For years people have suggested that open-source adoption would go even faster if only open-source licenses like the GNU General Public License (GPL) were easier to understand. My personal belief is that "It's so hard to understand!" tends to be an euphemism for "I really want to pilfer this open-source software but its terms don't let me!" After all, the terms of the GPL have been explained repeatedly, including by the Free Software Foundation itself, which authored the GPL.
Most enterprises needn't worry about the "viral" aspect of open-source licenses. Because most enterprises use software for internal purposes, rather than distribute it, they don't trigger the standard open-source requirement to contribute back derivative works. A recent Federal Computer Week article by John Moore does an admirable job of clarifying this.
There are, however, instances in which an enterprise might well trigger the contribution requirement of open-source licensing. If a company sold off a division to another company, complete with the servers running modified open-source software, this would likely trigger a "distribution" and might … Read more
Yesterday, a US federal court of appeals handed open source a significant victory. An earlier district court ruling in Jacobsen v. Katzer had put open-source licensing on shaky ground by treating the Artistic License as a contract, with some injurious readings on likely remedies under an open-source license.Read more
The idea in the New Yorker article is that intellectual property (IP) law perhaps creates more inefficiencies than it resolves by making it too expensive to bother creating around existing IP and by making it apparently too expensive to round up IP owners to get the proper permissions. Against this argument was "Shados'" suggestion that what people really want is weak IP, not no IP:
Give your songs for free! The money is on the tour... Of course, as long as another band doesn't do -exactly- the same songs with a bigger marketing budget (and if everyone does it, ONE of the bands who copy you will most likely be better). Also, that's as long as the video of your show isn't in hi definition 7.1 surround blu ray the day after it for free (or even worse, SOLD by someone else). With absolutely -zero- copyright, its a lot less powerful as a promotion tool. (Now it works because you're only letting indiviuals step in... once corporations can rape your copyright too, things get a little grim). Oh, and without IP laws, people can rip off your name, your logo, everything, and not only sell it as free promotion to you... but make it -theirs- and use it for -themselves-.
If you're really well known... no one will think the "fake" Metallica is the real thing. If you're just starting though? BANG! Gone.
This reminds me of Radiohead's Thom Yorke, who commented to David Byrne that Radiohead's decision to give away In Rainbows could only work because Radiohead has an established brand, one for which people are willing to pay:… Read more
Larry Augustin, a venture capitalist and early open-source entrepreneur, made a really good point via e-mail in reference to my post about VMware violating the GPL. A range of people in the open-source community has been pointing the finger at VMware for allegedly creating derivative works of Linux in its ESX virtualization technology without contributing those changes back.
Larry's suggestion? If VMware is violating the GPL, so are a lot of others...with Linus Torvalds' (apparent) express permission. With Augustin's permission, here is part of his e-mail to me:
This is a longstanding general problem. It is not … Read more
Today the Linux world broke out the champagne to celebrate VMware joining the Linux Foundation. I agree. It's good news.
What it doesn't resolve is the allegation that VMware is in active and conscious violation of the GPL. Some of these allegations appear to be well-founded. VMware's lack of response to the allegations is not golden, especially in light of its embrace of the Linux Foundation.
Here's the problem with how VMware apparently uses Linux (though there's still an open question as to whether VMware does, in fact, use Linux, the evidence points pretty strongly to VMware's use of the open-source operating system).
Products like VMware ESX Server and Citrix Xen Server divide each computer into one or more virtual machines. The virtual machines provide logical memory, CPU, and device resources to guest operating systems. ESX Server, like Citrix Xen Server, uses a hypervisor to mediate between the virtual machines and physical resources of the computer, and an embedded operating system (distinct from guest operating systems) to implement essential virtualization operations.
ESX Server and Citrix Xen Server both use Linux as the embedded operating system. This is where the trouble begins.… Read more
Someone needs to tell the Open Source Initiative, Google, and others who fret about license proliferation that the market has already cut down the number of actively used licenses to just a small handful: L/GPL, BSD/Apache, MPL, and a few others (EPL, CPL). Even so, the OSI has decided to kickstart its stalled movement to reduce the number of open-source licenses condoned by the OSI.
As OSI board member Russ Nelson writes in the board minutes:Mr. Nelson moves that we form a license proliferation committee to evaluate all existing licenses into two tiers - an upper tier … Read more
It was depressing to read that William Patry, Google's senior copyright counsel, has decided to stop blogging. With only occasional gusts of lucid intelligence in the blogging community, Patry's blog was a full-out gale.
Due to "crazies...who do not have a life of their own and so insist on ruining the lives of others" by comment-bombing Patry's blog, and due to the deteriorating use of copyright to harm rather than help, Patry has opted to leave the blogging building:Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again.
On the "crazies," I completely understand. Anonymity and geographical distance make people bold to say things that ought not be said. I'm also guilty of this. I suspect we all are. Some things are too easily said with a keyboard.
But on the latter, it's dispiriting to see confirmation from such a copyright expert that we may be past redemption. In both copyright and patent law, the powerful continue to hoard their power (which is natural), while judges and lawmakers seek to capitulate to that power (which is not natural--or shouldn't be).… Read more
First it was the Affero General Public License that Google banned from its Google Code site, an open-source code hosting site. Google contended that it didn't want to encourage license proliferation by accepting projects using licenses that don't have widespread use and acceptance.
This week, however, Google nixed a highly popular, important license license: Mozilla Public License.
Google's Chris DiBona played the proliferation card again against the MPL, but also admitted that how Google determines whether a license is suitably popular is "so arbitrary." Great. That makes me feel better. At least there's a … Read more
In a fantastic, insightful post, Tim O'Reilly lays the blueprint for the next decade of open source in the cloud. Money quote?[I]f you care about open source for the cloud, build on services that are designed to be federated rather than centralized. Architecture trumps licensing any time.
This follows on Tim's constant theme over the last few years: Data is the new Intel Inside. It's a critical point given the almost meaningless tie between open-source licensing, triggered upon distribution of software, and the web, which is premised on non-distribution of software. Increasingly the web is being turned into competing bunkers of data, as Tim writes:… Read more