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The outrage at this stems both from strong feeling against software patents per se, and from the undemocratic nature of their introduction. As reported by the French daily, Le Monde, European governments had already made a decision to postpone changes to the articles in question until further study had been done into the potential ramifications.
A study commissioned by the German Federal Ministery of Economy and Technology (BMWi) found that introduction of software patents would be likely to put many currently successful software companies out of business and slow down innovation in the software field (perversely, that report then went on to recommend the introduction of these patents). A European Commission consultative report [pdf] found that 91% of respondants where opposed to software patents. However, it appears that the "economic majority" was in favour of patents. So much for democracy.
There are several fine online resources available if you want to familiarise yourself about the issues regarding software patents.
Slashdot reported on the signing of the new European Cybercrime Treaty. The final version is available here. It is effectively a template to be used by signatory countries when framing laws concerning crime committed using computers. As reported by The Guardian, the treaty: "...outlines common definitions of computer-related crimes, defines the methods for criminal investigations and prosecution and establishes methods of international communication between law enforcement officials."
Though some comment has been favourable, many civil rights groups have condemned the treaty on the grounds that it grants excessive powers to police forces while eroding privacy. One consolation (as noted last month) that Bruce Schneier has highlighted is the explicit statement in the treaty of the legitimacy of using "hacking/cracking" tools in security work (as opposed to using them to rob banks!). Nevertheless, there is still strong cause for concern as the provisions for extradition and cross border action could be subject to tragic abuse.
In a final titbit of European news, The Register recently reported that the EU Microsoft probe hearings should take place December, with a verdict early 2002. It appears Competition Commissioner Mario Monti is not giving much away about how this will pan out or what the ultimate aim is.
The European Cybercrime treaty will not be of much interest to the United Kingdom Government, as they seem to have implemented many of the most draconian measures already. In the current climate of terrorist fear, things are being locked down even more tightly. New measures being introduced by David Blunket (UK Home Secretary) will give law enforcement bodies access to records of all UK telephone and internet users. This was reported in The Guardian. This access will not only be available for terrorism investigations, but also for investigations regarding minor crimes and tax issues. This is basically an extension/clarification of the much criticised Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which gave the government unprecedented powers to monitor communications with very little outside scrutiny or even the need for a court order. Apparently, it is "inappropriate" to involve judges in the process where issues of national security or economic well-being are involved. An article in Criminal Law Review described this assertion as "wholly spurious".
The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) and Magna Carta Plus have a lot of information regarding this and related issues.
In a case that impacts the questions of (1) whether software is "licensed" or "sold" and (2) the validity of End User License Agreements (EULAs), a US district judge has denied [pdf] Adobe a preliminary injunction against SoftMan Products Company for reselling Adobe software that was originally bundled with computers in OEM fashion but that the computers' owners did not want.
The judge rejected Adobe's claim that the bundled copy was a "license" rather than a "sale". Thus, the First Sale doctrine applies, meaning Adobe cannot control the subsequent transfer of the the software after the initial sale. The court also found that SoftMan was not bound by the EULA because it had never assented to it. The validity of EULAs was also questioned as the terms were not fully disclosed prior to the sale. Linux Journal has more details.
Linux Weekly News also has an informative editorial that examines how this ruling might affect other cases. One implication is that it should be possible (if the principle of first sale now applies) to resell e-books or unwanted OS installations. The ruling may also be important to the two DeCSS cases (the famous one and another one). These cases "depend, partly, on the claim that a commercial DVD package was 'improperly' reverse engineered. It is the software's EULA that prohibits that reverse engineering. If the code is reverse engineered without installing it and agreeing to the EULA (by, say, disassembling it on a Linux system), the EULA may not apply".
There is an article by Lawrence Lessig at Foreign Policy on the evolution of the Internet, transforming communication relations from controlled to free, and the very real threat that much of it may become controlled again.
He makes some interesting comments about who invented various important Internet protocols and services and on the vested interests vying for control. "Policymakers around the world must recognize that the interests most strongly protected by the Internet counterrevolution are not their own. They should be skeptical of legal mechanisms that enable those most threatened by the innovation commons to resist it."
