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WIPO Pressured to Kill Meeting on Open Source 323

panthan writes "The Washington Post has has an article about a proposed meeting of the WIPO concerning open source having been removed from consideration, apparently due to pressure from the US State Department and the USPTO. 'In short order, lobbyists from Microsoft-funded trade groups were pushing officials at the State Department and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to squelch the meeting. One lobbyist, Emery Simon with the Business Software Alliance, said his group objected to the suggestion in the proposal that overly broad or restrictive intellectual-property rights might in some cases stunt technological innovation and economic growth.'" Lawrence Lessig has some comments.
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WIPO Pressured to Kill Meeting on Open Source

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  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Friday August 22, 2003 @07:27PM (#6769794) Homepage Journal
    The US State Department is pushing other departments to pay more for their software. I wonder if the State Department is using Open Source itself...

    Be interesting if the Government players most opposed to Open Source are those gaining political power by others NOT using it, when they themselves are.

    Or have I watched too many X-Files?

  • So.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) * <[ten.lemmuhnhoj] [ta] [lemmuhj]> on Friday August 22, 2003 @07:32PM (#6769818) Homepage
    Does this mean that IBM could lobby to have Microsoft not considered? That Sun could lobby to get Apple banned from other meetings because they have a different set of Intellectual Property protection than what has? (All right, bad example, but....)

    It seems that the only way that some businesses (read: Microsoft) are able to keep up the pressure against Linux is by trying to do it with laws. Why don't we have an Open Source DVD player for Linux? Oh - well, the MPAA helped get a law passed that makes it basically illegal to create. Sorry about that, but that's just how it works.

    Yes, I'm a little irritated, and if I discover that my local senator/congressman was involved in this in any way, they can expect a nastygram listed as "voting for the other guy come election day".

    I find it interesting how the major players (aka "Microsoft") are trying to keep out their real competition. What if Open Source was part of the Intellectual Property decisions? Wouldn't that be a good thing for everybody if every OS supported Intellectual Property in a truly fair and just matter? Well, good for everyone except Microsoft - can't have a level playing field if we can keep the competition out, right?
  • Write your Senator! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by corporatemutantninja ( 533295 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @07:32PM (#6769820)
    Here's the email I just sent to my two senators: Dear Senator --, I just read in the Washington Post that the World Intellectual Property Organization had initiated plans for a meeting about the role of open source software. According to the article, a reference to the meeting in Nature magazine triggered a flurry of lobbying from organizations like the Business Software Alliance. (The BSA, in case you didn't know, is essentially just a division of Microsoft.) Even the U.S. Patent Office chimed in, portraying open source as somehow opposed to the ideas of intellectual property. The full Washington Post article is here: 22-2003Aug20.html Just so you don't think open source is some kind of "hippy thing", I work for the largest private equity firm in the world that is focused exclusively on information technology (here in Greenwich, CT) and I spend my days looking for good technology investments. It's clear to me that far from a fringe movement that opposes business, open source is a model for collaborative software development that makes possible a whole range of business models and innovations. Companies like IBM and Apple have wholeheartedly embraced open source. The only companies opposed to open source are those that currently enjoy relative monopolies in their areas. I.e., Microsoft. By putting actual competitive pressure on Microsoft, the open source has forced changes on Microsoft that the U.S. Government (or at least the last administration) were unable to accomplish. It distresses me that Microsoft's lobbying power has this much sway over our government, particularly since the open source movement is by it's nature decentralized and therefore has no cash reserves to fight back. By the way, if you don't know much about the BSA and open source, here is an article that describes the BSA's strong arm tactics used in bullying small businesses: h I hope you will take this issue seriously and, if you haven't already, take some time to become educated on open source.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @07:33PM (#6769824)
    She added that the WIPO official who embraced the meeting had done so without proper consultation with the member states, and that WIPO's budget already is strained and cannot accommodate another meeting next year.

    or next century, they're on such a tight budget. There are only 179 member world states after all ...

