
even if they won't let the attendees play with the gorgeous pipe organ in
Attendance, at just over 500 people, is the highest yet for this event.
Just as significantly from the organizers' point of view, it seems, a dozen
journalists have signed up to attend this year. Much of the media interest
was due to the "open source in government" mini-conference held before LCA
proper. But the simple fact is that Australia is a country with a large
and increasing interest in Linux and free software.
As conference organizer Michael Davies stated in his opening remarks, the
real purpose of LCA is to have fun. Sure, there is a whole series of
technical talks, hacking sessions, etc. But the events that attendees are
really looking forward to include the "dunk the speakers" tank (with
non-speaker Linus as the guest of honor), the water gun wars,
and the IBM-sponsored "penguin dinner." What other conference would hand
out a ticket for four free ice creams? LCA does, indeed, look like fun.
LWN editor Jonathan Corbet is privileged to be here at LCA, thanks some generous support from HP.
The conference is just getting started as the LWN Weekly
Edition deadline hits, so there is not (yet) much opportunity for
substantial reporting. That will come later, stay tuned.
Comments (2 posted)
Novell has been fairly busy on the Linux front the last few days. The
company wrapped up its acquisition
of SUSE Linux and announced
program for its enterprise Linux customers on Tuesday. The company has also
with the SCO group from May 12, 2003 to January 7, 2004
concerning SCO's suit against IBM and other issues related to the suit.
For the most part, it would seem to be business as usual for SUSE. Novell spokesperson Bruce Lowry said that there are no changes afoot, at this time, for SUSE's product line as a result of the acquisition. Though some have expressed concern about SUSE's commitment to KDE now that Novell owns both SUSE and Ximian, Lowry said that there are no plans to cease the inclusion of KDE in SUSE's Linux distribution or SUSE's work on KDE.
We're about empowering choice, not eliminating it...it's something that we will be looking at, but our DNA would say that we want to continue to support choice. Both are great desktop solutions. We'll just have to evaluate how we want to proceed in the coming months.
Apparently, Novell has decided it needs to go ahead with an indemnification plan to assure its customers. The plan does not apply to all SUSE Linux customers. Instead, the plan covers customers who are using SUSE Enterprise Linux Server 8 and obtain "upgrade protection" from Novell and a technical support contract from Novell or SUSE channel partner. According to this article the indemnification is capped at 1.25 times the purchase price, or $1.5 million. It is interesting to note that Novell's indemnification plan announced this week covers claims of copyright infringement only, not patent suits. Since many have speculated that patent suits will be the next legal hurdle for Linux, Novell customers may not receive quite as much joy from the indemnification program as they might have hoped.
Naturally, SCO CEO Darl McBride couldn't resist commenting on Novell's indemnification plan:
We believe Novell's indemnification announcement is significant for a couple of reasons. By announcing the program they are acknowledging the problems with Linux. Through the restrictions and the limitations on the program, they are showing their unwillingness to bet very much on their position.
Lowry said that Novell's indemnification is not "to protect people from SCO, it's to give software buyers the same level of comfort" that they receive when purchasing proprietary software. Lowry said that Novell has no plans to contribute to the Open Source Development Labs' (OSDL) legal fund, though they are a member of OSDL, since they are offering their own indemnification plan.
Novell also released 31 pieces of correspondence between Novell and the SCO Group concerning Novell's contractual and ownership rights over UNIX. The filings are, to say the least, interesting reading. (LWN readers can find many of the letters in plain text format in this Groklaw posting.) Much of the correspondence is one-way, with no response from SCO on several issues raised by Novell.
After it was made public that Novell was planning to acquire SUSE, McBride said in a conference call that they would "take measures to enforce the noncompete agreement with Novell. I don't know that it will turn into a lawsuit. That depends upon how they respond, and if they put a competitive product in the marketplace."
One of the pieces of correspondence to SCO from Novell is a letter dated November 19, 2003, taking issue with McBride's claims that the acquisition would violate any non-compete provisions, and noting that SCO has not raised the issue directly with Novell. There is no response from SCO regarding that letter in the correspondence released by Novell. Despite a number of public threats of legal action made by SCO, and threats contained in SCO's correspondence with Novell, Lowry said that no legal filings had taken place in either direction at this time.
