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Red Hat Working w/UCITA Backers to Change Law

Hemos posted more than 12 years ago | from the good-for-them dept.

Red Hat Software 124

GroundBounce writes "Here's an article at NewsForge detailing how Red Hat is taking the initiative to broker deals with state legislatures to change parts of UCITA [?] which are damaging to open source software, such as mandatory warranties and reverse engineering. They are also working with the uniform law commission to try to change the prototype for the law." Good work by Red Hat - that's a necessary change.

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124 comments

Well (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#245502)

If I make a bike and give it away with plans for the bike and you ride it and it breaks and you crack your head open. Am I responsible?

Some part of me thinks that requiring a warrenty is good.

Compromise? (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#245503)

So we don't fight for what we believe anymore? Since when did we start sleeping with the enemy?

Everybody knows how it works: They always ask for a lot more beyond what they really want. Then everybody freaks out, they back off, "desist" of half of it, and everybody is so releaved that the rest of the crap gets accepted. And they still get twice of what they wanted. The UCITA is bad not only for open source, but undermines consumers of any kind of software.

You are incorrect sir (5)

Tony Shepps (333) | more than 12 years ago | (#245504)

Very roughly speaking, there are two approaches to fighting bad politics. One is to fight for complete revolution from outside the system. The other is to fight for incremental change from within the system.

In my experience, people who believe in approach #1 also believe that taking approach #2 is heresy.

In reality, you need both types of political agents. If a complete rejection of UCITA fails to happen - because MS et al are more politically powerful than your list - then you will hope against hope that the folks working from within were successful.

You have the same goals, you just have different approaches to reaching them. You are not taking the high road by trying to discredit Red Hat; you may be shooting yourself in the foot.

Re:Maryland UCITA and DVD's? (1)

Olivier Galibert (774) | more than 12 years ago | (#245505)

UCITA is state law, DMCA is federal law, federal law trumps state law. So no, no matter what.

OG.

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (2)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 12 years ago | (#245508)

Red Hat does have a warranty (or something like it) if you buy the boxed product. That is after all one of the things you buy from them. If you download it from the net then no there is no warranty. Actually they have all sorts of support products of various forms that they will sell you.

What can we do (1)

SiliconJesus (1407) | more than 12 years ago | (#245509)

Usually there is a post of how to support this or that bill. As a Marylander, I'd like to show my support for this bill. Anyone? Roblimo? Bueller?
Secret windows code

Free as in beer, or free as in cost? (1)

SiliconJesus (1407) | more than 12 years ago | (#245510)

Red Hat commercial software costs $39.99 retail at your local Best Buy (for the "End User" system). This could be the point of contention.
Secret windows code

Re:It's the same stuff that makes the GPL valid (2)

Frater 219 (1455) | more than 12 years ago | (#245511)

The GPL grants you certain rights in return for you giving up certain rights.

Specifically you can copy, modify, and distribute the code. But if you do happen to modify it you are forced to release the source to your changes.

Sorry, but that is not accurate -- you should consider reading the GPL itself [gnu.org] again. The powers of the GPL stem from the software author's holding of copyright over the software. The author grants you the right to copy and distribute under certain circumstances -- and not under other circumstances. You give up nothing. The GPL's restrictions on copying do not limit any right to copy you had before the author GPLed the software: because, at that time, you did not have any right to copy the software. Can't restrict what ain't there!

To address some specific problems:

  • The GPL does not require you to release anything, ever. You may modify GPL-covered source code to your heart's content for your own personal (or, arguably, in-house) use and never even tell anyone. Since you aren't distributing the software, the author's copyright has no hold over you. As a parallel: Writing in the margin of a book -- or tearing out the ending and replacing it with a version you like better -- cannot be restricted by the book's author's copyright. Copying and distributing your modified version -- or the author's version, intact -- requires the author's permission.
  • What the GPL does say is that if you do distribute the covered software (or modified versions), then you must distribute the source under the GPL. Again, this is not a restriction of your rights; it is a delineation of the permission to copy, which the author has granted you. The author has not granted you permission to distribute his/her software under your own terms; to do so would violate not some contract, but rather the author's copyright.

    Consider: If you walk on my lawn without my permission, that's trespassing. If I permit you to walk on the north side, but not the south side, that grants you rights you didn't have; you don't give up any rights. The provision that you may not walk on the south is not something that you "give up" in order to obtain my permission to walk on the north; it's just the limit of the permission which I grant you.

  • The GPL does not speak to your "right to use" the software. Term zero of the GPL states that "[a]ctivities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope." The GPL neither grants a "right to use" nor limits a "right to use"; it doesn't deal with such a right at all.

    If you believe that you need the author to grant you a "right to use" his/her software, in addition to the fact of your having legally obtained a copy, then it seems to me that you must therefore conclude that you don't have a "right to use" any GPLed software! (Unless, of course, the authors have specifically granted you a "right to use" in addition to the GPL-granted rights to distribute and modify.)

Re:It's the same stuff that makes the GPL valid (5)

Frater 219 (1455) | more than 12 years ago | (#245512)

Those shrink-wrapped licenses stand on the same legal ground as the GPL!
Actually, that's not quite the case. Shrink-wrap "license agreements" are constructs of contract law, whereas the GPL is a grant of limited rights under copyright law.

EULAs and the like are framed as contracts: you give up certain rights (such as the right to publicly criticize the software) in exchange for the "right to use" the software. The fact that you already had the right to use it, since you legally bought a copy, sets them on shaky ground under common law. (After all, you have the right to use what you've bought, whether or not you have the right to copy it!) That's what UCITA and its ilk give to Microsoft and its ilk -- the right to restrict use of legally purchased software.

The GPL, on the other hand, is not a contract: it does not ask you to give away any rights, or anything else for that matter. All it does is grant you new rights you did not formerly have -- specifically, the right to copy, modify, and distribute the software under certain circumstances.

You may perceive the GPL's restrictions as limits placed upon your rights -- but they aren't. Outside of a grant of rights by the author (of which the GPL is only one example) you never had the right to copy that software. The GPL grants you a limited right; unlike EULAs, it doesn't ask you to waive any rights you already had.

(In addition, the GPL does not grant a "right to use" the covered software, since it takes it as read that you already have that right by virtue of having legally obtained a copy of the software. The GPL explicitly states that it does not deal with "rights to use".)

Why is it good to be against warranties? (2)

sheldon (2322) | more than 12 years ago | (#245513)

Ok, I'm not a fan of UCITA and think it's overall a bad idea.

But I honestly have not studied it as fully as I would like, mainly because it's hard to find unbiased information that isn't all legalese.

Well whatever. This is the first time I've heard of anything positive being included in UCITA. That is as long as I am correct in assuming a 'mandatory warranty' is a guarantee to the consumer that the software functions as advertised.

Now I can understand why RedHat is against this, they certainly don't want to be responsible for selling a product that doesn't work.

But I don't see that as particularly ethical behavior worth commendation. Seems to me like that want to weasle out just like every other software company.

As long as you've paid money for something, there should be a guarantee that it works as advertised. That includes software as well.

Of course the shrink wrap license known as the GPL already disclaims any responsibility, but I guess that leads into another discussion...

Re:It's the same stuff that makes the GPL valid (2)

sheldon (2322) | more than 12 years ago | (#245514)

I'm not sure I agree.

The GPL grants you certain rights in return for you giving up certain rights.

Specifically you can copy, modify, and distribute the code. But if you do happen to modify it you are forced to release the source to your changes.

Similarly speaking, it's obvious that shrinkwrap and EULA extend from copyright law as well. That's the basis for the company being allowed to restrict your use in exchange for the right to use it at all.

I've never had a right to use restriction on an automobile I have purchased, nor have I on toasters, televisions or wristwatches.

Re:Patents prevent the abuse of open source (3)

sheldon (2322) | more than 12 years ago | (#245518)

I'm not at all certain I agree with your assessment of Quarterdeck.

Microsoft introduced MEMMAKER into DOS 6.x solely as a reaction to the introduction of a similar utility into DR-DOS. To claim that Microsoft did this to get QEMM infers that DR-DOS had the same reason.

I think the truth is that DR-DOS saw an opportunity to improve the DOS environment by requiring one less third party software purchase. Microsoft saw similar motivation, but they also had a goal of not allowing a competitor to be better than their own product.

There was certainly a bitter rivalry between MS and DRI at the time, and MS didn't behave ethically. But it was obvious even at the time that MS didn't do this to get Quarterdeck, they did it to get DRI.

Microsoft also didn't develop it, they licensed it from Helix Software. Most of the improvements to DOS 6 were licensed technologies, in fact.

Actually I fully suspect, they probably went to Quarterdeck and asked to license their product but couldn't work out terms.

Then not that it mattered anyway, as at the time even with Microsoft's MEMMAKER one still had to purchase QEMM. Go back in time and try to run Lantastic under DOS 6 on a early Pentium 90 system. With MEMMAKER you couldn't get near the free memory available(perhaps 475k) as you could under QEMM(more like 550k), so I highly doubt QEMM sales slumped that much except perhaps to the home sector.

