User: Password:
|
|
Subscribe / Log in / New account

Free Software friendly patent pools

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 25, 2010 8:48 UTC (Wed) by mjw (subscriber, #16740)
In reply to: Free Software friendly patent pools by Blaisorblade
Parent article: A very grumpy editor's thoughts on Oracle

That seems written by someone advocating for Microsoft software patent trolling as long as they can be payed off under "fair and reasonable" terms. Hohum... His only real point with regard to OIN seems to be that the system components list would need a refresh. So would adding other java implementations to the OIN list, so that it not only protects GNU Java be a good way forward?


(Log in to post comments)

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 25, 2010 15:55 UTC (Wed) by Blaisorblade (guest, #25465) [Link]

He's a well-known FOSS advocate, and initiated the NoSoftwarePatents campaign.
While I can understand that you just skimmed it briefly, because it's long, I think your comment is a bit uninformed. His point in that article is that there should be no list at all, or that the definition should not be as arbitrary as it is.
However, he also links, in that paragraph, to a more detailed analysis, and I should maybe have linked to that article. To me, what I linked is already enough.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 25, 2010 16:00 UTC (Wed) by Blaisorblade (guest, #25465) [Link]

Here I give a more detailed analysis of my points, if what I explained wasn't enough.

1) About OIN: quoting from the article: "And I've explained in detail that the OIN doesn't truly protect all of FOSS but only an arbitrarily defined list of program files."
Why doesn't OIN protect all FOSS? They protect "The Linux System", and Dalvik shouldn't be there.
IMHO it only makes sense to protect all FOSS; he explains in more detail various intermediate scenarios at the end of [1].

Also, he is not making a point _there_, but mostly linking to a huge number of points he made earlier. Among the other points, he also explains that what you suggest wouldn't work because the group can later arbitrarily restrict the list of protected software [1]; then he goes on with suggestions.

Two articles are linked, which explain various criticism in greater detail; I just skimmed them, but they do explain better. See [1] and [2].

2) About fair and reasonable licensing terms, I didn't quote the article because of that point (point 2), which is not it's main point, I referred to point 4. While I slightly disagree with him, you're definitely unfair.

And my slight disagreement is about how much a corporation should be less evil than allowed by laws. He says something like "we shouldn't be too optimistic", I think "I would hope for more". That's it. If it weren't for _software_ patents, the FRAND licensing would be probably fine.

However, he's just saying that while patents are bad, aggressive patent trolls are worse - and Oracle's worse than Microsoft here. He's not advocating Microsoft; he also explains that he used to fear Microsoft far more.
"If companies only go to court because someone doesn't accept a reasonable license deal, then even I as an opponent of software patents can see the commercial logic".
Then, you can look at [3] for an answer to your doubts, if you care.

[1] http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2010/06/oins-linux-system...; in particular, search "they can pull the rug out from under you" and read on.
[2] http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2010/08/oss-and-s...
[3] http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2010/08/microsofts-use-of...

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 11:50 UTC (Fri) by mjw (subscriber, #16740) [Link]

> He's a well-known FOSS advocate, and initiated the NoSoftwarePatents campaign. While I can understand that you just skimmed it briefly, because it's long, I think your comment is a bit uninformed.

Back when he worked with the FFII, Red Hat, MySQL and others to lobby against software patents in Europe that was certainly useful and appreciated. I did read that article and some of his current rants on his blog and his comments on LWN articles and I am not sure his continues attacks on people and organisations that do try to advance the free software and anti-software patent cause is very productive. Trying to defend Microsofts anti Free Software actions, promoting software patent licensing and personal attacks on people who once helped him, but are now no longer paying him to lobby, are very unhelpful.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 12:13 UTC (Fri) by Blaisorblade (guest, #25465) [Link]

You probably have a point - that is, attacking something well-intentioned might be counterproductive, in general, even if that something were useless in practice.

However, problems with OIN exist (why the **** do they cover only the client library of MySQL???), as pointed out also in this part [1] of the current comment thread (which I maybe previously missed).
As he points out here [2], the companies which decide what is part of "the Linux system" could freely exclude a product from protection if it were a competitor. Say, IBM could exclude MySQL from protection because it is a treat to DB2. I believe that it want, if there's no policy change - but we know that's an unreliable guarantee.
You know, a seat belt which does not do its job 100% of times is not that useful - it tries to help, but maybe he does more harm than good because it makes you feel safe while you shouldn't. Possibly, same with OIN.

[1] http://lwn.net/Articles/400614/
[2] http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2010/06/oins-linux-system...

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 12:50 UTC (Fri) by mjw (subscriber, #16740) [Link]

If your argument is that it would be nice if more was covered by the OIN patent pool then we are in agreement. That is precisely what I am advocating. Lets petition OIN to extend their coverage if they can afford it. It seems that having more free protection if we can get it is good.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 14:03 UTC (Fri) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048) [Link]

Back when he worked with the FFII, Red Hat, MySQL and others to lobby against software patents in Europe

I cooperated with the FFII, but was independent from them.

Concerning companies that supported the campaign, mostly it was 1&1 (a German web hoster, the largest one in the EU) and MySQL AB. Red Hat, even though considerably bigger than MySQL already at that point, contributed very little compared to the others and was the only one to discontinue its support for my work against software patents. The others still supported me in connection with patent policy until late 2006, when I decided to move on (well over a year after defeating the software patent directive; there was some EU patent reform proposal on the table that could also have affected software patents, and I fought against that one, too).

