Post Peeves

Defensive Patent License 1.1 w/diff

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

13 months ago I wrote about the Defensive Patent License, in particular in relation to free/open source software (followup, 1993 predecessor). Today the DPL project released DPL 1.1 and announced the first licensor; see Internet Archive and EFF posts.

(The EFF post references its earlier guide to alternative patent licensing which I meant to critique, probably along lines of a partially overalpping guide to reform proposals, see patent reform, parts deficient in commons and compare with protect commons from patents. I noticed today that one of the other alternative licensing schemes, License On Transfer, seems to be getting some uptake.)

Most of what I wrote previously about the DPL concept still applies with DPL 1.1 (interesting concept, possibility of substantial good impact in long term). The new version makes one major improvement (especially in relation to FLOSS) — the exclusion of “clone” products or services from the license grant has been removed. Another small (as in a -3 words difference) improvement is that alleging patent invalidity against another DPL user no longer breaches one’s licenses (only alleging infringement does), invalidation being a defensive tactic.

DPL 1.1 also adds the requirement of explicit acceptance, which strikes me as burdensome: one must research licensed patents in order to figure out which DPL users to contact with acceptance, or regularly contact all known DPL users with acceptance of all licensed patents. I understand from the DPL 1.1 announcement telecon that formal acceptance was added because the license grant is more likely to stand up in court with such explicit acceptance, with that more likely assessment based on differences between patent and copyright, and between clubs and public licenses — and further that the “contact all known DPL users” practice will in the future be facilitated by the DPL website.

Finally, a very minor issue: DPL 1.1 reproduces the GPL’s confusing three-option version compatibility scheme (this-version-or-later, only-this-version, or any-version-if-none-specified). If one must have options, I consider less confusing this-version-or-later as default, with option to explicitly mandate only-this-version.

Congratulations and thanks to Jason Schultz, Jennifer Urban, Brewster Kahle, John Gilmore, and others for getting the DPL into production. I hope it is wildly successful; check out the DPL website and help update the Wikipedia article.

Following is a wdiff between DPL 1.0 and 1.1 in two parts (because 1.0 put definitions at the beginning, 1.1 puts them at the end) below, excluding 1.1’s preface, which has no equivalent in 1.0.

DPL 1.0-1.1 wdiff: Grant, conditions, etc.

[-2.-]{+1.+} License Grant

Subject to the conditions and limitations of this [-License and upon-]
[-affirmative assent to the commitments specified in Section 1.7 from an-]
[-individual DPL User,-] {+License,+} Licensor hereby
grants and agrees to grant to [-such-] {+any+} DPL User {+(as defined in Section 7.6) who+}
{+follows the procedures for License Acceptance (as defined in Section 1.1)+}
a worldwide, royalty-free, no-charge, non-exclusive, irrevocable (except
as stated in Sections [-3(e)-] {+2(e)+} and [-3(f))-] {+2(f))+} license, perpetual for the term of
the relevant Licensed Patents, to make, have made, use, sell, offer for
sale, import, and distribute Licensed Products and Services that would
otherwise infringe any claim of Licensed Patents. A Licensee’s sale
of Licensed Products and Services pursuant to this agreement exhausts
the Licensor’s ability to assert infringement [-by-] {+against+} a downstream
purchaser or user of the Licensed Products or Services.

[-2.1-] {+Licensor’s+}
{+obligation to grant Licenses under this provision ceases upon the arrival+}
{+of any applicable Discontinuation Date, unless that Date is followed by+}
{+a subsequent Offering Announcement.+}
{++}
{+1.1+} License Acceptance

In order to accept this License, Licensee must {+qualify as a DPL User+}
{+(as defined in Section 7.6) and must+} contact Licensor via the
[-contact-] information
provided in [-Section 1.16 and-] {+Licensor’s Offering Announcement to+} state affirmatively that
Licensee accepts the terms of this License. Licensee must also {+communicate+}
{+the URL of its own Offering Announcement (as defined in Section 7.13) and+}
specify whether it is accepting the License to all Licensor’s Patents or
only a subset of those Patents. If Licensee is only accepting the License
to a subset of Licensor’s Patents, Licensee must specify each individual
{+Patent’s country of issuance and corresponding+} patent [-by patent number.-]
[--]
[-3.-] {+number for which+}
{+it is accepting a License. There is no requirement that the Licensor+}
{+respond to the Licensee’s affirmative acceptance of this License.+}
{++}
{+2.+} License Restrictions

Notwithstanding the foregoing, this License is expressly subject to and
limited by the following restrictions:

(a) No Sublicensing. This License does not include the right to sublicense
any Licensed Patent of any Licensor.

(b) License Extends Solely to Licensed Patents in Connection with Licensed
Products and Services. For clarity, this License does not purport to
grant any rights in any Licensor’s copyright, trademark, trade dress,
design, trade secret, other intellectual property, or any other rights of
Licensor other than the rights to Licensed Patents granted in Section 2,
nor does the License cover products or services other than the Licensed
Products and Services.  {+For example, this License would not apply to+}
{+any conduct of a Licensee that occurred prior to accepting this License+}
{+under Section 1.1.+}

(c) Scope. This License does not include Patents with a priority date
or Effective Filing Date later than Licensor’s last Discontinuation
Date that has not been followed by a subsequent Offering Announcement
by Licensor.

