So my buddy Chris Anderson, a fellow digital/comm scholar pointed me to this very interesting case concerning an open source project, originally funded by a foundation that was just sold to a Large Corporation. Here are the details:
Everyblock is/was a grassroots journalism web-based project that got a kick start thanks to a 1.1 million grant provided by the Knight Foundation. The project, as its name, suggests, reports on uber-local news, like your hood, your block. That sort of thing. Laudable stuff. The Knight Foundation required that the code be open source and it looks like there is a GPLv3 attached to the codebase.
Apparently, Everyblock was just acquired by MSNBC. At question is not only whether the future of its codebase will remain open but whether it is ethical to take foundation money and turn around such a high profit from a corporate buy out.
Chris, whose passion is grassroots journalism, has been tracking development and has noted some of this ethical and possibly legal quandaries. As he noted on Gawker:
That’s not good enough, says CUNY assistant professor Christopher Anderson, who writes that MSNBC has skimmed off the value of a project “developed by common labor;” Anderson is upset in part because it’s not clear whether EveryBlock’s code will remain openly available. NYU Local publisher Cody Brown has called for more transparency around the deal.
Whether or not one agrees selling a foundation-funded project to a corporation is kinda dodgy or not, the legal question remains: since the code is under a GPL3, doesn’t MSNBC have to also keep it under the same license if modified? Or can they take the code base since Everyblock is a web-based service? (I really am looking for answers here).