Disappointingly, a Red Hat person even tried to keep the EU software patent directive alive at the eleventh hour, together with Google (which is pro-software-patent), Sun and others. If you search for the right keywords on this mail archive page, you can find details.

current rants on his blog and his comments on LWN articles and I am not sure his continues attacks on people and organisations that do try to advance the free software and anti-software patent cause is very productive.

That's a misunderstanding of the intention. It would be helpful if you could give specific examples of "people and organisations that do try to advance the [...] cause" because I never criticize anyone for doing just that. If I do criticize, it's for doing things that are harmful to the cause, and I call some out on hypocrisy.

Trying to defend Microsofts anti Free Software actions, promoting software patent licensing

That's a gross misrepresentation of what I do and did, and I've clarified it in this comment. Concerning licensing, just to make it clear: my #1 preference is no software patents; my #2 preference is no royalties on existing patents; but as a #3 preference, I'd rather see companies grant licenses than use patents for purely destructive, exclusionary purposes such as Apple vs. HTC or IBM vs. TurboHercules.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 14:57 UTC (Fri) by mjw (subscriber, #16740) [Link]

Again you claim a misunderstanding of your intentions. But just your comments on LWN in recent days are example enough. Multiple people, including Jon, have asked you to stop attacking people and call them names.

This attack on Red Hat is another example. You claim to provide a pointer to details, but that link is just an email from someone quoting "facts" from your own blog. That is not calling out hypocrisy, that is just slandering people with facts you made up yourself.

The Red Hat story was not made up by me; I quoted a first-rate parliamentary source

Posted Aug 27, 2010 15:08 UTC (Fri) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048) [Link]

Multiple people, including Jon, have asked you to stop attacking people and call them names.

Jon clarified that he generally doesn't want to see modified names that make a negative statement. That's nothing about me specifically.

You claim to provide a pointer to details, but that link is just an email from someone quoting "facts" from your own blog. That is not calling out hypocrisy, that is just slandering people with facts you made up yourself.

Would you please do everyone here the favor and read and think before you write? It's quite inappropriate to accuse me of something just because you didn't even make a serious effort to understand.

If you're just biased and don't care about facts and business/legal realities and only want to say negative things about me, what's the point?

That email archive contains something that was on a blog I had a few years ago. But you didn't really read and understand.

That past blog posting contained an email from the closest adviser on patent policy to the European Parliament's rapporteur (parliamentarian in charge of the particular legislative process) on software patents.

That rapporteur's adviser authorized me to quote from an email he had sent to a mailing list of the FFII, thus it was seen by many people at the time but I still asked for permission before quoting on a blog.

The rapporteur, Michel Rocard, was prime minister of France and fought very hard against software patents. His role in that process is even mentioned in his English-language Wikipedia entry. His adviser, whose email I was authorized to quote, played a key role in that effort.

So that's a perfect source and not "facts [I] made up [myself]". Don't you think it would now be appropriate for you to admit that you didn't understand, and to retract the accusation of "slandering people with facts [I] made up [myself]"?

The Red Hat story was not made up by me; I quoted a first-rate parliamentary source

Posted Aug 27, 2010 16:25 UTC (Fri) by mjw (subscriber, #16740) [Link]

Lets just agree not the agree. I will keep believing I read and understand perfectly well what you are implying with that story that has you as only reference. And that is contrary to any other story about Red Hat's involvement in stopping software patents in Europe. And you will keep believing you are not slandering people but are calling out hypocrisy by writing about facts that nobody else is noticing in a way that you believe is a positive contribution to the discussion.

The Red Hat story was not made up by me; I quoted a first-rate parliamentary source

Posted Aug 27, 2010 17:14 UTC (Fri) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048) [Link]

Lets just agree not the agree.

That would be no problem if we were talking about an opinion or prediction, but here we're talking about a well-documented fact, against which you hold unspecific denial.

I will keep believing I read and understand perfectly well what you are implying with that story that has you as only reference.

No. Let me provide the link again.

I referred in that blog posting to an email on which an entire FFII (anti-software-patent activist) mailing list was copied. At the time, the thing was also discussed here on LWN, by the way, but at any rate, it was published on my blog at the time and no one ever denied the authenticity of the email.

That blog posting said: But [EMAIL PROTECTED] is a key mailing list of European anti-software patent activists, and dozens of people received that email directly. No one will seriously question its authenticity.

There can be no reasonable doubt about the authenticity of that email since plenty of FFII people who were on that list also followed that blog of mine. If you were subscribed to a mailing list and someone publishes something and claims it was sent to the list, you would also be able to verify whether that's true.

And that is contrary to any other story about Red Hat's involvement in stopping software patents in Europe.

Which "other story"? There was only one Red Hat employee at the time who was personally 100% committed to the cause: Alan Cox, former Linux kernel maintainer, no longer at Red Hat.

If you look at the email, whose authenticity is beyond any reasonable doubt, you can see that Red Hat showed up there in the office of a Member of the European Parliament together with IBM (patent bully, patent aggressor, cynical beyond belief in its Bilski brief about impact of patents on FOSS), Google (pro-patent) and Sun, which used to be pro-patent and used patents as a key revenue source (about a billion dollars from Microsoft etc.). Just that combination makes it pretty clear where that Red Hat guy stood.

The Red Hat story was not made up by me; I quoted a first-rate parliamentary source

Posted Aug 27, 2010 18:35 UTC (Fri) by mjw (subscriber, #16740) [Link]

Just repeating the same message which has you as only source quoted by a known troll on the gnu-misc-discuss mailinglist is not a very strong argument.