US District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel has refused [cnet.com] to enforce a French court's order barring Yahoo from auctioning Nazi memorabilia on a US site that was accessible to French citizens.
LG wonders what the judge would think if the situation were reversed, given the current attempts by US companies to get their US patents and DMCA copyright rights recognized overseas.
Less positively, in the New York MPAA v. 2600 case, the court of appeals decision has gone in the favour of the MPAA. There are reports on the judgement available here [TheRegister.co.uk] and here [EFF.org]. Cryptome.org has a very through collection of documents relating to both cases, including the text of the ruling. The judge accepted that computer code can be protected as a form of speech under the first ammendment. He then decided that the target of the injunction was not the speech, but the functional component (i.e. the use the code can be put to: decrypting DVD's). In these circumstances, the injunction can be granted as long as it is "content neutral", and the impact on the speech component is incidental. The judge writes:
This type of regulation is therefore content-neutral, just as would be a restriction on trafficking in skeleton keys identified because of their capacity to unlock jail cells, even though some of the keys happened to bear a slogan or other legend that qualified as a speech component.The other part of the rationale is that the Government's interest in the prevention of unauthorised access to copyrighted material "is unquestionably substantial". Thus, the injunction is upheld. A similar argument is used relating to the injunction against linking to web pages containing DeCSS.
Claims against the injunction based on the principle of fair use were dismissed on the grounds that although the user is allowed to make fair use (say, by quoting from a copyright work) she is not automatically entitled to make that use with a preferred technology. CSS may prevent you taking a still image from a movie, but it does not stop you from photographing your monitor/television screen. Thus, your fair use rights are not affected.
The issue as to whether or not DeCSS is really a piracy tool was relegated to footnote 5. The footnote correctly states that piracy is entirely possible without DeCSS, but contends that DeCSS is a substantial aid to the process. Many would contend that the piracy issue is actually a canard (=bogus), but it is the most respectable argument the MPAA can come up with.
Note: I am not a lawyer (as they always say on Slashdot), and this interpretation is based on a quick reading of the ruling just before this month's deadline. However, I believe that the summary above is a fair representation of the major points. As to the correctness of the ruling/opinions, you must make up your own mind. Personally, some of the distinctions seem a touch specious. The separation of speech and function with regard to computer code is not as clear as in the case of the logo on a key, or a poem written on a gun. Also, the issue of fair use regarding the playing of legally purchased DVD's on Linux was summarily dismissed, apparently on the basis that you have the right to watch, not decrypt, DVD's you purchase, thus subsection 1201(a)(3)(A) of the DMCA still applies. -- MC
Slashdot has an eyewitness account of the Felten vs RIAA hearing. As you remember, Professor Felton write a paper describing weaknesses in the CSS encryption used on commercial DVDs. RIAA threatened to sue him if he presented the paper at a scientific conference. But they didn't sue him, and after a public outcry they withdrew their objection to him presenting the paper. Meanwhile, Felten filed a lawsuit of his own, claiming that RIAA's action encourages researchers to censor themselves to avoid legal liability that may or may not be legitimate. The judge dismissed the suit, saying that he cannot rule on a potential issue (RIAA threatening to sue Felten), but only on an actual issue (if RIAA sued him, which they didn't). He said he is not allowed to rule on Constitutional issues (whether Felton's free-speech rights were violated) in a non-criminal case without a compelling reason, and there is no compelling reason in this case. He also said this case is like "night and day" compared to Dmitry Sklyarov's case, since Dmitry was charged with a criminal violation of infringing for commercial gain. -- Iron]
Dmitry's trial date is now expected to be April 15, 2002, assuming the case isn't dismissed in the meantime.
More information about most of these issues is on the Electronic Frontier Foundation home page.
