FOSS Newsletter – Sep 2014

## Qt adds LGPLv3 Licensing

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Digia, developers of the Qt cross-platform application framework announced in August that it will be adding LGPLv3 as a license option starting with version 5.4 of the software. Qt is widely used as a tool for developing applications with graphical user interfaces (“GUI”) on platforms including Android, iOS, OS X, Blackberry 10, X11, Wayland, and Windows among others. Qt is an essential component of well-known software programs such as VLC, Opera, VirtualBox, Mathematica, Skype,
and Dropbox. In addition, the popular KDE project develops its entire desktop environment with the help of the QT toolkit.

QT’s licensing has historically been a complicated and hotly debated subject in the FOSS development community. Development of the software began in 1991. Early on the developers distinguished between Qt for the X Window System (“Qt/X11”) and Qt for Microsoft Windows (“Qt/Windows”). While Qt/Windows was available exclusively under a proprietary

commercial license for many years, Qt/X11 was offered under a series of increasingly open custom licenses. Although the source code of these versions of Qt/X11 was available, the license terms for the software were too restrictive to satisfy many in the FOSS community. The final custom Qt/X11 license was recognized as a free software license by the Free Software Foundation, it was nonetheless incompatible with the FSF’s own GPL. In 2001 the QT/X11 was released with a GPLv2 license
option. Version 3.2 of Qt with support for Mac OS X (“Qt/Mac”) was released with a GPLv2 option in 2003 and in 2005 Qt/Windows version 4.0 was finally made available under the terms of GPLv2.

Following the acquisition of the project in 2008 by Nokia, QT version 4.5’s release in 2009 added an LGPLv2.1 licensing option for all supported platforms. 2009 also saw the release of QT with a GPLv3 license option. However, until now the software was not available with an LGPLv3 licensing option. Digia the company currently directing the development of Qt commented on the licensing change in a blog post authored by QT Chief Architect/Maintainer Lars Knoll saying:

The spirit of all GNU licenses is about a strong copyleft, giving users rather strong access and rights to the source code of application and libraries. It was always meant to protect the users’ freedom to modify the application and underlying libraries and run the modified application.

In many people’s opinion there is, however, a loophole in the LGPL 2.1, where it doesn’t clearly talk about running the applications using a modified version of the library. Even though it violates the spirit and intentions of the LGPL, this loophole has been extensively used by companies that create locked-down devices. If devices use LGPL v2.1 software, the user may not be able to install modified versions of the library on the device and use it together with the other software that
is installed on it.

We also consider locked-down consumer devices using the LGPL’ed version of Qt to be harmful for the Qt ecosystem. The device is not open to third party developers and thus doesn’t contribute in extending the size of the Qt ecosystem and the range of devices that can be targeted by software developers using Qt. In addition to not contributing to the ecosystem, it doesn’t fund the further development of Qt.

For these reasons we believe that LGPL v2.1 is not protecting the users’ freedom as it was intended by the Free Software Foundation. To account for this, the FSF created version 3 of the LGPL, a license we feel is legally formalizing the intentions of the earlier version.

This licensing decision will allow Digia to release add-on software modules it otherwise would have reserved for commercial releases such as Qt Canvas3D which provides full WebGL support inside applications built with Qt. Digia will also release WebView under LGPLv3 which supports embedding native Web engines into applications built with Qt. Thanks to
the LGPLv3 license, Digia will also release a module for Android development that depends on code licensed under Apache 2.0, a license that which is incompatible with LGPLv2.1 but compatible with LGPLv3.

In addition to the new LGPLv3 licensing options Version 5.3 and earlier will continue to be available under the licensing options they are currently available under. Future releases of modules which existed in Version 5.3 will also retain these options. Modules introduced in version 5.4 however, may no longer offer LGPLv2.1 as a licensing option.

## Google Releases First Android One Phone



At an event in India in early September Google launched the first Android One phone. The Android One project seeks to bring affordable Android handsets (starting at approximately one hundred and five U.S. dollars) to developing markets without compromising a consistent and up-to-date Android experience for customers. Google worked with partners Micromax, Karbonn, Spice Mobiles, and MediaTek to produce this initial Android One handset. Describing the program Sundar Pichai, head of Google’s Android and Chrome divisions, told reporters at the launch event that “when [Android One handset partners] look to make a phone, they will get a menu. They can put together a device in a much quicker fashion, knowing we’ve already tested the software.” Google is assuring that units will ship with unmodified versions of Google’s Android operating system otherwise known as “stock” or “vanilla” Android. Google will manage the handsets’ software updates to ensure timely access to
new versions of the mobile operating system. Although the devices are currently available with the latest version of Android (KitKat) Google representatives stressed that these Android One devices will be amongst the first to receive updates to the next major version of the software (Android L) when it is officially released for stable use. Google aims to bring a similar level of software support to the Android One line as they do their flagship line of Nexus-branded Android devices.