(d) Future DPL Users. This License does not extend to any DPL User whose
Offering Announcement occurs later than Licensor’s last Discontinuation
Date that has not been followed by a subsequent Offering Announcement
by Licensor.

(e) Revocation and Termination Rights. Licensor reserves the right to
revoke and/or terminate this License with respect to a particular Licensee [-if:-]
{+if, after the date of the Licensee’s most recent Offering Announcement:+}
{++}
{+i.+} Licensee makes any Infringement Claim, not including Defensive Patent
Claims, against a DPL User; or

{+ii.+} Licensee {+assigns, transfers, or+} grants an exclusive [-license,-]
[-    with the right to sue, or assigns or transfers-] {+license for+}
a Patent to an entity or individual other than a DPL User without
conditioning the [-transfer-] {+assignment, transfer, or exclusive license+} on the [-transferee-]
{+recipient+} continuing to abide by the terms of this [-License.-] {+License, including but+}
{+not limited to the revocation and termination rights under this Section.+}

(f) Optional Conversion to FRAND Upon Discontinuation. [-As-] {+Notwithstanding+}
{+any other provision in this License, as+} of any particular Licensee’s
Discontinuation Date, Licensor has the right to convert the License of
that particular Licensee from one that is royalty-free and no-charge to
one that is subject to Fair, Reasonable, And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) [-terms.-]
[--]
[-4.-]
{+terms going forward. No other terms in the license may be altered in+}
{+any way under this provision.+}
{++}
{+3.+}        Versions of the License

[-4.1-]

{+(a)+} New Versions

The DPL [-Foundation is-] {+Foundation, Jason M. Schultz of New York University, and Jennifer+}
{+M. Urban of the University of California at Berkeley are+} the license [-steward. No-]
{+stewards. Unless otherwise designated by one of the license stewards,+}
{+no+} one other than the license [-steward-] {+stewards+} has the right to modify or publish
new versions of this License. Each version will be given a distinguishing
version number.

[-4.2-]

{+(b)+} Effect of New {+or Revised+} Versions

[-Licensed Products and Services-]

{+Any one of the license stewards+} may {+publish revised and/or new versions+}
{+of the DPL from time to time. Such new versions will+} be [-used, made, sold, offered for sale,-]
[-imported, or distributed under-] {+similar in spirit+}
{+to+} the [-terms-] {+present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems+}
{+or concerns.+}
{++}
{+Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If Licensor+}
{+specifies in her Offering Announcement that she is offering a certain+}
{+numbered version+} of the [-version-] {+DPL “or any later version”, Licensee+}
{+has the option+} of {+following+} the [-License-]
[-originally accepted pursuant to Section 2.1,-] {+terms and conditions either of that+}
{+numbered version+} or [-under-] {+of any later version published by one of+} the [-terms-] {+license+}
{+stewards. If Licensor does not specify a version number+} of {+the DPL in+}
{+her Offering Announcement, Licensee may choose+} any
[-subsequent-] version {+ever+} published
by {+any of+} the license [-steward.-]
[--]
[-5.-] {+stewards.+}
{++}
{+4.+}        Disclaimer of Claims Related to Patent Validity and [-Noninfringement.-]
{+Noninfringement+}

Licensor makes no representations and disclaims any and all warranties
as to the validity of the Licensed Patents or [-that-] {+the+} products or processes
covered by Licensed Patents do not infringe the patent, copyright,
trademark, trade secret, or other intellectual property rights of any
other party.

[-6.-]

{+5.+}        Disclaimer of [-Warranties.-] {+Warranties+}

UNLESS OTHERWISE MUTUALLY AGREED TO BY THE PARTIES IN WRITING,
LICENSOR OFFERS THE PATENT LICENSE GRANTED HEREIN “AS IS” AND
MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND CONCERNING THE
LICENSED PATENTS OR ANY PRODUCT EMBODYING ANY LICENSED PATENT, EXPRESS
OR IMPLIED, STATUTORY OR OTHERWISE, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION,
WARRANTIES OF TITLE, [-MERCHANTIBILITY,-] {+MERCHANTABILITY,+} FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE,
NONINFRINGEMENT, OR THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF ERRORS, REGARDLESS OF THEIR
DISCOVERABILITY. SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE EXCLUSION OF IMPLIED
WARRANTIES, IN WHICH CASE SUCH EXCLUSION MAY NOT APPLY TO LICENSEE.

[-7.-]

{+6.+}        Limitation of [-Liability.-] {+Liability+}

LICENSOR SHALL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES ARISING FROM OR RELATED TO
THIS LICENSE, INCLUDING INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR
SPECIAL DAMAGES, WHETHER ON WARRANTY, CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE, OR OTHERWISE,
EVEN IF LICENSOR HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES
PRIOR TO SUCH AN OCCURRENCE.