In less positive news, The Electronic Frontier Foundation published a white paper on the US appeals court decision confirming that Napster was liable for its users sharing copyrighted files. The court agreed that the file-sharing technology in itself is not illegal, but the minute its developers and users receive reasonable knowledge that specific infringing files are servable on the system (e.g., if they receive a "cease and desist" letter), they must immediately delete these files or they, and possibly their ISP and so on upline, will be liable. Knowledge of infringing uses overshadows whatever non-infringing uses the server may also be performing. In practice, this will have the effect of deletion through intimidation, or deleting files that are alleged to infringe but may not. It also forces sysadmins to become their own police for the benefit of the content companies, or face liability. Technologies such as Freenet that are unable to police user access may have an advantage under this ruling.
LWN have the following links which you might enjoy:
The Register have reported
CNet wonders whether the Open Source model be killed by hard times? Annalee Newitz at AlterNet doesn't think so.
Alternet look at Network Admin Blues
ZDNet ran a story on the Virtual Memory issue. eWeek.com covered it too.
LinuxWorld have an article on installing Debian over a network.
LinuxSecurity.com have a report Hal Burgiss' new Linux security quick-start guides: the Security Quick-Start HOWTO for Linux and the Security Quick-Start HOWTO for Red Hat.
At OReillynet.com Jerry Peek explains why Unix and Macintosh users should learn to use the command line.
BSD bug report in comic strip form. From the Aspiring to Crudeness e-newsletter .
There is an informative Article at linux.oreillynet.com about what a kernel Oops is and how to troubleshoot its cause.
Here is a large list of links to Python sites and resources. Lots and lots of information, including a selection of links to French language Python sites.
Deepak, from Bangalore, India, submitted a link to his webpage where he has a PowerPoint presentation available for download. The title of the presentation is "The (R)Evolution of an OS", and it provides a very thorough broad-based introduction to Linux for people who may be familiar only with Windows. The slideshow is "95% StarOffice compatible", but even if you don't have Powerpoint or StarOffice, you can also see thumbnails and full-size jpegs of the individual slides.
Ernesto Hernandez-Novich suggested that we plug the Venezuelan Linux User's Group and their mailing list archive. Linux Gazette is always pleased to be able to alert readers to public linux resources. A great way to promote a new or existing Linux Users' Group (LUG) is to register the LUG at GLUE (Groups of Linux Users Everywhere).
LinuxDevices.com have a Review of Sharp PDA running Linux. This was also highlighted on Slashdot, which linked to an infoSync story.
Not Linux, but www.gatt.org is a satire of the WTO web site from the viewpoint of anti-globalization activists. The real WTO web site, www.wto.org, allegedly had a statement deploring this pseudo-site. In a comical turnaround, the satire site now has an article (at the bottom of the home page) titled "Fake WTO site misleading public", with a link to the "fake" site that is actually the real WTO site!
There's neither pine nor apples in pineapples, no ham in hamburgers, Look here for further extracts from the book Crazy English.
Listings courtesy Linux Journal. See LJ's Events page for the latest goings-on.