You are the only person that is trying to smear through guilt by association through a redacted email claiming to be from someone important. And yes, your motives for posting these unverifiable claims have been discussed on LWN already when you first made them: http://lwn.net/Articles/189693/

The Red Hat story was not made up by me; I quoted a first-rate parliamentary source

Posted Aug 27, 2010 18:47 UTC (Fri) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048) [Link]

You just don't want to be reasonable.

But thanks for finding that old LWN discussion. You could see that someone appropriately noted that Mark Webbink didn't deny what I said. You also just talk about my "motives for posting these [...] claims". Facts are not a matter of motives.

Mark Webbink published a Red Hat-Sun position paper. That one doesn't disprove anything. As the email I published showed, he lobbied (and he didn't deny on LWN) together with Sun, IBM (totally pro-patent) and Google (also pro-patent on the bottom line). Nobody in his right mind can believe that IBM would ever have lobbied against patents... so if Red Hat pursued a common cause with IBM, it's clear that there was something wrong and the position paper doesn't change that.

you as only source quoted by a known troll on the gnu-misc-discuss mailinglist is not a very strong argument.

You still purposely get things wrong.

It doesn't matter whether the person who copied text from my former blog and posted it to a mailing list is a troll. I as the then-owner of that blog can confirm that his copy of my blog posting was correct. But his email and his copying my blog isn't what I call the source. I had published it at the time for everyone to see, and I said that it was sent to an FFII mailing list. I even said which list, but on that gnu mailing list the email address was "protected". Anyway, what plausible reason do you have to doubt the authenticity of that email if no member of that FFII mailing list ever denied it? And why aren't you satisfied with the uniquely identifying definition of the source of the email I published (again, not the fact that someone mailed my blog posting to a gnu list)? Patent policy adviser to then-Member of the European Parliament Michel Rocard is clear enough. Most of the activists in Europe know the name of that adviser. He was at the time an assistant professor at a French university. But he asked not to publish his name on the Internet in that context, and we respected that.

By repeating all of this here, I give everyone who has doubts the chance to double-check on this. It's not hard to track down FFII activists and ask. It was the FFII's europarl mailing list. I'm sure many still have mails from that one on some storage media.

The Red Hat story was not made up by me; I quoted a first-rate parliamentary source

Posted Aug 27, 2010 23:22 UTC (Fri) by Blaisorblade (guest, #25465) [Link]

I guess that you should probably take the discussion offline, unless you come to agreement and post that.

There are some weak points on both sides, even if I mostly believe Florian Mueller is more trustworthy.

I believe that the authenticity of the mail is very reasonable - other interpretations require an impressive amount of paranoia IMHO.

Of course, we do not have a definitive proof - we (including you) could ask some authoritative by-then-subscriber on the FFII list, and he could publish a public statement. I guess the onus is more on than on us (would they care)?

I first interpreted mjw's comments to my article as a misreading of the article - he really seemed some random guy not understanding you.

Then, we finally see that he's a RedHat developer, against you because you attack RH:

> Your blog comes over as a anti-IBM/Red Hat/Google, pro-Microsoft

mjw, given this article by Jonathan Corbet [1], how comes you visit LWN? Given also [2][3] and the distribution terms of RHEL and its security patches (I can't find the discussion of them here on LWN.NET, unfortunately), your employer is not that trustworthy to me (and to much of the community, for that matter). Yes, I acknowledge it supports many OSS projects, but it's rewarded well enough for its effort.

There's no reason to believe Mueller is pro-Microsoft. For instance, Miguel de Icaza has made greater praise to Microsoft .NET and its license, but nobody would question his transparency. He just believes Microsoft is not _that_ evil - and I personally fail to contend his technical points on this.

On the other side, Mr. Mueller, while I have no reason to believe you are employed by Microsoft, and that would be enough for me, your answer to the issue in [4] seems a bit confusing to me.

There can be many legitimate reasons for you being unable to state who is funding you, and maybe I don't understand that post because I lack the context you reference (without a link). Yet, a sentence like "I'm not related to Microsoft but I can't disclose my employer/I am a freelance/whatever", maybe together with briefly reiterating the standard non-patent-related stuff about Microsoft's trust, would reduce the chance of being misunderstood, and give less space to critiques of your positions.

However, I would like to see you comment against the weaknesses of the MS Community Promise [6][7] with the same strength as OIN weaknesses. While [7] sees MS as a bogeyman, there are valid points there (which you implicitly acknowledge here [8]).
You complain more against OIN because it has a double face, which MS hasn't. Fine. Now MS might be doing something similar in its support to Mono, seemingly. Could you comment on that?
And even if you don't expect the current MS policy to change, we can't trust the _current policy_ of any company, since it is always volatile (I concede that MS being bought by somebody else is as likely as the Earth being hit by a comet). I see that the 'current policy' point is one of your main ones. However, I fail to see how Microsoft is doing better than Google in this regard, since Google is not suing anybody at all (just defending software patents).

Finally, the only comment about concrete OIN activity I've seen was about the purchase of the (supposed) OpenGL patents which Microsoft was selling. Of course, any OIN's protection on them still suffers from all OIN's flaws. Having said that, do you think that's at least something good? It would be good for you, I guess, to elaborate also on the good points of that, no matter how weak, to strengthen your position.

