August 27, 2009

Updates: Private Foundations and Licensing

Category: Berkman,F/OSS,IP Law,Politics — Biella @ 1:57 pm

A few updates on the EveryBlock case and the Knight Foundation. Tieguy (Luis Villa) left a comment which I am quoting in full below:

That said, it is entirely possible that Knight was ill-advised and believed (as many casual users do) in the magical power of open source licenses to create community. If this did indeed catch Knight off guard, it might be worth pulling people together to discuss best practices for grant-making organizations who want to create real value and not just lumps of well-licensed code.

Related to this, Berkman has released a whitepaper on (apparently) just this topic today. Probably worth checking out for folks interested in this topic.

Then there is this excellent interview led by Jonah Bossewitch with Chris Mackie who is a program office at Mellon.

Update: Here are some thoughts I penned down very very quickly in response to the interview:

1. I can see the argument about complex software products benefiting
from the BSD: at the same time I can totally see the value of just
keeping it open as well so everyone can benefit from improvements to
something that is as complex as Chris points point. Also if you keep
it totally internal to your shop, you don’t need to re-release,
although if you want to combine propriety and non-proprietary software
and then re-release I can see the value of the BSD code

2. When it comes to the question of ownership, where he says IP trumps licenses,
Chris Mackie does not seem to link the complexity of project to the licenses. When I was
having a discussion about this on Debian-devel, a number of folks
mentioned how very complex projects with many contributors, each who
had copyright and asserted GPL, worked through this swarm to protect
one person trumping ownership at some future point. They saw this as a
feature, not a bug, which I completely agree with. So some projects
are –and please correct me if I am wrong–far far more susceptible to
of weakness of the licenses if 1) they don’t hand over to a
trustworthy organization, like the FSF or the copyrights are held in a
few small hands. Once you start spreading the copyrights over a large
mas of people, it becomes very very difficult to ever assert a
copyright up and above the GPL.

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