One concern that Linux users and companies might have is that, if Novell does have claim to the UNIX copyrights and other intellectual property, Novell could someday cause the same kinds of legal troubles that SCO has. Lowry said that he acknowledges that is a theoretical possibility, but notes that Novell has done nothing to indicate that it would want to harm Linux. "Novell has shown with its words and actions that it is 100 percent committed to promote Linux, not impede it."
At the moment, Novell's acquisition of SUSE appears to be a good thing for SUSE and the Linux community as a whole. Novell appears to have taken a mostly "hands-off" approach with Ximian, and may be prepared to do the same with SUSE. Novell's position in the industry is also likely to open doors for Linux that might not have been open otherwise.
Comments (3 posted)
[Editor's note: This article may seem similar to the previous article,
however we believe it adds further clarification to the SCO/Novell
There is a new front in the SCO wars, or more accurately a newly revealed
front. The new player, stage front and center, is Novell. Some of SCO's
otherwise puzzling decisions in the last nine months have become more
comprehensible, now that Novell's behind-the-scenes role has come to light.
It turns out that Novell strongly challenged SCO each step of the
way, based on contractual rights Novell says it retained in its 1995
deal with the Santa Cruz Organization (now Tarantella), which
subsequently sold certain Unix assets to Caldera, which is now the SCO
Group. SCO denies Novell retained those rights. Nevertheless, its
decision not to go forward with mailing invoices in the fall and not to
sue SGI, or file copyright infringement claims against IBM may be at
least in part influenced by Novell's claims.
Some now expect legal action between the two companies, if only
because Novell's asserted rights could pull the rug out from under
SCO's law suit against IBM and prevent any copyright infringement
action against Linux end users, if Novell's rights prove solid.
Everything came to light this week when Novell announced it had
completed its SuSE acquisition and said
that it will offer enterprise SuSE customers indemnification, covering
legal fees and damage awards up to $1.5 million or 125% of a customer's
contract with Novell. It also put up on its web site
its increasingly cold correspondence with SCO, going back to May of 2003,
when SCO sent it a Letter
to Linux Customers. There is a connection between the correspondence
and the indemnification. The foundation of Novell's confidence in offering
indemnification is found in the legal analysis it sets forth in the
Jack Messman, CEO of Novell, says
the company is in a unique position and is able to indemnify customers
because it retained the copyright to Unix in that 1995 deal and also has a
contractual right to license Unix to its customers. In October, when SCO
said it was about to send invoices to Linux users, Novell reminded
them of the "Technology
License Agreement", which it says gives Novell the license to not only
use the "licensed technology" but also to "authorize its customers to use,
reproduce and modify" it and to sublicense and distribute same "in source
and binary form". Further, Novell points to a section II.B., where
restrictions on Novell cease to exist in the event of a change of control
of SCO, which Novell says the agreements define as such an event as Santa
Cruz selling the assets it got from Novell to Caldera.
If you were wondering why SCO didn't sue SGI, an October
7 letter and another letter,
dated October 10, shed some light. Novell first directed SCO "to waive
any purported right SCO may claim to terminate SGI's SVRX license" and to
"waive any purported right SCO may claim to require SGI to treat SGI Code
itself as subject to the confidentiality obligations or use restrictions
of SGI's SVRX license", saying that Section 2.01 of the license
specifically states that 'ATT-IS claims no ownership interest in any
portion of such a modification or derivative work that is not part of a
SOFTWARE PRODUCT.'" SCO failed to waive as directed, so on October 10,
all SCO's purported rights to terminate SGI's license.
Novell flexed its muscles, based on its interpretation of the 1995
Purchase Agreement, the Technology
License Agreement, and Amendment
2, to the APA. On that basis, Novell in its June
9, 2003 letter says SCO has no right to unilaterally terminate IBM's
SVRX Licenses and that it is inappropriate for SCO to make such threats.
Amendment No. X granted IBM the "irrevocable, fully paid-up, perpetual
rights". It eventually waived
SCO's "termination" of IBM's license.
