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European Parliament To Exclude Free Software With FRAND

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:08PM (#39105761)

    This is confusing. It seems to go like this:

    General consensus: Some "standards" are being derailed by patent holders who make unreasonable demands.
    Euros: We'll pass legislation that the demands have to be reasonable.
    FSF: No! Because even so-called reasonable demands exclude FOSS, hence, they aren't really "reasonable".
    Euros: But half a loaf of bread...
    FSF: No! Give us the whole damn loaf, or nothing!

    Personally I'd be happy to get half a loaf, and then allow for others to keep fighting for the other half.

    • by pallmall1 (882819)
      Well Dude, I don't think that YOU are very responsible.
    • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:15PM (#39105821)

      This is confusing.

      Actually, it's easy. All governments are bad guys.

      Well, maybe a few aren't, but if you start by assuming they're bad guys then you'll be pleasantly surprised if you turn out to be wrong.

      • by no-body (127863)

        Actually, it's easy. All governments are bad guys.

        OK - so what's your alternative?

        • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday February 20, 2012 @11:31PM (#39106567) Homepage Journal

          The alternative would be, "All governments are assholes."

        • by boorack (1345877)

          OK - so what's your alternative?

          Direct democracy ? Now that we have all necessary means to perform referendums in cheap and efficient way, we can limit governments to merely doing paperwork and let "we, the people" make actual decisions.

        • by gmuslera (3436) *
          Transparency. Everything that does, gets, or meet people from government is made public (and with government don't mean just the president, but congressmen, local authorities, counselours, every people that have a direct (or close enough to it) role in any action or decision of the government. If they are your representatives, then you must know what they do, and really why them do that. And that could be kicked, banned from public serving, and even jailed if proved that accepted any sort of bribes or thing
    • by macshit (157376) <miles.gnu@org> on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:23PM (#39105855) Homepage

      The FSF's objection is precisely right. The standard of "reasonable" often used by government agencies and standards bodies is badly outdated, and based on a model ("all software written by commercial entities") that doesn't reflect the real world anymore. Standards are supposed to be for everybody's benefit, not just that of large corporations.

      However making such changes is difficult (these bodies do not move quickly)—so if they're making the effort to update things, they should do it right, not just following the dictates of whatever lobby happens to be shoveling the most money at them.

      • by nightfell (2480334) on Monday February 20, 2012 @10:16PM (#39106191)

        It takes a strange worldview to claim that "reasonable" is an extreme position.

        FRAND is reasonable. This is because private concerns exist. Without FRAND, we end up with lame standards that tiptoe around patents (like all Theora, and now WebM vs H.264). We also wouldn't have a worldwide GSM standard. Even with local variations, the standard is pretty reliable and useful. If each cell phone manufacturer and network only used standards which were not patent encumbered, we'd have a much less robust wireless market.

        This is, like I said, because private concerns exist. If they didn't, then Free Software would be the way to go, mainly because it would be the only way to go. No one is locking out Free Software, unless the free software writers themselves prohibit the use of patented technologies. The FRAND patent holders will gladly (and in fact, are legally required to) allow Free Software users to obtain a license for the patents.

        I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong about FS/OSS. They are fantastic, and I use plenty of such software. It's the ideological purity I'm addressing. It ignores the real world, and leads to absurd statements like that "reasonable" is something that "doesn't reflect the real world", which is a bit much. Especially considering the "real world" works just fine with FRAND, and so few people use free software that would are affected by FRAND issues that it's of insignificant impact.

        • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Monday February 20, 2012 @10:33PM (#39106251)
          'Reasonable' terms are often quite unreasonable. And the solution is very easy. DON'T allow patents on software. If they won't do that, there's also the solution of not having their standards directive allow for standards that require royalties, just as they don't allow for standards that refuse to grant someone a license. Also, there could be a requirement for an alternative that is FOSS compatible, such as a one time fee that allows for downstream users (which I believe is what happened with SAMBA)
          • 'Reasonable' terms are often quite unreasonable. And the solution is very easy. DON'T allow patents on software.

            Why? What does that solve, and how is that not going to be worse that the thing it solves?

            And that doesn't even solve the "problem". GSM, for example, is a standard that has patents on physical hardware. Why is software so special that it should be exempt from patents altogether?

            If they won't do that, there's also the solution of not having their standards directive allow for standards that require royalties, just as they don't allow for standards that refuse to grant someone a license.

