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Open Source The Courts

Software Freedom Law Center Launches Trademark War Against Software Freedom Conservancy (sfconservancy.org) 113

Long-time Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: The Software Freedom Law Center, a Linux-Foundation supported organization, has asked USPTO to cancel the trademark of the name of the Software Freedom Conservancy, an organization that assists and represents Free Software / Open Source developers.

What makes this bizzare is that SFLC started SFC, SFLC was SFC's law firm and filed for the very same trademark on their behalf, and both organizations were funded by Linux Foundation at the start.

There are a few other wild things that have happened related to this. Eben Moglen, president of SFLC and for decades the General Counsel of the Free Software Foundation, is no longer associated with FSF. Linux Foundation has on its executive board a company that is being sued in Germany for violating the GPL, with the case presently under appeal, and the lawsuit is funded by SFC. And remember when Linux Foundation removed the community representative from its executive board, when Karen Sandler, executive director of SFC, said she'd run?

If you need a clue, the SFC are the good guys in this. There's a lot to look into.

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Software Freedom Law Center Launches Trademark War Against Software Freedom Conservancy

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  • Names (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 04, 2017 @09:39AM (#55488813)

    'Judean People's Front'. We're the People's Front of Judea!

  • ... that every organization promoting technology that Karen Sandler becomes involved in happens to spend its money on totally technology-unrelated topics soon thereafter.
    • The Software Freedom Conservancy is not about technology, but freedom and law. They do not develop software, they counsel on the legal breaches of Free Software licenses.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday November 04, 2017 @11:25AM (#55489233) Homepage Journal
    These are the member projects of SFC. An attack on SFC is an attack on these members as well. This is a catalog of 46 of the most respectable Free Software / Open Source projects. In contrast, I hear that SFLC represents one project.

    ArgoUML [tigris.org]

    ArgoUML is the leading open source UML modeling tool and includes support for all standard UML 1.4 diagrams. It runs on any Java platform and is available in ten languages. See the feature list for more details.

    Bongo [bongo-project.org]

    The Bongo Project is creating fun and simple mail, calendaring and contacts software: on top of a standards-based server stack; we're innovating fresh and interesting web user interfaces for managing personal communications. Bongo is providing an entirely free software solution which is less concerned with the corporate mail scenario and much more focused on how people want to organize their lives.

    Boost [boost.org]

    Boost provides free peer-reviewed portable C++ source libraries.

    Boost emphasizes libraries that work well with the C++ Standard Library. Boost libraries are intended to be widely useful, and usable across a broad spectrum of applications. The Boost license encourages both commercial and non-commercial use.

    Boost aims to establish “existing practice” and provide reference implementations so that Boost libraries are suitable for eventual standardization. Ten Boost libraries are already included in the C++ Standards Committee's Library Technical Report (TR1) as a step toward becoming part of a future C++ Standard. More Boost libraries are proposed for the upcoming TR2.

    Bro Network Security Monitor [bro.org]

    Bro provides a comprehensive platform for network traffic analysis, with a particular focus on semantic security monitoring at scale. While often compared to classic intrusion detection/prevention systems, Bro takes a quite different approach by providing users with a flexible framework that facilitates customized, in-depth monitoring far beyond the capabilities of traditional systems. With initial versions in operational deployment during the mid '90s already, Bro finds itself grounded in more than 20 years of research.

    Buildbot [buildbot.net]

    Buildbot is a freely-licensed framework which enables software developers to automate software build, test, and release processes for their software projects. First released in 2003, Buildbot is used by leading software projects around the world to automate all aspects of their software development cycle.

    BusyBox [busybox.net]

    BusyBox combines tiny versions of many common UNIX utilities into a single small executable. It provides replacements for most of the utilities you usually find in GNU fileutils, shellutils, etc. The utilities in BusyBox generally have fewer options than their full-featured GNU cousins; however, the options that are included provide the expected functionality and behave very much like their GNU counterparts. BusyBox provides a fairly complete environment for any small or embedded system.

