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Fwd: [backstage] Fwd: [Gnash] Adobe EULA

From: Dave Crossland
Subject: Fwd: [backstage] Fwd: [Gnash] Adobe EULA
Date: Sun, 6 Jan 2008 23:31:47 +0000


Thought this might be of interest to the Gnash community :-)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dave Crossland <address@hidden>
Date: 6 Jan 2008 23:30
Subject: Re: [backstage] Fwd: [Gnash] Adobe EULA
To: address@hidden

On 06/01/2008, Tim Dobson <address@hidden> wrote:
> Dave Crossland wrote:
> > The other really evil thing about the Adobe Flash EULA is that if an
> > American agrees to it, they agree not to work on Gnash or similar.
> that's a bit harsh.
> ...
> I know you have spoken out against it previously, but those legal terms
> are pretty ghastly IMHO.

I'm an atheist, but I do think that some things people do to each
other warrant the term "evil." This is one of those things :-)

> Do you not think that the bbc *should* be putting some effort into gnash
> development?

I think the BBC should, yes, since that's the fastest way it will
support viewing the streaming iPlayer with free software.

The BBC has said its committed to doing this, but will do the most
popular platforms first. Despite the massive punch that free software
packs, it is seen as a minority platform and so I don't expect the BBC
to work on supporting viewing the streaming iPlayer with free software
any time soon, sadly. Perhaps the engagement with "exotic devices"
communities that Ian Forrester is promoting will alert the BBC to the
impact that supporting free software can have, despite its apparent

So, I think if the BBC put active effort into Gnash, like a BBC
software engineer spending his "20% time" (supposing engineers at the
BBC get that, I'm speculating there) on it, that would be _awesome_
and I'd be sure to applaud and congratulate their efforts. When the
BBC puts passive effort into Gnash, like inviting Gnash developers to
meet the iPlayer team, that is also outstanding.

Still, the BBC's policy on contributing to free software projects is
not totally clear to me; as I understand it, there isn't one.

Michael Sparks (the primary author of Kamaelia) started the thread
"[backstage] How do things actually become open source at the BBC (was
Please release Perl on Rails as Free Software)" a while back, that
explained this from his personal perspective, and for which I'm very
grateful as it as illuminating. Sadly I did not kept that thread going
for lack of time, but the main point we got to was,

On 08/12/2007, Michael Sparks <address@hidden> wrote:
> On Saturday 08 December 2007 14:06:37 Dave Crossland wrote:
> > I think its important to distinguish between the publication of
> > private, internal tools as free software, and the publication as free
> > software of software required to view BBC media.
> I think you have to be careful here.
> ...
> your point is, in my opinion, a good example of something
> that directly impacts or should be impacted by section 87 paragraph 4 of the
> charter agreement, and why, again in my opinion, "best/common practice"
> might be better than policy.

Here's what Michael refers to:

> Section 87
> (4) The Executive Board must keep the BBC's research and
> development activities under review, and must (in particular)
> ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between—
> (a) the potential for generating revenue through commercial
> exploitation of its intellectual property, and
> (b) the value that might be delivered to licence fee payers and
> the UK economy by making new developments widely and
> openly available.

The BBC on occasion publishes software developed wholly internally as
free software, and lists these publications at (which I hope one day might be or better, :-)

Before Michael's post, it seemed to me that only a couple of things
(notably Kamaelia which is awesome!) are published for the same reason
that Backstage is hobbled with non-commercial restrictions; the BBC
can't ride roughshod over the private market and must carefully
evaluate its market impact.

So a website management system like "Perl On Rails" and a research
project like Kamaelia is going to have little impact, since there are
thousands of website management systems and research projects, both
free and proprietary.

Gnash, on the other hand, is going to give Adobe a good kick in the
shins; as I explained earlier in this thread, they are making loads of
money from banning the Adobe Flash runtime, which they distribute
without a fee, from being used by hardware vendors unless they pay a
fee (amongst other antisocial nonsense).

If the BBC is involved with Gnash directly, it risks damaging "vendor
relations" with Adobe, although given how friendly Adobe engineers
I've met at conferences and on the web like Tom Phinney and John
Dowdell are, I wouldn't expect that. Adobe seems to be passively
friendly to the free software movement, but is a huge and thus slow
moving organisation (like the BBC.) Still, if Gnash really smacks
Adobe in the kisser, their lawyers might lash out at the BBC for
helping Gnash. Adobe lawyers ain't so nice -

And hey, Gnash is going to kick Adobe's shins anyway :-) I do think
its unlikely that Adobe lawyers would lash out at Auntie, but if that
is a real risk, Gnash has legal structures for accepting funding via
USA charities like the FSF (and another that's legally structured to
be more favourable for large corporate donors is due shortly I hear)
which would be anonymous and would sheild the BBC from such risk.

After Michael's post, I figured that the BBC isn't too worried about
that kind of thing :-) Reading the charter, I think its main problem
with free software is that  "the potential for generating revenue
through commercial exploitation" is less for free software than
proprietary software. Obviously free software revenue is less for
individual organisations, but it is not zero, and may be higher in the
economy overall.

Wonderfully, the BBC recognises this! That is, that the revenue
difference is offset by "the value that might be delivered to licence
fee payers and the UK economy [overall] by making new developments
[...] available" as free software.

So yes, in my opinion the BBC should support Gnash directly, either
with in-house engineer time or by funding the project on a kind of
freelance basis or whatever, because the value that will be delivered
to licence fee payers and the UK economy by making streaming iPlayer
accessible with Gnash is huge.

And not just iPlayer: The BBC ought to support accessing BBC media
with free software in all cases because it ought to respect and value
the freedom of license fee payers.

However, if the BBC doesn't value freedom much, it might also be
persuaded on secondary practical grounds: The BBC is meant to be
serious about supporting innovation; respecting the British public's
freedom to tinker is the best - cheapest, most efficient - way to do

(Personal opinion only! Not the views of any previous, current or
future employers or organisations I have, do or will support!)


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