No, what ultimately killed QEMM was Windows 95. But then Windows 95 also killed Desqview, OS/2, Lantastic, Stacker, etc. all in the same swoop.
But then isn't that progress? I often see OSS advocates claiming that Microsoft shouldn't fight back, they should just learn to live with change.

So shouldn't have Quarterdeck, IBM, Lantastic, Stack, DRI etc. all have just accepted change and stopped whining about unfair competition?

One of the things I find so fascinating about discussions with regards to Microsoft. It doesn't matter what happens, what the facts are, someone will always find some way to link a conspiracy to kill their favorite product to Microsoft.

Desqview was an interesting product, but it really died because nobody was all that interested in buying it at the time.

Sorry Brett, I normally like your posts, but I think your argument went off into fantasy land.

RedHat Bashing (5)

Helmholtz (2715) | more than 12 years ago | (#245519)

While I'm not partial to the RedHat distribution, it often bothers me when I see proponents of other Linux distributions taking shots at RedHat to no real purpose.

Hopefully, seeing actions such as this will help to quell the "RedHat is no better than Microsoft" nonsense. I supose this is a little off topic, but I think RedHat ends up getting the short end of the stick more times than not by the very community that they routinely fight the hardest for.

Re:It's the same stuff that makes the GPL valid (2)

Palin Majere (4000) | more than 12 years ago | (#245520)

"Don't scoff at it too quickly, now -- Those shrink-wrapped licenses stand on the same legal ground as the GPL! After all, neither is written on paper, and they rely on implicit acceptance through the actions of the end user."


I'm sure you meant well by posting this. However, while you're correct ins saying that this is the same legal ground as the GPL, you're _wrong_ in the relation you try to make between the 'standard' shrink-wrap licenses and the GPL.

If the GPL suddenly ceases to exist, you do not have a license to the that code _at all_. Which means you cannot distribute it. Or use it. Or do anything else with it. In fact, you have an illegally acquired copy of the code. Oops!

The danger lies in the GPL's terms being redefined in a court of law, not in it being completely broken. If a court of law uses a different definition of, say, "source code", than the FSF meant when drafting the GPL, then the GPL becomes open to abuse.

Remember folks. The default state when you're lacking a license is that you are not allowed to use or distribute the code/software/rhubarb pie in any way, shape, or form.

Isn't copyright law lovely?

Re:It's the same stuff that makes the GPL valid (2)

Palin Majere (4000) | more than 12 years ago | (#245521)

"If, when lacking a license, you cannot use something, how can I read a book? I havn't yet seen a book (except for software manuals, books with CDs, etc) that has a license anywhere in it."


Welcome to the fundamental difference between "hard" copy and "soft" copy. When someone sells you a book, they're selling you a book. There are no license restrictions on said book. There is no implicit contract. You can sell said book to other people, read from it all you like, and even tear pages out of it to use as toilet paper. The author and distributor of the book don't care.

However, with software, when you purchase it (or acquire it via another means, such as downloading), you're not buying a physical thing. You're purchasing a "license" to "use" it. This places restrictions on your behaviour in most cases. It is literally the difference between owning and leasing: You "own" the book, but not the rights to the words inside it. You've "leased" the software, and thus have the ability to use it, but the fundamental ownership of the 'thing' still belongs to the software manufacturer.

It's an entirely different business and legal model.

The reason why you have an illegal copy of a GPL'd program if the GPL ceases to exist is because only the original author has the ability to distribute said software. And since you acquired your copy under terms that are impossible to fulfill (you must agree to the non-existant license in order to use the software. If said license doesn't exist, you cannot agree, therefore...), the author never granted you permission to have the copy you have.

Remember: It is the GPL that grants you the ability to use and distribute the code, not copyright law. The GPL is granting you priveleges you otherwise wouldn't have, and taking the GPL away takes those priveleges with it.

Of course, as is standard on /., IANAL, but hey, that's never stopped people from espousing opinions before. :)

Re:Patents prevent the abuse of open source (2)

Palin Majere (4000) | more than 12 years ago | (#245522)

"While Microsoft's free equivalent didn't happen to be open source, it very easily could have been. (In fact, had Microsoft not been rich enough to bankroll its QEMM equivalent itself, it might have been the only practical way to go.) In any event, it always takes much less effort and money to develop a knock-off than the original, because Quarterdeck blazed the trail by developing the technology and feature set, solving all of the knotty technical problems, and dealing with the tradeoffs that are always inherent in new products."


Where to begin, where to begin...

1) You say that Microsoft's knockoff of QEMM wasn't open-source, but easily could have been. This handily ruins your entire argument: "Patents prevent the abuse of open source" by pointing out that it doesn't matter whether it's open-source or not. Patents prevent this type of competition.

Why do I say competition? Because that's what this represents. Two companies with similar (perhaps even identical?) products both attempting to sell said product to the consumer. This isn't an "abuse", this is the natural state of things prior to patent law stepping in and providing artificial walls to competition. I'll let others be the judge of whether that's a good or bad thing, but do not claim that this is "open-source abuse" when it is most certainly not.

2) You say that Quarterdeck blazed the trail and spent all the time and effort to work out the kinks and bugs, and then Microsoft had it easy because all that work had already been done.

Congratulations, you just described open-source software. Unfortunately, QEMM wasn't open-source, and thus Microsoft did not have Quarterdeck's work to build on, unless it engaged in industrial espionage and stole the work from Quarterdeck. Or licensed it in some fashion. In any event, with a closed-source program as the 'original', people attempting to "clone" its functionality still have no clue as to how to solve "all of the knotty technical problems". They know someone can do it, and that's it.

Now, if they were to go and reverse engineer the software, they might get some ideas. But guess what? Reverse engineering is costly and expensive, both in time and man-power. So don't assume making a "clone" of an existing software product is less costly.
Richard Stallman once told me, personally, that one of his motivations for opposing software patents is that they would make it more difficult for the FSF to "wipe out" (his words) commercial software. Stallman's statement underscores the danger.... And the need for software patents. We might argue about the optimal length of these patents (there are many merits to the argument that 20 years is too long), but few of us with a sense of justice and fairness would say that open source should be allowed to be used as a weapon in a malicious agenda.


Ah, the real meat. Couple an out-of-context quote of RMS with the claims of open-source software being "a weapon in a malicious agenda". Do I even need to point out how absolutely silly and inflammatory this is? Open-source software is no more a "weapon" than closed-source software is: I.e. It's not.

The argument over whether or not patents are even beneficial is a point of hotly contested debate, and you making inflammatory comments in support of patent law doesn't help things any. There have been more than enough examples in the past year that point towards patents not always being the Good Thing you make them out to be, regardless of the length of time they last for. BTW, did you know that you're using patented hyperlink technology on that webpage of yours? I hope you've paid your license fees.

Re:Patents prevent the abuse of open source (4)

ChaosDiscord (4913) | more than 12 years ago | (#245524)

What's wrong with using open source as a weapon against another company? In any case where a free price, open source product can be used to kill another product, a free price, closed source product could do the same thing. Your example (Microsoft's attack on Quarterdeck), shows this. Microsoft's release of a free price web browser to attack Netscape is indentical. This is common practice between businesses. At least if the attack is made with open source, the public wins by getting software they can modify and upgrade.

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (2)

zaf (5944) | more than 12 years ago | (#245525)

Example: Internet Explorer. MS doesn't charge for it, but should they not be responsible for the damages it causes?

Yes, it is bad for society... (3)

Nugget (7382) | more than 12 years ago | (#245527)

Yes, this can be bad for society because sending Company Y to hell deprives the marketplace of any subsequent innovations that it may have contributed to the state of the art.

A thriving, successful Company Y that is able to build its reputation on the success of its previous innovations is well-positioned to continue to push the state of the art and can be expected to (or at least, stands a good chance to) develop and distributed more innovate products in the future.

Quarterdeck is an ideal example of this -- had Quarterdeck not been starved out of existence by Microsoft, their DesqView/X product may have gained traction and been widely used. It was a phenominal product which could have accelerated mainstream acceptance of Unix as a consumer platform by many years. However, we'll never know what good effects may have come from a robust DesqView/X platform supported by a viable company.

Had, as the original poster stipulated, QEMM been demolished and Quarterdeck (Your Company Y) been sent to hell by an opensource alternative, the effects would have been the same. It would still have resulted in the death-by-starvation of DesqView/X.

Open souce development has proven to be a very efficient way of stimulating the devlopment of useful and robust code. It has not, however, proven itself to be at all useful at driving innovation and progress. Open source, as it exists today, is mainly a great tool for replicating the innovations we see being developed in the commercial marketplace.

Left with only opensource development, after all the Company Y's have "gone to hell", I suspect we'd see much slower and less beneficial progress.

