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Where are the Boundaries to Open Source? 175

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the continually-evaluating-our-position dept.
Andy Updegrove writes "In the last several days there have been several stories in the news that highlight the increasing tension between ownership of intellectual property rights (IPR) and the opportunities that become available when broader, free access to those rights is made available. The three articles that struck me as best proving this point were the announcement by Sun Microsystems that it had released the design for its new UltraSPARC processor under the GNU GPL, a speech by Tim Berners-Lee to an Oxford University audience in which he challenged the British government to make Ordnance Survey mapping data available at no cost for Web use, and reports that a Dutch court had upheld the validity of the Creative Commons license. Each of these stories demonstrates a breach in traditional thinking about the balance of value to an IPR owner between licensing those rights for profit, or making those same rights freely and publicly available. They also raise the question: where - if anywhere - are the natural boundaries for 'open IPR?'."
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Where are the Boundaries to Open Source?

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  • Of course... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hoggerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:44PM (#14988590) Journal
    Of course, any new social paradigm, such as open-source, which challenges "current" intellectual "property" paradigms will stir controversy...
    • Re:Of course... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shmlco (594907) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:59PM (#14988738) Homepage
      Rubbish. All of the examples in the article simply illustrate a wider choice of options that are available to the property owner.

      To fall back on the often misued automobile example. I can design a car and sell the plans. Or I can design it and give the plans away. Or I can give them away under a license that says you can use them, but never charge for them. In fact, I can build the damn car and try to sell it. Or build it and give it to whomever I wish.

      So you might think that, in your spare time, writing software and giving it to the world is a good thing. I may, contrarily, write software and try to sell it, needing to feed the kids and pay the rent. Or you can sell yours and I can give mine away. In any case, the market will decide if our creations have value, and are worth what we ask.

      Your choice. My choice.

      • Re:Of course... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:58PM (#14989273) Journal
        Rubbish. The market isn't a god, it's a mechanism, and a poor one for managing ideas. Ideas and creative works are something which are naturally plentiful; when you get right down to it, the moment they come into existance, their value (measured in terms of the benefit created) increases the more they propagate. Using the market to determine who gets funded and who doesn't and having artifical restraints on the propagation of these things is NOT a good system. It destroys a huge amount of the value of creative works in the name of rewarding and motivating the creator, and we'd all be much better off with a system that rewards and motivates creators without reducing the real world value of their creations in the process.

        Intellectual property concepts are deeply flawed, terribly inefficient and incredibly wasteful, and about as well suited to the modern world as horseshoes on my car.
        • Ideas (Score:3, Insightful)

          by shmlco (594907)
          "Ideas are plentiful."

          Precisely. That's why authors and publishers and producers will give you a strained smile and attempt to slide away when you run up to them announcing your latest idea for a book or movie. They know that ideas are plentiful, worth a dime a dozen, and that they're probably overpriced even then.

          Hey! I have an idea. Let's create the world's best web browser. Cool. And now where are we? Well... no where. Now, let's talk about people who did just that, and the dozens upon dozens of man-

          • Yes, ideas are plentiful. But the skill and talent and time and resources needed to successfully implement them... are not. And that, if it has value to you, is what you're really paying for...

            Excepting, of course, that those brains, skills and talent are plentiful too. If not Edison, then Tesla, and in the end, only the robber barons who contributed nothing win.

            And would the world be richer for the lord of the rings movie? Well, lets just say that the world was far, far more enriched by the efforts
      • Re:Of course... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by horatio (127595) on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:05PM (#14989330)
        Your choice. My choice.

        I agree, except that it really isn't a choice for the end-user. How long before the automobile goes the way of modern IP? Right now, if I buy a car from you I can do whatever the hell I want to it. I can take it apart to see how it works. I can build another car similar to it if I have the time and the skill. I can take the engine out of your car and put it in a different car and you can't say a word about it. I can even *GASP* remove the alternator and sell it to someone else. Or I can sell the entire car, which may be nothing like the car you designed because I modified it. I can drive it on dirt roads, I can use it to deliver pizzas. I can autocross it, or add a rollbar and better suspension for a road rally. That is my *right*. I bought the damn car, I own it, so I'm going to do with it what I please.