DPL 1.0-1.1 wdiff: Definitions

[-1.-]{+7.+} Definitions

[-1.1-]

{+7.1+} “Affiliate” means a corporation, partnership, or other entity in
which the Licensor or Licensee possesses more than fifty percent (50%) of
the ownership interest, representing the right to make the decisions for
such corporation, partnership or other entity which is now or hereafter,
owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by Licensor or Licensee.

[-1.2  “Clone Products or Services” means products or services of-]
[-Licensee that include the same or substantially identical functionality of-]
[-all or a commercially substantial portion of a prior released product or-]
[-service of a Licensor and implement the same or a substantially identical-]
[-proprietary user interface of the prior product or service.-]
[--]
[-1.3-]

{+7.2+} “Defensive Patent Claim” means an Infringement Claim against a
DPL User made in response to a pending prior Infringement Claim by said
DPL User against the asserter of the Defensive Patent Claim.

[-1.4-]

{+7.3+} “Discontinuation Announcement” means a DPL User’s announcement
that:

{+(a)+} declares the DPL User’s intent to discontinue offering to license
its Licensed Patents under the DPL, effective as of the Discontinuation
Date; and

{+(b)+} contains the DPL [-User's-] {+User’s+} contact information for licensing purposes;
and [-is submitted to the DPL-]
[-    Website via the Websites's official email address-]

{+(c)+} at least 180 days prior to [-a-] {+the+} Discontinuation [-Date;-] {+Date is posted to a+}
{+publicly accessible website;+} and

{+(d)+} at least 180 days prior to the Discontinuation Date is [-posted to a publicly accessible-]
[-    indexed-] {+communicated+}
{+reasonably and promptly, along with the URL of the+} website [-controlled-] {+mentioned in+}
{+subsection (c) of this provision,+} by the {+discontinuing+} DPL User [-using a URL accessible-]
[-    via at least the following syntax: "http://www.NAME.com/DPL" or-]
[-    "http://www.NAME.com/defensivepatentlicense" where "NAME" is-] {+to every+}
{+Licensor of+} a [-name-]
[-    commonly associated with-] {+Patent to which+} the {+discontinuing+} DPL [-user, such as-] {+User is+} a [-company name.-]
[--]
[-1.5-] {+Licensee.+}
{++}
{+7.4+} “Discontinuation Date” means the date a DPL User specifies in
[-their-]
{+its+} Discontinuation Announcement to discontinue offering to license its
Licensed Patents under the DPL, which must be at least 180 days after
the date of an individual or entity’s most recent Discontinuation
Announcement.

[-1.6-]

{+7.5+} “DPL” and “License” mean the grant, conditions, and
limitations herein.

[-1.7-]

{+7.6+} “DPL User” means an entity or individual that:

{+(a)+} has committed to offer a license to each of its Patents under the [-DPL, or, if such entity or individual has no Patents, has-]
[-    committed to offer a license to any Patents it may obtain in the-]
[-    future under the-]
DPL; and

{+(b)+} has declared such commitment by means of an Offering Announcement; and

{+(c)+} if the entity or individual has made a Discontinuation Announcement,
the Discontinuation Date has not yet occurred; and

{+(d)+} has not engaged in the conduct described in either Sections [-3(e)(i)-] {+2(e)(i)+}
or [-3(e)(ii).-]
[--]
[-1.8 “DPL Website” means the website-]
[-at http://www.defensivepatentlicense.org,-]
[-http://www.defensivepatentlicense.com, or any future site designated by-]
[-the DPL Foundation.-]
[--]
[-1.9-] {+2(e)(ii).+}
{++}
{+7.7+} “Effective Filing Date” is the effective filing date determined
by the applicable patent office that issued the relevant Licensed Patent.

[-1.10 “Foundry Services or Products” means services provided by-]
[-Licensee to, or products manufactured by Licensee for or on behalf of,-]
[-a specific third party, using designs or specifications received in-]
[-a substantially completed form from that third party, for resale or-]
[-relicense to or on behalf of that third party. This definition will not-]
[-apply when:-]
[--]
[-    Licensee or its Affiliate owns the design or specification of such-]
[-    service or product and the service or product is not specifically-]
[-    designed for commercial exploitation substantially only by such third-]
[-    party; or such design or specification resulted from a bona fide joint-]
[-    development or joint participation between Licensee or its Affiliate-]
[-    and such third party, including but not limited to a standards body-]
[-    or community organization and the resulting products, services or-]
[-    components provided by Licensee or its Affiliate meet the definition-]
[-    of Licensed Services Product or Products as set forth herein; or-]
[-    the third party recipient of the products or services is a DPL User.-]
[--]
[-1.11-]

{+7.8+} “Infringement Claim” means any legal action, proceeding or
procedure for the resolution of a controversy in any jurisdiction in
the world, whether created by a claim, counterclaim, or cross-claim,
alleging patent [-infringement or patent invalidity.-] {+infringement.+} Such actions, proceedings, or procedures
shall include, but not be limited to, lawsuits brought in state or
federal court, binding arbitrations, and administrative actions such as
a proceeding before the International Trade Commission.