Thanks for your attention

[1] http://lwn.net/Articles/1251/
[2] http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Red_Hat
[3] http://lwn.net/Articles/203694/ - see the discussion about policies by RH executive.
[4] http://lwn.net/Articles/402456/
[5] http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2010/Aug-13.html
[6] http://www.techworld.com.au/article/358564/microsoft_won_...
[7] http://www.fsf.org/news/2009-07-mscp-mono
[8] http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2010/07/richard-stallmans...

The Red Hat story was not made up by me; I quoted a first-rate parliamentary source

Posted Aug 28, 2010 5:51 UTC (Sat) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048) [Link]

Of course, we do not have a definitive proof - we (including you) could ask some authoritative by-then-subscriber on the FFII list, and he could publish a public statement

Actually a statement by an FFII board member was published here on LWN at the time. That is someone with whom I never got along well, and his email talks about all sorts of issues that don't deny the fact Red Hat did that last-minute lobbying together with IBM, but as you can see, the authenticity of the email wasn't questioned by that board member -- and he was on that mailing list, too (all of the core activists were). That statement was made two days after I published the email in question, and as the statement clarified, because of the fact the FFII's name got mentioned (which was only because of that list email).

However, I would like to see you comment against the weaknesses of the MS Community Promise [6][7] with the same strength as OIN weaknesses. While [7] sees MS as a bogeyman, there are valid points there (which you implicitly acknowledge here [8]). You complain more against OIN because it has a double face, which MS hasn't. Fine. Now MS might be doing something similar in its support to Mono, seemingly. Could you comment on that?

There are reasons for that focus:

1. The Microsoft Community Promise is one of countless patent promises made by companies, while the OIN is the only entity of its kind in the open source context.

2. Concerning patent promises/pledges, Slashdot published an op-ed of mine five years ago. I link to that from my current blog and repeatedly refer people to it. I'm not aware of any aspect of the Microsoft Community Promise that wouldn't have been addressed by me already in that general piece. I'm also unaware of any shortcoming of the Microsoft Community Promise that other company promises with respect to patents don't have.

3. There's already significant awareness for the limitations of those pledges/promises, especially since the IBM vs. TurboHercules incident. However, there isn't a lot of knowledge out there about the OIN. For instance, even an open-source-specialized journalist and former LinuxFoundation employee like Brian Proffitt recently wrote an article in which he talked about only one of the OIN's three functions and consequently arrived at a completely wrong conclusion. Those company promises are much simpler in nature since they serve only one purpose.

4. Pledges/promises like the Microsoft Community Promise are unilateral acts, while the OIN is plurilateral. Two different entities relying on a company promise don't enter into a contractual relationship with each other that way; however, Oracle and Google, by becoming OIN licensees (not even members, just licensees) established a cross-license between the two of them, and that cross-license now proves unhelpful.

Google is not suing anybody at all (just defending software patents).

The questions of "not suing" and "defending" (if you mean defensive use) are actually separate. Whether or not a company sues is the wrong indicator.

The vast majority of all patent issues are resolved without anyone having to go to court; and in many cases, it doesn't even take a contract because the fact that someone has a patent and the resources to enforce them and indicates that he will do so may often be enough of an intimidation.

Google definitely stifles innovation with its search engine patents. No one has dared to infringe on the PageRank kind of patents because everyone who asked Google for a license was told "No way, José". So the reason they haven't had to sue is because people are so afraid. But the negative effects of those patents on innovation and competition is the same as if they sued successfully.

Microsoft has sued over patent infringement only four times while having been sued countless times. Even in those four cases, the outcome was a license agreement, always pretty quickly after the lawsuit was filed. So those companies tested Microsoft's determination to actually go to court. If they had done the license deal right away, Microsoft would never have gone to court. But it would have used its patents nonetheless. If more licensees had decided on brinkmanship, there would have been even more lawsuits, and still just the same intentions on the patent holder's part.

IBM vs. TurboHercules is another example. It was a threat letter. Any argument that they only answered a question is easily refuted because they alleged an infringement out of the blue, then clarified later, so there was threat v1.0 (unspecified IP infringement assertion) and threat v2.0 (along with a list of patents). They key thing here is not whether they ever have to go to court. It's that the TurboHercules company, the Hercules open source project and all users must be afraid of IBM doing so, which has all the anticompetitive effects IBM wants without a formal lawsuit. Of course, if someone wanted to test IBM's determination, that's where it could go. But for now it's an antitrust case before the European Commission.

Even concerning Oracle vs. Google, it remains to be seen what Oracle wanted and wants, and whether Google had a chance to accept a reasonable deal and just decided to fight it out.

Finally, the only comment about concrete OIN activity I've seen was about the purchase of the (supposed) OpenGL patents which Microsoft was selling. Of course, any OIN's protection on them still suffers from all OIN's flaws. Having said that, do you think that's at least something good? It would be good for you, I guess, to elaborate also on the good points of that, no matter how weak, to strengthen your position.

Large companies like Microsoft divest patents all the time; so do many others; but there are many buyers (trolls, defensive pools, strategic buyers); so there's a huge secondary market for patents out there.

The story that OIN tells (and GroklXX parroted more than once) without any credible evidence is that Microsoft specifically wanted trolls to assert those patents against Linux users and distributors without having to do so directly, and that Microsoft sold them to another entity, which then did a deal with OIN. No one has any evidence, but it is kind of hard to imagine that Microsoft, if it wanted to sell trolls via an in-between entity to trolls, wouldn't be able to do that. One can have different views as to their intentions, but the notion of them being as stupid as OIN claims is hard to imagine. I don't say it's impossible because I don't know what exactly happened; it's just not likely.

