We sent the following testimony on H.2842, a bill before the Massachusetts Legislature. We believe that H.2842 would hurt Massachusetts businesses, harm open source software and reduce competition in Massachusetts.
Please tell the Joint Committee on the Judiciary that you oppose H.2842 by contacting the chairs of the committee listed below. If your Representative or Senator is on the committee, please contact them as well.
Senator Cynthia Stone Creem
Representative Eugene L. O'Flaherty
We formatted the text of the bill for easier reading here.
on behalf of the Massachusetts Pirate Party
Senator Cynthia Stone Creem
Chair, Joint Committee on the Judiciary
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Chair Creem,
Thank you and the members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary for providing us with the opportunity to provide testimony opposing H.2842: An Act relative to unfair competition.
H.2842 would hold liable any company which has a supplier that uses unlicensed software. Such a company would then face penalties including:
- monetary damages;
- restrictions on the sale of its products; and
- potential seizure of its products.
We believe that this bill would place an enormous burden on Massachusetts companies as it would force them to audit all of their suppliers or face huge penalties and endless litigation.
During an already difficult time in our economy, H.2842 would make it even harder for Massachusetts companies to create jobs in Massachusetts.
The bill includes many provisions that are broad and undefined and we believe it will lead to unintended consequences and will discourage competition in Massachusetts.
Additionally, H.2842 will favor closed source software over open source software. The bill explicitly states that it cannot be used to defend against infringement of open source licenses. This provision would prevent an open source software manufacturer from suing a US software company when that company’s overseas partners violate the software manufacturer’s GPL or other open source license. This law benefits closed source software, while disadvantaging open-source software, its chief competition.
We fully expect that this law will be used by closed source software manufacturers to extract money from innovative companies. We have seen this done repeatedly with patents. Patent trolls have used their patent portfolios to demand money from small iPhone application vendors ( http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2011/05/patent-troll-shakes-down-iphone-app-programmers.ars ). Even Microsoft has used its patent portfolio to force Google Android phone manufacturers to kick back money to it for each device sold ( http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2011/10/microsoft-collects-license-fees-on-50-of-android-devices-tells-google-to-wake-up.ars ).
The H.2842’s supporters maintain that it will prompt overseas companies to stop infringing on software produced in the United States. We do not find that assertion credible since it will be US companies that pay damages, not overseas companies.
Ultimately, this bill will hurt Massachusetts companies by forcing them to take defensive measures to protect themselves from the effects of H.2842, rather than innovating. It will advantage closed source source software over open source software and decrease competition in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Pirate Party urges the Joint Committee on the Judiciary to reject H.2842.
Massachusetts Pirate Party