The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
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Sunday, February 28, 2010

International Intellectual Property Alliance - The Disconnect

I strongly considered making this an "open letter" to the IIPA.

Then I strongly unconsidered it.

With marginal writing skills, I can never make it sound like anything more than chest-beating and fanatical hand-wringing.  Besides...Look at the list of those who who make up the coalition of the IIPA:

(My thanks to Technolama for the source and excellent article)
  • The Association of American Publishers (AAP)
  • The Business Software Alliance (BSA)
  • The Entertainment Software Association (ESA)
  • The Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA)
  • The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
  • The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA)
  • The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Like anyone there is gonna pay attention...

So we'll simply point out the obvious here and hope for the best.

It took me a while to see what the fuss was about.  Mostly I found a lot of bullying and strong-arming by the US, wielding the sword of trade agreements and WTO memberships concerning software and movie/music piracy..

Nothing new there...move along.

However I did find the language a bit disconcerting when it came to the IIPA's stance on putting Indonesia on the hit list.  Here is said language as I found it peculiar:

“The government of Indonesia, under its Ministry of Administrative Reform (MenPAN), officially sent to all central and provincial government offices, including state-owned enterprises in Indonesia, Circular Letter No. 1 of 2009 issued on March 30, 2009, endorsing the use and adoption of open source software within government organizations. More specifically, the MenPAN letter, concerning the “Utilization of Legal Software and Open Source Software (OSS),” encourages government agencies to use “FOSS” (Free Open Source Software) with a view toward implementation by the end of 2011, which the Circular states will result in the use of legitimate open source and FOSS software and a reduction in overall costs of software.”

And the Coup de Grace so to speak:

“While IIPA has no issue with one of the stated goals of the circular, namely, “reducing software copyright violation,” the Indonesian government’s policy as indicated in the circular letter instead simply weakens the software industry and undermines its long-term competitiveness by creating an artificial preference for companies offering open source software and related services, even as it denies many legitimate companies access to the government market. Rather than fostering a system that will allow users to benefit from the best solution available in the market, irrespective of the development model, it encourages a mindset that does not give due consideration to the value to intellectual creations. As such, it fails to build respect for intellectual property rights and also limits the ability of government or public-sector customers (e.g., State-owned enterprise) to choose the best solutions to meet the needs of their organizations and the Indonesian people. It also amounts to a significant market access barrier for the software industry.”

Boiled down?  They don't want to compete with Free Software.  Several multi-billion dollar corporations afraid of a relative handful of FOSS hackers...

 OK...bless their  hearts...I can understand the concern  but let me bring this to a local level.

My local level.

You know what we do and how we do it.  In the next week, we are building another Learning Center for some kids in Hutto Texas.  Skip Guenter, our Director of Systems Engineering, is crossing the T's and dotting the I's now.  It will be a 4-6 station center for the kids on the "other side of the tracks".  Kids that have little or no access to a computer or technology what so ever.  If we can afford the travel and fuel, we'll even go weekly to train these kids how to properly use the multimedia software they've been given.

Without Linux and Free Software, this would be impossible for us.  That's not to mention the two other learning centers we've built or the approximate 1071 computers we've individually built and given away to date.

So, while it may be a stretch, and assuming that the Business Software Alliance is an integral part of the IIPA, (as they are reportedly) we might have some guilt by association here.  Some of the companies and corporations belonging to to the BSA are:

Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Avid, Bentley Systems, Borland, Cisco Systems, CNC Software/Mastercam, Dell, Entrust, HP, IBM, Intel, Internet Security Systems, Intuit, Macromedia, McAfee, Microsoft, RSASecurity, SAP America, SolidWorks, Sybase, Symantec, UGS and VERITAS Software.

Are they going to stand shoulder to shoulder with the IIPA on this?  If so, and assuming that they toe the IIPA line, I would ask them this:

Who is going to pay for the licensing of  "proprietary software" for projects such as ours?  Dell?  Intel?  HP?  Aren't all of these corporates involved at one level or another in the development or use of Free Software? I can promise you that we can scratch Microsoft from the list.  They have refused to help us twice, both times in 2005.

I wouldn't put Microsoft software on any of our computers now, even with a gun to my head...but that's not the point.  Are we, as charitable and community service-driven organizations, subject to their whim and multi-month grant requests for their software?  It would appear so.  If Free Software were to be "discouraged" by the US Government (not likely but possible) then we would either have to come to these companies with out hands out, pirate the software or purchase it.

To be honest...we don't know where the gas for our vehicles will come from for the next couple of weeks...we can't even afford to make deliveries right now, much less purchase software to power the computers we need to give away.

So will the IIPA and their Indonesia stance have any bearing on Free Software use in the US?  I doubt it...unless we can threaten ourselves with our own WTO status.

Stranger things have been known to happen.

All-Righty Then...


PV said...

What you say rings true. It's plainly obvious that large companies are running scared from open-source software and will resort to any tactic to avoid this competition.
Remember, first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.
I also wrote a short piece about this myself:
Finally, it's "Coup de Grace". :)
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Blog of helios said...

