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SourceForge Clarifies Denial of Site Access 396

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the living-in-the-real-world dept.
Recently there were some complaints from certain users outside the US stating that they were no longer able to access SourceForge.net. SF.net (who shares a corporate overlord with Slashdot) has outlined the reasons for these bans, and until someone with sufficient power to alter US law or the lists governing who is allowed to access what data from where, there is unlikely to be a change in these bans. It is worth noting that SF.net is not alone in these difficulties, as the same problems have been reported from other repositories, like Google Code. "As one of the first companies to promote the adoption and distribution of free and open source software, and one that still puts open source at the center of its corporate ideals, restrictions on the free flow of information rub us the wrong way. However, in addition to participating in the open source community, we also live in the real world, and are governed by the laws of the country in which we are located. Our need to follow those laws supersedes any wishes we might have to make our community as inclusive as possible. The possible penalties for violating these restrictions include fines and imprisonment. Other hosting companies based in the US have similar legal and technical restrictions in place."
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SourceForge Clarifies Denial of Site Access

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  • by wiredog (43288) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:14PM (#30894080) Journal

    can use a proxy to get at SourceForge.

  • by hedronist (233240) * on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:17PM (#30894118)
    "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." -- John Gilmore
  • by NeoSkandranon (515696) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:20PM (#30894164)

    The reality of the world is that picking up and moving a company overseas (from a US perspective at least) is not easy, nor cheap.

  • by qoncept (599709) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:21PM (#30894168) Homepage
    Dollars and cents. It's easy to sit back and say SF should stand up for their ideals, but the cost to move their operations along with the risk probably (er, apparently) aren't worth it. It's not a great idea to use a multi million dollar asset as a pawn to reinforce your principles. Especially when it's publicly traded.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:25PM (#30894252) Journal

    Fond memories of the form that came up for 128-bit browsers back in the 90s. They always used to ask you to provide your information, and certify that you weren't from a bad country. I wish that was a joke; but no. They really did that. Cuz, you know... somebody who was up to no good would actually be deterred by that. Sheesh!

    Any 5 year old can tell all you need is 1 guy to come over and get an ISP account. I'm quite sure that all the countries on the list not only have state-of-the-art OSS/FS encryption software, they have pirated closed-source software as well.

  • by Antidamage (1506489) * on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:28PM (#30894290) Homepage

    What exactly is the point of ideals if you don't stand up for them?

    At least with SF.net we know it's a popularity contest. Make enough noise and they'll do something about it.

  • by achbed (97139) * <sd@achb e d . org> on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:29PM (#30894294) Homepage Journal
    I hope you're not living in the US, nor in a treaty signatory. Hosting location does not equal legal liability freedom.
  • by ElSupreme (1217088) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:30PM (#30894314)
    Well according to them the US is limiting their ability to 'to make our community as inclusive as possible'. So that would seem that the US is not a 'country that affords them the gretest opportunity to succeed.'

    I realize it isn't just as simple as moving to Finland. But what you said makes less sense.
  • by Antidamage (1506489) * on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:30PM (#30894318) Homepage

    Yeah, I was looking for a better word than hatred but it does outline one of the main causes of bad international relations. Plus you're a douchesock.

  • by mdm-adph (1030332) <mdmadph&gmail,com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:31PM (#30894338) Homepage

    ...with more Internet censorship. This is ridiculous. Export laws are what they are, but if we're trying to help open up the Internet in these countries, banning them from accessing knowledge hosted on our servers isn't helping one bit.

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:33PM (#30894360) Homepage
    The US doesn't want to face up to the fact that the only way to keep very serious, proprietary technology out of the hands of hostile states is to severely punish those in the US who facilitate the transfer. So instead, it adopts security theater here much like it pretends that it is fighting child exploitation by posting cops all over chat rooms to entrap people who have a passive interest in jailbait at best instead of actually hunting for real, serious child molesters. This allows the national security hawks to believe that we're "being tough," when in fact if we were tough, we wouldn't give a shit about SF.net, but would instead be executing men like this [foxnews.com] (just read it before attacking me, it was the first Google search result) without a second thought.

    This won't do **anything** except deter some students in these countries who don't know how to find a foreign proxy. It certainly won't stop foreign intelligence officers who try to get actual weapon systems and other serious munitions.
  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:34PM (#30894364) Journal

    It rubs pretty much everyone at Slashdot the wrong way so why don't we all chip in to create a mirror site or something based outside the US?

  • by cetialphav (246516) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:38PM (#30894428)

    Moving your entire company to another country is not the only way to stick up for your ideals. Another way is to fight to change the system. Many people with far less power than the sf.net overlords have been able to do this and succeed.

