Open Letter to the Amateur Radio Community

As many of you have noticed over the past few days there has been a major upending of the AREDN project. First off I want to say this is an open source project, the source will remain available via git as it always has, anyone is free to fork the code and create a new development with it, nothing is held ransom its all available, I'm even willing to help any group who asks with information on how the back end is currently built on this side to create builds (Gerrit+Jenkins for those of you who were techs.)

Unfortunately on June 23rd (AKA Field Day) I Conrad Lara KG6JEI was informed a trademark known as a character mark (because it asserts only the characters without a regard to font are being trademarked) had been granted for “AREDN” This generated a concern and on Facebook it was confirmed by an individual who was considered a member of the “Core Team” it was a group he was working with that had submitted this application. It is important to keep in mind that during these first 48 hours a significant amount of this is being done from a cellphone because of a presence at field day and the normal tools for a server admin to research and respond were not available.

At the time this confirmation was made it triggered two legal issues 1) A trademark prevents you from using a phrase without a license to use (unless it falls under Fair Use), this would put operating the website as it currently existed in possible legal jeopardy to incur significant legal liability. This issue alone caused a requirement to shutdown the website to comply with US Law. 2) This confirmed that this was done without the consent of 100% of the AREDN development team. Whether you accept my assertion that I created the names AREDN and Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network, or you accept the Facebook statement by Andre Hansen K6AH that it was a 'collaborative' effort this creates an issue where not all legal owners of the content have agreed to file the paperwork in question. IP and Copyright law require sign offs of all involved parties to use them. This additionally raised serious questions about the integrity of the group as it currently existed. As a IT Security Engineer this triggered a need to ensure users are protected and that the website was re-route to a location outside of the hands of these individuals until it could be looked into further. At the time I chose BBHN's website, while they may be out of date to current AREDN firmware I felt they still had basic mesh information on their site and they would be the best location for users to gain information about mesh technologies. Additionally it felt right as an acknowledgment that without BBHN's hard work over the early years of mesh networking we would not be where we are today.

Since that time I have learned the trademark listed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was only approved for assignment and not fully approved and in effect, this does reduce concern but does not eliminate them as it will have to go through an appeals process and like any court even with the strongest case you are never guaranteed to win.

It will be said that I maliciously shut down the site but as noted in point 1 this was a legal response at the time to avoid incurring litigation, had the team actually worked with me on this (shared licensing or worked with me to form this corporation they created and gotten me to transfer my rights) we wouldn't be in this situation. These are responses and protocols you learn from years of running servers and responding to evolving situations as they occur. COPPA, DMCA, GDPR, these are just a few major laws that apply to the website, many of which that the group has little to no knowledge about (I had to inform the whole team about COPPA when we started, I just found out the website never had its DMCA registrations filled out, GDPR is a new development that the webmaster never responded to inquiries about website compliance.) As a domain owner you are responsible for these actions and become aware of these issues and you take actions to protect the website against violating them. These are also the basics you need to know to start an internet corporation.

There is a post floating around that I am welcome to work with them if I am willing to hand over the domain name, I ask how can you work with a group that takes a technology and secretly trademarks it and forms a corporation without telling you and without working with you on the formation? I suppose this should not be a surprise they are demanding the domain from me now they have a corporation formed as in prior discussions I had reminded them that I never agreed to transfer the domain to them or any corporation and that I would only turn it over to a group I felt I could trust and to receive the domain they would need to prove I could trust them (again lots of mistrust going on inside the organization at this time) and that in light of what I viewed over the years as a failure to adhere to basic gentleman agreements the team had in place and other statements they had made about what they wanted to do that all raised significant concerns in my mind that I could not personally trust the group at that time.

In addition this makes me feel the group still does not understand the remainder of the laws at play here that the domain name isn't the only item at play, If I gave them the domain name but didn't transfer the IP rights or the copyright rights to content created solely or in collaboration with myself the website can not continue as is. This group now published a copy of the website on a new domain name, however to my knowledge they have not yet got the sign off of all content owners to do this (since the team never agreed on a Terms of Service for the website basic copyright law applies meaning the group has no ownership rights to the content.) Many users will not complain about this I'm sure and lots of the site will run as is.

Regarding the mass mailing sent out to users:

A new mass mailing has also been sent by out that leaves out a lot of facts. Like all publicity a bit of truth and a fair bit of publicity included in this letter the group sent out, I'll give you my side and I'll let you choose what you want to believe.

As noted above I assert that I created the AREDN/Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network name, I was also the first to register the domain name and have held the domain name registrations from the beginning. I have receipts to prove this despite Andres Facebook claim that I am only the technical contact for the domain.

They are correct I did push code review, an item they agreed to, they are also correct I was the only individual with +2 rights to provide 'final blessing' to a build, the idea was that both Joe and Darryl the other active programs would get up to speed and get +2 rights, but due to a number of issues they hadn't received them yet (failure to attribute source code to its proper owner which is a signficant legal issue, remote code exploits in their submissions,etc) and addtional a number of delays occurred because they would refuse to solve issues pointed out (not just by me but by coders rejecting the code upstream at OLSR or LEDE/OpenWRT.) It is hard to say I was solely responsible for the delays, we have had a lot of MAJOR issues, and yes I'll admit I have slowed them down a by running code review. There was anger that I would not let code through with obvious flaws and accept we would 'fix them later' and anger that to ensure we research the full impact (a number of issues including some I am currently bound by security ethics not to discuss at the moment) turned out to be bigger than anticipated because of this, on the other hand some issues turned out to be smaller). Andre had requested approximately 2 years ago at a lunch meeting I take a more guiding vs developing role to bring the team up to speed, unfortunately this meant a lot of code wasn't ready on first passes, much of this code spent more time with code review than it would of taken me to write it myself but then the team would never learn any new skills. however when questioned team members would often just refuse to deal with it any further for an extended period of time. Additionally work scheduling delayed my ability to work on the project and continuing rising tensions inside the group made me even less likely to want to work on code so yes I was indeed far less active these past years than I have been in order to protect my health (skyrocking blood pressure every time I would see an email from them). I'll also note I was pushing for years to make the code review public for EVERYONE to see and comment on, I was repeatedly denied the permission by 'group vote' to publish the URL which I adhered to while at the same time core team members were discussing known security vulnerabilities with outside public not included in the security review without any reprimand so a bit of a 'double standard' internally was at play. It wasn't untill just a couple weeks ago that I got the code review to start being more public. In addition over the years by their vote I have been denied the permission to discuss core issues (like the AirOS firmware updater flaw) with outside developres because the team was afraid it would tip off Ubiquiti and it would cut us off from the features we thought we had found. This all slows down development.