            Then you tell the EU it can't use GSM phones, H.264 video, and countless other standards that you pay for every day without realizing it, because FRAND is not the evil monster you think it is. It works fantastically. If someone want

            • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Monday February 20, 2012 @11:55PM (#39106697)

              Why? What does that solve, and how is that not going to be worse that the thing it solves? And that doesn't even solve the "problem". GSM, for example, is a standard that has patents on physical hardware. Why is software so special that it should be exempt from patents altogether?

              Software is special because it's purely mathematical, but we should try to eventually rid ourselves of copyright and patents altogether as well. It will not be worse because patents, especially software patents, do not result in a net social benefit, so the elimination of them would result in no longer having a hindrance.

              That would make no sense. For something like H.264 or GSM, Google could just pay a one time fee for each standard, and all of a sudden every Chrome user gets H.264 and every Motorola phone gets GSM, for no additional charge in perpetuity?

              The various patent holders only invented the invention once, so just getting paid once is fine as well. However, in this scenario, I'm saying that this is one option available. Google might find it better to pay a smaller royalty over time than a one time lump sum.

              It works fantastically. If someone wants to write software that says you can't use patented technologies, *THAT PERSON* is the one who's causing the issue. And that is an ideological stance that is counter to reality.

              Then practically all people that write software are 'causing issues', because it's quite difficult to write non-trivial software that doesn't infringe on a patent. We're just fortunate in that most of the time, the patent holder is unaware of this fact.

              The simple fact is that FRAND works just fine. That's reality. Pretending like it's some sort of assault on freedom, or free software, is ass backwards.

              If by works just fine, you mean helps to uphold rent seeking behavior, then sure. It's quite annoying that the standard often used for 'works just fine' is 'hasn't completely halted progress.'

            • by Rob Y. (110975) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:09AM (#39107335)

              Standards are chosen for the convenience of the producer of a patented service. I don't ask for H.264 video. I just want the content. If using a patent encumbered tech to deliver your goods makes business sense for you, then you should pay the royalty. But making the consumer pay a royalty again for the ability to consume is double charging, and doing so with monopoly restricted choices. If ATT wants to use GSM cell towers, fine. But why should the handset user pay a royalty to connect?

              It's silly to claim that the harm to free software is negligible. The FOSS ecosystem can't work with royalty requirements. And most FOSS would go with patent free code if it were possible. But interoperability requires implementing standards. That's not a choice.

        • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday February 20, 2012 @11:02PM (#39106393)

          The problem is that "fair and reasonable" completely locks out all free software. This is not about ideology, the two concepts are mutually exclusive. A "reasonable" price between two giant corporations is too expensive for free software (and most small businesses). Can you afford to write free software when the reasonable license for a patent is in 5 digit figures?

          • The problem is that "fair and reasonable" completely locks out all free software. This is not about ideology, the two concepts are mutually exclusive. A "reasonable" price between two giant corporations is too expensive for free software (and most small businesses). Can you afford to write free software when the reasonable license for a patent is in 5 digit figures?

            That's not the problem. The problem is that GPL3 only allows software to be distributed if it comes with an unlimited license for all patents involved. So if you have a GPL3 project producing some software, even if the patent holder gives you a license to use their patent for free _for that project_, that's not enough. So a license grant "you can use this patent for free inside the Firefox browser" is not acceptable.

        • by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @12:26AM (#39106867)

          If each cell phone manufacturer and network only used standards which were not patent encumbered, we'd have a much less robust wireless market.

          More likely we would just have fewer vague, obvious, overbroad patents. The main impetus behind such patents is that if you can get them included as a necessary part of a standard, you can then run around collecting tolls from everyone in the industry. If no standards are accepted with necessary patents that are not freely licensed to anyone implementing the standard, the coerced market for those patents disappears, and either nobody bothers to file the bad patents in the first place, or the people who do then realize it is better to freely license them to anyone implementing the standard because in no event will they be getting any money from those implementing the standard, and by that point better to freely license it and improve the standard.

        • by epyT-R (613989) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @01:08AM (#39107055)

          the lameness of those standards are caused by the obviousness of most patents in the first place. if gsm (and the rest) wasn't patented, there'd BE one world standard already. instead we have four or five completely incompatible standards, and service is still a ripoff.

          the FOSS authors prohibit for the same reasons the patent holders claim: to prevent abuse. the FOSS guys are often shafted by binary only blobs for hardware drivers that make debugging things difficult or impossible, and the closed guys don't want their old products competing with their lightly patched new ones so they don't mind this. they love artificial scarcity.

