SFLC Blog[RSS]

In his keynote from the 28th Chaos Communication Congress last week, Cory Doctorow outlines the primary threat to software freedom in the 21st century: that as our lives become more dependent upon general-purpose computers, the attempts of industry and government to control computing will fundamentally endanger our personal liberty. Using the now-familiar history of digital rights management—its rise, its failure, and legislative efforts to enforce it—Cory illustrates how those threatened by technology will inevitably seek to cripple it. But the so-called copyright wars waged by content owners, he says, were only "a skirmish."

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At the Software Freedom Law Center, we do our internal accounting with free software. We had been using John Wiegley's Ledger for quite some time, and now we are also using Simon Michael's hledger.

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OSCON is probably the single largest annual gathering of free software developers in the world, so it's always a good opportunity for SFLC to catch up with the projects we work with and to make new friends in the community. I only got to spend two days at OSCON 2011, but in that time I met and talked shop (and microbrews and vegan donuts) with lots of folks who are making impressive contributions to free software. I also got to talk about Legal Basics for Developers with Karen Sandler to a fantastic and engaged audience.

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Microsoft's much hyped "cloud"-based replacement to its $20 billion-per-year Microsoft Office business comes with new features such as real-time multi-user collaborative editing, instant messaging, video conference, online meetings and more. What Microsoft does not tell you in their press release is that when you, your business, or your friends sign up, you may be getting an unadvertised feature as well: free spying.

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SFLC is introducing our redesigned website today! We hope you like the new look. While the content is largely unaffected, we've made some improvements to the information design to make the content easier to access and understand. (Take a look at our new publications page for an example.) We also changed our default content license to Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 (formerly Attribution-NoDerivs).

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We applaud the rejection by Judge Denny Chin of the Google Books class action settlement with authors and publishers regarding the digitization of books. SFLC filed a letter with the court on behalf of the Free Software Foundation and author Karl Fogel, urging the court to reject the settlement as it was last proposed and asking the court to consider the impact of the settlement upon members of the class who have distributed their works under Free licenses.

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According to the Government of India, private service providers like AirTel and Vodafone are failing in their legal obligations under the Information Technology Act, hastily amended in the days immediately following the Mumbai 7/11 attacks, by not providing access to the content of emails and texts sent to or from BlackBerry users. As a lawyer, I have some doubt about this legal position, no doubt under discussion between GoI and the service providers. But there is no doubt that the Government has failed to make clear the context of this dispute, or the real consequences of the demands it is making.

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In the haze of confusion surrounding the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bilski v. Kappos, the appeals board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a ruling last week that takes a definitive stand against the worst kinds of patents that threaten software developers every day.

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