Linux is not a bad thing, in and of itself, but if Linux displaces the alternatives then it is bad for the marketplace and bad for society.

Don't forget that an integral aspect of freedom is choice, and destroying commercial software removes an important and necessary choice. If our only choice is for "Free" software, then we're not free at all.

And Also Dead in Oregon (2)

llywrch (9023) | more than 12 years ago | (#245528)

18 April of this year the Oregon State Judiciary Committe held a hearing about UCITA (HB 3910) which I attended.

I've published the details elsewhere on the Web. See the PLUG mailing list [skylab.org] or here [linuxtoday.com] for details.

In a nutshell, corporate users of software came out strongly against this bill, & the sponsor of the bill was nowhere to be seen. Only three people spoke for it -- Ray Nimmer, who helped write the bill, John Woodard an Intel lawyer, & Jim Craven of the Americna Electronics Association -- & they appeared to be going thru the motions.

I would guess that the best the backers of UCITA in Oregon can hope for is that the bill dies in committee, people forget about it, so they can reitnroduce the bill in 2003. But with other corporations aware of this grab at their own profit margins, I doubt it will pass even in then.

Geoff

But UCITA is BAD law! (5)

lar3ry (10905) | more than 12 years ago | (#245529)

Exempting open source from mandatory warrantees is good in and of itself, but UCITA also makes legal those nasty Shrink Wrap "end user agreements" (in other words, you will be held to an agreement that you did not sign, nor did you have any say in the wording of that agreement).

UCITA is just bad law, and it is bad news for end users.
--

Yes and no (2)

TrentC (11023) | more than 12 years ago | (#245530)

Don't scoff at it too quickly, now -- Those shrink-wrapped licenses stand on the same legal ground as the GPL! After all, neither is written on paper, and they rely on implicit acceptance through the actions of the end user.

But you're making a common error when comparing the GPL to EULAs: the GPL covers distribution of the software in question, where EULAs cover the use of the software.

Since they affect the use of the software, EULAs serve to restrict the rights of the end user -- there wouldn't be a need to agree to a license that says "you can do whatever you want with this stuff", would there? -- because unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is already illegal according to copyright law.

The GPL serves only as a contract for distribution of the software; specifically, granting the end user free and unlimited(*) right to distribute the copyrighted source code. Thus UCITA has little bearing on the GPL, since as far as I k now, it attempts to alter the nature of usage agreements, not copyright law.

(*)The pedantics among us will point out there is one "limitation" to the GPL's "freedom"; when distributing code that you have acquired under the GPL, that code must also be distributed under the terms of the GPL; this is the hook that keeps GPLed code "Free" in a world where proprietary software is the norm, and is as strange a concept now as young Bill Gates' idea of selling what everyone else was giving away, many years ago...

Jay (=

Re:But UCITA is BAD law! (2)

grub (11606) | more than 12 years ago | (#245531)

[B]ut UCITA also makes legal those nasty Shrink Wrap "end user agreements"

That's where I'm a little confused. Most shrink wrap agreements tell you that you receive the software as-is and if your lose all your data, your dog dies, and your house burns down; tough cookies.

Where then will this law be any different, or is it just another layer of bureaucracy?

Gord

Re:¹Warranty on open-source hardware (2)

grub (11606) | more than 12 years ago | (#245532)

In that case, the warranty was that "This hardware matches the schematic, and this schematic describes hardware that performs task Foo.

Yes, and if the product failed to perform Foo you had a warranty to fall back upon.

With software you may get a the /* this software performs foo */ at the source head but if it breaks do to poor design, you have no recourse. With a tangible item you usually do.

Gord

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (3)

grub (11606) | more than 12 years ago | (#245533)

[W]ith Open Source, you don't need warranty because you can see EXACTLY what is going on. The source code perfectly describes the functionality of the software.

Years back electronics companies used to give a schematic with their product, yet those items still game with a warranty.

I think for a company like RedHat it is in their best interest to have a warranty of some sort to show that they have confidence in their product. Whether that warranty should me made mandatory by more laws is another matter.

grub

Re:But UCITA is BAD law! (1)

nathanm (12287) | more than 12 years ago | (#245534)

Most shrink wrap agreements tell you that you receive the software as-is and if your lose all your data, your dog dies, and your house burns down; tough cookies.
If UCITA mandates warranties on proprietary software in accordance with the Uniform Commercial Code [cornell.edu] , these kinds of statements should disappear from EULAs. Then if some software doesn't work as advertised, or causes damages, you should be able to recover your damages under the warranty.

Re:It's the same stuff that makes the GPL valid (2)

Royster (16042) | more than 12 years ago | (#245537)

The GPL expands your rights in exchange for . EULAs restrict your rights in exchange for nothing. By buying a copy of copywrited software, you already have the right to use it under the Fair Use and First Sale doctrines. You don't need a EULA at all.

The GPL does not require you to release the source code of any changes that you may make. You only have to release the source if you *distribute* the changed version. You can monkey around with your version of Ximian without releasing a thing if you keep the changes to yourself.

Re:It's the same stuff that makes the GPL valid (2)

Royster (16042) | more than 12 years ago | (#245538)

However, with software, when you purchase it (or acquire it via another means, such as downloading), you're not buying a physical thing. You're purchasing a "license" to "use" it. This places restrictions on your behaviour in most cases. It is literally the difference between owning and leasing: You "own" the book, but not the rights to the words inside it. You've "leased" the software, and thus have the ability to use it, but the fundamental ownership of the 'thing' still belongs to the software manufacturer.

Bullshit. You've fallen for the legal fiction that the software industry wants you to fall for. When you buy media containing a copy of the software in a fixed media (in the sense that copyright law speaks of expression being fixed in a media) you have certain rights already. You may utilize the software just as you may make use of a book. That in order to use the software means that you have to install it and make another copy and even make a third copy when you load it into RAM is inconsequential. That's how you use software.

When you read a book, you display an image of the book on the back of your retina. Do you need a licence to read a book you have bought? Of course not.

So, a software company could sell software without any EULA at all. The buyers would not have the right to make additional copies and distribute them. The buyers would be able to use them without any additional license. Existing copyright law gives you all of these rights.

EULAs only exist to restrict your rights from those granted by copyright law. To the extent that they do so, they may not be enforceable. The question of whether a contract (interpreted under state laws) may give away rights granted by Federal law has never been litigated.

Re:Mandatory warranty... IS GOOD! (2)

rakjr (18074) | more than 12 years ago | (#245540)

Actually, it is a pipe dream.Think about it. Software is compiled by IMPERFECT compilers, running on top of IMPERFECT user interfaces, running on top of IMPERFECT operating systems, all running on top of IMPERFECT hardware. Given the environment, it is a miracle that anything runs.While it may be possible to prove the correctness of a program's code, but once you throw it on top of IMPERFECT to the forth power all bets are off. Just think about Excel. There have been a couple of times where the program works fine (for the most part), but if you happen to have the wrong print driver installed then heaven help your data because mostlikely it was going to get eaten for lunch. There was a bug in the print drivers, but how much checking does an application have to do to ensure that standards that it relies upon are really being followed?On the topic of standards, for the sake of improved functionality, Microsoft does not even follow its own standards. Consider the naming convension. There is a long file name limit (I know because I run into it every time I attempt to make a CD of faculty documents). The CD-Burning software can not break the name rule, but MS allows users to break it right and left when naming the files. Another example would be IE's handling poor html. Pages which should bomb produce what appears to be functional content because MS does their own guessing about what you really ment (sounds like Florida's voting system). The point being, if there are not enforced standards, then what is the basis for proving what is being covered by the warranty?I think the idea of warranties that mean something is great, but MS has yet to provide an OS which is not full of bugs. So what do you expect from an end software programmer who is working on top of a pile that deep?

Re:Not my understanding (1)

Shadowlion (18254) | more than 12 years ago | (#245541)

So you exchange it for an unopened box, take the box to a different store, and return the now-unopened software (with your receipt that shows a valid purchase for the software title).

Is it really that difficult?


--

Re:UCITA seems to be DEAD in Texas (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 12 years ago | (#245542)

> I may be speaking a few days too soon since the Texas Legislature doesn't go into it's two-year recess until mid next week, but UCITA seems to have died in Committee.

Perhaps my many friends in Texas will forgive me for saying...

Since it doesn't have anything to do with beef, football, firearms, or petrochemicals, the average member of the Texas legislature probably doesn't know what the heck UCITA is talking about, let alone give a damn.

--

Re:Not my understanding (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 12 years ago | (#245543)

I've returned software, opened, before.
I even returned a copy of Jane's F-18 because I thought it sucked. It didn't at all work in the 'advanced' way I wanted it to, and Electronics Botique took it back, no complaints. Due to this nice practice, I happily bought something else from them after they credited my credit card with a refund.
As for the 'open box' policy, that holds true for situations like my Janes situation; I was a bit disappointed, but nobody lied to me. If I walk into any store, and say 'I need an accounting package that handles Euros' and the guy sells me a package, saying it handles euros, and it DOESN'T, then they *HAVE* to take it back. There is no way of saying 'you opened it'. It was sold under false pretenses.