          If you want to complain about the ideological 'purity' of the FOSS guys, then you must also complain about the 'purity' of the patent trolls, because it's a equal-opposite reaction. They are the ones who claim they want to lock down every piece of electronics that uses software for the sake of 'respecting creator rights', even if that software becomes abusive to the people who bought the products in the first place.

      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday February 20, 2012 @10:18PM (#39106201) Journal

        Making such changes is easy. You just replace a few words here and there in the law and you're done.

        The real problem is that the business interests would rather have a vaguely worded law that they can fight over in court,
        instead of a reasoned discussion in public where people might have the opportunity to disagree with them in a meaningful way.

        • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Monday February 20, 2012 @11:57PM (#39106713)

          Making such changes is easy. You just replace a few words here and there in the law and you're done.

          Email is still governed by the stored communications act (from the 1980s, IIRC). The FCC regulates interstate communications using laws from 1996, and those are the RECENT ones that are relevant. (common carrier laws are still based on common-law history going back to the 1800s).

          It is rarely, if ever, easy to change law.

    • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday February 20, 2012 @10:57PM (#39106359)

      "Fair and reasonable" means priced high enough that only big companies can afford it.

    • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by VAElynx (2001046) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @01:28AM (#39107159)
      Euros: We'll pass legislation that allows the BSA to rape you, but they have to be reasonable about it, no rectal bleeding and such.
      FSF: No! Keep business dick out of the public's ass!
      Euros: What if it's just half a dick. That's reasonable as a compromise, right? right?

      Seriously. Someone making an outlandish and outright wrong demand isn't grounds for compromise, it's grounds for rejection.
    • by grahamm (8844)

      It is not the term 'reasonable' which is being violated, but the term 'discriminatory'. Requiring per-item royalty payments not only discriminates against FLOSS but also against products which are sold (often at a high price) in source form for a one-off payment.

    • by pmontra (738736)

      I can't see how reasonable excludes free. Free is the limit case of the cost of the license approaching zero. FOSS licenses should be a subset of FRAND by any definition.

      What FSF is worried about is (I think) that we could end up having standards we must pay for when using them. What FSF would like to see (me too) is that only free standards become recognized standards, in the same way we don't have to pay for measuring things with meters, liters and kilograms.

  • One solution... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msauve (701917) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:09PM (#39105765)
    get "fair and reasonable" licensing terms to be defined as the lower of $x per unit or y% of product revenue. With no revenue, FOSS could freely use and distribute such patented software. It would even be advantageous, since software which would otherwise be locked behind a paywall could be made freely available.
    • Re:One solution... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Z34107 (925136) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:15PM (#39105815)

      That sounds kind of like what Microsoft did to Mosaic - we'll give you 10% of our IE revenue! I can see companies being tricksy about it, say, giving the FRAND part away for "free" to avoid paying royalties, but licensing the rest of the program for a fee.

      In my perfect little world, software wouldn't be patentable, and we wouldn't have this problem.

      • Re:One solution... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday February 20, 2012 @11:10PM (#39106431)

        I'm not totally against software patents. They are overused though. However my bigger concern is with standards tied to patents. That concept is utterly ridiculous. A standard that you must pay for to comply with? That defeats the entire purpose of having a standard, instead it is more like those pseudo-standards created by trade organizations (guilds, cabals, etc).

        • by Z34107 (925136)

          "A standard that you must pay for to comply with" makes more sense if you consider that the patents came before the standards. Companies with FRAND patents decided to license them for a (relative) pittance rather than sue everyone thinking about making cell phones.

          It's almost noble.

          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            Or you create a competing technique that works w/o a patent and standardize on that?

            • Re:One solution... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Z34107 (925136) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @01:48AM (#39107245)

              Good luck with that. One patent stunted steam engine [techdirt.com] research for years. A patent pool on sewing machines [techdirt.com] stopped any improvement in the art for 14 years.

              Those were before the modern, "rounded rectangles" state of patent trolling. I doubt it's possible to implement a non-trivial standard without stepping on someone's patents.

              So, next best thing to pretending everyone else's patents don't exist is having everyone offer them up on FRAND terms.