I make no claim to (other than the fact they use AREDN by reference) the Graphical LOGO(which I can't find any trademark being filed for yet) or the phrase “At the Center of Emergency Preparedness” (a good phrase whoever came up with it wasn't me though) these I fully agree are not my creation. I do assert to being the creator of AREDN, Andre has been corrected on this more than once in private, including when Randy created the image I had to remind him him it was me letting him use the name for the physical logo. I chose the name because it was short and it had .com/.net and .org available (I have a rule after having bad incidents with domains in the past that you never create a name unless you can buy the 'big 3' domain names). This statement is also a change from Andre's Facebook post where he asserted that it was a 'collaborative' effort to create the name (I reminded him on Facebook that I created the name and we didn't bring the rest of the group in until the name was created) I'll accept Andre was very likely the FIRST to publish an article with the AREDN name (QRZ.com, a mass mailing, and other site posts) announcing the split from BBHN but that doesn't make him the creator of the group name and owner of the Intellectual Property

The statement 'has shut the site down and is asking $25,000 to restore it' is misleading. I offered them to buy 5 domains from me, my share of my rights in the AREDN tradename, and the copyright rights I own for any documents we collaborated on the AREDN website or any content I created solely by myself so they could continue running the website without having to do a data purge and without having to go through trademark litigation with the trademark office. Without these rights they have no legal right to publish large parts of the webiste they now run or use the AREDN phrase outside of Fair Use law (they do have a right to the source code as it is available to the public as open source) I've been on a few week break and was suppose to come back after Field Day debate just giving them the domain and stepping away to let the community benefit from them, or to work with them to do a smooth safe split (i had promised them if we split we would work together) or to possibly reevaluate working with them if i felt they had convinced me they had the user community at heart only to find they had secretly been doing all these actions in the backend, especially when we were in a period where we were trying to recover and see if we could be a single group that would work together to solve our differences and agree to continue working together and all the while they were secretly creating a corporation and registering trademarks. At that point it just became plain wrong to give them everything for free, but at the same time It angered me so much that I wasn't (and am still not) sure I ever want to work on a project to benefit the Ham Radio Community again.

I make no claim to being the easiest to work with, there were hundreds of decisions of the years I didn't agree with but I lived with them out of fairness to a group, but when it came to stability of the firmware I did take that seriously, especially since Andre was meeting with me at lunches (Often at Love Boat Sushi in Oceanside CA) pushing that I was still to take that role and that he felt (as I understood it) that the team was not skilled enough and that the critical eye of mine was still needed.

Ultimately we were probably going to go our separate ways no matter what in a few weeks, be it I walked away and gave everything, or we became two separate groups with different names, but finding a trademark request basically killed any smooth transition. Basically every post and email I am seeing is "we outnumber you so whatever we want to do is going to be the way it will be" (in fairness though at one point in the past I had pulled the "I'm the owner of these names, were going to do it this way or you can create a new group" phrase out, it seems they have taken that to be "well we will create a new group without you using everything you have done and the name you have created

Where does this leave the project?

Honestly I don't know where it leaves me, This is one in a long line of actions that cause me to become further uninterested in seeing the Amateur Radio Community prosper, and on the other hand I don't want to see the community suffer for the actions of a few individuals. So I honestly don't know where I am. As one opiton I have offered the group that has perpetrated this action an ability to buy the domains, the trademark rights, and copyright rights for content if they want it and want me to walk away.

I am sure the 'team' that did this will continue creating firmware under the new domain name they have setup, I'm sure they will even churn out builds quickly. This may be good or bad, I've rejected a lot of code and I've seen our upstream organizations reject code some of these team members have created on the spot because it was so far in left field for a solution.

I will leave them with these words of advice for them: Just because the code compiles and executes doesn't mean it is strong reliable code, just because it works perfectly when you send it expected data does not mean it will not crash in extremely painful ways when unexpected data is fed into it. If you are truly committed to a strong EMCOMM rated software than review all your code you submit without me involved and don't accept a flaw you can see at the time and wait for a user to report it in the future, be proactive not reactive otherwise the firmware will loos its advantages for HAM's.

For those who want them:

Soucrecode:

git://git.aredn.org/bbhn_brcm
An older rep but is the origional basis for all of the AREDN firmware, it was used for, great for history on a lot of commits that have a first entry of being a bulk import into git.

git://git.aredn.org/arednbase
The Core modified OpenWRT source code that the main operating system is run from.

git://git.aredn.org/aredn_ar71xx
The main tree where UI development and build system code has been placed to doate

git://git.aredn.org/arednpackages
Modified build packages for some packages used inside of AREDN.

http://downloads.aredn.org/
A collection of firmware images released to date along with additonal compiled binaries.