I've had many salespeople try to tell me 'you can't return it if it's open'. These salesmen only understand the store policy. They only say this because most large stores of any kind of product tend to take returns for 'any reason at all' without hassle. Don't like the sweater you bought? Bring it back for a refund. THey are under no legal obligation to do this however (except they told you you could when you bought it). If my business sells you something, and that something is what I said it was, once the deal is done, it's done. I am under no obligation to take it back.

Not my understanding (4)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 12 years ago | (#245544)

.. I understood it to mean that unless these things were explicitly disclaimed, they would be applied.

SO as long as there is a shrinkwrap license disclaiming everything.... the UCITA doesn't help the consumer out.

Or perhaps it means that the contract that disclaims these rights under ucita must be a *real* contract, involving signing papers, etc? As in large business software, etc.

Also.. regardless of disclaimers, or contracts, if software does not work as advertised, you CAN take it back. False advertising is illegal, and any sale resulting from it is fraudulent.

Re:Industry body needed (2)

HamNRye (20218) | more than 12 years ago | (#245545)

Maybe we could call them the "Linux Industry Consortium Kabbal"... LICK!

Re:Well (2)

HamNRye (20218) | more than 12 years ago | (#245546)

If I give you the plans for the bike, and you build the bike and it breaks, should I be sued?? Most OSS is distributed in source form, with another interested party compiling and creating the installer package.

So now, I give the bike plans to RedHat, RedHat builds the bike, you ride the bike and it breaks. Who should be sued?? RedHat will tell you to sue me, (here comes the warranty problems), and I'll tell you to pi$$ up a rope.

What the UCTIA does not define is: If the software is written by party 1, sold by party 2, who is responsable for a warranty?? So redhat goes out and makes sure that the OSS programmers cannot be sued because KTetris crashed their webserver. (In the bargain, they have gained some questionable ground for themselves.)

I think that source should be looked at as speech, and compiled binaries should be viewed as a manufactured product. Saying that I think all warranty claims should be dependent on the customer following a mantenance and setup procedure outlined in the manual. (You can't return your car because you didn't fill it up with gas, or change the oil.)

I'd be willing to bet that we see the first version of Windows shipped with a decent manual....

Besides, what kind of warranty?? "We'll refund you %1000 of the purchase price." Great for free software. Do I get a nickel everytime NT bluescreens on me? A dollar for every frag I racked up before the machine dies in a fit of screaming rage?

Software warranties are designed to be unenforceable, they simply act as a barrier to software produced by a non-corporate entity.

~This here is beer, the emblem of our land. You can stick it in a bottle you can hold it in your hand....

Awesome stuff (4)

Merk (25521) | more than 12 years ago | (#245547)

Webbink has approached the commission about making a couple of changes in the model UCITA. One proposed change would recognize Free Software and Open Source licenses in the law, to "acknowledge they exist in the firmament of computer software licenses," he says.

So with the GPL officially recognized as a valid license under the law a lot of GPL related concerns are greatly diminished. That doesn't necessarily mean that there can't be loopholes, but it does mean that it's going to be a lot harder for someone to say "The GPL isn't a valid license"

His example: A Linux programmer purchasing a popular word-processing program and using its source code to port it to Linux. With Red Hat's proposal, UCITA would allow such reverse engineering and override any prohibitions in the word-processor's license agreement.

That's a step in the right direction. I think reverse engineering should be allowed no matter what. But then again, the more commercial companies try to limit how their software can be used, distributed, modified, copied or examined, the more people are driven to free software.

Huh? Why was that part changed? (3)

barawn (25691) | more than 12 years ago | (#245548)

I'm really confused. I'm hoping not to get flamed by this, but honestly, why was the portion of the law which said "free software doesn't need a warranty" changed to "Open Source software doesn't need a warranty"? There's plenty of "free as in beer" software out there that for some reason, they didn't (or couldn't) release the source code. Why should they have to provide a warranty? They're releasing it simply because they think it would be of use to the community - they might not have the time or money to support it.

Or did they just change it to "free as in beer" and "free as in speech" are both exempt now?

Re:It's the same stuff that makes the GPL valid (1)

rking (32070) | more than 12 years ago | (#245549)

I'm not sure I agree.

The GPL grants you certain rights in return for you giving up certain rights.

Specifically you can copy, modify, and distribute the code. But if you do happen to modify it you are forced to release the source to your changes.


No. You can modify the software as much as you please and no obligations will arise as a result.

What the GPL says is that you may distribute copies of the software, modified or not, under certain circumstances. The default poisition in the absence of the GPL is that copyright law prohibits you from distributing copies of the software. What rights do you feel the GPL has taken away? Without GPL you cannot distribute copies, with GPL you can distribute copies on certain terms.

Similarly speaking, it's obvious that shrinkwrap and EULA extend from copyright law as well. That's the basis for the company being allowed to restrict your use in exchange for the right to use it at all.

Whether it's obvious to you or not it is not true. The validity of shrinkwrap licences (where they are valid, i.e. almost no where) extends from UCITA saying they are lawful, they are not a result of copyright laws.

I've never had a right to use restriction on an automobile I have purchased, nor have I on toasters, televisions or wristwatches.

And you almost certainly haven't on any software you've purchased either, at least assuming you buy as a consumer. You might have had a piece of paper or a message on screen saying you did but that does not make it true.

Re:What can we do (2)

aufait (45237) | more than 12 years ago | (#245550)

The way I read the article, it is pretty much a done deal.

The Maryland legislature passed the bill and is no longer in session until next year. The only requirement left for it to become law is to get Glenndennings signature. The article implies that Glenndenning wil sign it.

You could call or write the Governer's office.

What counts as ethical? (1)

divec (48748) | more than 12 years ago | (#245552)

Hi Brett, howya doing, not read one of your posts for a while.

[some people] have specifically touted open source as a way of attacking companies they do not like [...] even those which, unlike Microsoft, act ethically.

I don't know which companies you're referring to, but if an individual wants to attack a company then I guess that is likely to be because *in their opinion* the company is being unethical. Of course that may not agree with your opinion or mine.

To prevent open source from being used in a predatory and unfair manner against them, companies that develop new technology need to patent it.

I don't think that you've demonstrated that this is the case. The Microsoft vs Quarterdeck example you gave happened in a world in which software patents exist. In any case, if you think that the Microsoft cross-subsidising technique should be illegal, then oughtn't that to be banned by anti-trust laws?

it always takes much less effort and money to develop a knock-off than the original

Ok, but that's true in markets where patents don't have much effect, too - see Alan Cox's recent comments about the baked beans industry. Besides, it takes time to develop a clone, and in the IT industry a short time is very valuable. VMWare has been milking their product for about 3 years now, just as Plex86 is getting good. If the VMWare people have actually been developing for the last 3 years, then they've probably got something else unique now, which will take time to copy ... and so on.

few of us with a sense of justice and fairness would say that open source should be allowed to be used as a weapon in a malicious agenda.

Putting aside for a moment the fact that we probably don't all agree on what counts as malicious, I still don't think I neccessarily agree with you. A lot of malicious acts are not illegal, and I think should not be. I think the nasty {pro-choice|pro-life} people should be allowed to air their stupid views on abortion, for example, whether or not I agree with them.

Make Open Source advantaged under new UCITA (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 12 years ago | (#245557)

The best thing to do with UCITA is invert all it's clauses :) More seriously, there is some need for good infotech transactions law. We can't have shrink-wrap licences dubiously enforcable.

One measure I'd like to see is strict liability enforced on closed-source programs. No weaseling out. The logic would be that since they hold the source secret, their customers cannot fix any problems themselves, so the publisher must be liable for all losses.

I would allow publishers that release their source [and ability to recompile] to customers the carrot of reduced liability. After all, at this point the customer can patch the source, or hire someone else to do so.

Re:UCITA seems to be DEAD in Texas (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 12 years ago | (#245558)

I lobbied against UCITA in Austin. I spoke with some Reps, and alot of aides (better). Of the ~10 people I spoke with, only 1 knew what it was about. And she was an aide to the sponsoring TX House Rep [Dem!].

They were all too busy and preoccupied with redistricting. But in fairness, all listened attentively and showed concern. Maybe that's their stock-in-trade, but I wanted to make sure that the bills didn't get rubber-stamped through committee. I feel I raised enough awareness that at least some questions would be asked and the unjust nature of UCITA might be revealed.

UCITA seems to be DEAD in Texas (2)

redelm (54142) | more than 12 years ago | (#245559)

I may be speaking a few days too soon since the Texas Legislature doesn't
go into it's two-year recess until mid next week, but UCITA seems to have died in Committee.


Both the TX House and Senate Committes have failed to vote it out for votes, and
they have no more meetings scheduled.

