I’m using the Display Posts Shortcode to have a post that just shows a listing of all the posts on rants.org. This is so I can generate a function that provides interactive completion on the names of all my posts, in the “Completable Web Pages (CWP)” system of my .emacs.
Here are the posts:
- What “normalization” means: a concrete example.
- Open Source Archetypes: A Framework for Purposeful Open Source
- A Mystery: Firefox and User Privacy
- On changing one’s mind. (From ORD Camp some years ago.)
- What You Need to Know About the Conservancy / SFLC Dustup.
- Is Anyone Helping Anti-Trump Republicans?
- Another source of good journalism in the Trump era: Talking Points Memo.
- What To Do.
- Five-Day Forecast: Cloudy With an 80% Chance of DeepFaked Kompromat
- Back from the Brink: Un-Trumping America.
- Semi-optimistic thoughts after the election.
- Rants.org now has a comments policy.
- Starbucks buys their TLS certs on fiscal year boundaries?
- Trusties and Suspies: Knowing Your Place in the New U.S.A.
- Obligatory Post Opposing Donald Trump.
- Starbucks in China Displays Their Wi-Fi Terms of Service Only as a PNG Image File.
- Commenting on ITAPS’s comments on the Federal Source Code Policy.
- Dissecting The Myth That Open Source Software Is Not Commercial
- SOLVED: Error on ‘git clone’ for Redis GitHub repository
- My Accidental Radio.
- Please Stop Locking Out Users After 3 Failed Login Attempts.
- The Software Freedom Conservancy: Why I Donated
- The one 18-minute video you have to see this year: Nina Paley’s “Copyright Is Brain Damage”.
- Grammar As Proxy: The Experian Data Breach
- Privacy is an ecological concept, not a transactional one.
- Twitter “Verified” Account… Not So Much.
- Freedom of conscience applies to Kenyan immigrants too.
- Nice web design, but poor logic: Why OccupyGPL is wrong.
- Noel Taylor: A Scholar and a Gentleman.
- New York State Senate bill offers tax credit for open source development expenses.
- How hard is open source winning? This hard…
- Fix for WordPress 4.1 front page “Not Found” error (from Stealth Publish plugin).
- Disabling the GNOME Workspace Switcher Popup (in GNOME 3.14 on Debian GNU/Linux).
- Debian Installation: Getting Past the Grub Error.
- Read Andy Oram’s Article “Does Network Neutrality Really Matter?” Please.
- Quick update on the Craig Shirley affair: NYT Public Editor agrees Rick Perlstein was smeared.
- The Craig Shirley / CIA / Wikipedia Mystery.
- According to Craig Shirley, Your Choices are Plagiarism or Amnesia.
- Comment to the FCC in support of Net Neutrality.
- English to live by.
- Support Snowden all the way, New York Times.
- Lucky in 2013.
- Healthcare.gov, why do you taunt me so?
- IRC away messages.
- My Contempt Knows No Bounds: The Starbucks “Come Together” Petition.
- Eben Moglen talks in New York City: “Snowden and the Future”
- Dear Lazyweb: How long will it take you to fix the LOVEINT problem?
- My favorite RSS reader, Feedbin.me, goes open source!
- Credit where credit is due: LibreOffice is now ridiculously easy to build.
- Missing OSCON this year.
- Taking sides.
- PRISM: Why the “directly and unilaterally” mistake matters.
- Parsing PRISM: Gen. Keith Alexander did not claim “dozens of attacks” were prevented.
- PRISM: The Problem with Collect-Then-Select.
- Epic botch of the PRISM story.
- Privacy Promises and Client-Side Betrayal.
- Beyond App Contests: Playing the Long Game
- Ectoplasmic Security Is Important Too.
- ANVC Scalar looks interesting, but isn’t quite open source yet.
- How easy is a Morozov-style takedown of Evgeny Morozov?
- Rants.org RSS feed fixed.
- Someone designed that on purpose?
- That’s one smooth cat.
- OpenITP Call for Circumvention Tech Grant Proposals (1st round, 2013)
- New backer reward added in POSS Kickstarter campaign; going for overfunding…
- Kickstarter Campaign for “Producing Open Source Software” 2nd Edition.
- Remembering Aaron Swartz.
- The IRC Curmudgeon.
- Happy 40th Birthday, Ben Collins-Sussman!
- In Memoriam Carl Woese
- Gabriella Coleman’s “Coding Freedom”
- NYC Techno-Activism 3rd Mondays start this Dec. 17th.
- My Kickstarter campaign is blocking on the Amazon Payments tax interview process.
- Global Database of Public Wireless Networks?
- Journalistic Responsibility and the Voter Fraud Fraud.