[-1.12-]

 {+7.9+} “Licensed Patents” means any and all Patents (a) owned or
 controlled by Licensor; or (b) under which Licensor has the right
 to grant licenses without the consent of or payment to a third party
 (other than an employee inventor).

[-1.13-]

{+7.10+} “Licensed Products and Services” means any products, services
or other activities of a Licensee that practice one or more claims of
one or more Licensed Patents of a [-Licensor, but excluding Foundry Services-]
[-or Products and Clone Products or Services.-]
[--]
[-1.14-] {+Licensor.+}
{++}
{+7.11+} “Licensee” means any individual, corporation, partnership or
other entity exercising rights granted by the Licensor under this License
including all Affiliates of such entity.

[-1.15-]

{+7.12+} “Licensor” means any individual, corporation, partnership or
other entity with the right to grant licenses in Licensed Patents under
this License, including any Affiliates of such entity.

[-1.16-]

 {+7.13+} “Offering Announcement” means a Licensor’s announcement that:

{+(a)+} declares the Licensor’s commitment to offer a [-license to-] {+Defensive Patent+}
{+License for any of+} its Patents
    [-under the DPL, or, if such Licensor has no Patents, the commitment to-]
[-    offer a license-] to any [-Patents it may obtain in the future under the-]
[-    DPL;-] {+DPL User;+} and

{+(b)+} contains the Licensor’s contact information for licensing purposes;
and [-is submitted to the DPL Website via the Website’s-]
[-    official email address; and-]

{+(c)+} is posted to a publicly accessible
    [-indexed website controlled by Licensor using a URL accessible-]
[-    via at least-] {+website.+}
{++}
{+An Offering Announcement may, but is not required to, specify the+}
{+particular version of the DPL that+} the [-following syntax: "http://www.NAME.com/DPL" or-]
[-    "http://www.NAME.com/defensivepatentlicense" where "NAME"-] {+Licensor+} is {+committed to+}
{+offering. It may also specify+} a [-name-]
[-    commonly associated with Licensor, such as a company name.-]
[--]
[-1.17-] {+particular version of the DPL “or any+}
{+later version” to allow Licensees to accept subsequent new or revised+}
{+versions of the DPL.+}
{++}
{+7.14+} “Patent” means any right, whether now or later acquired,
under any national or international patent law issued by a governmental
body authorized to issue such rights. For clarity, this definition
includes any rights that may arise in patent applications, utility
models, granted patents, including, but not limited to, continuations,
continuations-in-part, divisionals, provisionals, results of any patent
reexaminations, and reissues, but excluding design patents or design
registrations.

prioritize(projects, freedom_for_all_computer_users)

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Last week the Free Software Foundation published its annual appeal, which includes the following:

In another 30 years, we believe that we can achieve our goal. We believe that free software can be everywhere, and that proprietary software can go the way of the dinosaur. With the experience we’ve gained, and our community surrounding us, we can win this.

My immediate reaction: I’d love to see the last sentence expanded. How exactly?

Sadly I do not live in a world that laughs at any fundraising appeal lacking an explicit theory of change and only esteems those that one can bet on. At least the FSF has a goal. Perhaps its surrounding community can figure out what it will take to achieve that goal.

Helping “the FSF stay strong for 30 more years” is plainly insufficient, though of course I hope the FSF does stay strong for decades and encourage helping financially. The entire free software movement on its current trajectory is insufficient; some of its staunchest advocates predict a “dark ages” of software freedom (e.g., Bradley Kuhn, Stefano Zacchiroli).

Since 2005 the FSF has published a list of high priority free software projects in order “to foster work on projects that are important for increasing the adoption and use of free software and free software operating systems.”

Today the FSF announced a review of this list. Excerpt:

Undoubtedly there are thousands of free software projects that are high priority, each having potential to displace non-free programs for many users, substantially increasing the freedom of those users. But the potential value of a list of High Priority Free Software Projects maintained by the Free Software Foundation is its ability to bring attention to a relatively small number of projects of great strategic importance to the goal of freedom for all computer users.

[…]

Keep in mind that not every project of great strategic importance to the goal of freedom for all computer users will be a software development project. If you believe other forms of activism, internal or external (e.g., making free software communities safe for diverse participants, mandating use of free software in the public sector), are most crucial, please make the case and suggest such a project!

I hope the announcement text indicates the possibility of exploiting the review and list to encourage debate about how to achieve the FSF’s goal of software freedom for all over the next decades, and that the how might (must, in my view) go far beyond hacking of code (and secondarily, copyright). How can demand for software freedom be both increased and made more effective? Same for supply, inclusive of distribution and marketing?

Send your suggestions to hpp-feedback@gnu.org or better yet post publicly. (I’m on the review committee.)

Because it is undoubtedly out of scope for above activity, I’ll note here a project I consider necessary for FSF’s goal to become plausible: question software freedom.