    What a shitty excuse. Who do they take people for ?
  • by harley_frog ( 650488 ) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `gorf_yelrah'> on Friday August 22, 2003 @07:41PM (#6769882) Journal
    I thought the GPL grants the creator IP rights, but it is the creator who chooses to release his/her code to the open source community for consideration. I don't recall anywhere in the GPL where the creator actually surrenders his/her IP rights. If that's true, the what better forum to explore this issue than in front of the WIPO?
  • Very discouraging (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sloth jr ( 88200 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @07:43PM (#6769891)
    Big business kidney punches the consumer once again.

    It's not like I can't understand their concern - I work for a company selling proprietary software (running on open-source OSes), and I'm not thrilled about the notion of someone else fielding a product we can't compete with (assuming feature parity).

    If someone does, however, then more power to them. They went to the effort, and they decided that all should benefit from the fruits of their labor.
    That's downright noble.

    What big business seems to be doing here is using process rather than product to beat down the barbarian hordes. Why shouldn't the intellectual property concerns of open source advocates be taken into consideration when formulating a world IP policy?

    sloth jr

  • Re:email her (Score:5, Interesting)

    by harryseldon ( 29164 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @07:43PM (#6769899)
    Ask her why the policy of the WIPO is to attack IBM's business model.

    Ask IBM why they are paying lobbyists to attack their own business model. (IBM belongs to the BSA).
  • This is interesting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GoatPigSheep ( 525460 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @07:52PM (#6769955) Homepage Journal
    In Canada, generally political decisions are made in the best interests of the people and not the best interests of companies.

    I find it odd that America is considered a "Democratic Republic" when decisions relevant to government security are made in the best interest of one company.

    Truly the land of the free (enterprise).
  • So what.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FatRatBastard ( 7583 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @07:53PM (#6769959) Homepage
    Frankly I don't think this will really do much for or against the adoption of FOSS. The fact of the matter is Linux/*BSD/Apache/Perl/et al are taking off all by themselves, and the way the licenses are designed there's no way to legislate FOSS out of existance without fundamentally changing copyright laws, so much in so it would be detrimental to all software companies.

    FOSS is here to stay and will continue to be adopted whether or not the WIPO sit around and talk about it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2003 @07:56PM (#6769975)
    That would imply that they had some confidence in themselves and their position.

    Instead, they're the worst kind of craven, petty, paranoid fools. And they assume that the WIPO delegates (not to mention their own customers) are the same, and thus need to be protected from a rational consideration of alternatives ("alternaWHATsisms?").

    Once you embrace propaganda and monopoly as a way of doing business, it's very difficult to see another way. A reactionary attitude is the predictable result of trying to hold onto power you don't feel you really deserve (correctly I might add).
  • Game on. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BrynM ( 217883 ) * on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:01PM (#6769999) Homepage Journal
    Between this, SCO, and the stuff MS et al have tried in the past year, consider it game on for the war on OSS. I get the feeling that things are really going to heat up as we head into 2004 and get even hotter in 2004. Thankfully, OSS has enough of a foothold to defend itself and (hopefuly) survive. I'll be sending another FSF donation tonight, what else can we do folks? We need some OSS lobbyists or companies with lobbyists to want to help protect OSS. Ideas? Suggestions?
  • Re:So what.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:05PM (#6770016)
    Software patents can really screw up open source. Guess who the biggest software patent holders are? Microsoft, you say?

    Actually NO, it's IBM, and it is IBM who are strongly lobbying the german government to introduce software patents in europe, too.

    I predict that IBM will use Open Source stuff to eliminate software businesses built on copyright monopolies. But make no mistake, they WILL use patents to control the market with an Iron fist once tehy have disposed of microsoft.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:10PM (#6770038)

    I doubt that in the long run, the legal system will continue to favor restrictive licenses heavily over non-restrictive ones.