Make Open Source priviliged under UCITA (4)

redelm (54142) | more than 12 years ago | (#245560)

The best thing to do with UCITA is invert all it's clauses :) More
seriously, there is some need for good infotech transactions law.
We can't have shrink-wrap licences dubiously enforcable.

One measure
I'd like to see is strict liability enforced on closed-source
programs. No weaseling out. The logic would be that since they hold
the source secret, their customers cannot fix any problems themselves, so
the publisher must be liable for all losses.

I would allow publishers
that release their source [and ability to recompile] to customers the
carrot of reduced liability. After all, at this point the customer can
patch the source, or hire someone else to do so.

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (2)

radja (58949) | more than 12 years ago | (#245561)

what I can think of is this:

with Open Source, you don't need warranty because you can see EXACTLY what is going on. The sourcecode perfectly describes the functionality of the software. with free (beer) software you do not have such a precise description of functionality, so you have will have to believe the maker when he says the functionality of the software is X.

This may not be the reasoning, but it at least sounds slightly lucid.

//rdj

Sleeping with the enemy (3)

joq (63625) | more than 12 years ago | (#245565)

snippet


UCITA has been opposed by:

26 Attorneys General Software developers

Every consumer advocacy organization that has looked at it

Large software customers

Librarians

Other independent information content developers (writers, photographers)

Entertainment industry

Magazine and newspaper publishers

Many law professors.

(end snippet)

Additionally, it has been sharply criticized by the United States' Federal Trade Commission, http://www.ftc.gov/be/v990010.htm [ftc.gov] .

So many companies against UCITA, yet RedHat would look credible in the eyes of the same pundits attempting to pass the bill. Laymen terms: RedHat thinks they'll join the "paper-based" elite profile of a company like MS, so they turn around and shaft the OpenSource community by sleeping with the enemy. How thoughtful.

More UCITA opposition info [badsoftware.com]

Open Source promotes efficient Trade (3)

bwt (68845) | more than 12 years ago | (#245566)

Currently, there's no Open Source industry group that deals with legislative issues, although Webbink says Red Hat's efforts have been received well both on Capitol Hill and in Maryland's statehouse. Red Hat worked with the Open Source Initiative to craft the change in Maryland's UCITA.

For God's sake, why don't they create this! Right now we rely on the EFF to represent our interests to lawmakers. This needs to be supplemented with a group with a business perspective, for a one-two punch. The open source movement needs to start doing more PR work with legislatures. Red Hat's work here is great, but this has to be about more than just one company. The open source community is offereing tremendous value to consumers, citizens, and corporations that use our software and pay for our services. We need to move our community into the mainstream in the minds of the Congress critters.

Especially with Microsoft making it clear they are going to bash us as "intelletual property destroyers", we need to proactively present our pro-business face to lawmakers and set the record straight. Open source brings programmers, software companies, and software consumers (corporate and indiviual) together in a community that is focused on minimizing waste in the global software market, especially that caused by artificially created barriers. This makes sense from an individual rights perspective and it makes sense from a business perspective, once you focus on optimizing the creation of value within the entire system. Voluntary cooperation out of mutual self-interst for mutual gain is the EPITOME of the American way. In fact, this is little more than a statement of the concept of trade.

No party engaging in trade in a modern society creates products solely for self use. We are all dependend on trading those goods we create for something created by someone else. Open source is simply a different value proposition within software trade. Recognizing the cumulative value in compounding innovation, the open source value proposition says that instead of trading your IP rights for money, you trade those rights for permanent access to the valuable intellectual property contributions of others whose work extends your own.

IP is valuable precisely to the extent it is useful. To trade IP you create for access to the useful IP of others is in fact a profound statement about the value of use for software and intellectual property generally. The open source movement not only deeply respects intellectual property, it is in fact is critically dependent on it, since it is only by the open source copyright licences that we are secure in our ability to work together without fear of being ripped off.

In sum, the idea that open source destroys IP or stiffles trade is not just wrong, it is profoundly wrong-headed. Work released in an open source licence IS intellectual property. What open source will destroy is the barriers to directly trading IP for IP. For companies that survive by trading IP by the drop directly to consumers in exchange for cash, this is no doubt troubling because it paradigmatically challenges their value proposition. As with any situation where different value propositions exist, the market will choose how to distribute total resources among the two rival models to provide the system that is globally most efficient. That is the american way, and we embrace it.

Re:It's the same stuff that makes the GPL valid (1)

pete_p (70057) | more than 12 years ago | (#245567)

Uh... No.

If, when lacking a license, you cannot use something, how can I read a book? I havn't yet seen a book (except for software manuals, books with CDs, etc) that has a license anywhere in it.

I can use a book I bought. Sell or give it to someone else. Shred it. Burn it. Whatever, as long as I don't copy it. Thus, copyright.

If the GPL ceased to exist, I could still use the software I have. I just can not distribute it (or "derivitive works") anymore. (IANAL, this is not legal advice, blah blah blah, why are you still reading?)

RedHat is not my favorite linux distro anymore. (1)

Cyno (85911) | more than 12 years ago | (#245568)


Does this mean RedHat is for the UCITA?

I always knew there was something odd about that company, but now I know.

Re:Make Open Source priviliged under UCITA (1)

Cyno (85911) | more than 12 years ago | (#245569)

exactly, or at least read they can source and know what the program does before they run it, etc. I think you just became my personal hero. This is the best arguement I've heard concerning the UCITA to date. Mod parent up, please!

But we live in a world where M$s make the laws. Doubtful they'll make a law that isn't profitable for them, or at least in their best interrests.

laugh, cry, kill, die.

Re:Compromise? (2)

fanatic (86657) | more than 12 years ago | (#245570)

but it is getting passed in many states,

It has passed in 2, count 'em, 2 states.

--

Re:Well (2)

fanatic (86657) | more than 12 years ago | (#245571)

Except if UCITA also makes the EULA binding and the EULA dsclaims all warranties then where are you?

--

Why should Red Hat get a say? (2)

Alpha State (89105) | more than 12 years ago | (#245572)

No matter how much I like Red Hat, it would be hypocritical of me to support them doing this. Many people (including me) have spoken up when corporations get to "influence" (or write) laws. How is this any different?

I can see why they would want to protect themselves from a law that would damage their business, but even then their voice should not amount to mare than anyone elses in a democratic society. The bottom line is, this law is not wanted by the average person (or at least wouldn't be if they knew about it).

The most common excuse for this kind of crap is "to help the economy" - as long as businesses do well, everyone does well so let's just let them write all the rules, right? What if I think there are more important things that the economy? What if compromises aren't best decided by whatever makes the most money? What if increasing the average wealth just means making the wealthiest people a bit more wealthy?

I bitch when the global giants get to set their own agenda, so I feel I have to bitch now. Why can't Red Hat simply help the opposition to UCITA, to show that not all companies are in favour of it? Or is there some part of it that will benefit them?

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (2)

GreyyGuy (91753) | more than 12 years ago | (#245573)

I'm really confused. I'm hoping not to get flamed by this, but honestly, why was the portion of the law which said "free software doesn't need a warranty" changed to "Open Source software doesn't need a warranty"?

Not to flame, but if you read the article, you woudl see that they wanted to avoid propietary software that, for one reason or another, no money was paid for. "Free software" could be Linux or IE, since MS lets you download it for no cost. They are both "free", but there is a significant difference between the two.

Problem lies with the system (2)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 12 years ago | (#245574)

Our governmental systems work in conjunction with businesses, lobbyists, and special interest groups, all of which are not representative of the general population. It's a fundamental flaw in the system. The fact that Red Hat is havnig such a strong voice above the rest of us is not a good thing. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't use that voice to say something useful.

Reading the "plans" (2)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 12 years ago | (#245575)

The gpl clearly states in CAPS about how there's no warranty. The gpl also guarantees that you can peruse the source code yourself.

Also, the analogy falls apart in terms of physical "bike failure" because it may well be a matter of faulty construction rather than faulty plans.

It's not just about software (2)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 12 years ago | (#245576)

Have you considered that the UCITA just _might_ be about something besides software licenses?

um (4)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 12 years ago | (#245577)

From the article
However, Webbink believes a compromise can be crafted, with proprietary vendors on board, that allows a person purchasing a software license to reverse-engineer the software to write interfaces for the software. His example: A Linux programmer purchasing a popular word-processing program and using its source code to port it to Linux. With Red Hat's proposal, UCITA would allow such reverse engineering and override any prohibitions in the word-processor's license agreement.
I'm assuming that what's meant is that you can use the program's output to reverse engineer another program that will interface with it. This is damned important stuff -- things like WORD compatibility and samba, and a whole ton of other applications would not be able to exist without this technique of reverse engineering the output of a program in order to create an interface to it.

It's the same stuff that makes the GPL valid (4)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 12 years ago | (#245578)

Don't scoff at it too quickly, now -- Those shrink-wrapped licenses stand on the same legal ground as the GPL! After all, neither is written on paper, and they rely on implicit acceptance through the actions of the end user.