The “dark ages” links above largely concern “the cloud”, the topic of the other FSF-related committee I’ve participated in, over 6 years ago, correctly implying that effort was not very influential. I hope to post an assessment and summary of my current take on the topic in the near future.

Libby for Oakland mayor, Len for auditor

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

How I’m voting Tuesday for Oakland Mayor: #1 Libby Schaaf, #2 Rebecca Kaplan; Oakland Auditor: Len Raphael; California proposition 46: No, 47: Yes.

Mayor

In 2010 I ranked Kaplan first among a very weak field. Jean Quan won; my recommendations/predictions for her tenure still seem pretty reasonable.

I hope Schaaf wins this time for roughly four reasons:

  • Schaaf’s position on public safety seems nearest to my plea: more quality and quantity, with priority to former. That seems approximately the position of the other two likely winners (Kaplan and Quan); the real question is delivery. Progess has been way too slow under Quan, starting with many mistakes. With Kaplan I can’t tell where bluster about “leadership” ends and effectiveness begins, but I suspect it is mostly bluster. The other candidates with a nonzero chance of winning strike me as prioritizing quantity (Bryan Parker, Courtney Ruby, and especially Joe Tuman) or quality exclusively (Dan Siegel).
  • Schaaf’s approved plan for adjustable/benefit parking pricing in Montclair. Flexible pricing for parking is always a tough sell, but absolutely the right thing to do, and one of the most impactful and beneficial things a city can implement. I hope that Oakland catches up to and preferably leapfrogs SFPark and suspect that is most likely if Schaaf wins. Tuman is the worst on this issue, wanting to increase gratis parking.
  • Schaaf has done more work on ‘open’ government than any of the other candidates; my expectations for progress in that area would also be higher if Schaaf wins.
  • The other candidates have a tendency to come off as blowhards (especially Kaplan), incoherent (especially Quan), or some combination. For the field, Schaaf is on the low end of both of these negative characteristics. I expect fewer cringe-inducing moments from a Schaaf mayorship, a slightly good thing even if it has no correlation with effectiveness.

There is one issue that Kaplan, Quan, and Schaaf seem to approximately have the same position on, but Kaplan might be better: building a substantial amount of new housing. Kaplan has said that Oakland could have 100k more people. Not nearly enough, but a large number that I’m pleasantly surprised I have not seen criticism of.

I don’t think any of the candidates take a reasonable (kick them out) position on the embarrasment of professional sports teams in Oakland. I have not investigated their positions closely to avoid triggering disgust reaction, but my gloss: Parker and Tuman most likely to beggar the city to sports team owners, Kaplan extremely eager to claim credit for keeping sports teams, city hall plastered with cheesy corporate sports team banners under Quan, Siegel possibly least likely to totally sell-out to team owners.

Lots more about the Oakland mayor contest at OaklandWiki.

An issue I don’t think any candidate has addressed.

Auditor

Now for city auditor.

There are only two candidates for Oakland auditor. I’ll vote for Len Raphael, as I did when he ran for councilor in my district in 2012. Raphael would do politically unconfortable audits. Brenda Roberts would be business as usual. Especially for a city as poorly governed as Oakland, the former is necessary.

There hasn’t been much coverage of this contest, but a recent article in the East Bay Express seems like a neutral summary. Read more at OaklandWiki.

California Propositions

Ending the insane drug war continues to be the sure thing most governments could do to increase local and global peace and justice. There’s one California state proposition that would expand the drug war: 46: Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Cap and Drug Testing of Doctors (vote against), and one that would mitigate it 47: Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative (vote for).

Non-citizens should decide elections

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections? (tax funded but $19.95 to read; how can that be good for democratic discourse?) and Washington Post post by two of the paper’s authors Could non-citizens decide the November election? Yes and yes — assuming pertinent elections are very close and we take citizen votes as a given. Most interesting:

Unlike other populations, including naturalized citizens, education is not associated with higher participation among non-citizens. In 2008, non-citizens with less than a college degree were significantly more likely to cast a validated vote, and no non-citizens with a college degree or higher cast a validated vote. This hints at a link between non-citizen voting and lack of awareness about legal barriers.

The authors suggest raising awareness of legal barriers might further reduce non-citizen voting. But non-citizen voting is not the problem that ought be addressed. Instead the problem is non-voting by educated non-citizens, whose input is lost. If we can begin to disentangle nationalism and democracy, clearly the former ought be discarded (it is after all the modern distillation of the worst tendencies of humanity) and franchise further expanded — a win whether treating democracy as a collective intelligence system (more diverse, more disinterested input) or as a collective representation/legitimacy system (non-citizens are also taxed, regulated, and killed).

Further expanding franchise presents challenges (I went over some of them previously in a post on extra-jurisdictional voting), but so does enforcing the status quo. Anyone not in the grip of nationalism or with a commitment to democracy ought want to meet any challenges faced by expanded franchise, not help enforce the status quo, even by means of “soft” informational campaigns.