    Not everyone has the power to simply pick up their ball and run away every time they run into things they don't like. Sometimes you have to compromise and sometimes you have to try to work the system to improve it.

  • by QBasicer (781745) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:40PM (#30894456) Homepage Journal
    Since when was there a sea between the US and Canada?
  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:41PM (#30894466) Journal

    There is not a single land without any restrictions, because every country has laws. However, there are countries that don't have trade embargo's or restrictions in distribution of software with cryptography (both which probably effected SF). In addition some countries value privacy and freedom of speech a lot more. Sweden being a perfect example.

  • by onionman (975962) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:41PM (#30894470)

    If you are an open source coder (as I am), and you are involved with a project on sourceforge (as I was until a couple minutes ago), just ask the principal maintainer to move it to a different site. If they don't, stop contributing. Or, if you really don't care, then just go on with business as usual.

  • by achbed (97139) * <sd@achb e d . org> on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:42PM (#30894488) Homepage Journal

    The issue is not the ownership or contributing membership of the individual projects. The issue is that by hosting, a copy of the software is being maintained under the control of whomever owns and/or controls the hosting servers. In the case of software hosted by a US company or person, that company or person is held responsible for ensuring that the content of that server follows applicable US and/or state law. This includes export laws. So, by you uploading something to their server, they are instantly liable for that. And for every transmission, that is one export, so charge counts, and thus fines add up fast. To ensure that they exist as a company tomorrow, they have to take this step (as crappy as it seems).

    Oh and to those of you suggesting to move the hosting servers, that does not remove you from legal liability. If the servers are under your control, and you live in the US, you still have to follow US export laws. So, just by setting up a mirror server in another country that's on the export list, you're violating the law.

  • by jjohnson (62583) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:42PM (#30894496) Homepage

    The problem is the hosting is in the U.S. Like it or not, that gives the U.S. government leverage to enforce its laws on the organization.

    Push sf.net to move to offshore hosting. As long as its servers are in the U.S., sf cannot expect to win a fight with the U.S. gov't.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:44PM (#30894520)

    No. US laws monitor where the actual people involved in the business actually live & work. Their physical location requires them to abide by the regulations. SF.net would have to move all operations to a foreign country if they wanted to remain free to the world.

  • Re:Sad but real (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tanuki64 (989726) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:45PM (#30894530)
    Good reason why I never will visit the USA. I'd probably have the same bad feeling I'd have in China. Or...on second thought...I'd feel more secure in China. If I'd get arrested there, I'd have at least the broad public on my side. If I'd get arrested in the USA I wonder how many would think this must be my own fault since he USA are a constitutional state and by definition the 'good'.
  • the wise thing for sourceforge to do is simply agree to whatever the usa demands. and then its business as usual. which is: everything is available with no restrictions to anyone remotely familiar with a proxy server

    enforcement is impossible, even for the usa within its own borders, so who fucking cares what the lawyers and bureaucrats and diplomats say? they've already been routed around

    i'm not saying you shouldn't get upset at the arrogance and the audacity of the american demands, i'm saying a bully making demands without any actual ability to follow through on his threats is nothing you have to pay any respect to, and therefore nothing you should waste much effort or emotion on

    you simply pay the asshole lip service, put a big smile on your face, say "yes" to whatever the asshole wants, and then its business as usual, which is: these laws mean nothing. all of the posturing and threats and demands mean nothing. there's NO ENFORCEMENT POSSIBLE

    they can't enforce any of it. its the internet age. this is not about exporting video game machines, which can be intercepted, its about the internet, which routes around everything

    people: stop getting upset at idiots trying to enforce legal understandings from a previous technological era and just ingore them and their petty demands without any muscle behind them. they can't stop technological change. they are defunct, they just don't know it

    don't waste your time getting upset at a paper tiger

  • by Idiomatick (976696) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:58PM (#30894690)
    "zero government" Rwanda?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:59PM (#30894730)
    This means users residing in countries on the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanction list, including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria, may not post content to, or access content available through, SourceForge.net.

    So basically -- help Iranian dissidents in their struggle against Islamofascist tyranny = get prosecuted by the Feds and go to prison as a possible traitor in your own country. Way to go, Congress. Way to go...
  • by Zerth (26112) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:03PM (#30894788) Homepage

    The US has shown before that they'll arrest employees of foreign companies that are in the US for things the parent company did in other countries. E.g. Skylarov/Elcomsoft.