    The only thing the law has to say regarding licences concerns their restrictions. So yes, the legal system will continue to favour more restrictive licences, and increasingly so. It's completely structured around that idea.

  • by nohup ( 26783 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:12PM (#6770052)

    The key to this article was in the second-to-last paragraph:

    "But open-source is not just a political challenge. It strikes a starkly different, and sometimes opposite, pose from that of traditional capitalist systems."

    Many companies are afraid of what this might mean to their current business model. What could open source eventually do the global economy as a whole? This "quiet war" against open source is being waged mostly by corporations in the U.S. that feel they probably have the most to lose.

    Consider possible long term effects for them: The U.S. economy has seen absolutely stunning growth during the past 100 years. It has doubled in size six times during that period. Economic theory suggests that this happened because of the technological advancements. Now in the Internet age, any person in even third world countries can get online and instantly have all of the knowledge of a highly professional college graduate from the U.S. Open source gives them the opportunity to have access to information, tools, and concepts which normally would have been accessible only by the traditional business model in first world countries at a price. With the open information revolution it is "free". This concept alone could revolutionize economies around the world: suddenly they have access to the same information, but without the price. This over time will lessen the technological dominance the U.S. has held traditionally. Any new developments made within the U.S. can easily be copied and re-produced in other countries, and possibly even countries with a better comparative advantage than the U.S. (meaning they can do the same for less).

    • Case in point:
    it took technology companies many years to reach the point where hard drives, CPU's, memory, etc. in a PC are so fast and big as they are today. Now, anyone in a poor country could get a computer, and instantly have the benefit of all those years of development. Then with that computer, they can start downloading open source software and accessing information that they would never have been able to do otherwise. A relatively poor Ecuadorian could learn skills to rival his U.S. counterparts, start programming and outsource at a much cheaper price!

    This is scary for U.S. companies because it means the competition would suddenly increase, and given the relatively high cost of labor in the U.S., it could mean harder economic times for us. I imagine there would be sort of an "evening out" effect economically between the U.S. and other countries.

    On top of this, when consumers are faced between the choice of two products, one that is free and one that is $100 (for example), the closer they are to being just as good, the less the consumers will buy the commercial product. To have to compete with open source would mean large profit losses for companies especially like Microsoft, who has for a long time enjoyed near monopoly status.

    The only thing protecting this from changing are so called "Intellectual Property" laws that would prevent this from happening. When you see it this way, you see that Microsoft and others are simply trying to protect their interests and investment. Personally, I like the open source revolution. It definately benefits customers. We all benefit from competition, but companies have an increasingly hard time surviving in such conditions. I also recognize the importance of companies though: they are the ones that make the economic wheel spin. We rely on companies for our jobs. We have some interesting decades ahead of us. I honestly believe open source, and open information as a whole will be the main factors in revolutionizing the global economy yet again.

    Is it any wonder that these companies, and even our own U.S. government fear somewhat the effect open source could have on their respective growth and income? How about we as individuals of the U.S.?

  • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:24PM (#6770099) Homepage Journal
    IP law has become nothing more than an authorization for a gold rush, as everyone hurries to stake their claims until there's nothing left that you can do for free.

    No, it's worse than that. A US Governemet representative has spouted some of Microsft's more outrageous and stupid anti-GPL FUD. This, from Lessing, is absolutly incredible:

    Lois Boland, director of international relations for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said "that open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights."

    If I don't have the right to share my IP as I please, what rights do I have? If I can't take my software and release it so that others can use it and share their insights to make it better, what can I do with it? Do I have to keep it to myself and hope that Microsoft will make me an offer for it?

    This is total bullshit, I have every right to do as I please with my own work. If the government will back me up when I put silly restrictions on my users, it had better back me up when I put reasonable ones or none at all on them.