Ubuntu Ten

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Retrospective on 10 years of Ubuntu (LWN discussion). I ran Ubuntu on my main computer from 2005 to 2011. I was happy to see Ubuntu become a “juggernaut” and I think like many hoped for it to become mainstream, largely indicated by major vendor preinstallation. The high point for me, which I seem to have never blogged about, was in 2007 purchasing a very well priced Dell 1420n with Ubuntu preinstalled.

But the juggernaut stalled at the top of the desktop GNU/Linux distribution heap, which isn’t very high. Although people have had various complaints about Ubuntu and Canonical Ltd., as I’ve written before my overriding disappointment is that they haven’t been much more successful. There are a couple tiny vendors that focus exclusively or primarily on shipping Ubuntu-preinstalled consumer hardware, and Dell or another major vendor occasionally offers something — Dell has had a developer edition Ubuntu preinstall for a couple years, usually substantially out of date, as the current offering is now.

Canonical seems to have followed Red Hat and others in largely becoming an enterprise/cloud servicing company, though apparently they’re still working on an Ubuntu flavor for mobile devices (and I haven’t followed, but I imagine that Red Hat still does some valuable engineering for the desktop). I wish both companies ever more success in these ventures — more huge companies doing only or almost only open source are badly needed, even imperfect ones.

For Ubuntu fans, this seems like a fine time to ask why it hasn’t been even more successful. Why hasn’t it achieved consistent and competitive mainstream vendor distribution? How much, if any blame can be laid at Canonical’s stumbles with respect to free/open source software? It seems to me that a number of Canonical products would have been much more likely to be dominante had they been open source from the beginning (Launchpad, Ubuntu One) or not required a Contributor License Agreement (bzr, Upstart, Mir), would not have alienated a portion of the free/open source software community, and that the world would overall be a better place had most of those products won — the categories of the first two remain dominated by proprietary services, and the latter three might have gained widespread adoption sooner than the things that eventually did or will probably win (git, systemd, wayland). But taking a step back, it’s really hard to see how these stumbles (that’s again from an outsider free/open source perspective; maybe they are still seen as having been the right moves at the time inside Canonical; I just don’t know) might have contributed in a major way to lack of mainstream success. Had the stumbles been avoided, perhaps some engineering resources would have been better allocated or increased, but unless reallocated with perfect hindsight as to what the technical obstacles to mainstream adoption were — an impossibility — I doubt they made much of a difference. What about alientation of a portion of the free/open source community? Conceivably had they (we) been more enthusiastic, more consumer lobbying/demand for Ubuntu preinstalls would have occurred, and tipped a balance — but that seems like wishful thinking, requiring a level of perfect organizing of GNU/Linux fan consumer demand that nobody has achieved. I’d love to believe that had Canonical stuck closer to a pure free/open source software path, it’d have achieved greater mainstream success, but I just don’t see much of a causal link. What are the more likely causes? I’d love to read an informed analysis.

For Ubuntu detractors, this seems like a fine time to ask why Ubuntu has been a juggernaut relative to your preferred GNU/Linux distribution. If you’re angry at Canonical, I suggest your anger is misdirected — you should be angry instead that your preferred distribution hasn’t managed to do marketing and distribution as well as it needed to, on its own terms — and figure out why that is. Better yet, form and execute on a plan to achieve the mainstream success that Ubuntu hasn’t. Otherwise in all likelihood it’s an Android and ChromeOS (and huge Windows legacy, with some Apple stuff in between) world for a long time to come. I’d love to read a feasible plan!

Global Columbus/Columbia/Colombia/Colón rename

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Today is not World IP Day (nor that one), which is August 9. Some celebrate today as IP Day counter to Columbus Day, but that puts too much emphasis on Columbus as a singular actor/great man/abominable person with respect to all pre-1492 western hemisphere populations. Had Columbus never been born, or his first voyage swallowed by the Atlantic before reaching land, it is hard to imagine the result for said populations over the next centuries being any different — merciless conquest by eastern hemisphere humans and microbes. So celebrate World IP Day on August 9, and rub out Columbus Day because he was a murderer and slaver. Criminal procedures, not clash of civilizations ones, are to be recommended for Columbus, as they are for any modern day terrorist.


What should this city and county in Ohio be renamed to? Photo: Derek Jensen, Public Domain

But one day is only a beginning. Wikipedia:

Veneration of Columbus in America dates back to colonial times. The name Columbia for “America” first appeared in a 1738 weekly publication of the debates of the British Parliament. The use of Columbus as a founding figure of New World nations and the use of the word “Columbia”, or simply the name “Columbus”, spread rapidly after the American Revolution. Columbus’ name was given to the federal capital of the United States (District of Columbia), the capital cities of two U.S. states (Ohio and South Carolina), and the Columbia River. Outside the United States the name was used in 1819 for the Gran Colombia, a precursor of the modern Republic of Colombia. Numerous cities, towns, counties, streets, and plazas (called Plaza Colón or Plaza de Colón throughout Latin America and Spain) have been named after him. A candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church in 1866, celebration of Columbus’ legacy perhaps reached a zenith in 1892 with the 400th anniversary of his first arrival in the Americas. Monuments to Columbus like the Columbian Exposition in Chicago and Columbus Circle in New York City were erected throughout the United States and Latin America extolling him.

