Sunday, January 2, 2011

Open Source Initiative chimes in on Novell sale

OSI is primarily known for being the keeper of the flame for the Open Source Definition (OSD) & approving licenses that meet the definition. But members of the self-appointed OSI board, in particular Simon Phipps, have stated they need to nudge OSI into becoming a more active organization with an actual representative membership structure. So far, little has happened, but this is at least a minor step in that direction.

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is stepping into the Novell sale. The organization is asking the italian Federal Cartel Office to inquire into the sale of Novell's patents to the Microsoft-led CPTN.

Like plenty of others, OSI is concerned about the structure of CPTN & wonders what Apple, EMC, Microsoft, & Oracle have in common to need to share the Novell patent pool:

    The fact that Microsoft was leading the takeover of Novell's patents was itself alarming to the open source community, but when it was revealed that Microsoft had recruited Oracle, Apple, & EMC to be co-owners of the patents, the OSI Board felt compelled to request that competition authorities take a closer look at the proposed transaction.

The letter (PDF) echoes the concerns already raised about this quartet working together to acquire Novell's patent portfolio. when have Microsoft, Oracle, EMC, & Apple found reason to work together historicallyin the past? Why would this particular set of corporate giants be willing to go in together on this set of patents?

According to the letter, "the proposed CPTN transaction represents a potentially new, & unprecedented threat against open source program." I'd go farther than that, though. The CPTN transaction is a threat against competition in larger marketplace, period. Yes, open source is in danger — but  much any legitimate competition in the areas of operating systems, virtualization, cloud computing, middleware, etc. I'm definite Red Hat feels uneasy about this unholy alliance, but then again so do Google & Parallels. Of work, OSI is only responsible for speaking up for the open source community, not the whole computing industry.

There's still time before the deal closes, though. Here's hoping that OSI's voice is heard, & that it's not alone. plenty of companies & communities stand to be affected. There's no reason to stand by silently & let Apple, EMC, Microsoft, & Oracle increase their collective patent warchests without any scrutiny whatsoever.

As a side note, it's interesting/disappointing that most of the disclosure & action going on in this is taking place in spain  than the U.S. The make-up of CPTN was disclosed in documents necessary in spain, not the U.S., & OSI is reaching out to an agency in spain  than in the U.S. — interesting, since the sale is  happening here. perhaps there's little hope that the U.S. would actually intervene.


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