    Louis Boland, for such a stupid statement, should be removed from her post imediatly. It shows a complete disregard for copyright law, free speech and even lacks common sense. It does not follow that the US government would spend my tax money to protect a restrictive publisher or author, but not one that is less restrictive and more directly meeting the purpose of copyright laws: to promote the state of the art and expand the public domain. Some people do not need government protection or direct monetary reward to share their ideas. It's as American as Ben Franklin's newspapers. Louis, I hope you have been taken out of context and will work to reverse this cancellation. WIPO needs to consider the issue and should encourage it because it is in everyone's best interest. If you really think free software is somehow counter to Intelectual Property rights, I hope that you are removed tomorrow and never see another public appointment.

    This message was composed and posted on free software that is arguably better than Microsoft crap. It cost me less money to aquire and continues to cost me less money to maintain as well as enriching my knowledge of software and enabling me to contribute to the state of the art. Non-free software vendors won't even let me understand their inner workings, much less contribute to it's improvement.

  • by Strudelkugel ( 594414 ) * on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:40PM (#6770172)

    One of the drawbacks to free software is that it is, well, free

    You mention one of the drawbacks, but that isn't the biggest one in my view. Fragmentation is the huge problem. That's why I refer to all of the *nix distros as UNware. All noble in purpose, but not consistent enough to become massively effective. GNU/Linux has to be free to overcome the cost of this fragmentation.

    One only has to think back the days of the first Mac and Jobs' pronouncement that "All apps will follow a standard menu bar layout...", etc. He knew that non-tech consumers wouldn't accept wildly varying UIs. Think about how Win3.x became the defacto standard, even though it was totally inferior to *nix, MacOS and OS/2.

    I'm not sure why M$ is freaking so much over Linux, believe it or not. For example, a friend of mine is a card carrying M$ Hater(tm), so he ran down to Fry's to get a $200 ThizLinux box. I thought it would be interesting to monitor his experience, since his skills are probably equivalent to the typical non-tech consumer. It's been a week now, and he still hasn't been able to get the thing to dial up to the ISP or connect to his old Windows machines. Looks like I will be tech support this weekend. My point is that Thiz has put a product out there that translates to horrible experience for a non-tech consumer. This is yet another problem for OSS - no quality control, at least in terms of packaging. The underlying software may be superb, but the delivery of it to the end consumer is a disaster in this case. Yet another example of the dangers of fragmentation, which can not be avoided with OSS. Personally I like OSS and hacking around with it. Friends of mine enjoy tinkering with cars too, but in this case, I just want mine to start and go. If a manufacturer came to me riding the quality of the parts inside their auto, but it came with deficient user manuals (or none), and did things in an unpredictable manner, you can bet I wouldn't care much about the quality of the parts. Just wait until OSS becomes influenced by national industrial policy as well...

  • by Hortensia Patel ( 101296 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:59PM (#6770242)

    Fully agree with the sentiment expressed, but...

    Interesting factoid supplied by a lobbyist recently interviewed [] on Slashdot:

    Finally, move faxes and email way up. One of the only good things to come out of 9/11 is that Members of Congress have been forced to use email as a preferred method of communication. Paper mail and knickknacks have become harder to get into the Capitol.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2003 @09:01PM (#6770252)
    I am writing to express my opposition to your policy with respect to
    the WIPO open source meeting. Our constitutional principles dictate
    that the intellectual property grant should be limited, and WIPO is
    not purposed to promote IP to the detriment of the public common.
    Moreover, it is contrary to the founding principles of WIPO that IP
    should be promoted against the wishes of generous authors and inventors
    who intentionally license their creations freely. Please reconsider
    your decision and support the open source meeting.

    Michael L. Love
    Cornell University
  • Re:So.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @09:02PM (#6770264) Homepage
    Yes, I'm a little irritated, and if I discover that my local senator/congressman was involved in this in any way, they can expect a nastygram listed as "voting for the other guy come election day".

    are you really willing to do what this takes?

    Someone above mentioned that "freedom is not free" and many MANY people Died to protect what you have today.

    so what kind of effort are you going to put into what you believe in? Are you going to just silently vote against the candidate that upsets you?