Re:Patents prevent the abuse of open source (1)

apol (94049) | more than 12 years ago | (#245579)

Microsoft destroyed Quarterdeck, which made DESQview, by giving away a free knock-off of Quarterdeck's QEMM memory management software

But if Microsoft had no monopole I don't see why it would do it. For me this story makes rather a good argument against monopole than pro patents.

Patents would turn software design -- which usually carries innovation in a large number of small little things -- into a dreadful legal battle. Let us stay away from it.

Re:Not my understanding (1)

SaxMaster (95691) | more than 12 years ago | (#245580)

Most stores crack the shrinkwrap on exchange boxes before you ever leave the store to prevent this type of activity.

Patents prevent the abuse of open source (5)

Brett Glass (98525) | more than 12 years ago | (#245585)

What Bruce fails to mention in his article is that patents defend against the abuse of open source as a weapon.

Let me explain why this is a concern. Suppose Company X makes Product A. Company Y competes with company X by making Product A and also makes Product B, which provides the bulk of its income and finances the development of its competitive Product A. Company X can sabotage Company Y by fostering the development of an open source equivalent of Product B so as to cut off the revenue Company Y needs to compete with it (and, perhaps, to survive). Its "air supply" -- to use the word of Microsoft executive Jim Allchin -- has been cut off.

This isn't an abstract example. In the early days of the Windows environment, Microsoft destroyed Quarterdeck, which made DESQview, by giving away a free knock-off of Quarterdeck's QEMM memory management software (which was used to support its GUI and multitasking development). The result: Quarterdeck, without a "cash cow" equivalent to Microsoft's MS-DOS, could not compete. DESQview -- the best multitasking environment available for PCs at the time -- and DESQview/X -- a brilliant GUI based on X Windows -- died because there was no money for their future development.

While Microsoft's free equivalent didn't happen to be open source, it very easily could have been. (In fact, had Microsoft not been rich enough to bankroll its QEMM equivalent itself, it might have been the only practical way to go.) In any event, it always takes much less effort and money to develop a knock-off than the original, because Quarterdeck blazed the trail by developing the technology and feature set, solving all of the knotty technical problems, and dealing with the tradeoffs that are always inherent in new products.

Richard Stallman and others have specifically touted open source as a way of attacking companies they do not like (which, in the case of RMS, includes any company that publishes commercial software -- even those which, unlike Microsoft, act ethically).

To prevent open source from being used in a predatory and unfair manner against them, companies that develop new technology need to patent it. This is precisely what patents are intended to do, and they're especially urgent in an age where open source can be abused to prevent people who honestly advance the state of the art from being deprived of rewards for their labors.

Richard Stallman once told me, personally, that one of his motivations for opposing software patents is that they would make it more difficult for the FSF to "wipe out" (his words) commercial software. Stallman's statement underscores the danger.... And the need for software patents. We might argue about the optimal length of these patents (there are many merits to the argument that 20 years is too long), but few of us with a sense of justice and fairness would say that open source should be allowed to be used as a weapon in a malicious agenda.

If you've heard Bruce speak, or read his writing, you know that he shares some of RMS's animosity toward commercial software companies and frequently rattles his saber, "demanding" that they forfeit their hard work. Could this be the reason he opposes software patents? Just food for thought.

--Brett Glass

Re:Industry body needed (2)

rjh3 (99390) | more than 12 years ago | (#245586)

As a member of several industry associations I can testify to their significance. A well organized lobbying group can be very effective. But these are costly and require a few skilled staffers who can work effectively with politicians. I.e., self-righteous intolerant loudmouths need not apply.

There is another highly effective scenario that is open to anyone. Contact your own representative. My experience was:

Me: Hello. I'm from your district and I would like to talk to you about UCITA.
Rep: Pleased to meet you. What is UCITA?
Me: ... explains UCITA, describes advocates and opponents, describes my opposition
Rep: Thank you. I'll inform you of any state actions regarding it. You might also want to contact Reps X and Y.

She was not going to commit a position on UCITA, but now understood that this was a controversial issue and not a "good for business" easy decision.

Wow, are you wrong. (2)

DaveWood (101146) | more than 12 years ago | (#245587)

My friend, you are full of it.

Does it ever bother you, talking about patents like this, not having much more than the briefest acquaintance with patent law? Let alone economics?

Clearly, you have a bone to pick with Stallman, and that's fine - I've noticed his attitudes tend to make more enemies than friends these days, but by becoming caught up in a fight, you've missed both the point of what he's going after and what the fight over software patents is all about.

Patents (and copyrights, for that matter) last a long time. The time that intellectual property ownership "lasts" has lengthened steadily over the previous century. Basically, this is because we have a shamefully corrupt government, and whenever a large, powerful company or interest group (Disney, RIAA) saw its intellectual property monopoly was about to disappear, they simply exploited the cheaper alternative of bribing the legislature to extend the duration of the monopoly.

Now, we are the first generation of people who will be born, grown up and die, without seeing many intellectual property monopolies expire. Many will last over a century.

This is only one facet of the warping of intellectual property doctrine solely for the self-interest of the intellectual property monopolists. There are many others.

However, even if we set the clock back to 50 or a hundred years ago, when such things lasted for 20 years, or seven, or even less, it is still too long. These laws are, after all, meant to benefit society by rewarding inventors. Corporate art monopolists were unknown and undreamt of when those laws were drafted. Now, inventors/musicians/writers almost uniformly never see the profits of their labors - their employers/labels/publishers do - meanwhile, advances in transportation and information technology have created the possibility for human knowledge to advance at an unheard of rate - as well as enabling the payoff for an invention to come much more rapidly, and the point at which an artificial monopoly becomes onerous to arrive with equal haste.

Of course, even given all this, copyrights have a place in the modern world. Patents, perhaps, as well, although their role is hazier. Software patents, specifically, are a ridiculous farce - and have no place in the laws of any modern nation.

Your argument seems to center around the notion that effort put into making a piece of software must be protected, because it is too easy to reduce its worth by producing another, equivalent piece of software, and selling it for less, or, perhaps, giving it away for free. Your answer to this "problem" is to allow people to "patent" software - more accurately, to "own" a particular algorithm or programming technique - so that a potential competitor would be deprived of the opportunity to produce a cheaper alternative.

I hope you can already see how absurd this idea is, but in case you're really thick-headed, let me break it down for you. Capitalism (which is by no means an unimpeachable approach to organizing your society, but bear with me) dictates that competition will create an environment where no one can price gouge and where products and services will always improve - because if there is a way to do something better, faster, or cheaper, someone will always turn up and start doing it, since the market will reward them, right? Right?

Except that now Wordstar has a patent on word processing that they got in 1978, back before WYSIWYG, and we're all stuck with them unto the next generation, because no one else can write a word processor without violating one of their many patents, and they have no incentive to improve their technology (everyone is stuck with them, after all), let alone lower their prices ($5,000? $10,000? Hell, they can charge whatever they want! They own the patent on printer drivers! Or spell checking!)

The only reason this hasn't happened already, by the way, is because the idea of patenting software has always been viewed in our industry as totally absurd, until some opportunist tried it, some idiot at the patent office approved it, and some mongrel judge who never saw a computer in his life passed on it. Forgive me for not naming names. No matter, now we have patents on windows, pull-down menus, GIFs, and one click shopping. And we're just getting warmed up.

No, my benighted friend, when someone comes along and can afford to give away for free what you've worked so hard to charge money for, that's just markets. Consumers benefit, and in the long run, so do you, since your web browser is, after all, is much cheaper than it could have been. If it's possible to get something for free that was once, or is, available in the marketplace, that doesn't mean that you get to run to Washington and say "WE HAVE A GOD-GIVEN RIGHT TO MAKE MILLIONS SELLING WORD PROCESSORS - COME PROTECT US FROM ALL THESE NASTY COMPETITORS PLEASE MR. GOVERNMENT" - it means that what your selling lost its value - and in fact, in some sense, it never had any value in the first place. Tough luck. As my friend's grandfather, who lives in Texas, is fond of saying, it's time to hunker down and eat some crow.

This is one side of the problem with software patents. The other side is, if you can believe it, even more serious.

Software patents make every piece of code ever written a ticking time bomb of intellectual property litigation.

Even if you assume that we have a patent office staffed with geniuses all gifted with eidetic memories, every programmer who ever writes a line of code must be familiar with the entire body of software patents in order to avoid patent liability. And they have to stay current, because there are thousands of new applications every day!

Unless you now want to profess your complete imbecility, you will agree with me that this is completely impossible, which therefore leaves us with the alternative: namely, that at any time, any piece of code you write can earn you a visit from a patent lawyer, who will say:

"Oh hey, you're violating my patent on commenting inside of curly brackets! That'll be $10,000 per slash mark, paid in full in 48 hours, or you have to stop publishing and destroy all your illegal materials immediately! Don't like it? Hope you have a few million to fight it in civil court, then!"

