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Open Source Defeats a Patent Troll, GitHub’s ReadME Project, and More: Open Source Matters

Welcome to the 9th edition of Open Source Matters: our regular publication about the latest happenings in open source! Let’s dive into the news.

Open Source: A Patent Troll’s Worst Target

After a multi-year legal battle, an infamous patent troll was stripped of the rights to a patent they claimed the Gnome Foundation infringed upon. The case started back in 2019 when Rothschild Patent Imaging (RPI) filed suit against the Gnome Foundation over functionality contained in the Shotwell app.

According to RPI, the app violates patent US9936086B2, which describes a system and method of capturing and receiving devices that transmit digital images over wireless networks to filter and store the images. To many, this is an obvious case of yet another generic patent that describes simple capabilities. 

After the suit was filed, the open source community rallied behind the Gnome Foundation to raise over $150,000, and it should be no surprise that RPI quickly agreed to a settlement that absolved the Gnome Foundation — and all other code licensed under an Open Source Initiative-approved license — from any restrictions relating to that patent.

While this decision protected the Gnome Foundation and the broader open source community, it wasn’t enough for some people — specifically, McCoy Smith, founder of Lex Pan Law. In October 2020, Smith took it upon himself to file a re-examination of the patent in question. Earlier this year, the US Patent and Trademark Office finally determined that the patent was not for a new invention and RPI’s claims to it were canceled.

GitHub Promotes Open Source with the ReadME Project

GitHub has long supported the open source community, and the company’s ReadME Project seeks to highlight open source stories that help grow the collective knowledge of everyone working in the space. 

At a high level, the project brings attention to open source developers by giving them a platform to share their stories about open source culture, security, software development, and more. Content includes featured articles from tech industry leaders, guides on growing open source communities, and a podcast that contains in-depth interviews. If you’re interested in open source, there’s certainly something for you at The ReadME Project.

OpenSSF Releases Software Supply Chain Security Mobilization Plan

In response to U.S. President Joe Biden’s executive order on improving the nation’s cybersecurity, The Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF) has published a new report: The Open Source Software Security Mobilization Plan
Key topics in the plan — which stems from work completed at the Open Source Security Summit in Washington — include developer education, code auditing, data sharing, using software bill of materials, scanning, digital signatures, and software supply chains. The OpenSSF believes these are high-impact actions that can improve the resiliency and security of open source software. For more information, visit OpenSSF’s website.

LWN Is Hiring!

LWN — one of the longest-running internet publications for free and open source software development — is seeking new talent! The publication has served a critical role in keeping the world informed about advancements to the largest developer projects in the world. 
In January, the organization will reach 25 years of publishing activity, and they’re now actively looking for a new generation of technology writers to pass the torch. In particular, LWN is seeking writers with expertise in Linux, Rust, systems administration, and embedded systems. If this sounds up your alley, check out the announcement blog post.

Nvidia Releases Open Source GPU Kernel Modules

At long last, Nvidia has finally published their Linux GPU Kernel modules under an open source license. Open source developers everywhere are rolling back the expletives they posted over the years to describe Nvidia and are cautiously optimistic about a future where Nvidia forges closer ties with the open source community. 

This release isn’t free from limitations, however. For instance, the only official support is for a small selection of GPUs in specific scenarios, and a significant amount of the Nvidia graphics stack is still contained in proprietary firmware and user space modules. So, this release should be viewed through a lens of what is to come in the future rather than what this means for Nvidia users today.

Engineers at Red Hat played a critical role in making this happen and they hope to leverage these open source drivers to improve the Nouveau project: a community-led initiative to reverse engineer Nvidia GPU drivers. This release should also have broader implications for Linux users everywhere as Nvidia hardware becomes increasingly easier to support.

Other Open Souce Articles Worth Checking Out

Here are some open source articles worth reading:

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Ben Lloyd Pearson is the Director of Developer Marketing for Mattermost. He is a technology generalist who focuses his broad understanding to grow and engage developer audiences through digital media, open source advocacy, and events strategy and operations.

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