The thousands of generic software patents held by large software giants, and other dedicated private entities, are increasingly becoming a huge and unfair barrier for new software companies, development communities and products to achieve wide market adoption.
In fact, as a software product competes with a product made by one of those large patent holders, they will sue or threaten to sue developers and/or large organization and corporate users for the infringement of their patents.
There are 2 approaches to solve this problem:
(1) The problem would be easily solved politically: (a) Put some sanity in the standards for approval of software patent claims; (b) re-proportion the duration of patent holders rights to the average duration of “useful economic life” of a software invention, so as not to prevent the ability of the wider population to and new creators to benefit from the use and remixing of those ideas. Efforts to enact this changes are under way, but it seems that lobbying efforts in the opposite direction are stronger (see for example the extension of copyright duration in the US and the continued awarding of ridiculous software patents).
(2) Another solutions is represented by the creation of a “copylefted” patent pool.
Here’s how it would work: A well founded and solid non-profit organization would:
- aggressively solicit the assignment to it of a large number of software patent rights
- it would instantly issue an irrevocable full license to such patents ideas to anyone in the world, except to anyone who will anytime in the future sue, or threaten to sue, anyone over software patent claims.
This article that appeared today shows encouraging signs for the possible success of this strategy.
It is great news that California – the software capital state of the world, the economy best positioned to benefit from a worldwide e-voting market, and lead state in many areas of legislation – has decided to de-certify all e-voting systems.
Most, or possibly all, e-voting systems available today are just not at all ready for prime time!
Let’s hope well-intentioned world politicians hear this loud and clear message among the PR noise of e-voting system sellers!
At the very least, this should push back lunatic attempts to have, at present, binding web or sms governmental elections.
We have photos from the Innovation Festival, from the 7th to the 10th of June in Rome.
The Festival was held in the area surrounding Piazza Augusto Imperatore, and particularly, within the new Ara Pacis Museum complex – work of the internationally renowned architect Richard Meier – a prestigious venue with a high communicative, historical and architectural impact.
The Lazio Region counted with the sponsorship of the Department of Consumer Rights and Simplification of Administrative Procedures as well as the Municipality of Rome to realize this event with thousands of people and raise two main issues: what do we really mean when we talk about innovation? And, are we really sure that innovation is limited to purely technological fields?
The cube contained multiple keypad locks (fictitious for the sake of demonstration) to secure the server running the Free Telematic Services and needed to support the Access Policies the foundation is promoting.
Sustaining an ecosystem of “truly copylefted” telematics applications through the “Work-for-hire” loophole of FLOSS licenses
– - – Imagine Google decided to aggressively responsiblize and incentivize his employees, consultants and partner companies.
It would offer them very extensive performance bonuses on profits generated by software services, which they could design, develop and manage, by extending both publicly available FLOSS and unreleased Google-derivatived FLOSS.
It would offer them a “Consulting/Partnering Agreements” where it irrevocably stated to hire their services (as “work-for-hire”) to modify such source code; as well as to hold full responsibility for the managing and hosting, except for its obligation towards Google to respect a set of specific (mainly) hosting requirements. They would sign concurrently the assignment of all copyrights and other intellectual goods generated from their work on such code to Google.
Google, as the provider of partially-copyrighted source code, branding (and possibly some inevitable liabilities), would get 1-5% of the direct revenue generated by the service. The Partner, in turn, would get 95-99% of the revenue, sustain all consulting and hosting costs, as well as and fully “manage”, and be responsible for, the hosting of such service on behalf of Google.
It would also offer “Software Quality Review Agreements” to the same parties, in order to apply the same decentralization principles to quality and security assurance of its code. All such parties would be offered (under “work-for-hire” terms) a small symbolic amount to: obtain the code, review it and offer their feedback at their will.
Now, let’s imagine instead that all these would done by a foundation (or governmental entities, or a redundant network of national governments), which irrevocably commits to the following:
* any user and anyone in the world could decide at anytime to become a “Partner”
* all source code that is assigned to the foundation, and therefore that running on any of the partner-managed “derived services”, would always be available to anyone willing to sign (online or on paper) one of those 2 agreements.