Moron.

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (1)

cperciva (102828) | more than 12 years ago | (#245588)

Example: Internet Explorer. MS doesn't charge for it, but should they not be responsible for the damages it causes?

Only when I can hold Redhat legally responsible for the costs resulting from their insecure software. I don't use their software, but I have certainly been harmed by it -- probably several thousand dollars of harm if you add up all the time I've spent reporting cracked redhat systems to their owners.

Re:Not my understanding (1)

SirGeek (120712) | more than 12 years ago | (#245590)

You ever try returning software to a store once its opened ? Good luck.. Most stores have an "open box" policy (if the box is opened or the shrink wrap is broken, you can exchange it for the same software but not get a refund)

Red Hat ought to offer a strong warranty (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 12 years ago | (#245591)

Their business is support services. They sell a boxed product of software they mostly didn't write. They should offer a full warranty, excluding only compensatory damages.

It would be a good marketing move: "Satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back". It would look good.

¹Warranty on open-source hardware (1)

yerricde (125198) | more than 12 years ago | (#245592)

Years back electronics companies used to give a schematic with their product, yet those items still game with a warranty.

In that case, the warranty was that "This hardware matches the schematic, and this schematic describes hardware that performs task Foo."

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (2)

CBoy (129544) | more than 12 years ago | (#245593)

Didn't M$ say MSIE is part of the OS and it's inseperable? Isn't it true the OS isn't free? Doesn't MSIE cost you what you pay for the OS ?

Re:UCITA seems to be DEAD in Texas (2)

NumberSyx (130129) | more than 12 years ago | (#245594)

Thank goodness, I live in Texas and I wrote my Representive on the very bad points of UCITA, in hopes that the system does work. I would have prefered they drove a stake through its heart to keep from rising again, but I am glad if they couldn't outright kill it, at least they just let it die the quiet wimpering death by commitee.


Jesus died for sombodies sins, but not mine.

Here in Virginia (1)

prisoner (133137) | more than 12 years ago | (#245595)

this was already passed. Good 'ol Virginia. I live in Northern VA and I love all the tech companies being up here. All you have to do is raise the specre of some piece of legislation or other act of the Gov't pissing off the tech companies and the Gov't will shit themselves trying to repeal/amend/implement new/different laws and taxes.

Re:Not my understanding (3)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 12 years ago | (#245596)

IIRC, part of the Universal Commercial Code is a restriction on the ability to require acceptance of some terms as a condition of purchasing. A company legally can't require you to give up certain rights, notably the implied warrant of merchantability, as part of your purchase. If that were allowable, the laws establishing the implied warrant of merchantability and other legally protected rights wouldn't be worth the paper they were printed on. Any purchase contract that purports to give up those rights is legally invalid on its face. If we convince our legislators to include wording in UCITA that prevents software companies from making those requirements, they can keep putting them into their licenses until the end of time but they still won't be valid.

Industry body needed (4)

HuskyDog (143220) | more than 12 years ago | (#245597)

I congratulate RedHat for their efforts. But as the article says we realy need a trade body if we want to have influence. Consider the following examples:

Linux advocate- Hello, I'm from RedHat Inc.
Law maker- Who?

Linux advocate- Hello, I'm from the Linux Industry Consortium. Our members include IBM, HP, Sun and RedHat.
Law maker- Hello. Pleased to meet you. Would you like a coffee?

Such a group would be able to excert pressure in other areas. For example, whilst Andre Hedrik's effort in the IDE standards committee are greatly appreciated, he has himself said that his influence is limited since he is just a lone consultant and can't officialy represent Linux.

I agree that creating such a body is going to produce numerous problems such as keeping it small enough to be responsive whilst not excluding people who feel they should be represented, and defining its role closely enough to prevent it from influencing things like kernel development. I also accept that we already have groups like FSF [fsf.org] and Linux International [li.org] , but if RedHat are having to go and lobby lawmakers then these groups clearly don't have the required clout. Obviously they could be members of the "Linux Industry Consortium" (I am sure we could find a better name).

Maryland UCITA and DVD's? (3)

headonfire (160408) | more than 12 years ago | (#245598)

However, Webbink believes a compromise can be crafted, with proprietary vendors on board, that allows a person purchasing a software license to reverse-engineer the software to write interfaces for the software. His example: A Linux programmer purchasing a popular word-processing program and using its source code to port it to Linux. With Red Hat's proposal, UCITA would allow such reverse engineering and override any prohibitions in the word-processor's license agreement.

Do you suppose... "Software" or "Program" could mean "instructions for watching a movie "programmed" onto a DVD, thus making DeCSS legal in Maryland, no questions asked? Hmmmmmm...

Well, crap! Looks like Iowa folded. (1)

ka-klick (160833) | more than 12 years ago | (#245599)

I was getting ready to gloat about the fact that Iowa had enacted some legislation last year that at least kept the UCITA's "choice of law" provisions at bay. After doing some research I found that not only had that provision been "sunset" (to go out of effect on july 1st). But I also just found out that UCITA is now a done deal here as HF 569 [state.ia.us] has been signed! (Or, maybe it's not - I'm pretty confused by the wording - it almost just sounds like they've agreed to look at it in 2002)

AAAAARGH I always thought I lived in a state that had a few brain cells to rub together. I want to know why they passed it over (AFAIK) the objections of our Atty. Gen. Who is listed as one of the 26 who object.

Re:Well, crap! Looks like Iowa folded. (1)

ka-klick (160833) | more than 12 years ago | (#245600)

Well, after reading further and navigating the byzantine maze that is the legislative website for Iowa, it looks like they actually may be extending the "bomb-shelter" that I was going to gloat about and not adopting UCITA. I'm still confused, but feel a little better now.

Re:RedHat Bashing (2)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 12 years ago | (#245601)

I think that is unfair spendind a fair amount of time in #debian I know that I and many others bash on RHs tech gaffes often but I don't know very many people who claim that they are as bad or worse than M$ mostly trolls. :)
Debian snob and proud or it.

Re:Compromise? (1)

richie123 (180501) | more than 12 years ago | (#245604)

I would agree that UCITA is a horrible law, but it is getting passed in many states, and if you don't at least try to have a say in it, it will pass with all the most wrong headed parts of it fully intact.

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#245605)

this bit in the article is interesting:
Maryland legislators recognized quickly why exempting Open Source software from the mandated warranties made sense, Webbink says. "How do you impose a warranty on some hacker who's in Romania, written a piece of the code, and given it away for free?"
So that is one angle.

I am more concerned about the "self-help" section which seems to allow software companies to shut down software if the user doesn't pay the license fee by a deadline. But Ianal, etc.

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

Re:Well (1)

ichimunki (194887) | more than 12 years ago | (#245606)

Actually, you've pointed out a potentially destructive outcome of this sort of "no warranty needed" mindset. If Free Software is exempt from warranty, whereas proprietary software is required by law to accept certain warranty conditions, the vast majority of consumers who stop to think about it for two seconds might decide they prefer a warranty to an open barn door of programs with bugs and no responsibility for fixing them. On the other hand, if this makes it possible to return buggy or otherwise crappy software to Fry's or Computer City, then it's hard not to like it at least a little bit.

Re:¹Warranty on open-source hardware (1)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 12 years ago | (#245607)

what you fail to grasp is that a hardware schematic does not imply hardware that works as per the schematic. The software source IS the product, therefore there will never be a difference between how the source and the product perform.

eg I can buy a board with a perfectly good schematic, but if a transistor is fried the board will not work. thats why a warranty is needed in that case IMHO.

the HARDWARE could be DOA.

"just connect this to..."
BZZT.

Re:Patents prevent the abuse of open source (1)

aratas (210026) | more than 12 years ago | (#245608)

Stallman has a vision and is unrepentant about it. He truly believes in that vision, no compromises.

To put it another way, look at it from the other perspective: Why should you be rewarded for doing something that someone else is willing to do for free? ( I don't subscribe to this, just making a point ). The argument is the same from both sides, only with the perspective skewed one way or another. The commercial side unrepentantly claims that they have a right to be compensated (much in the way that the poor have a right to welfare) for their work, whether or not people consider it valuable. And in order to secure that right, they must lock in the public to only using one version of a product through copyrights and patents. However, with a little foresight, we have always limited these rights not only in time, but also in scope, such that consumers can be guaranteed a choice and competition can thrive.

This view, that is the standard view of the law before all this, has been openly attacked by companies like Microsoft. They want to limit in every way the rights of individual consumers so that people are locked into a single solution rather than having a choice. So far we have been able to dodge this bullet by clever maneuvering, but without direct opposition to these attempts to restrict our rights, we will be left with nothing but what they spoon-feed us.

This does not preclude commercial software. It may make it more competitive, especially as regards the OS arena, but that's life in America. Ask Ford how it makes so much money in cars when there is such numerous and healthy competition. I mean, they use open-source ( wheels, etc. ) in their products and yet make lots of money. I'm sure a little real, honest business-sense might help what is essentially a new industry.