              • by Darinbob (1142669)

                Except that FRAND only works for other companies of a reasonable size. I as an individual can not afford to get a license. And it will be a burden to small start ups as well. Of course it's better than no one getting to use the patent without kissing feet...

                • by grahamm (8844)

                  In which case it is not FRAND, because it discriminates against the individual and small startup.

    • Re:One solution... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:24PM (#39105861)

      With no revenue, FOSS could freely use and distribute such patented software

      Except that part of the freedom that comes with free software is the freedom to sell that software.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by msauve (701917)

        Except that part of the freedom that comes with free software is the freedom to sell that software.

        ...and if you're selling it, what's wrong with paying some royalties? There's free, as in libre, which is what you're talking about, and having associated costs doesn't affect that. Then there's free, as in beer, and having a royalty of x% of revenue doesn't affect that. It's only when you want to have your cake, and eat it, too, that there's a problem.

        • Well, I will be honest -- at the moment, I cannot think of a particular problem with your suggestion, from the point of view of free software development / distribution. The only issue I see with it is that it creates a nightmare for enforcement on the part of the standards body, since they have no way of knowing whether or not the royalty was paid on any particular copy of the software (since I might sell some free software to you, and you might give it to 10 people, who might sell it at different prices,
          • by AK Marc (707885)

            The only issue I see with it is that it creates a nightmare for enforcement on the part of the standards body, since they have no way of knowing whether or not the royalty was paid on any particular copy of the software (since I might sell some free software to you, and you might give it to 10 people, who might sell it at different prices, etc.).

            That'd be the same issue no matter what licensing scheme is used. But 10 licenses and sell 1000 copies, how can they prove it? The same way they would in your example. The problems don't change when the numbers change, and anything that's a problem at $0 is a problem at $1 or $1,000,000.

          • by c0lo (1497653)

            The only issue I see with it is that it creates a nightmare for enforcement on the part of the standards body, since they have no way of knowing whether or not the royalty was paid on any particular copy of the software (since I might sell some free software to you, and you might give it to 10 people, who might sell it at different prices, etc.).

            Yes, it will create a nightmare for the enforcement. But why should be this the FOSS community problem?

    • Re:One solution... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:40PM (#39105969)
      We shouldn't accept "solutions" that allow software patents at all. Patents are wrong. They literally prohibit *you* from exploiting your *own* ideas, ideas that you came up with independently, just because someone else, who might be on the other side of the world, had the same idea a few years earlier and patented it.
      • Re:One solution... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Nerdfest (867930) on Monday February 20, 2012 @10:42PM (#39106283)

        ... and even worse, as I like to point out; you are in violation of a software patent even if your implementation of the same idea is vastly superior in every way.

      • by zill (1690130)
        I'm curious, how would you prevent reverse engineering without patents? I'm against software patents but if you're proposing that we scrap all patents I'd like to hear your alternative measures.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          A great many master artists learned their techniques through rote copying of previous artists. learning and imitation is going to happen. Its not bad.

        • Re:One solution... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Rakishi (759894) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @12:14AM (#39106797)

          Why does it matter? Just because an alternative isn't perfect doesn't mean it's not better. How often have software patents prevented reverse engineering? Does anyone even care anymore? Oh god, if I reverse engineer I'll get sued but if I try to make my own independent version I'll get sued as well. How many frivolous patent lawsuits are happening every single second? How much innovation is stiffed because anything you do is under fifty potential patents backed by a mountain of well paid lawyers?

          You know what prevents reverse engineering? The cost of doing so successfully and the delay during which you get to exploit the market.

        • Reverse engineering is a separate issue. The principle of operation of patents is way too broad to cover just reverse engineering.

          Suppose two people have essentially the same idea. This happens a lot. It might be that they have independently come up with it (we all stand on the shoulders of giants), or perhaps one of them has copied it from the other. Patents don't make a distinction, the first to register gets a monopoly on what's in other peoples' heads for 20 years. That's like putting people in jail j

  • Ugly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by instagib (879544) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:13PM (#39105805)

    "supported by industry associations such as the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and members including Apple, Microsoft and SAP"

    The evil trio of IT and it's attack dog. But hey, they just play the game of monopoly as far as the law allows. The really ugly part are the politicians who accept the bribes - sorry, I mean, work with lobbyists - and decide regulations benefitting the 1% only.