  • by fm6 (162816) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:07PM (#30894848) Homepage Journal

    IANAL, but I think it would be very hard for any company that does any kind of business in the U.S. if they flout U.S. law. So GeekNet (SF's parent company) would have to move every single U.S. employee over the border. (Which includes the staff of Slashdot. How about it, Rob, Pudge, you guys willing to do the Phillip Nolan act?) And there's still the problem of selling services to U.S. customers.

    Come to think of it, since all this comes under the category of "export controls", it would probably be illegal to move the servers across the border. You'd have to start over from scratch, using only software that's legally available outside the U.S.

    All in all, a lot of trouble to protect the rights of a few Libyan hackers.

    I agree that the laws on this issue are stupid and cause pointless hardship. But SF is in no position to disobey them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:10PM (#30894938)

    Try photographing or filming the seal hunts and see what happens to you.

    Quite frankly, it really doesn't matter about the laws in place. If you piss off morally dubious, violent people with weapons in a secluded, unwatched area, you're in for a world of trouble.

    As for the topic at hand - sf.net user "newark" raises a really good point; SF.net (a US entity) does not own the software. If software was made in a particular country, then it doesn't become US property because it's hosted on a US site - that's despicable, and theft of intellectual property if I ever heard it (unlike piracy, this is people being denied intellectual property which the owners are happy to give them). Also, "newark" points out that FSF has rules explicitly forbidding discrimination - so SF.net are massive hypocrites for associating themselves with free (libre) software.

    I'm surprised no-one has mentioned this (but I'm reading in threaded order, not chronological, so who knows)

  • by casings (257363) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:11PM (#30894954)

    Why wouldn't this be considered a violation of the first amendment? (Not SF.net blocking, but the laws which that censorship is based).

  • by lgw (121541) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:11PM (#30894958) Journal

    If you don't have the protection of a military, any government can censor you! This is the primary reason we put up with governments, after all - to avoid being conquered by someone with a worse government.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:15PM (#30895016)

    "What exactly is the point of ideals if you don't stand up for them?"

    Host the content yourself if you are so ready to expect sacrifice of others.

  • by marcansoft (727665) <hector@@@marcansoft...com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:20PM (#30895070) Homepage

    The freedoms of Free Software apply to licenses, not people or entities. This isn't a violation of any open source license as far as I'm aware. Roughly speaking, licenses will require either nothing in this regard (BSD doesn't force you to give away the code or binaries to anyone at all), or distribution of source code to people who receive binaries (GPL and the like). SourceForge isn't doing this, they're just refusing to distribute anything at all to these countries. This also has nothing to do with the software itself, just the act of hosting it. It's about the service, not the good. No one is preventing you from accessing your own work, just from accessing it through SourceForge's service (servers). Just have someone in a neutral country get it for you; this is perfectly legit and I bet even encouraged by SF.

    The licenses themselves cannot include these kinds of limitations (if a licence says you can't run the program if you're North Korean, then it isn't an open source license, and this is what Freedom 5 is all about), but they do not require that users have this kind of openness. In fact, it is unnecessary: since the license lets you redistribute the program, all it takes is a third party to proxy between a restrictive distributor and the destination that he wants to avoid.

    You can disagree with SF's take on the subject, but they aren't violating any licenses. If they did export to restricted countries, they would be violating local law. Given the availability of proxies and the like, it would be a questionably useful move. So the US government wants to annoy you; work around it and complain about the US government all you want (and rightly so), but don't blame the people who are just following the law.

  • by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:21PM (#30895080) Homepage Journal

    http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/3788 [brusselsjournal.com]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Germany [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_France#Disabled_people [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_the_United_Kingdom#The_UK_before_the_European_Court_of_Human_Rights [wikipedia.org]

    I'm not saying that Europe is broken and the U.S. is perfect, but people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

    -b

  • by fm6 (162816) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:33PM (#30895234) Homepage Journal

    It's highly appropriate that we should hear from somebody on the ground in Syria. One of the points of this law is to gain leverage against the Syrian government, which Washington considers unfriendly. It's a stupid, shortsighted strategy, that doesn't really accomplish anything, except hurt innocent people.

    On the other hand, it's a little inconsistent to call SourceForge "cowardly" for not standing up the government. (Note that the wording of any OS agreement they adhere to is irrelevant — no agreement to act illegally is valid.) Would you dare to flout Syrian law the same way? Not to judge your system of government, but you have to acknowledge the consequences would be pretty severe. U.S. law is less so, but they can still put SourceForge out of business and maybe put some of its people in jail.

    Sometimes you do have to go to jail for what you believe in. But this isn't one of them.

