December 17, 2017

Defenders of Free Software



SoftwareIn Tiel Netherlands, Armijn Hemel, 32, works as a technology consultant and several hours a week pesters the world's most powerful consumer electronics and technology companies. Hemel serves as a volunteer watchman for free open-source software like Linux which competes with Microsoft's Windows. Companies like Google, TiVo and Sony piggyback on the work of others rather than building all of their software products from scratch.

Some companies may be violating the requirements associated with free software licenses. These include tweaked versions of a free software product available to the public, or giving credit to original developers.

Dell received a lashing from geek kingdom for shipping its new Streak tablet without providing underlying open-source software code which has now been rectified. Quite often, companies are ignorant about the rules of engagement or fail to live up to them. They then become exposed to expensive lawsuits.

Mr. Hemel, who volunteers for gpl-violations.org receives an email complaint, hops on his bike, rides to a local retailer, conducts a test purchase and then analyzes the product to see whether it use free software and lives up to it's end of the bargain.

People send in: wireless routers, pc cameras, phones, or even an exercise bike with a small computer so people could race against it. More problems occur with car makers for their entertainment consoles, or energy companies with smart meters.

High profile companies such as Cisco Systems, Samsung, Best Buy, Verizon Communications and many others have been sued by Software Freedom Law Center. Most cases are settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Hewlett-Packard, in particular, has helped develop a standardized inventory list for software for companies to keep track of their  code and licenses with a built in tool that lets companies analyze their software.

The situation will improve with these new programs in place.