    Are you going to lobby your friends and relatives? educating them? turning your single vote into 100?

    Geeks and Techies have an amazing little about of guts to do what they believe it. and americans in general are way too lazy to do a damned thing that is a little bit inconvienent.

    Have you sent any campain contributions to the candidate you might like? What? you haven't really looked at who you like yet? RIGHT NOW is the time to to this stuff.

    Basically, if you want to be heard by the idiots in congress, the white house, and your local state's government you need to change your single vote into 100 votes, 100 angry voices, and 100 reasons to think. Even a simple $10.00 to a small guy's campain fund by enough people will give him enough to run the race with a chance.

    anything less is just pissing into the wind.

    and that is what 99% of americans do... piss in the wind and really dont participate in how their countries leaders are chosen.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2003 @09:09PM (#6770297)
    Why is it so hard to understand that Free Software is just a buyer's consortium? Allowing buyers to do their own thing is much closer to a free market than a convicted monopoly is.

  • by FxChiP ( 687923 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @09:09PM (#6770298) Journal
    "Simon insists that his group does not oppose open-source software, or discussion of the issue, but fights to defend the notion that a strong system of proprietary rights offers the best avenue for the development of groundbreaking software by giving its inventors economic incentive to do so. "

    I personally think that even this is bullcrap. If anything, a strong system of proprietary rights may be good for one person/corporation, but it screws the hell out of everybody else. It just guarantees that there will be no innovation made by anyone on the technology except for the creator, even if they have a new or better idea than the creator. But hey, this isn't about the best ideas, it's all about products just good enough (yet still crap) to be released for money....

    I know I'm reiterating the same information, but in my opinion, the open source is one HELL of a lot more conducive to innovation and "the development of groundbreaking software". That Simon guy assumes that all open source is developed and released/distributed for free, when in fact it's not. The GPL has a provision for distributing software for monetary compensation... so that there's still economic incentive.
  • Re:So basically... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Empiric ( 675968 ) * on Friday August 22, 2003 @09:16PM (#6770345)
    People will probably say, "Without IP, you can't survive if you write programs etc." Well, there must be a way to set up a system that WILL allow you to make money, without invoking IP.

    Off the top of my head, I'd suggest answering this by indicating that it isn't an either/or situation. As a simple example, you can both do a good job for your paycheck and do valuable charitable work. And the skills learned from each can reinforce the quality of the other.

    Beyond that, there's all the activities that can bring in money without reference to IP: integration, support, training, technical advice, etc.
  • by stwrtpj ( 518864 ) <> on Friday August 22, 2003 @10:28PM (#6770623) Journal
    This is total bullshit, I have every right to do as I please with my own work. If the government will back me up when I put silly restrictions on my users, it had better back me up when I put reasonable ones or none at all on them.

    You, sir, without realizing it, have hit the nail on the head.

    This is something that organizations like the WIPO fail to understand. Because of the FUD that has been promulgated by companies like Microsoft and SCO, one would get the impression that open source is a black hole sucking in people's IP without their consent. Even the often-bashed GPL does not do this if all you are trying to do is USE the software.

    I guess perhaps I'm an optimist, but I would like to think that some of the attitude of the WIPO is from lack of understanding. They are businessmen, not engineers. The best thing that open source people can do is to continue doing what they are doing now, while at the same time showing that they respect IP rights. Hell, anyone looking carefully enough at the SCO case right now can see that. Linux people are clamoring "show us the code and we'll remove anything that's infringing".

    Perhaps when SCO goes down in flames, this will be a sign that the current IP laws do not need to be broadened.

  • Re:IP (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stanwirth ( 621074 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @10:36PM (#6770655)

    There really isn't an opportunity to offer the price for freedom in this case.

    Well this wasn't really a call to revolt -- more an observation that a whole lot of people have put their very lives on the line for the cause of freedom, only to allow those same freedoms to be taken away, bit by bit, by administrative maneuvers.