* Requires that those Partners abide (possibly just above a certain number of “active users”) by severe hosting requirements (similar to the ones we have drafted here) for the running of those services, which concretely and enforceably places all hardware and software, running beyond the point of decryption, under the collective democratic control of its users.
* As the foundation reaches X thousands of active users of services hosted by it or by Partners; it would offer to each of those users to join other willing users in forming the sovereign body of the foundation, though a carefully designed constituent processes.
I am suggesting this may be a good thing, as it would create an ecosystem of developers and users where anyone, though partly limited from such democratically-controlled foundation, could access remotely-accessible software applications under “practically-copylefted” terms
They could start building new applications, as well as derivative works from any publicly-available FLOSS. Those works would never be “released” to anyone and, although still bound to the derivative terms of GNU GPLv2 or other FLOSS license, would be made accessible to users and everyone under terms that amount practically to those of the current Affero, plus the means to collectively verify the code that is actually running.
To actually control a telematic service, or a web service, a user needs reasonable practical means to verify the software AND the hardware of all servers which run at and beyond the point of decryption of his communications with such service (or “end servers”).
If such “end servers” interact with other external network services, he will know – by having access to the code of the “end servers” – which services, and all the details and conditions of such interactions.
It is not necessary to control servers and networks in between the client device and the “end servers”, as we can reasonably rely on the power of the latest encryption to totally secure from all software, hardware and cables in between. In fact, the communication could be intercepted in between, but the content could not be read. It could be stopped or deviated in between, but there is free software that, installed on both client and server can prevent that, or at least verify that it did happens.
This is not new. Democracies, for centuries now, have always provided citizens with reasonable means to verify that key constitutional rights were not widely abused. When I go to vote, I do not simply have the right that my vote be secret and fairly counted, but I rely on a good number of other citizens, randomly selected or with conflicting interests, which prevent the bad guys to put in place large scale abuses of such rights. There are also a number of process regulations, such as recounts, that further prevent such frauds.
In fact, in order to provide such concrete control over telematics, server rooms (or “cages”) hosting a such “free” telematic service could be physically managed applying those same (or enhanced) physical security provisions that are currently applied to ballot boxes during an election. In practice, physical access to such servers would be enabled only while a few randomly selected or elected users (or citizens) are physically present. For a more detail explanation on how that may be accomplished, see our proposed hosting requirements for such service
According to this model of telematic service provisioning, anyone could deploy a “free” telematic services, by developing new software or freely installing or extending any publicly available FLOSS software, and running those according to such hosting requirements.
Anyone can do this, without breaching any FLOSS license, by requiring the signing of a copyright assignment, or similar statement, whenever users, or anyone, wants to access the software source code.
For more info on how set up such “free” telematics service, see our draft Service Access Policies at Plonegroups.org
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Telematics, the integrated use of telecommunications and informatics, is the most crucial industry sector for the future of humanity. It is key to the indispensable updating and possible deepening of our democratic systems, through their adequate extension to the global level and to the main systems of public opinion formation. Only such extension, in fact, will avoid that citizens of the world will stand, both powerless and unaware, while largely unaccountable interests lead them to ultimate nuclear, environmental and biological catastrophe.
The patterns of control over network-enabled software that will become legal and predominant over the next few years, will weigh more than anything on a definite slide of humanity towards, either its extinction, or an unprecedented deepening of democracy and freedom.
Telematics can be defined as ways software programs are used to control hardware devices and data networks to provide a communication experience. Software is not only the key element of information networks like the Internet and the Web but, by now and increasingly, of practically all those media that originated as bare telecommunication channels, such as: radio, analog TV, satellite and digital TV, mobile phones.
Paradoxically, over the next few years, the practical nature of certain telematics innovations, especially those enabling remote democratic organizing and audience-controlled mass self communications, and the way our democratic societies will legislate and enforce their access and control, will be the main potential instrument for reviving democracy and therefore substantially reducing the abovementioned risks.