Drobe's history overview doesn't tell the full story:
"In 2003 Castle said it bought the OS "lock, stock and barrel" from Pace, however ROL continue to dispute the level of ownership Castle has of the OS, drawing attention to the wording of the buy-up announcement. However Castle maintain to date that it bought the OS from Pace and had instructed its own lawyers to double-check its legal position. A year later Castle and ROL briefly kissed and made up after Castle tried to stop ROL developing its stream of RISC OS soon after Castle announced its purchase of the OS."
If anyone at ROL has any doubts over Castle ownership of RISC OS I suggest they re-read the letter sent to them by Pace on 1 June 2004.
The most significant part of recent history is glossed over by "kissed and made up". On 15th October 2004 Paul Middleton, on behalf of ROL, signed a new licence agreement with Castle in the presence of the other ROL directors, an independent witness and an emminent lawyer specialising in IPR from a multi-national law firm. This licence is now the ONLY legal authority ROL have to use Castle's IPR and distribute Risc OS. In signing this document ROL and its Director's formally accepted that the 1999 E14 licence, along with any other agreements, side letters etc, was terminated and ALL previous disputes closed (the 1999 licence had in any event already been terminated in May 2004 as alluded to in the Drobe article).
The licence was a complicated document running to 52 pages plus attachments. However some salient points which I believe were discussed publically at the time and seem to have been forgotten:
1. Under the agreement all IPR is assigned to Castle, including IPR of all derivative works created since 1999.
2. The ROL sources would be merged into the Castle CVS repository to create a single RISC OS source tree.
3. After 12 months from the date of the agreement (i.e. 15 August 2005) ROL could no longer sell new versions of RISC OS 4 but must transition to the new merged OS.
4. Castle would concentrate on developing the core OS and ROL would develop a set of desktop extensions, with appropriate cross licensing to each other.
5. Much more flexibility was afforded to ROL to allow it, and sublicencees such as advantage 6 and Virtual Acorn to sell into different markets.
"ROL's new strengthened stance on the OS ownership dispute appears to have come about after company director Aaron Timbrell reviewed the paperwork documenting ROL's licence to develop and distribute RISC OS. This agreement was initially drawn up with E-14, a company formed during the break-up of Acorn that took on the intellectual property rights (IPR) to the technology that we know as RISC OS. This technology was subsequently snapped up by Pace to use in set-top boxes."
"In a comment posted on Drobe, Aaron wrote: "Once RISCOS Ltd had fulfilled certain obligations it acquired all 'right and title' to versions of RISC OS developed over the last decade. There have been some behind the scenes discussions with regard to this going on for some time".
OK Let's inject some FACTS here:
The 1999 licence was terminated; ROL have NO RIGHTS UNDER IT, their rights to use RISC OS are only those granted by the 15 Oct 2004 licence under which all IPR, including derivative works is assigned to Castle. However, clause 3.6 of the licence, which Aaron is citing, does survive termination so let's look at what it says (in simple terms):
Clause (a)(i) States that all IPR including derivative works belong to E14 (Now Castle by succession)
Clause (a)(ii) Provides an exception to (i) whereby ROL can own the changes made to the IPR contained in a derivative work, but NOT THE UNDERLYING IPR. However, there was a strict condition that to own the IPR ROL had to provide E14 with the source code to all the changes they made in the first 4 years of the licence agreement. Note that in the document the word PROVIDED prefacing this condition is in capital letters. By failing to comply with this ROL has also prejudiced its rights of ownership after the expiry of the four year period, i.e. all derivative works since also belong to Castle.
Apart from one early release to E14, ROL have failed to feedback any further sources to Pace, accordingly ROL have not complied with the requirements of 3.6 (a)(ii) the derivative works are therefore owned by E14 (and again Castle by sucession). Furthermore, if ROL did feedback the sources and OWN the changes in the Derivative work, a further condition of (a)(ii) is that they provide E14 (Hence Castle) a licence to do whatever they want with them free of charge.
In summary, Castle owns all the underlying IPR in ALL versions of RISC OS, and by implication of ROL's failure to comply with clause 3.6 (a)(ii) of the 1999 licence all derivative works created by ROL in accordance with clause 3.6 (a)(i). Aaron's claim that ROL has acquired all 'right and title' is pure bulls***. Even had ROL complied totally with the requirements of the licence they would only have owned the changes they made (not the underlying IPR) and Castle would have had access to all of the derivative works to use in other projects, including ROOL.
Anyway, its all irrelevant as under the 15 Oct 2004 Licence ROL has already assigned all right and title in the 1999 software and derivative works to Castle.
Well, that sets the record straight from Castle's perspective. I'm sure it will give people on this board plenty to gossip about and they'll be plenty of Black is White type arguments from the usual suspects
So where does RISC OS go from here? My personal opinion (others at Castle may not share these), is to let sleeping dogs lie. I had no wish to get involved in this debate after the collosal waste of time in 2004, but when ROL director's start making blatantly untrue and unfounded claims on public forums denigrating Castle's IPR something has to be done. I feel replying here is more appropriate than sending yet another lawyer's letter.
ROL is able to exploit RISC OS for commercial use under its licence of 15 Oct 2004. It is regretable that many of the terms of the licence were never complied with, particularly those regarding setting up a joint source repository and merging the two OS threads together to move the platform forward. Castle always has legal options it can follow, and there are ample grounds for terminating ROL's current licence and sending out more "cease and desist" orders, but unless the provocation from Aaron and others continues why bother? It won't serve any useful purpose. My suggestions to everyone involved:
1. Stop arguing about who has the rights to do what, get on and work together to make what little is left of your market happen
2. Aaron and co should retract the erroneous, defamatory and potentially libelous comments they've made on public forums
3. ROL should, instead of trying to bully ROOL with false claims, work with them for the good of everyone's business. I'm quite certain if ROL embrace and assist ROOL the benefits will be far greater than if ROL trys to obstruct them. Bear in mind what ROOL is doing is non commercial, properly licensed by Castle and totally legal; ROL should have no issue with that.
4. As a gesture of collaboration and goodwill, ROL could always abide by the spirit of the 1999 licence (where Aaron has helpfully reminded us of the content of Clause 3.6) and handover to ROOL the source code for the derivative works created by ROL before March 2003 for inclusion in the open source project
5. Maybe stop making these tit for tat comments on drobe and newsgroups and concentrate on positive aspects?
6. ROL Shareholders can vote for whatever they want, but that doesn't make the position any more legal. Fancifal thinking is still fancifal thinking. Just because a group of people expend vast quantities of hot air on a subject it still doesn't mean they are right, nor does it change the content of legal agreements ROL have already signed up to.
7. Last but not least, if Paul Middleton could find his way to pay just a bit of the several years back royalties ROL owes Castle for use of Castle IPR I'm sure it would be appretiated
Well, its 8 p.m. here where I live in Thailand, a very pleasent 20 degrees outside and I'm off for a beer! On the way out I'll remember to feed the pig for his evening flight.