I don't agree (1)

DVega (211997) | more than 12 years ago | (#245609)

Company X can sabotage Company Y by fostering the development of an open source equivalent of Product B so as to cut off the revenue Company Y ...

Is this bad ? We'd have an open source version of Product B!! Anyone can use it, even people with little or no money. Anyone can modify and extend it.

Is this bad for Company Y ? Sure it is. But it is very good for society. Go to hell Company Y!!!

Do you mean that Linux is a bad thing ? Do you mean that Wine is evil ? Do you mean that Mozilla should be outlawed ?

I don't agree. Open source is the best thing it could happen to any software product. We all benefit from that.

While Microsoft's free equivalent didn't happen to be open source ...

You are right. EMM386.EXE was not open source. So this example is meaningless.

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (1)

update() (217397) | more than 12 years ago | (#245610)

Not to flame, but that's not what the article says:

But there was confusion over whether that could be interpreted to mean proprietary software that for whatever reason isn't purchased, Barve says, so the new bill gives the exemption only to software that has its source code freely available and that allows unlimited copies to be made.

Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (2)

update() (217397) | more than 12 years ago | (#245611)

I'll throw in my own "Huh?"

This warranty has nothing to do with compensation for "damage caused." (See the text here - section 403. [lclark.edu] )

As far as I can see, this is effectively an attack by Red Hat on shareware developers and companies. What I don't get is what consumers could demand under the warranty. IE crashes in the Ars Technica forums. Do I get my nothing back?

Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

Re:Make Open Source advantaged under new UCITA (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 12 years ago | (#245612)

One measure I'd like to see is strict liability enforced on closed-source programs. No weaseling out. The logic would be that since they hold the source secret, their customers cannot fix any problems themselves, so the publisher must be liable for all losses.
That presumes that there's a magic wand you can wave to insure that 40,000,000 LOC projects can be made sufficiently bug free. There isn't. If you want strict liability, software houses will just raise prices to cover the added cost. Software won't be less buggy, just more expensive. Besides, it isn't the government's role to wipe your nose for you and demand quality products. If you don't like the buggy crap being pushed by major software companies we know and hate, don't buy them.

Re:Well (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 12 years ago | (#245613)

Close analogy, but PCs won't cause you a crippling injury or physical pain when you poochscrew it as opposed to falling off Microsoft Bicycle 2001.
That all depends on what the PC is doing. Software, in general, has killed people, and will continue to do so. According to this report [gcn.com] , software failure contributed to the crash of an MV-22 Osprey recently, resulting in 4 deaths. You didn't hear about the Windows failure which shut down a navy warship for 2 hours either, I suppose?

People complain about OpenSource companies (2)

hillct (230132) | more than 12 years ago | (#245614)

I've been reading on /. and other places, the many complaints people have about copanies like RedHat, Ximian, and Esel subverting OpenSource software, splintering code and other such things

I personally had my doubts about the validity of these complaints but it's good to see some positive work being done by Redhat in the area of OpenSource advocacy.

--CTH

--

Re:What can we do (1)

grovertime (237798) | more than 12 years ago | (#245615)

absolutely would like to know as well. i'm up in canada and wondering how the legislature compares here. anyone know if it all falls under similar laws and if so is there a forum for protest here?

  1. what the? [nowjones.com]

Re:But UCITA is BAD law! (2)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 12 years ago | (#245616)

Exempting open source from mandatory warrantees is good in and of itself, but UCITA also makes legal those nasty Shrink Wrap "end user agreements" (in other words, you will be held to an agreement that you did not sign, nor did you have any say in the wording of that agreement).

All the mroe legal protection for the GPL and (with the clauses allowing companies to unilatrerally shut their customers down) all the more reason to use open source software!

UCITA news (1)

IanA (260196) | more than 12 years ago | (#245617)

UcitaOnline [ucitaonline.com]

On a side note, its nice to see the word hacker used correcly:
Maryland legislators recognized quickly why exempting Open Source software from the mandated warranties made sense,
Webbink says. "How do you impose a warranty on some hacker who's in Romania, written a piece of the code, and given it away for free?"

Damage control (5)

r_j_prahad (309298) | more than 12 years ago | (#245618)

Way too many people here have abandoned their logical thought processes and concluded that RedHat is supporting UCITA by doing this. This is absolutely not true. Maryland has already passed UCITA into law, the damage has been done. Redhat is simply trying to mitigate that damage on behalf of all open source advocates everywhere. How is this a "bad thing"?

I think UCITA is a bad law, and needs to be blocked where it hasn't passed, and repealed where it has. People shouldn't abandon these efforts. In the meantime, let's support RedHat's efforts to keep this carnivorous beast at bay until it's put back in its cage.

Rather than patch an evil law... (1)

karmawarrior (311177) | more than 12 years ago | (#245619)

...I'd rather we just updated open source and free software licences to include an explicit ban on running it in states that have signed up to such draconian legislation.

If the people of Virginia want to be screwed by licences that effectively abolish the entire notion of fair use, then let them be screwed. The rest of us shouldn't be encouraging them.
--

Imagine my surprise.. (1)

myschae (317401) | more than 12 years ago | (#245620)

when I clicked on the link for the 7 states with UCITA legisliation and realized that my state, Arizona, was listed there. Guess I'll have to start writing some congress people.


As I was perusing the text of the law, I came across this under the 'Definitions' section:


33. "GOODS" MEANS ALL THINGS THAT ARE MOVABLE AT THE TIME RELEVANT TO THE COMPUTER INFORMATION
TRANSACTION. GOODS INCLUDE THE UNBORN YOUNG OF ANIMALS, GROWING CROPS AND OTHER IDENTIFIED THINGS
TO BE SEVERED FROM REALTY THAT ARE COVERED BY SECTION 47-2107. GOODS DO NOT INCLUDE COMPUTER
INFORMATION, MONEY, THE SUBJECT MATTER OF FOREIGN EXCHANGE TRANSACTIONS, DOCUMENTS, LETTERS OF
CREDIT, LETTER-OF-CREDIT RIGHTS, INSTRUMENTS, INVESTMENT PROPERTY, ACCOUNTS, CHATTEL PAPER, DEPOSIT
ACCOUNTS OR GENERAL INTANGIBLES.


Unborn animals? Gee, I'm so glad we got that straightened out. Why you can just imagine the horror of coming in and finding your family member downloading say an unborn sheep!


Sadly, I think our legislature counts as one of the things which can be considered 'severed from reality'.


Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How's that again? I missed something. - R. Heinlein

Re:It's not just about software (1)

myschae (317401) | more than 12 years ago | (#245621)

Well....
A. THIS CHAPTER APPLIES TO COMPUTER INFORMATION TRANSACTIONS. 3. IN ALL OTHER CASES, THIS CHAPTER APPLIES TO THE ENTIRE TRANSACTION IF THE COMPUTER INFORMATION AND INFORMATIONAL RIGHTS, OR ACCESS TO THEM, ARE THE PRIMARY SUBJECT MATTER BUT OTHERWISE APPLIES ONLY TO THE PART OF THE TRANSACTION INVOLVING COMPUTER INFORMATION, INFORMATIONAL RIGHTS IN IT AND CREATION OR MODIFICATION OF IT.
I would say it limits itself primarily to computer information, computer software, and/or computer equipment. However, I ran across that particular paragraph as I was reading the text of the bill put forth before the Arizona legislature and the mental image was.. entertaining. The article on Newsforge indicated that Maryland had added (or left out perhaps) a clause dealing with open source software. I was interested to see whether that information was included (or not) in the AZ version.

Well. After reading it I did find a clause that seems to exempt 'programs that include source code' from the duration clause of the warrenty. But, does that go far enough? Hrm. I don't know. Going to have to study it some more.

Any thoughts from anyone else who took a look at AZhb2041? And, by the way, I can't see that much about the bill that I would object to. It seems to reinforce the contractural agreement between the end user and the provider. As long as there is a provision for 'as is' software that is used by mutual consent, I don't get what the fuss is about.

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (1)

Kenny Austin (319525) | more than 12 years ago | (#245622)

"Years back electronics companies used to give a schematic with their product, yet those items still game with a warranty." Their products, meaning products that they themselves produced, designed, etc. and that they sold for a profit. The software that comes in the RedHat dist is NOT their software and in many cases they don't sell it, they provide bandwith for us to download it for free, so I understand them not wanting to warranty it. Kenny

Re:Huh? Why was that part changed? (1)

Tech187 (416303) | more than 12 years ago | (#245624)

I can download MSIE for free.

I can do so on my SparcStation 10SX running NetBSD.

Re:Well (1)

mborle (447788) | more than 12 years ago | (#245625)

Fact is though, you could wear a helmet, the same way you can do backups on your PC and prevent serious injury. Close analogy, but PCs won't cause you a crippling injury or physical pain when you poochscrew it as opposed to falling off Microsoft Bicycle 2001.
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