    BusyBox has been written with size-optimization and limited resources in mind. It is also extremely modular so you can easily include or exclude commands (or features) at compile time. This makes it easy to customize your embedded systems. To create a working system, just add some device nodes in /dev, a few configuration files in /etc, and a Linux kernel.

    Clojars [clojars.org]

    Clojars is a community-maintained repository for free and open source libraries written in the Clojure programming language. Clojars emphasizes ease of use, publishing library packages that are simple to use with build automation tools.

    coreboot [coreboot.org]

    coreboot is an extended firmware platform that delivers light

    • > Boost

      Uh, a complete clusterfuck of 1,109 lines of over-engineered Crap++ [boost.org] is NOT the way to sell this. Just saying.

      • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday November 04, 2017 @01:15PM (#55489679) Homepage Journal

        I think you're not in their target audience. I would in general write in C++ rather than C when I have a reason to not do things in Ruby, simply because C++ offers an upgrade over C structures and their management. I try to stay away from STL templates, and haven't used Boost for similar reasons. But I know that Boost has a lot of use at companies, and on some larger projects in the Open Source world.

        • by Jeremy Allison - Sam ( 8157 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @03:35PM (#55490117) Homepage

          Try learning go Bruce (golang.org). It's C done *right*. If I had to write Samba again from scratch, I'd do it in go.

          • Biggest problem with Golang right now is that they are planning a backwards incompatible version 2. I was mostly happy with the language until that happened.

            Also worth mentioning: it's primary use case is with network programming (which it does well). For other use cases, C might be better.
          • Golang has a lot to learn still. It has some nice things to it; but stability with dependencies you don't control is not one of them. It's a dependency management and stability hell as a result.

            So yeah - if you're FB and rolling things out quickly, hourly, etc...then yeah Golang *might* make sense. But if you need any kind of long term stability, multi-language integration, etc- then Golang (and even Rust) is certainly not what you want to be using.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        You clearly dont understand modern c++. With that template you get an optimized CRC implementation for a length specified at compile time. The only thing you need to be able to use is to understand following code // This is "123456789" in ASCII
        unsigned char const data[] = { 0x31, 0x32, 0x33, 0x34, 0x35, 0x36, 0x37,0x38, 0x39 };
        std::size_t const data_len = sizeof( data ) / sizeof( data[0] ); // The expected CRC for the given data
        boost::uint16_t const expected = 0x29B1; // Simulate CRC-CCITT
        boost::crc_

        • > You clearly don't understand modern c++.

          Having worked on a professional C++ compiler you clearly don't understand what I know.

          > With that template you get an optimized CRC implementation for a length specified at compile time.

          And the _last_ time you had actually had to modify CRC was _when_ exactly? That's right, fucking NEVER.

          I would rather take 25 CLEAN lines of code compared to 1,000+ of Crap++. Less LOC code == less bugs.

          Not to mention compile times are extremely when you leave out all the Boo

    • by Megol ( 3135005 )

      Attack? Now I know that you like exaggerating and spinning things but isn't this over the top ? And how is it relevant to list who you (as you seem to be the SFC spokesperson) "represent"? How would that be relevant for instance if the reason for this conflict is that you (ridiculous example) misrepresent yourself as talking for SFLW without permission?

      It's one thing to present ones perspective of something and another to begin listing irrelevant things, even if they are facts. So how about actually present

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      These are the member projects of SFC. An attack on SFC is an attack on these members as well.

      No, it isn't. That's binary thinking, Bruce.
      Members can, and often do disagree to greater or lesser extent with the organizations they are members of, and the organizations do not automatically speak for them.

      I can only presume that your strong feelings about the subject clouded your objectivity for a bit here. You can be righteous or you can be right, and most of the time you're right. This time, however, my perception is that you paint this a bit more black and white, us and them, than it really is.

      • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday November 04, 2017 @05:35PM (#55490461) Homepage Journal

        I think you are missing the extent of the relationship between SFC and the Open Source projects. The projects are not simply members of a club. The projects signed over any copyrights that the project owned in their Open Source software and any other assets to SFC to manage as a 501(c)3 for them, and SFC is thus the legal entity for those projects. SFC literally is the project under the law.

        • by curcuru ( 758240 )

          Member projects of Conservancy don't have to sign over copyrights or other assets, but are welcome to. Many projects don't assign copyright, and that's fine. But as a 501C3, whatever assets a project does sign over to Conservancy will be managed by Conservancy in line with their charitable mission.

          Details of services Conservancy offers to their projects are posted pretty clearly: https://sfconservancy.org/projects/apply/ [sfconservancy.org]. Project governance and licensing are also mostly project decisions, as long as it's

          • Yes, projects aren't compelled to sign over copyrights, although there are definite disadvantages to holding on to them rather than accepting a corporate liability shield, and as far as I can see no advantages. And of course SFC acts in the project's interest.

            But this is diverting from the issue. SFLC went after the organization that hosts all of those projects. The projects should stand together with SFC, as should the rest of us.

    • by _merlin ( 160982 )

      And SFLC represents MAME and Kodi. As a MAME developer, that makes me somewhat sympathetic to SFLC.

      • So, I have a question for MAME and Kodi to consider. Having seen what SFLC just did to its prior client, do you think you can trust them any longer? If they wanted the name of MAME or Kodi just as they want the name of SFC now, what would you do?

        • by _merlin ( 160982 )

          Well SFLC doesn't own the MAME trademark - it's owned by a project member. If SFLC decides to mess us around, we'll do what we did when David R. Foley [wikipedia.org] tried to tradmark the MAME name in bad faith: lawyer up defend ourselves.

          At present we contract SFLC to provide legal representation. That doesn't give them ownership over any part of the project. We own the trademark, we don't assign copyright on code, we don't have a shell company consisting of SFLC employees.

          I can understand why SFLC is seeking invalida

          • by curcuru ( 758240 )

            A key issue is that the SFLC directly helped to spin off and incorporate the Conservancy, and assisted the Conservancy in applying to register the SOFTWARE FREEDOM CONSERVANCY® trademark in the US. So it's kind of odd to see the SFLC now - after 6 years - directly appealing to the USPTO to cancel Conservancy's registration without even talking to them first.

            To see why this is important, imagine that someone not related to your project, but that had a somewhat-similar trademark registration, suddenly f

    • These are the member projects of SFC. An attack on SFC is an attack on these members as well. This is a catalog of 46 of the most respectable Free Software / Open Source projects.

      The whole point of open source licenses is that long term availability of the software shouldn't depend on the survival of individual organizations. If the continued existence of SFC is actually important to these software packages, then there is something seriously wrong with SFC.

      • That's why we have more than one organization like SFC. But since all of those projects are aggregated in one 501(c)3 which is SFC, there is indeed a risk. If you would like to run an individual 501(c)3 for a single project, I assure you that's a lot of work if you can even get IRS to approve it, and it's expensive. So, having lots of organizations use a parent for their 501(c)3 is a compromise.

        • That's why we have more than one organization like SFC. But since all of those projects are aggregated in one 501(c)3 which is SFC, there is indeed a risk.

          The vast majority of open source projects have no 501(c)3; none of mine do. In fact, many open source projects exist primarily outside the US (imagine that!); are you saying they all need to set up US non-profit organizations and get IRS approval? Furthermore, open source projects that have some kind of associated non-profit need to be set up in a way in

          • You hold your Open Source work as a personal asset. This is OK for small projects, usually, but has some problems. Your personal liability and the Open Source are mixed up together. You can lose your copyrights to a creditor in a lawsuit that has nothing to do with the Open Source. Said creditor can then bring copyright prosecutions outside of the community standards, and do other things inimical to the Open Source and its users and developers. And you bear some liability for the Open Source, and thus could

          • doctorvo wrote:

            "The SFC's primary function is GPL compliance enforcement."