- Subtle Dokuwiki User Interface #Fail (or, Why User Expectations Matter)
- Educating Clearwire about their own Terms of Service.
- Google and Patents: When You Don’t Even Get Credit For Being Good
- Calling Chicago-area Education Hackers: SLC Code Camp Coming Soon — Sep. 8-9.
- OpenITP seeking a researcher to look Into circumvention tech usage (China focus).
- Is That App Open Source?
- Will someone sell me a mount point, please?
- Highlight of OSCON: Release of “Team Geek”!
- An Unintentional Reminder of What Journalism Is About.
- Congratulate Bradley Kuhn by joining our mini-campaign for the Software Freedom Conservancy!
- OSCON 2012 Interview with Mac Slocum of O’Reilly Media.
- Calculating the social derivative of follower numbers.
- Which of these two apps is not like the other? Answer: Just open source them. Please.
- Circumvention Tech in NYC, July 9-12 — Get Your Hack On.
- Yo, App Developers: Please Make Your Public Interest Apps Open Source!
- Guest Post: Apple Rant
- Are you a Monumentalist?
- I wouldn’t have thought of that either.
- Best. Spam. Evah.
- How to Batch-Edit Multiple Issues in Redmine.
- Happy Dennis Ritchie Day.
- Does Cold Fusion Imply a Surveillance Society?
- Will Franken at the Purple Onion this Saturday!
- An unexpected feature of my trip to China.
- Why you should read more of Ben Collins-Sussman.
- Interview for French Translation of “Producing Open Source Software”.
- Which open source license?
- The Open Source Initiative: Beyond Stewardship.
- Golosa touring East Coast — Boston, Cambridge, CT, New York! Don’t Miss Them.
- Stephen Colbert flashes the mask!
- “Produire du Logiciel Libre” — French translation of “Producing Open Source Software” available!
- San Francisco’s Enterprise Addressing System open sourced!
- Apache Software Foundation tells WANdisco how it’s done.
- Wanted: a few PHP programmers looking for a good cause.
- Square root rate plans for pay-as-you-go Internet?
- Solving the Conference Call Introduction Problem.
- This is my 100th blog post, and it is telling you to go see Will Franken’s show in San Francisco.
- Go see “Missing” in San Francisco on July 10th.
- Two Quotes.
- Email Blacklisting Considered Harmful.
- NYT Astroturfed by “Conservation Group” in Deepwater Horizon Spill.
- At WordCamp San Francisco this Saturday…
- PUBPAT / ACLU lawsuit to overturn gene patent wins in federal court!
- Objets de Birthday.
- Winnie and the Snow Citizen.
- Reform? Mr. …of, er…
- Dead Pig Coverup?
- The Trickster Next Door
- “Sita Sings the Blues” at the Red Vic in San Francisco!
- Learn how to hack on Launchpad.
- QuestionCopyright.org is looking for a legal intern.
- Bug Growth is Proportional to User Growth, and Bugs are not Technical Debt.
- “Beautiful Teams” Chapter Now Online
- An End to Inboxorrhea
- “Sita Sings the Blues” on the big screen in New York City!
- The Instant Answer Protocol.
- Subversion to join the Apache Software Foundation
- “Sita Sings the Blues” on front page of YouTube tonight.
- RIP, Illinois “THE 1729” / Indiana “53T3364” / Illinios “5416870” / Illinois “D830176” / California “5TVJ323” / New York “EJM6485”
- Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s position on stolen bikes is clear.
- Help QuestionCopyright.org Brainstorm a Grant Application!
- Launchpad is now open source.
- Version control for MS Word (etc) documents?
- Does this dress make me ramble?
- “Sita Sings the Blues” playing in San Francisco’s Dolores Park
- Planetary Astronomer Mike rocks the house again…
- Security through promiscuity.
- CiviCRM Saves the Day
- Wanted: Patent attorney who cares about software freedom.
- Dear Planetary Astronomer Mike…
- bkrpr — The Book Ripper project
- Sing Language.
- Interview With Nina Paley, at QuestionCopyright.org
- 5 Not-So-Easy Questions
- The Briefing.
- Mission Accomplished.
- Now that’s a pro!
- Now that’s wrong.
- Does McCain really believe this stuff?
- On The Impossibility of Deregulation
- Jessica Ferris’ Birthday Present
- Web designer, etc, needed for election-related project.
- So how hard would it be…
- Mozilla is looking for a build engineer…
- What I’m doing.
- Looking for office space in New York City?
- Spam Insidy.
- It’s over.
- Why I love Talking Points Memo.
- Boy Scouts and Open Source?
- Precipitation in Google Chicago Office
- Will Franken in San Francisco, tomorrow and Saturday!