Finally, it's "Coup de Grace". :)

It sure is...;-) thanx

nicolas said...

When I read this, I noticed that, as far as I could see, no west european country was on the list. I know for a fact that at least in The Netherlands, where I live, there is a government backed Open Source Initiative. But you won't see Holland on the list, oh no. We are too helpfull in other ways.


Anonymous said...

Ironic that in the Land of the Free, free is exactly what people don't want. What a ****** up country it is.

Paul said...


There is another story here. Cisco, IBM, and others are not only members of the BSA, they are significant contributers to Linux. This means that the BSA is taking a stance in opposition to their own members.

Think about it. A company violates the GPL and the BSA is called in to enforce the license. It is a lose-lose for the BSA. Either they stand for the license or they violate their own public policies:

"BSA advocates policies that inspire creativity and innovation through modern, comprehensive, and enforceable intellectual property policies, including copyright, patent and trademark laws."

Hopefully a case will arise which will force the issue. The BSA's hidden agenda will either be revealed or abandoned. Then it will be check and mate.



Amenditman said...

All this controversy over the IIPA and it's members tells me one thing.

Software developers should be getting very selective in their choice of licensing.

They should be strongly supporting the organization who will provide legal counsel for the initial decision of how to license and who will help represent them when they are challenged.

Let's face it, very few software developers are also lawyers specializing in this area.

Work together or wither. Same as the opposition.

George said...

While I agree that the IIPA and the BSA probably don't like FOSS and probably believe that use of FOSS may lead to theft of their cherished closed-source IP, I think that the inference drawn here is overly broad. It seems to me that all the IIPA is saying (at least in this letter) is that forcing a preference for a particular development model is a trade barrier. It is akin to saying that preference for software from a particular country is a trade barrier.

The interesting thing would be to see if the IIPA would sign a similar letter against any country that stated a preference for closed-source software. If they are consistent, they would support such a letter. My guess, however, is that they have a philosophical issue with FOSS and are hiding behind the "trade barrier" argument.

Anonymous said...

You should read what it says in the entry for my country. The IIPA makes it sound like they're only looking out for the local (Philippine) IT industry.

"IIPA was concerned regarding reports of consideration of a Free Open Source Software bill
which would require government offices to use open source software. Passage of that bill would deny technology
choice regarding software usage and ultimately would stunt the growth of the IT industry in the Philippines."

Paul said...

While it is certainly true that proprietary software producers are afraid to compete with "free", I believe they are also afraid of competition over quality. I have a fully licensed copy of Windows XP Pro, but I won't install it due to activation issues, and the fact that it is a very limited OS, requiring a number of "not-free" applications to get anything done. I also prefer an OS that keeps my computer mine, as opposed to joint ownership by MS and its software/hardware partners. I could go on but these are all the reasons I need to avoid Microsoft and its friends.

Nz17 said...

Hey Helios, Nz17 here, the same guy who notified you of the Penumbra game.

There's another Linux game I think you should know about, and it is called Caster. Imagine a high-speed third-person action game, somewhat like a Sonic The Hedgehog game with a shooting aspect where you are protecting the planet from bad bugs using super speed and physic powers. All the while the blasts and bursts of enemy and ally alike are reforming the shape of the ground! This game is impressive from a gameplay, technical, and fun perspective, and perhaps the most awesome of all, it is only $5 a pop! The author is so generous that when he makes sequels to the first entry in the series he will give the follow-up chapters free to everyone who bought the first!

Caster would be a quite appropriate game for your HeliOS Project installs since it is kid-friendly and fun for all ages. Perhaps the author of this game would be willing to give some licenses to your needy kids? I'm sure he'd love the publicity.

FelixTheCat said...

It seems the same argument is made over and over. I'd dare say they'd prefer no one remembers this excellent response to much the same arguments:

Blogwart said...

The companies are getting frightened, I guess. And I can understand why. Having switched recently back from the Mac to Linux (Mint), I didn't miss anything. I make music and I wanted a powerful workstation which can handle the task. A decent Mac would have benkrupt me, but I got a PC with very good specs for a bargain. And with the software available to me on Linux, I have saved even more money. That is the miniature scale.

The large scale is that government agencies can save millions making the move to Open Source and even helping the communities by these investments. The logical solution for a switch to OSS would be hiring consultants that live nearby, thereby having better support and even saving more money, since hiring local consultants means that a part of the money will flow back as taxes and accumulate demand for workers. All this money saved is money lost for the big comapnies like Apple, Adobe etc.

Economies like Indonesia or south/central America need to save money and develop their own economies.

And big entities like the EU need to operate on open standards since their governance agencies more and more have to operate across borders, which includes and relies heavily on IT.

Michael said...

@FelixTheCat: Thanks for the link! That was a long but very interesting read.

A said...

They are also trying to put Brazil among the bunch... Free and Open source really annoys the monopolies.
But, as it was stated before, BSA should enforce GPL too, because GPL is also IP, and intellectual property that is abused most of the times, by big ones...