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RE: The company that wants to contribute (was Re: [Duplicity-talk] Versi

From: quim.gil
Subject: RE: The company that wants to contribute (was Re: [Duplicity-talk] Version 0.5.07 Released)
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2009 21:45:53 +0100

Hi Gregory,

I was talking about the projects where Nokia contributes development and code, 
as it is the case we are considering here. Asking the maintainers of those 
projects they tend to have good opinions in terms of being good contributors 
and respectful with the goals and ways of working of the project.

Of course we are aware of things Nokia has done and said that have been 
criticized. Still, we keep pushing our open source projects and they are 
becoming a core aspect of the Nokia strategy. Yes, corporations might seem to 
be contradictory sometimes.

I'm just trying to explain the fact that our legal department wants to be 
cautious at this point about the GPLv3, and if you notice Nokia is not the only 
open source friendly company (or open source project) with this approach.

Nokia is a patron of the FSF, has been involved in the drafting of the GPLv3 
and has regular conversations with the FSFE (and the Linux Foundation as well) 
about this topic. Our lawyers know very well the licenses handled by the FSF 
and I would say the FSF knows well what are the concerns of companies like 

In fact I personally think one day companies like Nokia will embrace the GPLv3 
just like they have embraced viral copyleft licenses in general, when years ago 
they were as cautious as they are now with the v3.

And here we are in the Maemo team, having to make during these weeks a decision 
about the backup framework for our Harmattan plans. Duplicity as a component 
fits very well and we are willing to push it as we have done with other free 
software projects. But of course we understand the concerns about the 
relicensing and this is why we raised already in our first communication with 
the two developers that appeared as core maintainers of the project.

> Since you suggested it- I can speak up with a view from
> another project:
> Nokia's patent FUD and promotion of patent encumbered media
> codecs to the W3C has been incredibly harmful to the adoption
> of free formats on the web.
> [http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2007/12/nokia-wants-w3c-to-
> remove-out-ogg-from-upcoming-html5-standard.ars]
> (although, fortunately, at least Mozilla has apparently
> determined that Nokia's sabre rattling is without merit)

I know the topic well since I'm one of the persons trying to make Ogg Vorbis 
officially supported in Maemo.

> This activity is consistent with Nokia's long term advocacy
> for software patents in Europe:
> http://eupat.ffii.org/gasnu/nokia/index.en.html

Nokia is not lobbyying for software patents in Europe. If you see the timeline 
in that page, it ends in 2004. That was before Nokia started betting on open 
source for its products: before the launch of Maemo, before the acquisition of 
Trolltech and before the announcement of the Symbian Foundation.

> One of the primary purposes of GPLv3 over GPLv2 is assuring
> that contributors and distributors do not later assert patents
> over the distributed software.  The GPLv3 represents years of
> development including extensive consultation with industry.
> If Nokia's council is has specific concerns related to GPLv3
> doing something other than the publicly stated purposes of
> protecting free software, than I'm sure the FSF would be
> interested in correcting any such flaws in the license.  In
> the absence of a public statement about how the GPLv3 is doing
> something other than accomplishing its stated mission, it
> would be reasonable to assume that someone who asks a project
> to avoid v3 is interested in violating the stated mission of
> the license, or at least preserving the possibility for the future.

I don't think patents are an issue here. Let me explain.

Nokia has to respect the IPR game that is common in the industry where it acts 
(otherwise the business would fail) and also has to respect the open source 
licenses of the software components in its products (otherwise the business 
would also fail). Sometimes combining both worlds is difficult, and the way 
Nokia minimizes risks is by using open source in the areas where there are no 
reasonable IPR risks.

In other words, if Nokia approaches an open source project like Duplicity is 
because it hasn't found IPR risks in the feature set covered by the project. It 
also means that Nokia itself hasn't own IPR interests, since the GPL (2 or 3) 
in practice invalidates the usage of GPL code and at the same time the claim of 
related patents. The same applies for all the open source code shipped 
currently in Maemo.

> Regardless of the good and honest intentions of the Nokia
> Maemo team here legalese exists because honest intentions are
> not durable:
> Honest intentions don't prevent a later rights holder from
> turning patent troll. etc.

Theoretically true. However, in reality can you name a single case of Nokia 
acting as a patent troll against free software developers? Even if some evil 
CEO would like to go ahead with this in the future, before s/he should say good 
bye to all the investment done in Maemo, Qt and Symbian/S60 since trolling 
there would probably imply the death of any successful open source strategy.

> I would strongly encourage the duplicity developers to take
> broader advice on this subject

Me too!

Quim Gil
open source advocate
Maemo Software @ Nokia

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