- The Michigan Primary Problem is Deeper than Hillary Clinton Admits.
- Here’s How It’s Done, William Kristol.
- What To Do With That Hundred Dollar Bill You Just Found Under The Couch
- Thread Theory
- How Not to Release Software
- How did the Necker Cube cross the road?
- Mitt Romney on Responsibility
- 64 squares: RIP Bobby Fischer.
- Thank you, New Jersey!
- Barackracy: The Obama Effect
- A better patent system.
- Open Government Data Principles
- Want to help fix the roof?
- Thanks for clarifying, Orbitz.
- Weirdest spearphishing attack ever?
- Lee Bollinger Muffs It
- Responsible Archiving
- Beautiful Code Chapter Now Online
- Book Purge.
- OSCON, Swedish Pirates, and more.
- “Beautiful Code” has arrived…
- What Would Euler Do?
- Go see Will Franken. Now.
- Answering Augusto…
- When is Open Source not Open Source?
- Embarrassment-based health care.
- Keepin’ it real for the Google Summer of Code students.
- Score: Bush message machine, 1; New York Times, 0
- Does Microsoft’s Horacio Gutierrez lie, or does he just not know?
- Ben Collins-Sussman on hacking and hackers.
- How to tell that software patents are a bad idea.
- Help spread the “search://” meme!
- Don Imus comes out against freedom of speech.
- A Modest Proposal: How to Make Everyone Happy About Lesbian and Gay Marriage
- “Beautiful Code” book soon to be released
- Immigration raids and the national conscience.
- My deal.
Here’s what “normalization” means:
Trump praises this bizarre offer from Putin in which U.S. gets to question the 12 Russians the U.S. DoJ accuses of engaging in election subterfuge, in exchange for Russia questioning William Browder and former ambassador Michael McFaul. News outlets go nuts about the proposal, bringing on talking heads to discuss what a crazy idea this is. The anchors and talking heads use inflammatory language about “handing over” Browder or McFaul, or letting Russia “interrogate” the subjects, etc.
But none of these commentators or news anchors (so far as I’ve seen) mentions the obvious: that Browder and McFaul are private citizens, so there is no legal principle under which the U.S. executive branch could compel them to show up for the questioning anyway.
Do you see what’s happening here? Trump talks about this swap as though it’s a thing he could do. He knows it’ll never happen. But as people talk about what a terrible idea the swap is, they unwittingly accepting the premise that citizens are property for all-powerful rulers to use as pawns in the first place! They push back on Trump’s specific proposal, but they first grant his assumptions & worldview in order to do it.
I don’t usually blog about work stuff here, but some things are worth making an exception for.
James Vasile and I wrote a new report, Open Source Archetypes: A Framework for Purposeful Open Source, for Mozilla. We’ve just co-published it with them, and — not to put too fine a point on it — we’re pleased as punch.
The report offers a high-level typology of open source projects, enumerating the various kinds of projects and what situations each kind is suited for. We’re planning to do a version 2.0 with Mozilla, after feedback rolls in, so any thoughts folks have about v1.0 will be used to improve v2.0.
Many thanks to Mozilla, and in particular to Patrick Finch, for commissioning the report and arranging many informative staff interviews, and then for excellent editing and feedback on the early drafts.
I’m mystified by some Firefox browser privacy policies, and I wonder if anyone can help me understand them better.
I hadn’t been following browser HTTP referrer policy closely. I knew that referrals were sent, and that had always vaguely puzzled me from a privacy perspective, but I assumed that Smart People Were Working On It, and that there were probably reasons why things are the way they are. After reading this post on the Mozilla Security Blog yesterday, I suddenly wished I’d been following things more closely. The post is meant to tell us about how Firefox is getting better about privacy. But after reading it, I feel worse about privacy than I did before reading it. Here’s a summary of what the post says:
When you follow a link on web page X to go to web page Y, your browser sends Y’s server an indication that you were referred to Y by X. (This information is sent in the “HTTP Referer” [sic] header, for those keeping score at home; yes, it is probably the most famous misspelling in all of Web standards.) The referral information typically includes the entire URL of the page you’re coming from, that is, the site address and path of X. For example, for this post the site address is “www.rants.org” and the path is “/2018/02/a-mystery-firefox-and-user-privacy/“.
Okay, pausing for a moment to ask the obvious first question:
Can I turn this off in my browser settings? Because maybe I consider that information private and don’t want to tell one web site what other web site I’m coming from.
Answer: not unless you have a Ph.D. in Firefox Studies. At least, in the “Preferences → Privacy Settings” menu of Firefox 52.5, there is no identifiable option for controlling this. You can do it via about:config, by setting Network.http.sendRefererHeader to 0 instead of the default 2, but that way of setting preferences won’t fly for the majority of users. There really should be a way to do it from Firefox’s normal preferences dashboard.
Continuing with the post:
As of Firefox 59, when you’re browsing in Private Mode, Firefox will not send the path portion of the referrer information.
Well, uh, okay, that’s an improvement, I guess. But then why even send the origin site at all, even without the path? Shouldn’t “Private” mean private? In Private Browsing Mode, I would expect no referral information to be sent at all. Then, to make matters worse, a bit later the post says:
In Firefox Regular and Private Browsing Mode, if a site specifically sets a more restrictive or more liberal Referrer Policy than the browser default, the browser will honor the websites [sic] request since the site author is intentionally changing the value.
Now I’m even more confused. Why would the site author get to decide what the value should be? At all, I mean, but especially in Private Browsing Mode! I thought the whole point of Private Browsing Mode was that the browser user would decide that. Browser users are often in an adversarial relationship with site authors. The browser should take the user’s side in that relationship, every time.
I must be missing something here. Education welcome. (The answer might be somewhere under this post, but I haven’t found it yet.)
A few years ago at ORD Camp I participated in one of my favorite conference sessions ever. I don’t remember exactly what we called it, but something like “I Was Wrong: Share One Big Thing You’ve Changed Your Mind About”. There were about fifteen to twenty people in the room. I asked everyone who felt comfortable doing so to speak for just a couple of minutes about some important matter on which they had changed their mind.
I took notes during the session, and said I would blog about it. Then I got really busy with my company, and the next thing you know, the Earth had travelled another 2.9 billion miles or so.
Now it’s almost time for ORD Camp 2018, and I’m finally getting around to writing that blog post. Sorry for the delay, everyone!
Although my notes record who said what, I’m not sure everyone agreed to have their name associated with what they spoke about, so this is anonymous (except for what I said). Also, most of the items below are not literal quotes: the session was spoken, and I mostly wasn’t transcribing verbatim. When I put something below in double quotes, that means it was in double quotes in my notes, so it probably represents an actual quote or something close.
I started off the session with this:
Religion is a rational response a widespread human need that I myself feel. Being religious does not mean someone is un-rigorous or un-intellectual; it is, quite often, a sign of being well-adjusted. Although not religious myself (and unsure whether that’s due to preference or to inability), my reaction to religiosity now is something like jealousy, whereas when I was younger it was some combination of incomprehension and unarticulated contempt.
(I’m okay admitting that now. However far away that younger self was at the time of the session, he’s several years even farther away now that I’m finally getting around to writing this post!)
After that, other people spoke about things they had changed their minds about. Each individual item below is a summary of one person’s contribution.
Humans are not infinitely malleable with respect to ability; practice is not all.
Absolute, black-and-white answers are not all.
(Did that last one sound obvious? Maybe it is, to you. Remember, this was a session about things that individual people had changed their minds about. For this person, black-and-white answers had been important for many years… until they were not.)
Engineers find real-world thinking repugnant but rigorous.
“I no longer believe that activity in a project leads to good software.” Great software development does not necessarily lead to a great product; instead, inactivity leads to stable, good software.
The free market is not the only tool in the social toolbox. It is just one of many! (E.g., emergency services.)
I used to believe in God; now I am an atheist, except when doing art.
The U.S. Constitution is rally horribly broken. It needs to be flushed down the toilet. No other countries use it as prior art!
Mythology is not boring — it’s not! You have to have the backstory; don’t just get it from TV.
His poor memory about childhood didn’t bother him — until waking up after a 10-hour post-party blackout. Eventually he realized it’s not important to know every moment in your life, except for effects on yourself or others.
The shift from believing to not believing — does it result in hope? Innocence? Cynicism?
Social isolation led me to libertarian politics when I was young. Then I went to Japan — it was mind-blowing. Public interactions worked: society was not off-putting, people were trustworthy. Traits that I had thought were human were cultural!
Gun control — not such a good idea after all.
Fate — it’s not a thing. What I had thought was fate was a long run of good luck…
Had to change almost everything she believed growing up. Change of beliefs is good — it creates depth of personality and better sympathy.
Reading over these notes, fragmentary as they are, reminds of how interesting that session was. Thanks to everyone who came. I hope to see you again soon!
The Software Freedom Conservancy is responding appropriately to a surprising and unwarranted trademark action from SFLC (the Software Freedom Law Center).
SFLC’s action is especially indefensible given their role in helping set up the Conservancy in the first place. SFLC’s own public statement on the matter does not stand up to scrutiny. If you’re just following this from the bleachers and aren’t sure which side you’re on, then support Conservancy. They’re behaving responsibly in this unexpected situation. For more details, read on.
The Full Story:
If you’re still reading, then you’d like to know more about what happened. I can offer some information and context that may be helpful to you. But first, you should read Conservancy’s short post of Nov. 3, which explains the bare facts of what happened.
The rest of my post is an analysis of SFLC’s public followup of Nov. 6, which I reproduce in full below in order to comment on it. Please take the time to read all of what they wrote, even if you don’t read all of my analysis. I’ve highlighted some particularly egregious passages, but my comments are not exclusively about the highlighted parts — SFLC’s post is, as the saying goes, a “target-rich environment”, unfortunately. Even so, I must leave many things unresponded to, because there’s just too much there.
Concerning a Statement by the Conservancy
By Eben Moglen & Mishi Choudhary | November 6, 2017
On Friday, while we were putting on our annual conference at Columbia Law School, a puff of near-apocalyptic rhetoric about us was published by SFLC’s former employees, Karen Sandler and Bradley Kuhn, who now manage the Conservancy, which was originally established and wholly funded by SFLC, and still bears our name. We were busy with our conference when this happened, which seems to have been the point. We are glad to have the chance now, after a little much-needed rest, to help everyone avoid unnecessary hyperventilation.
A couple of points:
First, the line “and still bears our name” is a lovely example of what in classical rhetoric is called petitio principii and in English we call “begging the question”. The whole dispute here is about whether SFLC should get an exclusive trademark on the phrase “software freedom” in this domain. How convenient for the USPTO that the SFLC can already state as fact that the phrase belongs to SFLC — I guess we can all go home now.
Second, SFLC had a choice about the timing here. If SFLC didn’t want to deal with this until after their conference, then they could easily have delayed their USPTO filing until after the conference. It’s true that Conservancy didn’t respond to the filing immediately, but that’s understandable: it takes time to prepare a formal response at the USPTO and an appropriate public statement. No organization turns that kind of stuff around on a dime. I don’t know whether Conservancy intentionally timed their statement to go up during SFLC’s conference — I haven’t asked them — but even if they had, who could blame them? I would certainly have done so in their shoes: that’s when the statement would be most effective, after all. It’s a little hard for me to work up sympathy for SFLC on this one (and it’s not as if SFLC gave Conservancy any warning about the original action in the first place — more on that below). It seems kind of nervy for SFLC to blame Conservancy for a timing opportunity that was basically SFLC’s choice.
In general I won’t comment on matters of tone, except to say once here at the start that SFLC’s tone is arrogant and condescending: “…a puff of near-apocalyptic rhetoric…”, “We are glad to … help everyone avoid unnecessary hyperventilation”, and so on.
Wait a moment: SFLC just asked the U.S. government to essentially force Conservancy to change the name it has been using publicly for over a decade. I do not think that Conservancy’s well-reasoned and basically calm opposition to this bizarre proposal counts as “hyperventilation”.
What Has Happened?
At the end of September, SFLC notified the US Patent and Trademark Office that we have an actual confusion problem caused by the trademark “Software Freedom Conservancy,” which is confusingly similar to our own pre-existing trademark. US trademark law is all about preventing confusion among sources and suppliers of goods and services in the market. Trademark law acts to provide remedies against situations that create likelihood of, as well as actual, confusion. When you are a trademark holder, if a recent mark junior to yours causes likelihood of or actual confusion, you have a right to inform the PTO that the mark has issued in error, because that’s not supposed to happen. This act of notifying the PTO of a subsequently-issued mark that is causing actual confusion is called a petition to cancel the trademark. That’s not some more aggressive choice that the holder has made; it is not an attack, let alone a “bizarre” attack, on anybody. That’s the name of the process by which the trademark holder gets the most basic value of the trademark, which is the right to abate confusion caused by the PTO itself.
The holder of the junior mark causing the confusion has of course a full range of due process rights to defend the mark that it has registered, as it should have. So the result is very like a trial, and is conducted before an administrative tribunal called the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board. Its job is to decide whether the PTO wrongly registered a mark likely to cause confusion, which the PTO isn’t statutorily authorized to do. The process is formal, conducted under rules like the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and its records are publicly accessible. This is not a proceeding in which anyone is seeking an injunction or claiming damages. The only question being asked is whether the PTO should have issued the trademark.
The junior mark causing the confusion was applied for in November 2011, almost a year after SFLC ceased representing the Conservancy; the Conservancy had its own lawyer, who signed the trademark application.
From reading this, you’d never guess that SFLC was fine with the name from 2006 until recently, and had even served as Conservancy’s counsel until 2011, with the name “Software Freedom Conservancy” in active use the entire time, would you?
By no means does this situation justify the tone of defensive overreaction we heard from the Conservancy management on Friday, which was like reading a declaration of war issued in response to a parking ticket.
One, there was nothing resembling a declaration of war, at least not by Conservancy (re-read their post and see for yourself). Conservancy is understandably opposed to a trademark action filed against them, and they rightly question the wisdom of a supposed ally in taking that action. If their response is a “declaration of war”, then I’m Marie of Roumania.
Two, this is much more serious than a “parking ticket”. It is not an overreaction to be very irked when an ally — an ally that had never expressed a problem with the organization’s name in all the years before — suddenly goes straight to the top and asks the USPTO to cancel the trademark. SFLC’s simile does not convince.
Why Didn’t You Settle This Between the Organizations?
We too think this is a very good question. We have tried repeatedly for almost three years to get a meeting with Karen and Bradley in order to discuss this and other claims we have concerning their and the Conservancy’s activities. In all that time, they have never once agreed to meet with us to hear and discuss our concerns. They have presented transparently dilatory responses, such as being “too busy,” or even “always too busy” when we asked them to set their own time. Sometimes we have not been offered so much as the courtesy of a refusal.
We have asked intermediaries—friends, business associates, comrades in the free software movement, other alumni of SFLC—to stress to Bradley and Karen the importance of opening negotiations. One would think this unnecessary with people who talk so frequently about the importance of communication and opening connections with respect to “compliance enforcement.” But here, when the shoe is on the other foot, no efforts on our part have gotten us the slightest progress in bringing about discussions to resolve differences.
We think that waiting more than thirty months after initial contact—and after repeated efforts at both direct and mediated communication seeking to open negotiations—is not too little time to allow before beginning to bring our claims.
These paragraphs are disingenuous in several ways.
First, Conservancy has consistently been willing to meet, but merely insisted as a ground rule that the conduct of the meeting must be professional and civil. This was both responsible and a smart move on their part. The meeting isn’t going to be productive if it involves shouting and insults, and they had reason to believe that was a real possibility.
If you don’t know the personalities involved here, you might not understand why such a ground rule would be necessary. Let me simply say this: I have known Conservancy’s Executive Director, Karen Sandler, for a decade now, and worked very closely with her on a number of efforts, some of which involved contentious counterparties. I have never seen Karen lose her temper nor engage in personal insults or ad hominem arguments, not even with parties who frankly deserved it. She has consistently gone out of her way to keep dialogue constructive, to treat people with respect, and wherever possible to find solutions that work for everyone, even in very difficult conversations. If Karen is unwilling to meet with someone without getting agreement on ground rules, there must be a very serious reason for that.
So when SFLC says “they have never once agreed to meet with us”, I read that as “Conservancy wasn’t willing to waste time on a pointless face-to-face meeting on SFLC’s home turf with no written agenda and with SFLC refusing to explicitly commit to basic ground rules of civil discourse”. If I were running Conservancy, I would have made exactly the same decision.
Second, regarding SFLC’s claim that they tried to communicate about this specific trademark complaint:
I think I am probably one of the intermediaries referred to in SFLC’s post, and as I don’t wish to violate any confidences, I cannot go into detail about the conversation in which I was asked to be a go-between. But I can state the conclusion that I immediately drew from that conversation, which was that there was no point trying to be an intermediary. SFLC’s view of things was so different from Conservancy’s, and so far removed from anything I could recognize as reality, that I could not carry any useful message to Conservancy other than “I don’t understand what you should have done differently”. I can also state that this trademark issue was not raised then. The dispute at that time was about something else entirely (and, for the record, that other matter was also an instance where I felt that SFLC had acted poorly toward Conservancy, though it was not nearly as serious as this trademark claim).
I never heard a word about this supposed trademark problem from either party before SFLC filed their public protest at USPTO. Now, I talk to people at Conservancy all the time, sometimes multiple times a week. We discuss all sorts of things, including occasionally matters that they have asked me to keep in confidence. If SFLC had sent Conservancy some kind of notice, written or verbal, that they had a trademark issue with Conservancy and would like to discuss it, I am pretty sure I would have heard about that. Actually, let me state that more strongly: I am positive I would have heard about that. There is just no way something so important wouldn’t have come up in our conversations. It’s too big. If I didn’t hear about it, the obvious conclusion for me to come to is that Conservancy hadn’t heard about it either.
So SFLC’s claim that they have been trying to get in touch with Conservancy “in order to discuss this and other claims we have concerning [their] activities” is misleading. Notice how carefully SFLC worded it. They do not quite say that SFLC did something to make Conservancy aware of this specific trademark claim before filing a protest at the USPTO. If you read the post quickly, of course, you might get that impression, but if you read it carefully, like a lawyer, you realize SFLC hasn’t actually said that at all. What they’ve said is that they tried to get a meeting, and that they (SFLC) knew what they wanted that meeting to be about. But they don’t actually say that they informed Conservancy of the agenda, and my belief is that they did not — because if they had, their post would surely quote the email or document they had sent. SFLC shows us no such quote, and they don’t show it because it doesn’t exist.
From the evidence I’m aware of, and based on SFLC’s own post, I don’t believe the SFLC gave Conservancy any warning about their trademark complaint, let alone tried to raise the issue in a good-faith way before resorting to a USPTO filing. I would be happy to be corrected by SFLC or by anyone else possessing the requisite information on this point.
In any case… come on, it’s 2017: if you need to communicate something to someone, there are lots of ways to do it that don’t involve an in-person meeting. Send an email — then you get a date-stamped digital record, as a bonus. Send old-fashioned registered mail through the U.S. Postal Service. Send a courier; the two organizations are both in New York City, so it won’t be expensive. Or, if it’s so important that it be in person, ask to meet on neutral ground with some trusted third party present. To the best of my knowledge, SFLC did none of these things. Again, corrections welcome.
When Conservancy says they were surprised by the USPTO filing, they mean it — for them, it came out of the blue. Conservancy’s exact words on this: “… SFLC made no efforts — over the last eleven years since Conservancy was formed, nor in the last five years since we registered our name as a trademark — to express any concerns about our name, or a desire for us to change our name. We first learned of SFLC’s complaints from this surprise attack of legal action.”
I have never known anyone at Conservancy to lie.
Safety For Others
Friday’s response from the Conservancy’s management is grossly disproportionate, and—in view of their long-maintained refusal to communicate with us—irresponsible. The first responsibility of asset managers, who have others’ rights and valuables in their keeping, is prudence. One would hardly associate the word “prudent” with either their statement on Friday or the course of conduct over the last three years that it culminates.
Special concern should be expressed about the aspect of their statement darkly suggesting that we are creating risks for projects associated with the Conservancy. The driver of any risk, it seems to us, is the reckless refusal of the Conservancy’s management to negotiate with us for settlement of our claims, which has left us to pursue last-resort approaches we have done everything we could to avoid.
But we absolutely agree that within the free software community we must protect projects producing software from any avoidable risks in the organizational or legal situation around them. That’s what our law practice at SFLC is always about. Any project working with the Conservancy that feels in any way at risk should contact us. We will immediately work with them to put in place measures fully ensuring that they face no costs and no risks in this situation.
I was shocked when I read that. I mean, is this a trademark dispute or a 1930’s-style Stalinist whispering campaign?
This is a transparent attempt to undermine Conservancy’s mission by sowing fear, uncertainty, and doubt among its members and supporters. It is unlikely to have any harmful effect on Conservancy, fortunately. My prediction instead is that SFLC will one day come to understand that including that not-particularly-subtle attack was an unwise and deeply unprofessional non sequitur.
For what it’s worth: I’m pretty familiar with Conservancy’s operations, and have sat on their Evaluation Committee for several years (the Evaluation Committee assists Conservancy by providing third-party evaluation of applications by free software projects to become members; the position is unpaid). I cannot imagine an organization having higher ethical standards and levels of care regarding the management of member projects’ assets. Anyone who knows Conservancy staff personally knows how seriously they take their work, and how they bend over backwards to make sure they always behave with utmost responsibility. If the Software Freedom Conservancy were a bank, I would sleep soundly at night knowing my accounts were there. The idea that software projects should suddenly worry about Conservancy, and should contact SFLC of all places to assuage that worry, is risible.
What Should Happen Next?
Everyone observing this situation, we suspect, knows the answer to this question. But we cannot bring to the table counterparties who have so far refused to meet us, and who on Friday used their communications energies greatly and unnecessarily to increase polarization, thus making diplomacy harder. We recognize this pattern in their conduct from other situations. We have spent the last eighteen months preparing to bring our claims in the various relevant fora. We are now, as we have been throughout, fully prepared to meet immediately for a discussion of all outstanding issues without preconditions. Otherwise, it seems evident that more shoes will drop.
It wouldn’t be a Stalinist whispering campaign without the thinly veiled threat at the end, would it?
I am very familiar with both organizations. Though I’m somewhat more familiar with Conservancy these days, as I’ve worked more closely with them in recent years, I have watched (and learned from) SFLC for a long time as well, and have even been represented by them. I have utmost confidence in Conservancy’s ethics and sense of responsibility regarding both their mission and their members. If a defense fund becomes necessary as a result of this action, I will contribute to it and will urge others to do the same.
Now comes the sad part of this post.
When I moved to New York City in 2008 (I stayed there until 2012), I was both professionally and financially at a low point. I knew I cared deeply about free software, but I didn’t really have a game plan or much in the way of resources. New York is a tough place to land in that condition.
SFLC’s founder and Executive Director, Eben Moglen, was extraordinarily supportive. He let me use some space — private space, with a door! — at SFLC’s offices in Manhattan. This was much more than just a desk and somewhere to go in the morning: it was a community of like-minded people, many of whom remain friends and colleagues of mine to this day. My (now) business partner James Vasile was one of them; so was Karen Sandler and so was Bradley Kuhn, now both at the Software Freedom Conservancy.
Eben didn’t just give me a space and a community. He gave generously of his time and attention, even when he had plenty else on his own plate. He has a fine strategic mind, and knows how to combine that with his broad knowledge of history to see whole that which others — myself included — see only in parts. He would ask questions and share his thoughts; I benefited from his advice and perspective many times, and have continued to do so, albeit less often, even after leaving New York.
It pains me to pay back his help and friendship with this post. I have written in an angry tone because I am angry; SFLC’s treatment of Conservancy has been unacceptable for a while now, and this trademark action was the last straw for me. These two organizations should be allies, working together where they agree on tactics and respectfully parting ways where they do not. Conservancy has consistently demonstrated a willingness to do that; SFLC should too.
Update 2017-11-11: Eben Moglen and I have now talked about this post. We discussed many things, and he made two points that I felt were undeniable. One was that in my original version I mentioned a previous matter in which SFLC had “acted in bad faith” toward Conservancy. This was both too strong and simply inaccurate, as it was not bad faith. I have reworded that passage to say instead “acted poorly toward Conservancy” — and apologized to Eben: acting in bad faith is a serious accusation, and I should have not have used those words. He also pointed out that it would have been both proper diligence and proper friendship to call him and ask about the trademark matter (and anything else) before posting. I agree, and he has my apology for not having done so.
Unrelated to the above, I made a minor change after initial publication, to clarify one point. I don’t think the change is very important, but for the sake of transparency, here’s the diff.
An Op-Ed by Senator Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona on Tuesday (“In a Democracy, There Can Be No Bystanders”) was printed with the wrong title. The correct title is “I Am Running For President in 2020 Via a GOP Primary Challenge”.
The New York Times regrets the error.
Update 2017-05-14: I’d thought Brand New Congress might be the group this post was looking for, but on closer examination, it’s clear that their platform would be unacceptable to most conservative politicians, including anti-Trump Republicans. Not that Brand New Congress has bad ideas — I like most of them. But their plans won’t fly in GOP constituencies.
Do you know if there’s any organized support for anti-Trump Republicans out there? For example, a group promote openly anti-Trump Republicans in GOP primaries or special elections — something comparable to Indivisible but right-leaning?
I’d wanted to go on a data-gathering spree, and find out what constituencies normally lean Republican but nevertheless either didn’t go for Trump or didn’t go for him strongly in the general election. But I am not going to have time to do it (my company is doing well, which is great, but it means I’m swamped with work right when I’d most like to be involved in politics). So I’m taking the lame way out and asking the Internet.
If there’s data out there that could identify such voting districts — places where an openly anti-Trump Republican candidate might get elected, and is more likely than a Democrat would be to defeat a pro-Trump Republican — it would be great for those places to get more attention. There are a whole lot of GOP voters and donors out there who have always disliked Trump. If they had an outlet to support a better GOP, that would be a win for everyone. This is a realistic hope: after all, Republicans failing to fall in line behind Trump is what led to the embarrassing failure — or would be embarrassing, were he capable of embarrassment — of his attempt to repeal Obamacare.
So I’m just curious if anyone’s working on this. The closest thing I’ve found so far is Stand Up Republic, but there is not yet any clear call to action at their site, other than signing up for their email list.
I’m a Prime member there, which just means I pay $50/year to read the same articles anyone can read for free, because the site is so good I want to support them. TPM has done sharp political reporting for a long time — they broke the U.S. attorneys firing scandal back in the George W. Bush administration — but they’ve really come into their own since the election of Donald Trump. In addition to their reporting, their commentary, especially from founder Josh Marshall, is spot-on. Two examples, just from today: He Xeroxed the Convention Speech and A Few Thoughts on Entering the Trump Era. Yes, I like them because they’re on my side (our side, I hope). TPM doesn’t pretend to neutrality: it’s a center-left political reporting site that hires really good investigative journalists, is aghast at the election of Trump, and intends to give its readers the tools they need to figure out what’s happening and to counter it.
Give it a try. If you like it too, I hope you’ll also become a paying subscriber. It’s cheap and they’re doing great work. Enough said.