        I realize that at some point the analogy breaks down because a car can't be put into a replicator like a DVD can. However, it seems to me that we are becoming less and less of an ownership society and more of a "borrow" society. I talked to someone the other day who works for a large firm, and they pay 160 grand a MONTH to license some software for their business. That does not include any changes they want made to the software - that costs extra.

        I don't have a problem with profit. I have a problem with racketeering. I don't really know where this whole "you don't own it, you only licensed it from us and we can screw you anytime we want" started, but it is one reason why I'm such a big fan of OSS. I don't mind paying for software. But I get really pissed when I'm told I a) have to pay for it continuously and b) am not allowed to do anything with it except that which is outlined by the lawyers for giant-corp who wrote it and took my money for it. What a scam. DRM is coming to hardware near you, and it is going to compound this problem. Until now, it was _mostly_ software that kept the consumer on a leash.

        How long until we have to pay a fee to (GM|Ford|etc) before our car will start every month? When will our GE fridge start requiring a dollar every time we open it? I don't like rent-an-appliance places because they're a rip off. You never get to stop paying for the item (unless you rent to own, at about 2-3x the cost you could have bought the item).

        Am I paranoid chicken little here? How many of us as kids tinkered with everything in the house, but find today that if we do, we're breaking the law?
        • That is my *right*. I bought the damn car, I own it, so I'm going to do with it what I please.

          You are not, however, allowed to roll back the mileage on the odometer even though it is technically feasible. The vast, vast majority of complaints about the legality of modifying hardware/software are the legal and moral equivalents of rolling back the odometer. If the activity is specifically undertaken to cheat someone out of revenue, then what you are doing is immoral and should be illegal. Why is it OK for
          • Re:Of course... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by XMilkProject (935232)
            but it's not OK for Ford to charge you per mile driven

            It's called a lease.
          • Re:Of course... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by horatio (127595)
            Good point. However, rolling back the odometer is against the law because we have decided that to do so is a gross mis-representation of the value of the item in question. A vehicle's age/lifespan is generally acceptable as measured in terms of the mileage. You aren't cheating the auto maker, you're cheating the person you're selling the car to. Once the automaker has your money (or the bank's money) they don't give a flip what you do with the car.

            Windows95 is an old piece of crap. If you relabel your
            • Windows95 is an old piece of crap. If you relabel your (legal) copy and sell it as "The New Windows2006" to some poor unsuspecting schmuck, you've committed fraud.

              Just imagine the surprise of the buyer at the speed advantage of such a light OS on today's hardware!

          • You are not, however, allowed to roll back the mileage on the odometer even though it is technically feasible.

            That's because the odomoter reading has meaning for warranty and re-sale purposes. It's not because changing the odomoter causes Ford to lose money*. So it's really a law designed for fraud purposes. Rolling back the odomoter is really only a crime if you then try and use that to your advantage**. So we're really back to Ford being able to say that you can't change the stereo for a non-Ford, or

        • Re:Of course... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by CWoop00 (963363)
          You make some good points; however:

          1) You can't take the engine out of the car, make a duplicate and start selling, or giving away, the duplicates.
          2) You can't copy the whole car either and start selling or giving them away.

          You didn't design it. You didn't do the research and development, yet you feel that the $20,000 dollar you plot down on a car gives you the right to make as many copies as you like to sell or give away?

          Yes, you can do anything you want to the car; the manufacture didn't limit that
          • you feel that the $20,000 dollar you plot down on a car gives you the right to make as many copies as you like to sell or give away

            No, you're right. What I was referring was more the modification of the car - a better mouse trap - rather than the straight duplication. A vehicle is a tangible object that would be extremely difficult to create a copy of, hence the comment about DVD duplication. *However* I am allowed to buy as many cars as I can afford, modify them (obviously within the limits of things li
          • You didn't design it. You didn't do the research and development, yet you feel that the $20,000 dollar you plot down on a car gives you the right to make as many copies as you like to sell or give away?

            Yes. Cry more, capitalists. Your tears are like milk.
          • How do you think the car industry's "usage" agreement would look if you if you could simply take their car over to a copying machine and run off 100,000 copies in an hour; even for your "personal use"?
            If that was the case, we would have no use for any "usage agreements", since communism would cease to be an utopia and become a reality.
        • I'd just like to add to this; it's explicitly legal to make aftermarket work-alike or direct replacement parts so long as you don't replicate any copyrighted material on the parts, like part numbers, logos, names, et cetera. So, I can make molds from the fenders on my Nissan and sell fiberglass replacements, based on Nissan's design, and it's 100% legal. I can even say that they fit on the Nissan 240SX. What I can't say is that they're official Nissan fenders, or use their mark, especially to convey the imp
        • It's here today: http://www.payteck.cc/news.html [payteck.cc]

          "Can't make your car payment? Then you can't get it started"

          This type of device (no, this is not the only OEM of such devices) is frequently used in the sub-prime credit market for people who would have a tendency to not make their car payments, but still need a car in order to live their lives.

          Or to put it another way, it's a way to get deadbeats to pay who live in conditions of suburban sprawl, where jobs people are qualified for
  • I thought that the whole point of open source was to eliminate boundries.

    Isn't that why it's called "open"?

    • There are always a few intangible boundaries set when jumping into OSS, such as the boundary between a programmer and the potential future Gates-like empire built upon selling software licenses to closed code.
    • Yes and no

      Gnu creates boundaries but in different ways from EULA commercial software.

      For example I can not take the source code and use it without giving my source, nor can I use the source code for a tiny section of a big project and only give out a section of the code used. I would have to opensource teh whole thing.

      BSD licenses and the apache license set the boundaries differently and in some circles are viewed upon as more free. The BSD one requires you to mention UC @ Berkely and has strange clauses to

      • The BSD one requires you to mention UC @ Berkely and has strange clauses to advertising of the software.

        No it doesn't. That clause was removed in 1999.

        Refer to:
        http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license.php [opensource.org]

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        the EULA of commercial software (as a rule anyways.) also says that "I can not take the source code and use it without giving my source, nor can I use the source code for a tiny section of a big project and only give out a section of the code used. I would have to opensource teh whole thing."

        Where? Well that would be in the clauses that say you cannot use the source code at all.
  • 'UltraSPARK', 'Ordnance'

    What ever happened to proofreading articles again?
  • UltraSPARK? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What's an UltraSPARK? It sounds dangerous.

    Maybe you meant UltraSPARC?
  • Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eightyford (893696) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:48PM (#14988633) Homepage
    Open source is a tool that companies can use to increase their profits. Patents, copyright, and Creative Commons licenses are also tools. The point is, like always, to choose the best tool for the job. It wouldn't make much sense for Adobe to release Photoshop under an open source license, but it might make sense for Sun to release Solaris under an open source license.
    • It wouldn't make much sense for Adobe to release Photoshop under an open source license, but it might make sense for Sun to release Solaris under an open source license.
      why?

      I'm not trolling, I'm curious why you think it might make sense for one and not the other...(besides the real reason: profit)

      • why?

        I'm not trolling, I'm curious why you think it might make sense for one and not the other...(besides the real reason: profit)


        In my opinion, it would make sense for Sun to release Solaris under the GPL so that they can gain market share and use more linux code within Solaris. I don't think Adobe Photoshop has to worry as much about market share.
  • IPR isn't natural (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MarkusQ (450076) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:53PM (#14988681) Journal

    It's a trick question. "IPR" isn't natural, it's an invention (and a relatively recent one at that). So asking where its "natural boundaries" are is silly. Where is are the "natural boundaries" of Rap? Or of lavender? Where is the natural boundary between Spanish and Italian?

    It's a silly question.

    For the vast bulk of history (and for all time before that), there was no such thing as "Intellectual Property." There isn't even any analogy in the animal kingdom (just imagine Monarch butterflies issuing a take down notice to other butterflies that have infringed on their trademark look and feel). The "natural" state is for people to thinks, say, and do whatever they want, and to copy good ideas wherever they see them. That, in a nutshell, is how culture works. But very recently there has arisen the observation that some good ideas are hard to copy unless the inventor is willing to explain the trick to you. And one way to induce them to do so is to ameliorate their fear that by so doing they will create a host of competitors, by promising to prevent other people from using the trick for awhile provided that they share it.

    Sounds like a fair deal, but, like many things, a little greed is all it takes to spoil it for everyone.

    -- MarkusQ

    • by Dr. Cody (554864)
      Where is are the "natural boundaries" of Rap?

      It's a fact: The natural boundry of rap lies halfway between Kid Rock and the Beastie Boys.
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:18PM (#14988906) Journal
      "Where is are the "natural boundaries" of Rap? Or of lavender?"

      I don't know if there are natural boundaries to Rap, other than the natural boundaries of human population. But lavender, on the other hand:

      Wikipedia: "The lavenders Lavandula are a genus of about 25-30 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, native from the Mediterranean region south to tropical Africa and east to India."

      "There isn't even any analogy in the animal kingdom "

      Wrong. Wolves and other animals mark their territory -- yet physical property ownership is just as theoretical as IP ownership, only it has a longer history. It's the threat of retribution that keeps other wolves from trespassing.

      In human history, IP protection has been the norm for millenia. Why do you think tradespeople kept their techniques secret? Why do you think guilds were formed? To suggest that IP is a modern invention is way off base. What's relatively new is the structure of law encouraging distribution of knowledge by protecting profit incentive to innovate. Whether it's a good idea or not, I'd rather not get into -- but IP is as old as human invention.
      • by MarkusQ (450076)

        Intellectual Property is the antithesis of trade secrets. The whole justification of Intellectual Property is that it will replace the natural* concept of secrets. That's why all system of IP registration include the requirement (or at least originally did) of disclosure; trademarks had to be used in commerce, copyrighted materials had to be published, inventions had to be demonstrated and documented to the extent that they could be duplicated by practitioners skilled in the appropriate arts.

        Trade secre

        • I think you misunderstand my point (or I misexplained it) -- the concept of information having discrete value is as old as human society (and, as you point out, in the rest of the animal kingdom as well). The concepts are directly related, since ownership equates to control. This is exactly what 'ownership' of land is -- the right to control its use. Secrecy is one way to maintain control, or ownership -- IP laws are another way to maintain control, or ownership.

          "P.S. As for wolves marking territory, t

          • Secrecy is one way to maintain control, or ownership -- IP laws are another way to maintain control, or ownership.

            This is, of course, untrue. I can keep a secret as ferociously as I like, and it won't do a thing to prevent anyone else who discovers the same thing from using it anyway they see fit.

            I might, for example, find an enormous prime number, and decide never to tell anyone about it. And, unbeknownst to me, a hundred other people might know the same prime number, and be doing things I would nev

            • "because secrecy isn't the same as control. "

              Never said it was. Said it was an effort to maintain control (ownership), same as IP laws are. My hiding a rock doesn't prevent you from going to get your own rock, any more than your prime number example.

              "But that aside I'll accept this as a possibility if you can provide: An alternative non-circular definition of property, without recourse to an arbitrary lists of what is or isn't property. An example of something that wouldn't be property under your de

              • The reason that a term ought not describe everything is simple; a term that describes everything is of very little use in discourse, since we already have words ("anything"/"everything" etc.) that fill that role and the introduction of synonyms that appear to have additional meaning is misleading at best.

                The reason a definition should not be circular (which by the way, I'm tempted to claim yours is) is that it is likewise useless. If you can't define a term except by reference to itself (or another term,

                • Re: Exceptions, what I meant is that whether something is determined as 'property' is not a function of the nature of the object, but instead a function of how we treat the object. Therefore, there is nothing that is intrinsically excepted from being property except for thos things that it is physically impossible to control the use of -- natural laws (gravity, etc). However, it is possible to control references to gravity (theoretically), so, if someone had sufficient force, they could have as their prop

                  • Just a few clarifications:
                    • Therefore, there is nothing that is intrinsically excepted from being property except for thos things that it is physically impossible to control the use of -- natural laws (gravity, etc). However, it is possible to control references to gravity (theoretically), so, if someone had sufficient force, they could have as their property the term 'gravity' -- but not the natural law itself.

                      I could not claim them as property since I have no means of controlling who uses them. But if

                    • "Exactly. Your definition isn't about "property" per se, but about the control of others through the use of force.

                      No, that is what defines property -- who has the right of use, which is the same as control. Use of force is only one method by which right of use is established. Social contract via law or custom is another, as is secrecy. Not only that, but 'controlling who uses something' is not the same as 'controlling others'. I did not say 'control the people who use it,' nor did I intend that meani

                    • I'll offer my definition, and then respond to your other points.

                      I would define "property" to be a social contract for establishing the rights of people to use something that, by its nature, may only be used by a limited number of people or in a limited number of ways at a time. Note that this is not limited to physical objects (e.g. the broadcast spectrum is property under this definition), nor does it assume private ownership (public property is covered). The concept of property does not apply to thing

            • I think we're running into a few semantic issues here.

              The way I see it, there are two distinct types of property, and many of the discussions involving IP are hindered because people don't make the distinction between the two. To avoid the semantic pitfalls, we will call them Type I and Type II, and define them as such:

              Type I: Anything that can be conserved. This could be called physical or natural property, but such terms have exceptions (such as your radio spectrum example) and are not very useful. Basica
              • Circular definition. Anything is property that we agree to call property. This doesn't define it.

              • Thank you for the cogent reply. I would agree with your analysis, the key point of which is, I maintain, the point that, in addition to undisputed forms of property, the term "property" also includes Anything not conservable, onto which we artificially confer properties of conservation.

                If I accept this, I'm entitled to draw a few conclusion from it, specifically:

                • Since we are arbitrarily and artificially grafting "intellectual property" onto the original notion of property, my point in the head post (t
                • Agreed.

                  The best analogy to intellectual (or artificial) property I could come up with is fire. The first person to build a fire could claim to "own" the fire, but the moment he sells some of the fire to someone else, the fire he originally had is not diminished, while another fire is created. As much as the original creator of the fire would like to think he has control over who gets fire and how, the people he already gave it to could very easily give it to others outside the creator's control, without dim

                  • For security, the MD5 hash of this message and sig is d41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e

                    I have no idea how, but someone hacked your message.

                    Which is a shame, because I rather liked it.

                    Heck, I still like it, so, to whoever hacked it, thanks!

                    -- MarkusQ

      • In human history, IP protection has been the norm for millenia. Why do you think tradespeople kept their techniques secret? Why do you think guilds were formed? To suggest that IP is a modern invention is way off base. What's relatively new is the structure of law encouraging distribution of knowledge by protecting profit incentive to innovate. Whether it's a good idea or not, I'd rather not get into -- but IP is as old as human invention.

        Nope - you're talking about keeping secrets. Keeping a secret is diff
        • "Nope - you're talking about keeping secrets. Keeping a secret is different fron 'owning' an idea. "

          You're right, but you're misunderstanding my point. Keeping a secret is one way of maintaining control (control == ownership) of an idea. Whether it was legal ownership (as you said, a Renaissance invention) or ownership protected by secrecy, or strongarm enforcement by associations, the concept of IP is very old. Knowledge has been considered a resource for millenia, and control of a resource = ownersh
      • yet physical property ownership is just as theoretical as IP ownership

        Wrongo! While the concept of physical property might be just as theoretical as IP, it does have one attribute that IP doesn't: you can put material boundaries around it. That's what the wolf is doing by marking his territory. If you can fence it, box it, stick it in your pocket, or lock it, then it's almost certainly property. IP doesn't have any material bounderies, and is as artificial a property as frequencies in the radio spectrum. It
    • by ben33 (963366)
      It's not a silly question. Perhaps worded injudiciously, but not silly. What's silly is to believe that since the Monarch butterfly doesn't have intellectual property, then we shouldn't either. The Monarch butterfly doesn't have hospitals, or schools, or orphanages. They don't create new ideas, compose poetry and music, heal the sick or seek to right injustice either. They are a lower life form. We humans, on the other hand, have been endowed with the gifts of intelligence (although sometimes you would

      • Nonsense. No one is claiming that hospitals, etc. are natural phenomenon, and if they were I'd call them on that as well.