  • The F in FRAND stands for "fair." FRAND is an approach used for decades by Standards committees that require any participant and any IP involved with a proposed Standard to offer open and uniform patent licensing to everyone (on the planet). This type of licensing is very much NOT the industry practice, where nearly every patent license is otherwise kept a secret and has to be painfully negotiated. There is nothing in FRAND, that I can see, that prohibits open source software or other open IP. In fact, Stan
    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:29PM (#39105899)

      There is nothing in FRAND, that I can see, that prohibits open source software or other open IP

      There most certainly is; from the GPL:

      You may not impose any further restrictions on the exercise of the rights granted or affirmed under this License. For example, you may not impose a license fee, royalty, or other charge for exercise of rights granted under this License

      if you agree to terms that obligate you to collect a royalty for further conveying from those to whom you convey the Program, the only way you could satisfy both those terms and this License would be to refrain entirely from conveying the Program.

      How can I have the freedom to redistribute my software at no cost (which is one of the freedoms you have with free software) if I have to pay royalties to some standards body in order to do so, and force anyone who helps in that redistribution (i.e. mirrors, participants in a P2P networks, etc.) to do so?

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        How can I have the freedom to redistribute my software at no cost (which is one of the freedoms you have with free software) if I have to pay royalties to some standards body in order to do so,...

        How can you have freedom to distribute software that violates the IP of someone else under GPL to start with? What does whether the royalty you'd have to pay to use it is fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory or not have to do with it? What does FRAND cost you that not having FRAND saves you?

        • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:40PM (#39105973)
          Which is exactly the point. By creating standards that require royalty payments, you are preventing GPL software from implementing the standard. That was the GP's question, and thus the question is answered.
          • by Amouth (879122)

            x% of 0 = 0 where x is in any real number.

            if the standards body was to be FRAND in this motion any royalty fees should be set as % of revenue.

            • Which is still incompatible with the GPL(2|3). See the GPL sections I posted, or read the relevant licenses yourself:

              https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html [gnu.org]
              https://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0.html [gnu.org]
              • GPL is not some kind of immutable gospel. It may well be that it's simply badly written in that regard, and needs to be adjusted. Personally, I don't see any problem with paying royalties when commercially distributing FOSS - you're earning money, what's wrong with sharing it with other people who have a part in your commercial success? So long as free sharing remains free...

                • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday February 20, 2012 @11:53PM (#39106687)
                  Except that not everyone who sells free software is doing so as part of a commercial venture; free software may be sold at a break even price by a nonprofit or by volunteers (e.g. as part of a kit for running an installfest). It may also be the case that a mirror of various distributions charges its users for access, where some of the software might be royalty free and some might not be (and now that mirror could be forced to monitor all the software that its users download for compliance purposes). There are generally good reasons that royalties are forbidden by the GPL: royalties encourage a particular distribution infrastructure in which everyone gets their software from a small number of distributors, while the GPL is meant to encourage sharing.

                  More importantly, why should implementing a standard make it impossible for a developer to choose a commonly used software license?
            • by xkr (786629)
              Yes, that is the normal rule. Any minimums at all are generally viewed as "not FRAND."
          • by xkr (786629)

            If Standard REQUIRES patented technology to implement, then you are right. You can't copy a patent and then think you can distribute that for free. However, first there are very few Standards that required patented technology -- although that might get you to market faster, or save you some money.

            If you think can implement something close to the proposed Standard, in a way that doesn't infringe on a disclosed patent (patents are always disclosed in advance during Standards meetings), then tell the committe

      • by rtb61 (674572) on Monday February 20, 2012 @10:11PM (#39106163) Homepage

        Standards can be legislated as compulsory. To require the use of patent items and hence compulsory payments, is nothing more than a government enforced monopoly with the sole intent of driving out all other businesses covered by that standard. None of them can sell that service, only one of them can, all the others are force to buy it and in the case of FOSS then have to give it away ie a direct corrupt tactic to drive FOSS out of business.

        Want it in a standard, then give it away to start with or piss off with your corrupt intent.

        • by xkr (786629)

          Very few standards are EVER legislated as compulsory.

          Standards body are absolutely NOT the government. Participation is voluntary, and so is compliance.

          Standards are best possible alternative to government. "If you like this, great! If don't like it, you are free to do whatever you want."