There should be no veneration or extolling of slave owners. Everything named after Columbus (fun fact: Colombo, the city in Sri Lanka, is not) should be renamed, along with everything named after Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Pierce, Buchanan, Johnson, Grant, Penn, Franklin, Houston, Austin, and many more.

wiki↔journal

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

The first wiki[pedia]2journal article has been published: Dengue fever Wikipedia article, peer-reviewed version (PDF). Modern medicine comes online: How putting Wikipedia articles through a medical journal’s traditional process can put free, reliable information into as many hands as possible is the accompanying editorial (emphasis added):

As a source of clinical information, how does Wikipedia differ from UpToDate or, for that matter, a textbook or scholarly journal? Wikipedia lacks three main things. First, a single responsible author, typically with a recognized academic affiliation, who acts as guarantor of the integrity of the work. Second, the careful eye of a trained editorial team, attuned to publication ethics, who ensure consistency and accuracy through the many iterations of an article from submission to publication. Third, formal peer review by at least one, and often many, experts who point out conflicts, errors, redundancies, or gaps. These form an accepted ground from which publication decisions can be made with confidence.

In this issue of Open Medicine, we are pleased to publish the first formally peer-reviewed and edited Wikipedia article. The clinical topic is dengue fever. It has been submitted by the author who has made the most changes, and who has designated 3 others who contributed most meaningfully. It has been peer reviewed by international experts in infectious disease, and by a series of editors at Open Medicine. It has been copy-edited and proofread; once published, it will be indexed in MEDLINE. Although by the time this editorial is read the Wikipedia article will have changed many times, there will be a link on the Wikipedia page that can take the viewer back to the peer-reviewed and published piece on the Open Medicine website. In a year’s time, the most responsible author will submit the changed piece to an indexed journal, so it can move through the same editorial process and continue to function as a valid, reliable, and evolving free and complete reference for everyone in the world. Although there may be a need for shorter, more focused clinical articles published elsewhere as this one expands, it is anticipated that the Wikipedia page on dengue will be a reference against which all others can be compared. While it might be decades before we see an end to dengue, perhaps the time and money saved on exhaustive, expensive, and redundant searches about what yet needs to be done will let us see that end sooner.

I love that this is taking Wikipedia and commons-based peer production into a challenging product area, which if wildly successful, could directly challenge and ultimately destroy the proprietary competition. The editorial notes:

Some institutions pay UpToDate hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for that sense of security. This has allowed Wolters Kluwer, the owners of UpToDate, to accrue annual revenues of hundreds of millions of dollars and to forecast continued double-digit growth as “market conditions for print journals and books … remain soft.”

See the WikiProject Medicine collaborative publication page for more background on the process and future developments. Note at least 7 articles have been published in journal2wiki[pedia] fashion, see PLOS Computational Biology and corresponding Wikipedia articles. Ideally these 2 methods would converge on wiki↔journal, as the emphasized portion of the quote above seems to indicate.

Peer review of Wikipedia articles and publication in another venue in theory could minimize dependencies and maximize mutual benefit between expert authoring (which has historically failed in the wiki context, see Nupedia and Citizendium) and mass collaboration (see challenges noted by editorial above). But one such article only demonstrates the concept; we’ll see whether it becomes an important method, let alone market dominating one.


One small but embarrassing obstacle to wiki↔journal is license incompatibility. PLOS journals use CC-BY-4.0 (donor-only relative to following; the version isn’t important for this one) and Wikipedia CC-BY-SA-3.0 (recipient-only relative to previous…and following) and Open Medicine CC-BY-SA-2.5-Canada (donor-only relative to the immediately previous) — meaning if all contributors to the Dengue fever Wikipedia article did not sign off, the journal version is technically not in compliance with the upstream license. Clearly nobody should care about this second issue, except for license stewards, who should mitigate the problem going forward: all previous versions (2.0 or greater due to lack of a “later versions” provision in 1.0) of CC-BY-SA should be added to CC-BY-SA-4.0’s compatibility list, allowing contributions to go both ways. The first issue unfortunately cannot be addressed within the framework of current licenses (bidirectional use could be avoided, or contributors could all sign off, either of which would be outside the license framework).

Daniel Mietchen (who is a contributor to the aforementioned journal2wiki effort, and just about everything else relating to Wikipedia and Open Access) has another version of his proposal to open up research funding proposals up at the Knight News Challenge: Libraries site. Applaud and comment there if you like, as I do (endorsement of previous version).

Near the beginning of the above editorial:

New evidence pours in to the tune of 12 systematic reviews per day, and accumulating the information and then deciding how to incorporate it into one’s practice is an almost impossible task. A study published in BMJ showed that if one hoped to take account of all that has been published in the relatively small discipline of echocardiography, it would take 5 years of constant reading—by which point the reader would be a year behind.