In my first blog posting ever on OIN I actually answered, without limiting it to Microsoft (because OIN has bought hundreds of patents for huge amounts of money), the question you asked about whether it's a good thing. Let me quote the relevant passage from that posting:

(quote from blog) The OIN continues to buy patents at auctions that might otherwise be acquired by regular trolls. At first sight, that may sound good. But given the intransparent and arbitrary structure of the OIN, it's not clear whether that's actually the lesser or the greater evil than a conventional troll. In the end, the OIN is under the control of those six companies who could decide to use some of those patents against competitors, including FOSS competitors. By controlling the definition of what the OIN calls the "Linux System", they can always ensure that their competitors don't benefit from it, even if they were or became OIN licensees.

Buying those patents at auctions is really expensive. So far the OIN has spent hundreds of millions of dollars. Given the way businesses operate, that's not the amount of money that one would spend unselfishly. Instead, that level of investment, intransparency and unbalanced rights suggests ulterior motives, if not a long-term hidden agenda. (end quote from blog)

So the honest answer is: I don't know whether it's good or bad because there's considerable doubt about the OIN. An organization that does such an unfair license agreement can't be trusted. If we all knew for sure that those OpenGL patents would otherwise have ended up in the hands of someone who would have caused major damage to the commercial adoption of Linux, then one could say that OIN would have been the lesser evil. But there are so many unknowns there about the OIN and about what would otherwise have happened with those patents...

Motivation

Posted Aug 30, 2010 8:15 UTC (Mon) by mjw (subscriber, #16740) [Link]

Yes, you are right. I will stop responding to him. We just won't agree.

I am not hiding the fact that Red Hat funds my work on some Free Software projects, nor the fact that as GNU Classpath maintainer and as one of the IcedTea maintainers I have some knowledge and interest in this issue. And I have even contributed articles on both the projects I work on in my free time and on company time to LWN. So none of this should really come as a surprise for those we read LWN (comments) regularly.

LWN's coverage of the issues and companies involved seem fact based. I do like reading them. But it is indeed a fact that although Red Hat as a company is based on and guided by Free Software principles, trying to lead, be good community participants and take a very strong anti software patent stance, they do operate in the current economic reality and have to pick causes that interest their customers and provides a stable income.

Pushing OIN to not just cover the GNU Java implementation, but also other ones seems like a good idea. For IcedTea/OpenJDK we have a shot since it could be seen as the successor release of the gcj/libgcj implementation since it has overlap with the community and maintainers of the GNU Java projects and most ION members now rely on it now as their default free java implementation in preference to the GNU Java one that was used for running other OIN components like Apache Ant, Derby, Tomcat and Eclipse. For Dalvik it seems a bit harder since OIN seems very focussed on the free software GNU/Linux server side. But IMHO we should certainly try to get the scope of OIN broader. It isn't surprising OIN doesn't help when software not covered by it is attacked, or when companies not part of OIN attack projects. It is certainly only a very small patent-peace. Ultimately the real solution will be abolishment of software patents.

As for the opinions of Florian Mueller I am not sure how trustworthy or helpful they are. His attacks seem somewhat random to me. His reasoning is driven by unknown motives to arrive at some point I must be missing. He is a good politician. See how in the above he was able to turn the discussion from whether there was any factual basis for his smearing to whether or not anybody could confirm some vague email actually exists. An email that doesn't actually support his allegations, all it does is say that someone saw some people talking, so the whole "proof" hangs on assumptions based on hearsay and guilt by association - anybody who ever talks to IBM is bad? I am a little sad that I just don't grok his motives. He can sometimes be right and he can be a good alley if your goals align, but beware if he has other interests http://lwn.net/Articles/148668/. I had hoped to better understand his motives, association, goals and who is funding his current activities. But I am afraid I just don't get it.

Motivation

Posted Sep 6, 2010 13:47 UTC (Mon) by pboddie (guest, #50784) [Link]

http://lwn.net/Articles/148668/

There's a great comment on that article which includes this gem, pertinent to the topic of discussion at the time:

IBM (1960s):
"Our mainframe computers and OS/360 are a single product!"
---> you can't use our OS on Amdahl's computers!

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 13:53 UTC (Fri) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048) [Link]

That seems written by someone advocating for Microsoft software patent trolling as long as they can be payed off under "fair and reasonable" terms.

I absolutely reject the allegation that I'm "advocating" for that. All I did in my posting on Microsoft's use of patents is explain that there are two things a company can do if it wants to benefit from its patents, and what they do is the more cooperative approach than that taken by Apple in the HTC case or IBM in the TurboHercules case (or Google with respect to its search engine patents, to which it doesn't grant anyone a license).

I made it very clear in that posting that I'm against software patents. No software patents, no royalties. But it's an important distinction to make whether patents are used as a revenue source or for exclusionary purposes. In fact, a lot of the uncertainty surrounding Oracle vs. Google is that Oracle hasn't said in public what it seeks to achieve. In Microsoft's case it's always been clear that they want royalties on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

Ideally, companies wouldn't do anything with those patents, but that's not realistic given that shareholders do expect them to derive value from their assets. If we want them to do nothing with those patents, we have to get rid of those patents.

His only real point with regard to OIN seems to be that the system components list would need a refresh.

Another misconception about my positions.

I have commented on the OIN several times. Most recently, I explained that its inability to prevent Oracle from suing Google is a huge failure. The definition of the system components list doesn't just need a "refresh". They do refresh it from time to time. The problem is that it's put together in a totally intransparent process and there aren't any objective criteria. It's arbitrary. I had made four alternative suggestions for how to address that problem.

