Sun’s no-op announcement

RMS skewers Sun’s patent grant announcement.

So what has really happened here? Reading the announcement clearly, I think that it doesn’t announce anything at all. It simply describes, in a different and grandiose way, the previously announced release of the Solaris source code as free software under Sun’s idiosyncratic license, the CDDL. Outside Solaris, few or no free software packages use that license–and Sun has not said it won’t sue us for implementing the same techniques in our own free software.

Perhaps Sun will eventually give substance to its words, and make this step a real one like IBM’s. Perhaps some other large companies will take similar steps. Would this make free software safe from the danger of software patents? Would the problem of software patents be solved? Not on your life. Neither one.

Why Wilco Is the Future of Music

Lawrence Lessig has a nice piece in Wired about Jeff Tweedy and Wilco.

“Music,” he explained, “is different” from other intellectual property. Not Karl Marx different – this isn’t latent communism. But neither is it just “a piece of plastic or a loaf of bread.” The artist controls just part of the music-making process; the audience adds the rest. Fans’ imagination makes it real. Their participation makes it live. “We are just troubadours,” Tweedy told me. “The audience is our collaborator. We should be encouraging their collaboration, not treating them like thieves.”

Eyes on the Screen

Downhill Battle is staging screenings of the copyright-imprisoned civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize. They’re offering BitTorrent downloads of the film.

So why has Eyes on the Prize been unavailable for the past 10 years? Copyright restrictions. For example, the film includes footage of a group of people singing “Happy Birthday” to Martin Luther King. Incredibly, “Happy Birthday” is under copyright and some rights holders believe that they should be given licensing fees if the song appears in any film, even a documentary. (Yes that’s correct, “Happy Birthday” is restricted under copyright–so if you’ve ever sung it in a restaurant or a park, you could literally be breaking the law.)

But “Happy Birthday” is just the beginning. Eyes on the Prize is made up of news footage, photographs, songs and lyrics from the Civil Rights Movement that are tangled up in a web of licensing restrictions. Many of these licenses had expired by 1995 and the film’s production company, Blackside, could not afford the exorbitant costs of renewing them. “Eyes on the Prize” has been unavailable to the public ever since.

Questions for the DNC chair

MoveOn PAC is soliciting questions for the candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee and the top rated questions are really fantastic. I think this points to the real problem with the Democratic Party: these average citizens are stating Democratic ideals far more eloquently than any Democratic politicians are (with the possible exceptions of Howard Dean and Robert Byrd).

If the Democratic party came out courageously with a platform based on real principles — of economic and social justice, equal access to high-quality education and health care, protection of civil liberties and individual rights, respect for international law, true diplomacy based not on narrow self-interest but the will and welfare of the global community — citizens from all over the political spectrum would come running.

The problem has been that in trying to appeal to all, the party has lost its content and its courage.

Could you return the party to a position of real moral and social leadership?

On the other hand, if the Democratic communication still sucks, the agenda is actually pretty good.