          Which is, uh, why there are so MANY Standards. Or, as we used to say, "one for everybody."

          People LIKE Standards. If I want to buy an "802.11ac" wireless access point, I have no clue what 802.11ac is, but I have a good

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BitterOak (537666)

        There is nothing in FRAND, that I can see, that prohibits open source software or other open IP

        There most certainly is; from the GPL:

        If there is a problem here, it is with the GPL, not with FRAND. As far as I can tell, BSD licensed software should be just fine. The GPL is not a free license, it is a very restrictive license.

        But I'm not sure there is even a problem. The quote from the FRAND requirement posted above makes reference to patents, not to copyright: "FRAND is an approach used for decades by Standards committees that require any participant and any IP involved with a proposed Standard to offer open and uniform patent licensin

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Microlith (54737)

          BSD licensed software should be just fine.

          Sure, you can push off patent issues on your users. You can close the source and control your users too.

          The GPL is not a free license, it is a very restrictive license.

          The lie appears again!

          The GPL is a free license. It ensures the freedom of the software, and the freedom of its recipients to access the software to suit their purposes. It prevents the middleman from taking away the access to the source, which has always been the goal of the GPL.

          It places no restrict

      • by xkr (786629)

        If are the source of, or user, of GPL property, then the entire FRAND thing is irrelevant for you. If it's open, it's open. Copyrights and patents are granted only the original creators or original works. If the creator wants to make it open, great! The Standards body prefers that, and so do all the users. These two are not in conflict at all. Open source helps patents, because it provides a widely available reference that can trivially be used against anyone who might (purposefully or accidentally) claim a

    • by mikera (98932) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:43PM (#39105989) Homepage Journal

      Any form of licensing for standards is incompatible with open source software. When you distribute open source you need to distribute it will all the rights otherwise the burden on the recipient (often an individual rather than a company) to acquire such licenses is excessive and unreasonable. How many people would use Open Office for example if they had to separately go and buy a set of complex FRAND licenses with every download?

      Making distributors of open source responsible for acquiring the licenses won't work either, because they can't control downstream copies (the very nature of open source) and you place a major hurdle in the way of individuals or small companies becoming distributors themselves (which is the spirit of open source).

      Basically, FRAND is a nightmare for open source. Of course traditional software companies love it because it means that they get to benefit from reduced competition, but you can kiss goodbye to most of your innovation and the end result will be customers paying more for worse software.

      In my view the only acceptable open standard is one that is unencumbered by *any* licensing requirements. Standards organisations either need to get with the 21st century on this one or be (rightfully) ignored.

      • Any form of licensing for standards is incompatible with open source software.

        No, it's incompatible with the GPL. There are plenty of other "open source software" licenses.

    • by c0lo (1497653) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:44PM (#39105991)

      There is nothing in FRAND, that I can see, that prohibits open source software or other open IP. In fact, Standards committees -- given a choice -- would far rather build in open IP to closed IP (even FRAND) into a Standard. Can someone knowledgable explain how FRAND in any way harms open source?

      Prohibits, no. However it does discriminate [gnu.org] against those who cannot pay the license fees but would otherwise still be able to implement the standard - most of the open-source contributors are like this - e.g. VideoLAN [wikidot.com] (scroll down to "Patent threats").

      • by kqs (1038910)

        Is that like how Lexus discriminates against people who can only afford Toyotas, or scooters, or bicycles?

        I don't like the current patent system, but an argument that boils down to "I can't afford it, so I can take it for free" is not very compelling.

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          Is that like how Lexus discriminates against people who can only afford Toyotas, or scooters, or bicycles?

          I don't like the current patent system, but an argument that boils down to "I can't afford it, so I can take it for free" is not very compelling.

          Except that we aren't talking about Toyota now, are talking about the European Parliament... you know, the guys that are supposed to make sure the technology that it will use won't discriminate against any citizens in the Union.
          The same guys that should make sure the collected taxes are used, to the best possible, in their citizens interest - and Open Source is able to deliver technology at a lower cost, so why should they be excluded from the very start?

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          Lexus is not implementing any "standards" for automobiles that require paying a license fee. A standard by it's very nature needs to be widely available and usable. A patent by its nature is closed and restrictive, the use of which is granted only to a limited number of people.

          • If the patent is only granted to a limited number of people it's not FRAND. Hence it would be against these very terms.