I mentioned other issues related to OIN's intransparency on other occasions, such as the lack of clarity concerning what the rights and obligations of an "associate member" are (Canonical became the first one).

In my first posting on OIN, I pointed out various issues, including intransparency and arbitrariness as well as the fact that there's no indication it has ever really strengthened the position of a company under attack. With companies like Amazon, HTC, Salesforce, TomTom etc. paying Microsoft royalties on patents which (at least some of which) read on Linux, it's pretty clear the OIN can't do what it's supposed to do, so the question is what it's actually about.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 14:46 UTC (Fri) by mjw (subscriber, #16740) [Link]

You are advocating for destructive usage of software patents and holding up Microsoft as a way to do it that benefits proprietary software (which can pay them off) and destroys free software projects. Your rhetoric make people question whether or not you are now being paid by Microsoft to lobby for them. Which you don't even deny.

Your rants against OIN and other initiatives that try to help free software against software patents are not constructive. No, they aren't perfect and no they aren't the full solution (abolition of software patents is). But the tone of your attacks is so strong that you come over as being against them. Especially compared to your praise of Microsofts handling of software patents, which actually is a real attack on Free Software.

Your blog comes over as a anti-IBM/Red Hat/Google, pro-Microsoft, attack on any person/initiative that tries to advance free software against patent aggression. Even if you claim that is just a misconception.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 14:59 UTC (Fri) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048) [Link]

You are advocating for destructive usage of software patents

We seem to have a definition problem here. In my opinion, destructive usage means that functionality is removed from a product or a company shut out of a market. I'm against destructive use by that definition. What's your definition? Apparently one that includes the simple commercialization. Then you don't want to face business realities. If the government gives companies those monopolies called patents, it's obvious they're going to do something with them.

I wonder what your constructive and pragmatic suggestion is. What's wrong with pointing out the much lesser problem? Do you have anything better to propose that can work in light of business and legal realities?

And again, I don't "advocate" that kind of use of patents; I point out what the lesser problem is. That's another definition problem you have.

Apart from that, you keep making the same points I have dismantled, such as claiming I "advocate" that kind of thing, although I addressed that fallacy earlier today.

Concerning the denial you want, I've said that if I ever have to announce anything, I will; since I haven't announced anything, people can draw their conclusions. That's the only answer I've always given in those contexts and I won't depart from it simply for no reason. None of my reasoning for any of the positions I have is a Microsoft kind of position.

OIN and other initiatives that try to help free software against software patents

This is still unspecific in terms of "other initiatives". Would you list them?

I think there are reasons to have serious doubt that the OIN is really about "help[ing] free software against software patents" if you look at its inability to prevent Oracle from suing Gogle and the fact that major players like Amazon, HTC, Salesforce and TomTom pay Microsoft patent royalties. Since OIN doesn't do what it's supposed to do, and since the way it defines the scope of its license agreement (which would be one thing if it were just "their" license but it's also the scope of the cross-license between all licenses, including Oracle and Google) is utterly unfair and unreasonable, the question is appropriate what they're up to. In my opinion, OIN is probably mostly about giving its six owner companies strategic advantages over their FOSS competitors. So it discriminates within FOSS, contrary to helping FOSS.

When looking at the patent-mongering track record of most of OIN's owners (including the biggest patent bully of all, IBM), it's really hard to imagine that they would help anyone, FOSS or whatever, against patents...

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 17:11 UTC (Fri) by mjw (subscriber, #16740) [Link]

You are apparently under the believe that your writings can not be interpreted as legitimizing such destructive usage of software patents against Free Software. We just disagree that you are pointing out a "lesser problem". The end result is destruction of Free Software projects.

Your arguments against OIN seem based on transparency of the organisation and the intentions of the companies that fund it.

If transparency is so important, why won't you say who is currently funding your work?

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 17:23 UTC (Fri) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048) [Link]

We just disagree that you are pointing out a "lesser problem". The end result is destruction of Free Software projects.

I challenged you to make a constructive suggestion for what else should be done, and you don't.

Saying that patents should be used in truly destructive way because collecting royalties has the same "end result" is like telling the tax authority it should kill you because the end result is that your freedom from taxes goes away.

Again, what are you able to propose under the circumstances?

The problem is that free software can't be truly free as long as there are software patents. GNU/Linux isn't "free" in strict free software term if you ask Amazon, HTC, Salesforce and TomTom, and who knows how many others.

Your arguments against OIN seem based on transparency of the organisation and the intentions of the companies that fund it.

In the posting to which you replied, I explained this and you still don't seem to understand. Not after one explanation, not after two, so why try a third time?

You either don't really read or you just want to attack baselessly. Either way is unacceptable if we want to discuss the issues.

You're plain wrong that it's all just about transparency and intentions. The Linux System definition thing is a problem that goes way beyond transparency and intentions. It's an utterly unfair, asymmetrical contract.

If transparency is so important, why won't you say who is currently funding your work?

You just add to my impression of you not being constructive and reasonable since you come back once again to something I addressed before.

I haven't seen any indication that you really want answers and solutions. You repeat over and over misrepresentations of what I say, you don't accept when something is answered, and in the Red Hat context you don't even accept evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt. On the patent royalties matter all you have to offer an ideology and that ideology is incompatible with certain business, legal and political realities of our times. Since you don't run this system, it means your positions are utopian, a word that originally means "there's no place for them" at least in this world.