            That is simply not true (I'm a Conservancy Board member). The *overwhelming* majority of staff time is spent on maintaining projects (doing accountancy, running conferences, handling expense reports and contacting etc.). There is a negligible amount of time spent in enforcement.

            Enforcement makes headlines, but isn't a tiny fraction of what Conservancy does.

  • When you invite enough lawyers to the party, they will start doing lawyery things.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If I were the judge.....

      Firstly both organisations are legal entities subject to the laws of the state of New York.
      So we notice that the standards and values of the community will be different from what the law says.
      I would rule that SFLC has the older rights to the name and thus fine SFC.
      Since SFLC originally approved this situation, that would only be a small fine
      Secondly, the names are indeed similar, so only one shall use the phrase 'Software Freedom' in its name.
      Considering its standing in the communit

  • by pots ( 5047349 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @02:58PM (#55490015)
    The only discussion of this case that I can find is the one on the SFC website, linked in the summary. The petition itself [uspto.gov] is a bland claim of likelihood of confusion.

    By publicly protesting their victimhood the SFC is asking for us to support them, but there just isn't anything to go on here.

    Now, they're making the claim that this is completely out of the blue, so maybe that's the point? Is the idea that they don't know anything about this either?
    • from either side. I mean, this is lawyers versus lawyers, and who would need/pay them if there wasn't some law suit going on?
    • by romiz ( 757548 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @04:41PM (#55490275)
      Moglen, chairman for the SFLC, has resigned as a FSF councel last year. Perens has stated [lwn.net] that he was in fact fired over conflict on regarding GPL enforcement. The source of the split seems to be this talk [ifosslr.org] at a Linux Foundation event, where he criticised some of his own former compliance efforts, and aligned on the point of view of many members of the kernel community.
      • by pots ( 5047349 )
        Well. That was a surprisingly good talk. I'd hate to think that that seemingly reasonable position would have deteriorated into two camps, "We need to enforce the GPL." and "We need to make it clear to people that copyleft isn't something to be afraid of." as though those positions were mutually incompatible. Both of those things are important, obviously.

        Hm. Something about that seems familiar... As though I've seen it before, many many times...
        • I think Eben's fundamental premise is wrong, though. The organizations he cited as rejecting GPL in granting research funding were not doing it because the GPL is scary. They are doing it because they are publicly funded, and the GPL is not necessarily the best license to grant maximal utility in a publicly funded project to all of the people, including the proprietary software manufacturers who presumably pay taxes like everyone else (acknowledging arguments that Microsoft hasn't had any Federal income tax

  • Bruce Perens ... The Software Freedom Law Center ... Linux-Foundation ... FSF ... Software Freedom Conservancy ... Eben Moglen ... sued in Germany for violating the GPL ... Karen Sandler

    Sorry to break it to you, but while a lot of these were involved in the early days of open source, they just don't matter much anymore.

  • In this fight between the two groups: 'strict GPL enforcers' versus 'amical towards offenders GPL enforcers'. What is left for us as Linux consultants to advise our customers? To adhere strictly to the GPL to avoid any and all problems. Something I don't really mind. One could argue that this means that the 'strict camp' wins, but in reality it's the GPL which wins. Stating that one should be very kind to offending customers isn't good advise, because proper advise to any customer has to deal with the fai
    • You're right that compliance isn't that big a deal and the only reason GPL violations happen is that companies have a complete failure of due diligence. So, in general I advise that companies get their compliance stuff together, and I give them specific ways to combine proprietary and GPL software that do not violate the GPL.

      If you have more questions about how to advise your customers, feel free to ask questions through my email bruce at perens dot com . No charge. If customers attorneys need help with com

  • FWIW, I wrote up a somewhat in-depth analysis of this SFLC / Conservancy dispute here: http://www.rants.org/2017/11/c... [rants.org]

    TL;DR: Software Freedom Conservancy is behaving appropriately, and SFLC is not.

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