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Simon Phipps

With a focus on open source and digital rights, Simon is a director of the UK's Open Rights Group and president of the Open Source Initiative. He is also managing director of UK consulting firm Meshed Insights Ltd.

OSI And FSF In Unprecedented Collaboration To Protect Software Freedom

Faced with a potentially large threat to free/libre and open source software from patent consortium CPTN, the two organisations have collaborated publicly for the first time.

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Before Christmas I reported that the Open Source Initiative (OSI) had written to the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) asking them to investigate the acquisition of Novell assets by the CPTN Group as a possibly anti-competitive move by CPTN's four members. I described that move as "unprecedented" because it was the first time OSI had chosen to intervene in a competitive situation on behalf of the open source community it represents.

Today, another unprecedented action was provoked by the same situation. Motivated both by the severity of the threat Novell's patents potentially represent in the hands of CPTN and by reports that the European competition authorities did not understand the anti-competitive potention of this acquisition, OSI has collaborated with the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the first time and crafted a joint request to the US Department of Justice to investigate the re-filed application for approval of the acquisition.

While some reports inaccurately asserted that the threat had ended with the withdrawal of the filing by CPTN, statements from Microsoft confirmed the acquisition was still in progress. The OSI and the FSF Boards decided that a strong practical and symbolic action was necessary and jointly edited a revised form of OSI's request to the German FCO, creating a strong statement that was sent - and acknowledged - today.

Whatever the outcome of the matter, its importance has done a great service providing the OSI and the FSF with a first public opportunity to continue the positive relationship that has resulted in earlier private collaborations, such as when both organisations endorsed the formation of the Document Foundation. I strongly hope that both organisations will continue to explore ways to act collaboratively from their different perspectives of software freedom in the interests of the overlapping communities.

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