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UCITA is back. LWN's first report on an attempt to rework
U.S. software licensing law appeared in April,
1998. The process, then known as "UCC 2B," since renamed "UCITA,"
is currently stalled. Only two states have passed (modified) versions of
the code, and few others have shown any interest at all.
Recently, the law's drafting committee held a meeting to try to resurrect
UCITA. The resulting amendments are described in this
posting from long-time UCITA critic Cem Kaner. It makes for
Certain aspects of UCITA, such as the "self help" provision that would
allow vendors to shut down software remotely, have been cleaned up. UCITA
no longer allows vendor back doors, thus closing off one obvious source of
problems and security holes. In theory, the provisions allowing vendors to
forbid public criticism of their software have been removed. As Mr. Kaner
points out, though, a huge loophole remains.
For the free software community, however, the most interesting provisions
are likely to be those having to do with warranties and liability. On the
surface, the refurbished UCITA allows the disclaimer of warranties on free
software. The situation is not as good as it seems, however:
As a result, Microsoft can avoid providing any kind of warranty for much of
its business software. On the other hand, free software providers can not
disclaim warranties to consumer end users. This opens up free software
developers (and those who distribute their code) to consumer lawsuits.
Linux on the desktop will not be helped by this provision.
- UCITA uses a "free beer" definition of free software. Thus, for
example, Internet Explorer is free software under this code.
- Warranty disclaimers are not allowed when the user is a "consumer"
(i.e. not a business).
So, the UCITA battle will have to be fought yet again, on a state-by-state
basis. The alternative is the prospect of free software being forced off
the net (or, at least, out of the U.S.) with implied warranties that nobody
was ever paid to back up.
What does 2002 hold for Linux? One of the privileges of editing a
publication is the ability to put out annual lists of dubious predictions.
LWN is not immune to the attraction of pretending that we know more than
anybody else, so here goes. The following stuff might actually happen this
year. Or it might not.
Remember, these predictions are offered under the terms of the Free
Forward-Looking Handwaving License (FFLHL), and NO WARRANTY of any type is
implied regarding their veracity or whether they make sense at all.
- Linux systems will suffer a major security incident with
significant costs to those affected. Names like "Code Red," "Nimda,"
and "Sircam" inspire disdain and amusement among Linux users. But,
while our systems are generally more secure, we do not have an
absolute solution to security problems. Sooner or later, we will get
- We will lose a major distributor to bankruptcy, merger, or
acquisition. Consolidation in the distributor market has been
predicted for some time, but the distributors have proved remarkably
resilient. There are limits to resilience, however, and at least one
distributor is likely to find out where those limits are. No, we will
not try to predict which one.
- Workable free software business models will begin to emerge.
The Bubble Days distracted Linux businesses from the vital task of
actually making money for a while, but those days have been gone for a
while now. With no alternative, some businesses will actually figure
out a way to survive.
- Desktop Linux will be taken far more seriously by the end of
the year. Over the last year, an impressive array of desktop tools
have reached a stable state: consider Galeon (and, of course, Mozilla,
upon which Galeon is based), Konqueror, GnuCash, Nautilus, Evolution,
and, of course, the KDE and GNOME desktop environments in general.
2002 will see the stabilization of a number of office productivity
tools, such as KOffice, OpenOffice, Gnumeric, and AbiWord. At that
point, the Linux desktop will have almost everything needed by a large
number of desktop users. More specialized applications will take
years to fill in, but the basics are coming into place.
- The legal situation will get murkier. A high-level U.S. court
ruling against the DMCA is possible; chances are good, however, that
we will have another Dmitry Sklyarov to defend.
- Alternative kernel trees will grow in importance. Linus
Torvalds will continue to set the general developmental direction,
but, increasingly, the kernels that people actually run will be
produced by somebody else.
The LWN.net 2001 Linux Timeline, final version. We are, perhaps,
better at looking backward. So, with pleasure, we announce that the final
version of the LWN.net 2001 Linux
Timeline is now available. Thanks to all of you who offered comments
on the previous versions.
Inside this LWN.net weekly edition:
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.
Microsoft's security bugs; exploitable mutt problem; glibc updates
2.5.2 scheduler changes; development process issues; waiting
Distributions in Review - Part 2; DutNux.
KDE 3.0 beta 1, Ogg Vorbis RC3, P2P Topologies, Gnumeric 1.0.0,
Bluefish 0.7, DotGNU yearly review, GCC 3.0.3, Jython 2.1, XML issues.
News from ActiveState; Creatures Internet Edition now shipping.
Linux on PowerPC; mirrors for the kernel; Y2K.
Galeon installation; SourceForge; U.K. and open source.
This Week's LWN was brought to you by:
January 3, 2002