            • by c0lo (1497653)

              If the patent is only granted to a limited number of people it's not FRAND. Hence it would be against these very terms.

              The entire population of humans is and will be limited. Hence is not and will never be FRAND.

              The way I see, it's very much like military intelligence - an oxymoron that, for some unknown reasons, the humans are tricked into accepting as rational.

    • by SlashDread (38969)

      "Fair" is not defined.

      To me it sounds like standards can be based on "fair" licences for patents. Any free software that cannot agree with (whatever it means) "fair" licensing, is potentially excluded from using these "standards".

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      The problem with RAND is that it's not enough. Standards shouldn't be owned by anyone. You are right in that some foss people have overreacted, for example I can't find the part where it supposedly legalizes software patents on IT standards. Still, control over a standard is far too much power for a company to have.

      • by xkr (786629)

        Standards are never "owned." Except that the text is copyrighted to avoid corruption. Compliance with any Standard is strictly voluntary.

        Standards are ABSOLUTELY too important for any one or two companies to control. A typical Standards committee (IEEE, ANSI, CCITT, etc) requires a minimum of 40 industry representatives and 75 to 80% positive vote from those members to pass. 100 members is more typical.

    • by Tacvek (948259) on Monday February 20, 2012 @10:06PM (#39106125) Journal

      The problem is not the F, it is the ND. Non-discriminatory pricing that is non-zero discriminates against work developed in any any non-commercial setting. Even if we were talking about absurdly low prices (fractions of a cent per unit), work developed academically or by individuals utilizing the patent cannot be distributed widely since an academic or individual would not have the resources to track distribution, and if work is popular would not have the money to pay the royalties in the first place. Basically FRAND forces commercialization.

      • by PPH (736903)

        Right. So the only fair license fee for implementing a standard is zero. It doesn't matter if you are bound by the GPL or any other license. If any require tracking licensees for the purpose of collecting royalties, that tips the playing field in favor of the wealthier participants. Its not just free vs commercial that becomes unfair. Small commercial vs large commercial is at a similar disadvantage.

        I'm fine with free.

  • RAND is an illusion (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Monday February 20, 2012 @09:55PM (#39106049)

    Here is the text of the document, the interesting parts are in annex2. [europa.eu]

    In my opinion, RAND only gives the illusion that it can match the safety of open standards. It isn't defined properly, and in the end the IPs of a standard are still in the hands of a company or a cartel (sorry, standards body), giving them effective monopoly over a market segment.

  • Unlikely to prevail (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cbope (130292) on Monday February 20, 2012 @10:31PM (#39106247)

    This is unlikely to hold up long term even if it gets through parliament, as a number of European governments and cities have already adopted open source software in recent years.

    This is another sad attempt to get proprietary software back into where it has been kicked out.

  • All governments are a....
  • by jonwil (467024) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @06:50AM (#39108403)

    So many government mandated standards require the use of patented technology. Every single digital TV standard worldwide requires licenses for a hundred or more patents just to build the receiver/decoder. Then you need licenses on top of that to actually decode the audio and video content.

    Digital radio is just as bad requiring licenses for various flavors of MPEG audio.

    Anyone wanting to set up a mobile phone network or build hardware for one (including handsets) is going to need to license 100s of patents even for the most basic GSM handset.

    Wireless data standards like WiFi and WiMax are also heavily patented.

    In many cases these patents (or patent pools) require the payment of per-unit royalties where it is impossible for any free-as-in-zero-cost program (be it Free Software, Open Source or otherwise) to ever get a license (I know of at least one game engine that uses a derivative of MPEG audio to store things like music and had to remove support for this from their mod SDK because its impossible to get a license for a MP3 encoder for a free-as-in-zero-cost program no matter how much you pay in license fees)

    Along the same lines, it would be impossible to produce a free-as-in-zero-cost DVD player for Linux (closed or open source) because patents on essential components of the DVD standards like MPEG video require the payment of per-unit royalties.

    For those who think VP8 and other "open" codecs are the solution, even Google wont be able to stand up to MPEGLA if the holders of the MPEG patents decide to take Google to court and claim that VP8 infringes their patents.

    The only way this can change is to get politicians in Washington and Canberra and Brussels and Auckland and Tokyo and Berlin and London and elsewhere who will pass laws eliminating software patents. But that wont happen as long as big companies continue to hold political influence over the worlds governments.

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