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Free Software friendly patent pools

Free Software friendly patent pools

Posted Aug 27, 2010 14:03 UTC (Fri) by FlorianMueller (guest, #32048)
In reply to: Free Software friendly patent pools by mjw
Parent article: A very grumpy editor's thoughts on Oracle

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.


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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!


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