    It is ironic -- and very, very sad -- that a people with the courage to put their lives on the line for freedom will cower in terror when reprisals are threatened for merely speaking out against the erosion of those same freedoms.

    Now clearly there is a road (no simple highway), which is to support open source software, run linux yourself, and promote its adoption in the public sector, in schools, in community organisations, and in small businesses. And when you find yourself being criticised or penalised for it, remember that keeping to your own path despite the reprisals is a very very small sacrifice compared to what others have already sacrificed.

    Freedom is like a muscle. You have to exercise it just a little bit more every day in order for it to grow stronger -- and if you don't, it gets flabby and weak and useless. If you push it too hard too fast (revolution) it tears. So I think that it's a false dilemma to say:

    At the moment, it's either live under the tyranny, or leave the country.

    When we have freedoms we can exercise, just a little bit more every day, to unmask and weaken the forces of tyranny -- bit by bit, just as tyrants would limit our freedom bit by bit.

    Goddam well I declare
    Have you seen the like?
    Their walls are built of cannon-balls
    Their motto is "Don't Tread on Me."

  • Re:Dying for IP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stanwirth ( 621074 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @11:10PM (#6770782)

    I don't mean to hurt your patriotic feelings, but isn't it very possible that many of those millions dies exactly for tho right of those huge corporations to trample over poverty stricken bodies?

    The people that put their lives on the line did not do it for IBM or Microsoft or Bechtel, or Halliburton -- they did do it for their country and what they believed their country stood for -- freedom.

    That some corporations connected to some reigning power elites have seized opportunities to usurp and pervert the freedoms that so many have died for, is the very sad irony and disgrace that I identified.

    And there appears to be a similar theme between the corporate power that would usurp, pervert, monopolise and profit from the nascent freedom of the Iraqi people, and the corporate power that would usurp, pervert, monopolise and profit from control over the means of distribution and certification of intellectual property.

    That common theme is corporate power perverting democratic institutions for their own gain.

    So, in a sense, we actually agree with one another.

    The UN on the other hand, is actively promoting both Linux and WiFi in developing countries -- so it would appear that supporting and developing open source software is a way of eroding corporate power and corruption in both the foreign and domestic arenas.

    And it's something we can each actually do . If we dare, in the face of potential reprisals--it's "a career-limiting move" after all.

    Scared? There is no pump more efficient than a scared man with a bucket.

    Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
    -- Patrick Henry
  • by dmaxwell ( 43234 ) on Friday August 22, 2003 @11:53PM (#6770964)
    However, if MS ever devises a way to make billions using the Open Source model, you will see such a vast philosophical about-face and massive, unbearable, and inescapable ad campaign the likes of which the human race has never known.

    Maybe a large multinational corporation has done just that. IBM tossed a billion with a "B" dollars into marketing and developing Linux. They claim to have "more than made it back". Perhaps it isn't the vaunted FOSS community that's led MS and Sun to create a kamikaze company. IBM makes money from sales, service, and hardware. It is almost no skin off their backs to be good Open Source citizens....if they can give Sun and especially MS a good hard screwing in the process so much the better. On the other hand, Sun and MS ..especially MS...would have to completely reinvent themselves to exist in a FOSS world.

    I think you've just figured out why IBM has cheerfully marketed OSS to the utter mortification of Sun and MS. The obvious next step for IBM is to quietly do some lobbying of their own.
  • by phatcat625 ( 668966 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:00AM (#6770989) Journal
    Wow, I never thought of it that way. I voted for Bush... now I'm starting to second guess myself. This whole plan Microsoft has is all coming together. They lobby the US government dirty so that no department will even think about OSS. They use SCO to jack up vaporware royalties for Unix until all those customers jump ship. World domination is not much farther after that. I'd like to think that the Open source community is strong enough to survive this but I don't know. Maybe I'll be voting democrat next election. But can we really trust them either? I mean, these people get money, sex, drugs whatever they want just for votes. Does it really matter what club you belong to?
  • Re:Two Words: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by surprise_audit ( 575743 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:02AM (#6771004)
    It's been said elsewhere (regarding SCO) that if, somehow, the GPL is invalidated, whether by a judge, the Supreme Court, or direct order of the President (unlikely, but it could happen...) then all GPL'd code reverts back to being covered by regular copyright laws.