15th Systems Administration Conference/LISA 2001
|December 2-7, 2001
San Diego, CA
Consumer Electronics Show (CEA)
|January 1-11, 2002
Las Vegas, NV
Bioinformatics Technology Conference (O'Reilly)
|January 28-31, 2002
COMNET Conference & Expo (IDG)
|January 28-31, 2002
LinuxWorld Conference & Expo (IDG)
|January 30 - February 1, 2002
New York, NY
The Tenth Annual Python Conference ("Python10")
|February 4-7, 2002
Australian Linux Conference
|February 6-9, 2002
Internet Appliance Workshop
|February 19-21, 2002
San Jose, CA
Internet World Wireless East (Penton)
|February 20-22, 2002
New York, NY
Intel Developer Forum (Key3Media)
|February 25-28, 2002
San Francisco, CA
|March 5-7, 2002
BioIT World Conference & Expo (IDG)
|March 12-14, 2002
Embedded Systems Conference (CMP)
|March 12-16, 2002
San Francisco, CA
CeBIT (Hannover Fairs)
|March 14-22, 2002
|March 19-21, 2002
|March 19-21, 2002
Game Developers Conference (CMP)
|March 19-23, 2002
San Jose, CA
LinuxWorld Conference & Expo Singapore(IDG)
|March 20-22, 2002
Software Solutions / eBusiness World
|March 26-27, 2002
SANS 2002 (SANS Institute)
|April 7-9, 2002
LinuxWorld Conference & Expo Malaysia (IDG)
|April 9-11, 2002
LinuxWorld Conference & Expo Dublin (IDG)
|April 9-11, 2002
Internet World Spring (Penton)
|April 22-24, 2002
Los Angeles, CA
O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (O'Reilly)
|April 22-25, 2002
Santa Clara, CA
Software Development Conference & Expo (CMP)
|April 22-26, 2002
San Jose, CA
Federal Open Source Conference & Expo (IDG)
|April 24-26, 2002
Networld + Interop (Key3Media)
|May 7-9, 2002
Las Vegas, NV
Strictly e-Business Solutions Expo (Cygnus Expositions)
|May 8-9, 2002
Embedded Systems Conference (CMP)
|June 3-6, 2002
USENIX Annual (USENIX)
|June 9-14, 2002
PC Expo (CMP)
|June 25-27, 2002
New York, NY
USENIX Securty Symposium (USENIX)
|August 5-9, 2002
San Francisco, CA
LinuxWorld Conference & Expo (IDG)
|August 12-15, 2002
San Francisco, CA
LinuxWorld Conference & Expo Australia (IDG)
|August 14 - 16, 2002
Communications Design Conference (CMP)
|September 23-26, 2002
San Jose, California
A new development series has been started, 2.5.x. However, 2.5.0 is the same as 2.4.15, so it has the same horrible bug. In other words, don't use it. LWN have reported the availability of a 2.5.1-pre3 prepatch that fixes this bug. No major changes (cleanups and fixes mostly). This ends the over-a-year hiatus in which there was no development kernel.
CNet recently reported that "Amazon.com was able to cut $17 million in technology expenses in the last quarter largely because of a switch to Linux." This was also reported at The Register who have links to Amazon's SEC filing.
Before everyone starts predicting the demise of Windows, its worth pointing out that this gain was at the expense of UNIX servers (WinInfo). Still it is certainly encouraging. Especially so in light of The Register's report of a Microsoft memo describing Linux as "the long-term threat against our core business. Never forget that!". You should really take a look at The Reg's report: the original memo is included at the end of the page, complete with references to butt-tattoos (don't ask!). The contents indicate that MS sees Linux as being an obstacle to their plan of replacing UNIX servers with MS powered (there's an oxymoron) servers. Sales folk are urged to identify UNIX systems in their customer's organisations, and then focus on getting MS into those functions (presumeably before some geek slips Linux in). (Story also featured on Slashdot.)
This brings to mind the Halloween memo of 1998. To refresh your memory of the documents, and also on the intervening history, take a look at LWN's editorial revisiting the memos. They ask--and answer--the question "How many of the predictions came true?"
Linux NetworX have announced that scientists at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) are using a Linux NetworX cluster to help identify new particles as part of a worldwide scientific collaboration to find subatomic clues to reveal the building blocks of the universe. Fermilab scientists are studying the collisions of protons and antiprotons in an effort to identify new particles that are produced as a result of the collisions.
Located in Batavia, Ill., Fermilab's 48-node cluster from Linux NetworX includes 96 Pentium III 1.0 GHz processors, 48 GB of memory (RAM) and a Fast Ethernet interconnect.
On the commercial front, IBM have introduced the world's first pre-packaged Linux cluster, a powerful and scalable system that has been optimized for e-business. The IBM eServer Cluster meets the demand of corporate customers who have neither the time nor inclination to "roll their own" Linux clusters from a collection of mismatched piece parts. They want an easy-to-order system delivered and supported by a single vendor. IBM gave no link to the press release.
Lyris Technologies, Inc., developer of email messaging and filtering software, have revealed that downloads of its applications for Linux have surpassed all other Unix-based versions combined. Lyris' core products include ListManager for opt-in email newsletters, and MailShield for server-based protection against unsolicited email. Linux versions of Lyris software have grown from 40% to more than 60% of the company's Unix downloads since January 2001.