  • Re:Sad but real (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:46PM (#30895434) Journal
    I don't know what country you live in, but if it is a Western European country, chances are you have similar laws, so this isn't a problem of 'USA,' it is a problem of living in a world where countries still want to destroy other countries.
  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:49PM (#30895502) Homepage Journal

    Sometimes, you have to pick your fights carefully. In this day and age, all the inJustice department need do is say the word "terrorism" or "9/11/01" to get an indictment and conviction.

    I disagree with some - hell, MOST - of the embargoes, but what's to be done beyond protesting? I can point out that with proxies, anyone in the world can download any code that's available on the web. There's no need for me to SUPPLY a foreign national with anything, is there?

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:54PM (#30895556) Journal
    The GPL says, essentially, "if you compile this and distribute it to people, you also have to give them the source code." If they don't give the compiled version to people in Syria, they are under no obligation to give the source code. So it's ok.
  • by steelfood (895457) on Monday January 25, 2010 @05:07PM (#30895754)

    That shifts the burden to developers in the US, who would be unable to contribute to projects hosted outside of the US.

    That having been said, source code is not a product. It's a blueprint of a product at best. It can also constitute as speech. IANAL, and I haven't read the law in question, but I think restricting binaries is sufficient to comply. On the other hand, nothing short of an outright firewall still might bring the authorities knocking, and result in a costly legal battle, win or lose.

    But it's a stupid restriction anyway. If you post something to the internet, you'd expect anybody and everybody to be able to get to it. The internet was designed to know no borders. Laws like those are analogous to laws that mandate the Great Firewall of China.

  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @05:12PM (#30895832) Journal

    Maybe I should have said, "zero other people".

    That's absolutely true. In order to live in society, you trade some freedoms for others. In the end, most people feel that the freedoms that gain are worth more than the freedoms they lose. However, you said before:

    Yep, that's what I'm thinking. You're never going to have true freedom unless you have zero government. Even governments that claim to promote freedom are really liars.

    And that part is wrong, for the reasons outlined above. Society increases the freedoms of its members, who can do things no individual living alone could possibly do. But in order to live in society, you have to agree to live by society's rules, and this means giving up the freedom to, for instance, punch people in the face. But it is a voluntary trade. If you don't like it, there are still plenty of wild places where no one will bother you, and you can live with all the freedom you can create for yourself, by yourself. As for me, I like the enhanced freedoms I get from living in society.

  • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Monday January 25, 2010 @05:39PM (#30896286)

    You don;t have to pick it up - SF hosts free software, so incorporate a new business in Sweden or similar that just happens to host a mirror of SF's software. Then sf can happily block anyone (assuming that Sweden's not on the list of terror countries, which is possibly is given the US's idiocy and servile pandering to corporate interests) and provide a link to the Swedish mirror.

    SF continues as normal, sf.sweden downloads a nightly changeset, job done. In fact, go one better and federate the mirrors around the world.... as long as the 'evil citizens of terror states' don't access the USA mirror, all's good.

  • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Monday January 25, 2010 @06:09PM (#30896786)
    Since when was there a sea between the US and Canada?

    The "Gulf of Misunderstanding" has definitely been there as long as I can remember.

  • by gd2shoe (747932) on Monday January 25, 2010 @06:37PM (#30897132) Journal

    Not all speech is protected, and just because it's in paper form doesn't mean the 1st amendment will be applied by the courts. Protected speech is primarily political in nature. (like it or not)

    Our government has decided that certain algorithms are weapons, and thus claims control on exporting them. Within the States, it seems to be a fuzzy combination of 1st and 2nd amendments that protect us. (from my layman's understanding)

    Personally, I think such laws are outdated. The enemies of the US surely use proxy servers here to download whatever public code they wish. If proxy servers didn't exist, they'd find another way to smuggle the information across the Internet. I don't know who they think they're fooling.

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Monday January 25, 2010 @08:48PM (#30898708)

    I fail to see how you are linking the issue of regulating the export of products with respecting freedom of expression.

    Some years back, US law was changed so that the export of "technology" was controlled, not just the export of physical goods. You can be convicted of an export control violation by speaking privately to a foreign national about a controlled technology, even while both of you are on US soil. Note that this same conversation with a US citizen is perfectly legal -- we aren't discussing espionage here.

    In that sense, export control regulation is directly linked to freedom of expression -- in an inverted way.

  • by Per Wigren (5315) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:32AM (#30900912) Homepage

    How ironic that to be free to the world they'd have to move away from the free world.

    USA != The free world.

    Most countries in Europe and many other countries are still pretty darn free, although American lobbyists are working hard to change that.

It is contrary to reasoning to say that there is a vacuum or space in which there is absolutely nothing. -- Descartes

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