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 18:45 UTC (Fri) by mjw (subscriber, #16740) [Link]

We are discussing this in the context of a possibly not perfect, but certainly better solution than what you seem to advocate. The formation of Free Software friendly patent pools. You don't like them because they favour the companies that fund them more than those companies that don't. But that is how the economics work. Those who fund them create a free market around the software assets that matter to them. That seems a better and more pragmatic solution.

And no, you didn't address the very basic question about who is funding you currently.

To be totally transparent here is who is funding my day job currently: http://gnu.wildebeest.org/blog/mjw/2009/01/29/what-are-yo...

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 18:59 UTC (Fri) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048) [Link]

Thanks for finally pointing out your affiliation with Red Hat. Nevertheless my answer was the right one.

The formation of Free Software friendly patent pools. [...] Those who fund them create a free market around the software assets that matter to them.

So far there isn't even one credible example of those pools having helped a company against which patents were asserted. The OIN's proponents suggest that the OIN helped TomTom. The press release on TomTom's settlement with Microsoft, however, made it clear that TomTom ended up paying royalties to Microsoft plus made a commitment to modify its code to work around certain patents. So it's pretty clear that TomTom lost. Everyone else whom Microsoft has taken to court has also ended up that way (an announcement according to which those companies pay), most recently Salesforce.

So your proposed solution is a failure. Such a failure that companies like Amazon and HTC just paid right away instead of even trying to do anything together with the OIN, and that Oracle can sue Google although both are OIN licensees and in formal (but currently pretty useless) terms have a cross-license in place with each other via the OIN.

I also don't see that your proposal works against Apple trying to force HTC to drop multitouch, or against IBM's anticompetitive intimidation of TurboHercules.

Unfortunately, patent royalties are inevitable as long as there are patents, and are the fundamentally lesser problem than exclusionary use. If you want to make free software ideology the law, convince lawmakers that it's a good model. Lawmakers just have to look at how little acceptance the GPLv3 has to see that it's not what the industry at large wants as a business model. Red Hat does well, but it didn't create Linux. That's a business model that doesn't work for true innovators. You can't build an entire economy the Red Hat way because then everybody would just be waiting for someone else to innovate to jump on the bandwagon.

In my view, software patents are not needed to enable software innovation. However, the industry largely wants them, and those in the industry who are against them don't make any serious effort to abolish them, which suggests that the problem isn't a pressing one. Consequently, lawmakers don't abolish software patents, and "infringers" (as much as I hate the term in connection with patents) should be glad if they get a good license deal rather than being shut out of a market or being forced to cripple a product the way Apple tries to impose it on HTC...

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 23:02 UTC (Fri) by pboddie (guest, #50784) [Link]

However, the industry largely wants them, and those in the industry who are against them don't make any serious effort to abolish them, which suggests that the problem isn't a pressing one.

Are you suggesting that all those small and medium-sized companies who stepped up and stated their opposition to software patents aren't sufficiently representative of the industry? The economic majority?

The lack of funding for the anti-software-patent cause

Posted Aug 28, 2010 6:10 UTC (Sat) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048) [Link]

Are you suggesting that all those small and medium-sized companies who stepped up and stated their opposition to software patents aren't sufficiently representative of the industry? The economic majority?

As much as I regret it because I'm against software patents and would prefer to see a lot of support for our cause, I have to answer your question with a clear Yes.

The "Economic Majority" website you linked to is actually a striking example. Let me quote from its current content: So far, 1,948 companies, with a minimum of 31,503 employees and annual turnover of 3,258,244,082 EUR [...]

So that's between EUR 3.2 billion and EUR 3.3 billion. Come on: IBM has revenues of close to $100 billion, so even if you just looked at IBM's European subsidiaries and then convert to EUR, it would dwarf that number; then Microsoft is around $60 billion, and so on.

Even if limiting it only to European companies, SAP alone has revenues north of EUR 10 billion.

But the website claims to represent an economic majority...

This is just one example to demonstrate the lack of support for the cause. There's actually something even more important to look at: do companies put their money where their mouth is?

If software patents were such a pressing problem for small and medium-sized companies, they would want to spend some money to address the problem politically and get rid of those patents. But there's never been any substantial funding. My NoSoftwarePatents campaign was more successful at fundraising than the entire FFII, which at the time had an annual budget in the EUR 100K range (just as a ballpark figure). That lack of resources is then visible because it means that they can't make a consistent effort with quality people. Politicians don't ask for a lobby entity's budget, but if they see that a cause is supported by people who for the largest part don't have any significant professional track record related to the issue, it reflects negatively on the cause.

More importantly even than professional expertise, the thing is that in those patent policy discussions large companies write letters to politicians about how many jobs are at stake and depend on strong intellectual property rights. Politicians aren't programmers (except maybe 1 in 1,000), so they look at it from an economic policy point of view, and ultimately they'll trust -- in most cases -- those who represent substantial economic weight.

I had a long debate with the FFII's founder and its current president on Facebook a few months ago about the state of the movement and particularly the question of economic weight and the related political clout. In that discussion, I also told them to be realistic about those numbers. They may be very proud of the support they got, but it doesn't impress politicians at all.