SuSE Linux have announced SuSE Linux Connectivity Server. The company's latest business product is a pre-configured Linux network solution, especially adapted to the requirements of SME and suitable for file and print services in company networks as well as secure connections to the Internet.
OpenSSH 3.0 has been released (as reported by Linux Today). Go to their homepage for details and downloads (3.0.1 was later released on Nov. 15th).
Michael J. Hammel, the Graphics Muse, is pleased to announce the release of version 3.4.0 of XNotesPlus, a Personal Information Manager for the Linux and Unix desktop. XNotesPlus includes support for all major features on the Palm Pilot, including Memos, Todo Lists, the Address Book and Calendaring. All data from each feature can be downloaded from the Pilot, edited within XNotesPlus and uploaded back to the Pilot. Additionally, backups and restores of a Pilot PDA can be managed from within XNotesPlus.
The release of XNotesPlus includes numerous bug fixes, many of which were serious problems in earlier releases. Users of older versions are highly encouraged to upgrade.
XNotesPlus is available in both source and Red Hat Linux 7.0 dynamically built binary distributions.
Creature Labs Ltd and Linux Game Publishing Ltd have announced that Creatures Internet Edition, the latest in the breakthrough Creatures series, is to be released for Linux. Creatures Internet Edition is a bundle of Creatures 3 and Creatures Docking Station and it also includes 4 different Norn breeds (the creatures within the game). The game allows interaction with other players over the internet. For more information about Creatures Internet Edition, please visit http://ds.creatures.net/expansion/cie.pl.
Opera Software today announced that Sharp Opera Software have announced that Sharp will use its Opera 5 for Linux Web browser in the Zaurus SL-5000D developer unit. The Zaurus SL-5000D is a robust Linux/Java-based handheld. The Opera Web browser will be used as part of Lineo, Inc's powerful software solution Embedix Plus PDA, launched at JavaOne in June this year. Apart from Opera 5 for Linux, the Embedix Plus PDA solution contains Lineo's Embedix Linux, Trolltech's Qt/Embedded and QT Palmtop graphical user interfaces, and Insignia Solution's Jeode PDA Edition.
Tricord Systems, developer of the IlluminaTM clustering software and Lunar FlareTM NAS appliance-- have announced a new application appliance series for independent software developers and systems integrators. The Lunar Flare AA 1100 and AA 1200 support Linux-based applications, consolidating them on an easy-to-manage, fault tolerant, scalable platform with unique clustering and storage capabilities. Tricord's application appliance series combines a high-performance Linux server with built-in clustered storage, making it an optimal appliance solution for content-hungry applications.
Additionally Tricord Systems, and Tarantella, have announced that Tarantella Enterprise 3 software has been certified on Tricord's Lunar Flare Application Appliance (AA) platform.
The Python/QT book; GUI Programming with Python: QT Edition is in final edit and will be shipping by the end of the month. For those who are unaware QT is the toolkit behind many powerful applications, including the KDE Desktop for Linux/UNIX.
The new book covers the use of Python and QT extensively, including the Blackadder RAD environment for Windows and Linux. For those interested please visit: http://stage.linuxports.com/projects/pyqt
Teamware Group, a Fujitsu subsidiary, have released edition 4 of Teamware Office 5.3 for Linux, a complete set of ready-to-run groupware applications for today's business professionals. In the new edition the main emphasis is on web service enhancements. Edition 4 is the first Teamware Office for Linux version with the main focus on the browser side. The new look & feel for the web service client templates has been developed according to extensive usability research and customer requests. Via the renewed web service Teamware Office modulescan be easily accessed with standard web browsers. The service enables fixed www addressing for any Teamware Office object over standard HTML templates making integration with other web based systems as well as search engines easy.
Teamware Office can be purchased online through the Teamware web site at www.teamware.com/linux. Also a free 90-day evaluation version can be downloaded at the site.