To make the new phones even more desirable in the Indian market Google has arranged for a number of special benefits for Android One handset owners. Google will provide a specialized YouTube application which will allow users to save video content to their phones for later repeat viewing offline without the need for users to incur additional data charges. In recognition of the burden that large data charges place on budget customers Google has also arranged for a special data plan with Indian mobile carrier Airtel that will provide for the delivery of software updates and software downloads from the Play Store (up to 200MB per month) to Android One devices free of mobile data fees.

Additional Android One devices are expected in the future from other Google partners including Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Lenovo, Panasonic, and Qualcomm. Roll out of the program is expected in Indonesia, Phillipines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka by the end of this year.

## Software Patents Invalidated Following U.S. Supreme Court Decision in

*Alice v. CLS Bank*

Timothy B. Lee at recently published a post on the growing trend of U.S. courts invalidating software patents. The trend has developed in the months following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in *Alice v. CLS Bank*. The June 2014 *Alice* decision was arguably the Court’s first ruling directly on the patentability of software implemented inventions
in 33 years since the Court decided the 1981 case of *Diamond v. Diehr*.

Mr. Lee found that there have been eleven court rulings on the patentability of software-implemented inventions since the Supreme Court’s decision in *Alice* and in all eleven cases the courts ruled that the patents were directed toward patent-ineligible subject matter and therefor were invalid. This trend does not necessarily indicate that each and every patent involving computer-implemented claims is invalid.

Although Lee describes these cases as involving “mostly patents that are particularly vulnerable to challenge under the new Alice* precedent” he ultimately concludes that the trend is an indication that “pendulum of patent law is now clearly swinging in an anti-patent direction.”

## The Free Software Foundation and The Debian Project Collaborate on

Hardware Database

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In early September the Free Software Foundation and the Debian Project, both leading FOSS community organizations, announced a joint initiative to expand and enhance a database of FOSS-compatible computer hardware.

The project, known as h-node, seeks to catalog and maintain a comprehensive hardware database in order to assist users in identifying which devices will work with fully free operating systems and which will not. While other similar efforts focus on identifying hardware which is functionally compatible with GNU/Linux operating systems H-node requires hardware designated compatible to function on GNU/Linux without proprietary software or firmware of any sort.

Although Debian is not recognized by the Free Software Foundation as an endorsed fully free distribution, FSF executive director John Sullivan noted that “Unlike other common GNU/Linux distributions, installing official Debian by default means installing only free software. As long as Debian users do not add additional package repositories, their
systems are a reliable source of fully free compatibility information.”

Debian Project Leader Lucas Nussbaum announced that “Debian is confident that the fruits of this collaboration will result in the largest curated database of Debian-compatible hardware, and invites all Debian community members to contribute hardware compatibility information to h-node.”

## ReadWrite Makes The Case For More Open Source Software Development by



Matt Asay at ReadWrite posted an article in August titled *Why Your Company Needs To Write More Open Source Software: Real innovation doesn’t happen behind closed doors.* In his article Asay argues that large corporations will be better served by writing and open sourcing software than by purchasing generic commercial software licenses and paying again to configure the software for their own needs.

Asay argues that not only is writing open-source code internally often more efficient in the long run than the alternative but that it also helps to attract the most talented developers in the industry who will ultimately produce the highest quality tools.

Summing up his argument, Asay writes “[i]t’s time to get involved, and not for the good of some ill-defined ‘community.’ No, the primary beneficiary of open-source software development is you and your company. Better get started.”

## Turin Shifting From Windows to Linux


The municipal government of the Italian city Turin plans to transition from Windows XP to Ubuntu Linux in all of its offices. The move is estimated to save the city Six Million Euros over the next five years alone and the savings are only expected to increase over time.

One key factor in the decision is the cessation of official Microsoft support for the Windows XP operating system. A potential upgrade to Windows 8, the current version of Microsoft’s operating system, would have required not only expensive licensing fees but also extensive upgrade or replacement of each of the city’s 8,300 workstations.

Turin is not the first government organization in Italy to adopt a policy of transitioning to open source software. The regional

governments of Umbria and Puglia as well as the province of Bolanzo have adopted similar information technology policies. However, Turin is quite possibly the most high profile jurisdiction to do so and it is hoped that other cities will begin to follow suit.

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