I told them that they never even raised EUR 200,000 in one year to the best of my knowledge. Then they argued that small and medium-sized companies just aren't political. I said that if there's a pressing problem, they will get political. I gave them an example that in my opinion shows how ridiculously little support there is for the anti-software-patent cause: there used to be a lobby group for leading European soccer clubs, called G14 (initially 14, later 18 members). I cooperated with that one because I advised and represented their biggest member (Real Madrid) at the time. The G14 had an annual budget at the time of about 2 million euros. Each of its member clubs had revenues between EUR 50 million and EUR 350 million at the time; there are lots of medium-sized IT companies in that revenue range. Lots. So 18 clubs of that size decided to spend ten to twenty times as much on a Brussels (EU capital) lobbying entity as the entirety of European IT small and medium-sized businesses on the fight against software patents. This shows that the G14 addressed a pressing problem; the FFII and my former campaign apparently didn't.

The lack of funding for the anti-software-patent cause

Posted Sep 6, 2010 15:24 UTC (Mon) by pboddie (guest, #50784) [Link]

This is just one example to demonstrate the lack of support for the cause. There's actually something even more important to look at: do companies put their money where their mouth is?

I'm not sure that this is a "lack of support for the cause". That's a bunch of companies who stuck their necks out and said that they think software patents are a bad thing. Sure, it's very likely that a large number of companies either won't stick their necks out because it would make them look bad in front of their patrons at Microsoft and SAP - you don't want to "jeopardise" that business relationship, do you? - or because they "only sell solutions" (that is, products and customisations).

If software patents were such a pressing problem for small and medium-sized companies, they would want to spend some money to address the problem politically and get rid of those patents.

Maybe the bulk of the revenue sits in companies that aren't affected directly - those people who sell "solutions" - who in the case of patent litigation will just say that they had no idea about such matters and hope that the aggressor will let them off, perhaps even offering them a nice line of business involving the aggressor's products. In fact, looking at various lists of the biggest IT companies in, say, Norway (noting that numbers 2 and 3 in that list have now merged), there are a lot of companies at the top that are probably weighted towards a net consumption of technologies rather than a net production of technologies. It's important to look at local markets than the global picture because otherwise we'd all be doing the bidding of Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and BP because "they create most value".

More importantly even than professional expertise, the thing is that in those patent policy discussions large companies write letters to politicians about how many jobs are at stake and depend on strong intellectual property rights. Politicians aren't programmers (except maybe 1 in 1,000), so they look at it from an economic policy point of view, and ultimately they'll trust -- in most cases -- those who represent substantial economic weight.

Yes, sickening isn't it? Some guy who heads up a company employing lots of people (politician hears "reducing the welfare burden" in his/her head) who help that company to make money (politician hears "producing taxable income") can effectively have a thousand-person vote just because of his/her job title, whereas a bunch of individuals (perhaps working for the very same company) writing letters are brushed off as the uninformed and unwashed masses. It's worth reminding those with political aspirations that it is as much their job to avoid being held to ransom by organisations who demand greater influence whilst issuing a veiled threat of "jobs being lost" as it is to encourage an environment where jobs can be maintained or created.

Then they argued that small and medium-sized companies just aren't political. I said that if there's a pressing problem, they will get political.

Well, I've already given some reasons why companies might not be political. You can also add the situation where a company that is not merely providing "solutions" would choose to sit out any political activity, for such reasons as avoiding confrontation with politically motivated opponents, sitting on the fence because of the attitudes of investors (those people who insist, contrary to the evidence, that patents make companies more valuable), or just having too much else to do building a small company offering their own products and services.

I gave them an example that in my opinion shows how ridiculously little support there is for the anti-software-patent cause: there used to be a lobby group for leading European soccer clubs, called G14 (initially 14, later 18 members).

That's apparently little financially motivated support.

I cooperated with that one because I advised and represented their biggest member (Real Madrid) at the time. The G14 had an annual budget at the time of about 2 million euros. Each of its member clubs had revenues between EUR 50 million and EUR 350 million at the time; there are lots of medium-sized IT companies in that revenue range. Lots. So 18 clubs of that size decided to spend ten to twenty times as much on a Brussels (EU capital) lobbying entity as the entirety of European IT small and medium-sized businesses on the fight against software patents. This shows that the G14 addressed a pressing problem; the FFII and my former campaign apparently didn't.

No, it merely shows that a group of organisations could be persuaded to spend money in order to further their own agenda, whereas many IT companies cannot be persuaded that doing the same thing would be in their best interests. That's not to say that the problem isn't acute for some parties and could spread to others; it means that everyone else just doesn't see it and doesn't care until it's their problem (at which point everybody else may well be indifferent to the problem).

Saying that a lack of money floating around lobbying venues points to the absence of a problem is like saying that humanity doesn't have energy/water/food/resource problems because no-one is spending big money either highlighting or remedying those problems. If plenty of people are doing just fine making money from the current situation, why would they want to bring any attention to a future situation where they don't make that kind of money? Indeed, they'll gladly outspend anyone trying to do just that.

I agree that terms like "economic majority" are risky because people just add up the revenue column and compare the numbers to the behemoths of global business, which should never be a form of policy guidance for anyone in public office. Really, the damaging effects of software patents are possibly more similar to the eradication of crucial species in ecosystems which seem unimportant ("I can't see what it does - no-one will miss it!") until the rest of the ecosystem collapses. Perhaps the "economic majority" is founded upon the freedom to innovate without the threat of patents, but we won't know the extent of the value created by having that freedom until someone manages to eradicate it.

But it doesn't surprise me that people can't be persuaded to buy into such causes. If they did, we'd already have effective and functional governments and societies that dare to confront the big issues rather than burying them under a mountain of trivia and self-interest.


Copyright © 2018, Eklektix, Inc.
Comments and public postings are copyrighted by their creators.
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds