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open source

Who Owns What

September 17, 2010 10:26:23.847

Joachim Tuchel makes an interesting point about open source licenses and issues, in his retrospective post about ESUG 2010:

The open source licenses panel was interesting and shocking at the same time. In short: no matter what you do, if someone wants to sue you, they can sue you and nobody will be able to tell you upfront in what direction this might go in court. But that might just be my impression. Lots of things to look at, lots of pitfalls for all contributors, users and vendors. Were you aware that if you write some code in your spare time, chances are your employer owns the rights to it? I wonder how any joint effort like Squeak or Pharo or whatever can be sure they even have the right to declare code as being theirs and grant any licenses if the authors themselves cannot be sure about it. This whole stuff simply is a bloody mess in my (now at least almost a little informed) opinion.

It's complicated for sure, and even within companies, it's unclear. On the one hand, most vendors (mine included) take great advantage from open source code, like Seaside. On the other hand, there's the constant tension of "aren't we giving away too much?" - and I think the demise of Sun illustrates the far end of that continuum.

I'm not sure how much cleaner any of this will get, either. Like patents and copyrights, a lot of this stuff is an exercise in MAD between vendors....

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posted by James Robertson


Re: Who Owns What

[Randal L. Schwartz] September 17, 2010 13:12:38.145

That's a bit why it was important that Squeak join the SFC... so that we have the resources of the SFLC at our disposal, and why I'm a bit worried about the Pharo fork, although the parts that Pharo and Squeak have in common would certainly be defended by the SFLC.

Re: Who Owns What

[Carl Gundel] September 17, 2010 17:32:30.230

Squeak has many contributors. Don't you think it would hard for any one corporation to make a claim that it owns the IP to Squeak? The worst they could do it sue and ask for some part of it to be removed.

Re: Who Owns What

[W^L+] September 17, 2010 20:07:27.139

I think the same thing applies to proprietary licensed code, whether employer-owned or someone's side job. Thanks to the patents and copyrights mess, anyone can be a lawsuit target at any time, with very little risk to the aggressor.

The SCO suits should also show us that whether a suit has merit or not, EVERYONE is vulnerable. Had SCO targeted small companies first and worked their way up the stack, they'd have found much less formidable opposition and wouldn't be in bankruptcy court now.

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