    What that means is that SCO, for example, could immediately be sued by Samba for distributing their copyrighted (and GPL'd) code without permission. GNU could probably do likewise, unless SCO has their own C compiler and other tools. Every Linux distribution would need to get permission to distribute all those lovely tools, etc...

    If the GPL ever becomes invalidated, it doesn't automatically mean that GPL'd code becomes public domain. It means that the real, entrenched copyright law kicks in, oh, didn't that get extended recently by the same kind of people that want to turn off the GPL? Kind of ironic...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:05AM (#6771021)
    In my experience as a US federal employee, and in specific regards to software purchases, the goal seems to be to buy (or contract for) a single piece of software that, in theory, will satisfy the government's needs in perpetutity. Of course, that short-sighted thinking results in a periodic replacement of the entire software system. Frequently, the systems we use are either out of their support lifetime or the company that developed it no longer exists.

    Because of the incredibly long life-cycle these government systems need to have, closed source software makes no sense, to be honest. The government isn't willing to pay a perpetual service fee, and the costs to replace the system and retrain employees is insane. That doesn't mean that OSS is the solution; the payroll system isn't going to be appearing on Sourceforge any time soon for many reasons. Plus, no one would ever work of their own accord on the kind of specialized applications we need.

    The government needs to start contracting out for the software, and then out-and-out buying the software, rather than licensing it, source code and all. If we contract to design a fighter jet, we don't do much (if any) of the actual design work, but we sure as hell own the airplane at the end of the day, and we have mechanics to repair it if it breaks. When it comes to software, on the other hand, the government's in the practice of buying jets with their hoods welded shut, then buying another one when it gets a dent.

  • by dmaxwell ( 43234 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:15AM (#6771048)

    My point is that Thiz has put a product out there that translates to horrible experience for a non-tech consumer. This is yet another problem for OSS - no quality control, at least in terms of packaging.

    It sounds to me like Thiz is a second rate distro. There was a Slashdot discussion about those Fry's Thiz machines last week. It seemed to me that Fry's true intention is to sell a bare box that customers will install Windows on themselves. Thiz is just a way to make it boot up into something. They would have done better to just throw Knoppix CDs in the boxes. The customer can see that everything works and then get down to installing whatever OS. Anybody is Free to make a Linux distro; don't tar everybody with a Thiz brush.

    In their own ways RedHat, Debian, SuSe, and others are deeply concerned about quality control. The Stable variant of Debian and the Enterprise variants of Suse and RedHat exemplify quality control. No, they aren't flashy but they damn well work. For that matter, I'll toss OpenBSD into that list. Those guys positively obsess over quality control.

    In any case, you seem to have quality control mixed up with ease of learning. I gave up on Mandrake because even though it automagically configured and installed everything for me it was flaky as hell (7.x days). Mandrake machines made me feel like I was using Windows 98 again. Maybe they're better now but they lost me when I was willing to experiment with their stuff. I changed to Debian which wouldn't fit your criteria of "quality". To use a bad analogy, Mandrake was shinier and had more chrome but Debian had better fit and finish.
  • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @01:03AM (#6771212) Homepage Journal
    'nother poster writes:

    Lois, she is implying that either Open-Source is based on the destruction/weakening of IP rights, or encourages the violation of IP rights, and you wouldn't want to be one of those kinds of people, now would you?

    Nice troll, the whole question only makes sense if you don't examine it.

    Some of what Microsoft and others consider "IP rights" deserve to be destroyed. Microsoft should not have the right to tell you how to use their software. I can do what I want with any of my other property. I can read a book anyway I want including out loud in a room full of friends, lend it to friends and sell it. These are things Microsoft does not allow you to do with your software. How copyright law was perverted into this strange, one user at a time, non transferable, you can't say bad things about Microsoft, straight jacket is beyond me. How Microsoft considers the restrictions they put on their users a "right" they have is also beyond me. The free software foundation has a much better idea about what your rights are, check it out yourself [], you might learn something, even if you are an evil troll.

    I certianly do not encourage the violation of any law, regardless of how silly. When that law is morraly wrong, I will violate it myself and encourage others to do so. Never let bad laws make you a bad person.

    Fortunately, I'm not caught in any of Microsfot's evil snares and I don't have to figure out ways to defeat them, because free software is all about sharing methods of getting things done. I don't need Microsoft's crap and I don't recomend it to anyone. Free software has produced whole operating systems that are easy to use and of exceptional quality. I own my computer and all the softare that runs on it in a way that terrifies the likes of Microsoft. The few restrictions the authors place on my distribution of that software has little effect on me. The whole "IP rights" you think of make no sense whatsoever to me because I don't need anything from people who would violate what I consider my rights.

    What Lois says implies a violation of my ability to distribute code under the GPL. That would be a terrible violation of everyone's IP rights.

  • Re:IP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TyrranzzX ( 617713 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @02:56AM (#6771524) Journal
    I don't think we even live under a democracy. Last election ralph nader got 5% of the national vote and the goverment denied him federal money, immediatly inreasing the amount to 15%. Think if he wins in their system they'll let him in? When I'v got the cash I'm buying a gun; I know there's gonna be a revolution at some point as this country delves farther into a depression, I pray that it won't be violent.

    What they have now isn't voting, it's poorly run statistics. Illinois has xxx people in it, if the majority vote is republican, they all must be republican or vice versa. No majority vote like what the constitution says, and no democracy.
  • by Garry Anderson ( 194949 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @04:39AM (#6771733) Homepage
    Quote: Lois Boland, director of international relations for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said "that open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights." As she is quoted as saying, "To hold a meeting which has as its purpose to disclaim or waive such rights seems to us to be contrary to the goals of WIPO."

    I have long held the informed opinion that the people within UN WIPO are corrupt - it is why I have this website [].

    My logic is proven - not one lawyer has been able to give argument against the facts. These people at UN WIPO have no honour - they are too cowardly to answer my charges.

    People have every right to use words for whatever legal reason they wish - true or false?

    UN WIPO made rules that abridge peoples rights to choose words on the Domain Name System - words that are not used for any unlawful purpose.

    Fact 1 - a trademark is allowed for SPECIFIC goods or service ('classification') in SPECIFIC country. UN WIPO aid and abet corporations to overreach their trademark rights on the Internet - violating Trademark and Competition Law.

    UN WIPO, together with ICANN, the US Department of Commerce (also Patent and Trademark Office) actually help corporations violate the First Amendment rights of US citizens.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @08:04AM (#6772266)
    This is distressing on a whole lotta levels. I see the discussions here of "crony capitalism", the way Inetllectual Property laws are now being used to stifle innovation and not promote it, etc., etc.

    But let's take a longer view of things...

    China and India have both declared for Open Source software. Together, they comprise 4 billion people, enough to dwarf the USA population. Quite soon (in historical terms), I expect to see most technological innovation to be coming from these countries rather than the US simply because they are more interested in promoting new ideas than they are in preserving the old order. 20 years ago, who would have thought that these caste-based, rigid social structures would have changed enough to embrace these concepts?

    But America is resilient and America is capable of change. We have proven this (if nothing else) in our short 200 year history. When the shift has become so obvious that even short-sighted politicians notice and the deeply-entrenched "good old boys" have had their power reduced through their own ignorance and incompetence, then America will change and we will have the chance to compete again.

    And the human race will continue to evolve and move forward.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas