The Institute for Open Technology and Applications (IOTA) will be holding its “Freedom in Computer Technology” seminar later this month at Science City in Kolkata on December 26-28. This seminar aims to promote FOSS in West Bengal and is targeted at state policy makers, industry professionals and academics from Kolkata and neighboring areas. Panel discussions and sessions on open source technologies, business models, licensing, standards and open hardware are on the program. FSF has announced a 3 hour talk on ‘Copyright vs. Community’ by RMS at the event on Dec 26. If you’re able to attend, please send me feedback about the event.
IOTA’s charter includes promotion of FOSS in government and academia and was founded in 2007. Supported by Sun Microsystems India and Red Hat India, IOTA seeks to provide information on FOSS and open standards to organizations looking to understand how open source can fit into their IT infrastructure. IOTA’s resource center at Jadavpur University also offers training on Linux and Open Office. It would be great to see more quality training on other components of the LAMP stack from IOTA as well as more community participation from ILUG-Cal and other local groups.
Transparency is key in enabling people to participate in the creation of wealth and well-being in society. In the past decade, free and open source software (FOSS) has become one of the major catalysts in increasing transparency by lowering the barrier to access the best software technologies. Software Freedom Day (SFD) celebrates this important role of FOSS in making this change happen globally.
Educate, distribute, install and promote the use of free and open source software on Software Freedom Day this year in your community – in your neighborhood, in your school and at work.
Share your knowledge and participate in the nearest SFD celebration. Visit the Software Freedom Day website to find out where you can participate in your local area.
Show your support for FOSS and for software freedom.
As the Web becomes an integral part of our lives and culture, web applications are being used as online services at an unprecedented scale. Email, calendaring, social bookmarks, social news, photo sharing, video sharing, social networking, mapping are all applications that we use every day. Free and open source software is being used to build many of these new web services. But we find that most of these online applications are closed source and have turned waters murky in terms of ownership (especially when open source licensed software is used). Separation of usage and distribution of software has changed the relationships between software and users. Who owns what part of the software, who controls what part, what rights do users have and how do they protect them are just some of the questions that one has to deal with.
It’s great to see a new initiative “Autonomo.us” launched by a group of hackers and activists who are concerned about the effects by network services on user freedom. Some of contributors in this effort include Benjamin Mako Hill (MIT/FSF), Bradley Kuhn (SFLC and Software Freedom Conservancy), James Vasile (SFLC) and Luis Villa (GNOME Foundation, OSI Legal Advisory Board). The group is supported by the FSF and intends to serve as a forum to examine issues raised by network services and establish an “informed” position on software freedom and network services.
In January 2006, India’s Patent Office rejected a patent application for Gleevec, a leukemia cancer drug by Swiss pharmaceutical Novartis. Now, in August 2007, the Chennai High Court has rejected Novartis’ appeal to overturn this rejection.
Novartis claims that India’s ruling will stunt R&D and innovation in pharmaceuticals and violates WTO intellectual property agreements. But the Indian government sees this decision as helping ensure that affordable medicines continue to be available for her people and those of other developing countries. Such medicines are essential to combat killer diseases like AIDS and cancer. Indian companies manufacture generic Gleevec (known as Glivec in India) for one-tenth the price offered by Novartis.
Why does this matter?
India’s ruling will deter international pharma giants from trying to extend their monopolies by patenting newer versions of existing medicines. This ruling allows India to continue manufacturing inexpensive generic drugs. For example, 85% of AIDS generics to Africa are provided by India’s pharmaceuticals. That’s significant.
This precedent also establishes a model for rejecting software patents in India. The arguments that favor availability of generic medicines equally apply to free and open source software (FOSS). India cannot afford the monopolies and high prices brought about by software patents. FOSS is the only practical way developing nations can afford long-term, large-scale IT automation. Without automation, India and others cannot scale to provide the infrastructure and banking, education and health care needed to ensure prosperity for billions of people across the globe.