Additionally, as the annoyance level rose on both sides, each
claiming the other was harming its business, hints of legal action
began to appear. Aspects to their contract that Novell had apparently
let slide for years, such as their right to audit SCO's collection of
royalties for Novell, are now scrupulously being required by Novell.
They began an audit
of SCO in August, something that had not happened since 1998, for example.
Novell also demanded
SCO supply copies of the source and binary code for all versions of UNIX
and UnixWare under SCO's control.
More significantly, Novell demanded
copies of the Microsoft and Sun licenses with SCO and asked SCO to
explain why SCO thinks the Asset Purchase Agreement allows them to do
this. Novell demanded it cease "all such negotiations and other
communications with licensees concerning any such transaction without
Novell's prior written consent and continued participation". After they
address any "violation of the Asset Purchase Agreement", there will be the
matter of "royalties and other amounts owed to Novell based on the
above-mentioned license agreements" to discuss. Insofar as the demand is
to licensees of SVRX, SCO has, it believes, no right to proceed without
Novell's approval, reminding SCO of Novell's 95% interest in revenues from
preexisting SVRX licenses.
In turn, SCO has put up some documents on its web site. In the
letter of June 11, SCO writes that it "acquired all of Novell's
right, title and interest: (a) to the AT&T Software and Sublicensing
Agreements, including the AT&T/IBM Software Agreement, and (b) to all
claims against any parties. SCO therefore acquired all right, title and
interest to enforce the Software and Sublicensing Agreements against
IBM, without answering to Novell."
Not so, Novell
replies. Novell retained certain rights "critical to protecting the
interests that Novell retained as part of the Asset Purchase Agreement
(including its interests in royalty payments and the contractual
commitments Novell made in return for royalty payments)." SCO acquired
certain assets from Novell but acquired those assets subject to certain
rights of Novell. "You can't have one without the other," Novell asserts.
"We don't agree with your interpretation of our contracts," SCO writes
back. It appears to them, it says, that Novell "is acting in concert
with IBM to destroy the value of SCO UNIX and UnixWare intellectual
property acquired from Novell in the Asset Purchase Agreement."
SCO's copyrights in Unix are now in dispute. Novell lists all of
its registered copyrights on its web site. What we now learn is that
they have been in dispute consistently from day one. In a letter
dated August 4, Novell writes to Darl McBride, SCO CEO, that according to
their agreements, copyrights were not to be transferred to Santa Cruz
Operation unless SCO could demonstrate that such a right was required.
They never did that and they don't need copyrights, Novell says, "in
order to exercise the limited rights granted SCO" and so unless or until
SCO demonstrates such a need, all copyrights remain with Novell. Of
course, SCO disagrees with Novell on this utterly.
on SCO's behalf "waives any purported right SCO may claim to require IBM
to treat IBM Code, that is code developed by IBM, or licensed by IBM from
a third party, which IBM incorporated in AIX but which itself does not
contain proprietary UNIX code supplied by AT&T under the license
agreements between AT&T and IBM, itself as subject to the confidentiality
obligations or use restrictions of the Agreements."
SCO's position regarding Novell's waivers on behalf of SGI and IBM? In
13 letter: "Novell is without authority to make such a waiver and thus
it is of no force and effect."
So now you know the rest of the
Comments (8 posted)
Page editor: Rebecca Sobol
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: Vulnerabilities and updates in 2003
- Kernel: Read-copy-update and interrupt latency, Keeping printk() under control.
- Distributions: Security-Enhanced Fedora Core 2; New: Ares Desktop, Gentoo For Zaurus, LinuxDefender, XoL
- Development: MySQL 5.0 Preview,
new versions of ALSA, JACK, ht://Check, Zope, RTAI, Glame,
GNOME Platform Bindings, KDE, XFce, LBP, Free Pascal, Q.
- Press: HP and DRM, motivation in open source software,
KDE PIM developments, SCO still has not produced evidence,
Novell offers legal protection, Mass. software policy changes.
- Announcements: Novell completes SUSE Acquisition, Debian Perl Group forms,
ChessBrain contest, Numerous Calls for Papers.