A similar avalanche of publishing can be found in any academic discipline. It is conceivable that copyright helps, providing an incentive for services like UpToDate. My guess is that it gets in the way, both by propping up arrangements oriented toward pumping out individual articles, and by putting up barriers (the public license incompatibility mentioned above is inconsequential compared to the paywalled, umitigated copyright, and/or PDF-only case which dominates) to collaborative — human and machine — distillation of the states of the art. As I wrote about entertainment, do not pay copyright holders, for a good future.

Do not pay copyright holders, for a good future

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

The Unrepentant Bootlegger profiles Hana Beshara, a founder of NinjaVideo, who spent 16 months in prison for defying censorship. Cut to the logic of censorship (emphasis added):

People watch more paid, legal content than ever, but they also continue to download huge amounts of illegal content. “Piracy is putting pressure on antiquated business models, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said Brett Danaher, an economics professor at Wellesley College who studies Internet piracy. “But the prevalence of piracy shows that people are growing up in a culture of free, and that is not good for the future of entertainment, either.”

That we should be concerned for the future of entertainment, at all, is itself bizarre. Freedom and equality should absolutely trump incentivizing a surfeit of entertainment. If we must choose between spectacle and communications, spectacle should be destroyed. We do not need to choose. We can destroy the censorship regime, but entertainment, including for better or worse some of the spectacle variety, will continue to exist and be produced in vastly greater quantities and quality than it is feasible for anyone to even begin to fully appreciate in a lifetime. If the spectacle portion does not include projects with budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars, that is OK — we will love what culture does get produced, as that love and cultural relevance is largely based on being immersed in the culture that exists — we love the culture we’re in. If that culture is less dominated by U.S.-based high investment productions, so much the better for the U.S. and the world.

Another policy significant quote from the article:

Peter Eckersley, technology projects director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation […] said the law should shift its focus to making sure that copyright holders are paid for their work, rather than trying to stymie how people gain access to it. […] He suggested a legal framework to retire the “exclusive rights” aspect of copyright law that requires permission to publish — and that allows copyright holders to seek exorbitant damages from infringers — and move toward a system that requires sites and people who make money from another’s work to share any profits. Solutions like these, Mr. Eckersley says, would create different priorities that go beyond chasing small-time pirates like Ms. Beshara and her colleagues.

No, copyright holders should not be paid. Any payment by virtue of holding copyright only makes the censorship regime self-perpetuating. Funding of entertainment should be completely decoupled from the censorship regime of copyright. I understand the appeal of paid speech over permissioned speech (of course a tax is usually better than a prohibition, and that applies to privatized regimes as well), but neither is free speech. The paid speech approach would indeed create priorities that go beyond chasing small-time pirates (note Beshara earned $210k over 3 years; note also existing paid speech regimes which involve monitoring and shakedown of small-time restaurants) — it would invite further pervasive and destructive surveillance of communications in the interest of ensuring copyright holders get paid. It is appalling that EFF is still willing to invite sacrifice of everything they fight for at the alter of paying copyright holders. I don’t blame the EFF specifically; this just shows how deeply intellectual parasitism has burrowed in general. Intellectual parasites (which includes most reformers, including me often) need to fully shift to being commons policy advocates (and scholars).

Regarding people and projects like Hana Beshara and NinjaVideo, I’m ambivalent. Performing unpaid marketing and price discrimination services for the censorship industry is distasteful and harmful. But sharing culture (putting the regime aside) is tasteful and helpful. There is too little known about informal circulations and their effects, this lack of knowledge itself a collateral damage of the regime (compare being able to study cultural flows and surveillance required for paid speech; they are of different orders) and far, far, far too little direct competition for the regime.

Generative acknowledgement

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Robin Sloan, The secret of Minecraft: And its challenge to the rest of us

In the 2010s and beyond, it is not the case that every cultural product ought to be a generative, networked system.

It is, I believe, the case that all the really important ones will be.

Nathan Matias, Designing Acknowledgement on the Web:

A system which acknowledges the beauty of cooperative relationships can’t be based on the impersonal idea of hypertext or the egocentric notion of authorship. It can’t rely on licenses to threaten people into acknowledging each other.

Via 1 2 3 and confirmation bias about which I can’t think of anything smart to say, so I’ll include a fun word: contextomy. Neither of the above reaches that bar, but I’ll try harder next time.

Posts on the ought of generative, networked production and intellectual parasite debasement of acknowledgement.

Let US join EU

Friday, July 4th, 2014

Enough past symbolism. U.S. Independence Day is also a good day to reflect on the paramount governance challenges of the present and near future. The U.S. War of Independence helped usher out the era of kings. Now is time to hasten the demise of the nation-state, born of the previous era.

One non-revolutionary (violent revolution, of whatever intention, is bad as it enables trolls) path forward is the creation and expansion of legitimately democratic super-states which submerge joining nation-states: the legitimate constituents are individual citizens, not the states themselves (contrast with the United Nations). The European Union is the only such super-state, and perhaps should be the only one, eventually submerging all current nation-states.