        Skipping your poetic lead up, I disagree in any case with your second point that systems defined by convention have "natural limits." The whole point of arbitrary systems is that they are defined, arbitrarily, to have whatever limits we care to ascribe to them. The very fact that (as you point out) these limits differ from place to place and from time to time is evidence that they ar

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:01PM (#14988755) Journal
    If I ever read the phrases, "kindred spirit," "more blessed to give than to receive," and "the meek shall inherit the earth" in a tech blog again, I'm going to scratch my eyes out.

    Don't get me wrong, kindred spirits are nice and everything, but if you're discussing IPR from a business standpoint (which is what the essay is really about) why would you reference the Bible?

    The bottom line is that there are no natural boundaries for open source or for IPR. All boundaries are created by government law and structure of markets. Take away the law, and you've eliminated all boundaries, since business will have to compete on different things.

    I think what the author should have asked, is "With the current US IP law structure, what markets will be best served by open source?"

    Or perhaps," Can everyone tell me what markets are underserved by businesses with open-source as a model, so I know where to direct my investments?" That's the question I'd ask. Especially with the glut of VC in the market coming up, there is a fortune to be made by the wily early investor.
  • Fundamental problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Device666 (901563) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:17PM (#14988895)
    I happened to be a victim myself and it made me very aware that some people who do not understand FOSS that they only use because of the lower costs, but don't manage their business policies to account for FOSS licenses.

    I was a student on a school where they had a contract that said that anything I did create for my study they got the ownership rights of (of which the right of use is derivated from, typically arranged using licences). That contract you had to sign along with other papers needed to register to their administration (saying no means you can't follow the study) . As a bachelor student I helped out 2 students who where about to be kicked off from their master programme (this I heard from their mentors..). I used a plenty of GPL software (also LGPL audio libraries) and I made myself some GPL software too. The project became a succes, the two students I helped out suddenly got all the credits (that's another story, not relevant now) and the school wanted to sell their succes story en help the two students to form a company after their succesful graduation.

    This is where the situation of fundamental ignorant behaviour towards the GPL became apparrent to me. The schools opinion was that all of my source code belonged to the students. The conflict couldn't be worse, since I transferred all my rights to the FSF (including my copyright). The schools point was that this tranfer was not legimate, since my school was convinced I made this code for a school project. So the GPL licence was not valid in this situation. They also said that if I would use anycode, I would be sewed to court and that if I would need any information that I had to write to their lawyer

    So I did. I explained him the importance of GPL software for universities and other educational organisations. I explained also that this contract made it impossible to use any LGPL or GPL software. I explained this was especially a problem for the audio technology faculty of this organisation, because they did a lot of programming using Free Software and even got courses in some software that was Free (as in freedom). If there was a conflict for me, it was for the large part of this faculty. The other problem was that almost nobody of the students was aware of the contract nor its consequences. He took my point and said I was right and this should be taken account for. He would speak to the board about it. I said I wanted to write an article called "How educational organisations embrace Free Software".

    After kept waiting for a long time I decided to go to the board myself (I was luckily graduated very succesfully). This guy didn't understand one bit of it, nor would he be so smart to get informed by the experts from his organisation and thought that I was threathening somehow, to use my publication to get my GPL'ed software back. I explained him this was not the case, but I still got a very stupid ignorant reply. This proved lack of policies which account for the GPL and the right to learn and write Free Software.

    But this isn't one case on its own. There are more schols with this kind of problem. Maybe this is why MIT has it's own "free" licence? How to fight for your rights to party with freesoftware on your school? How do we begin to fight?
    • by Device666 (901563)
      The organisation which I was talking about was the HKU http://www.hku.nl/ [www.hku.nl] and the group of students which wanted to make buck with my "not legitimate" GPL'd code is http://www.remini.nl/ [remini.nl] .I want to add they even had the nerve said to other people that I didn't developed on their code... I wanted to helpout and contribute something to them and the world of Free Software, instead I was only allowed them to help without getting any credits nor contributing something to the society. It is hard to fight for your
    • That contract you had to sign along with other papers needed to register to their administration (saying no means you can't follow the study)

      I'll certainly agree that they shouldn't have such a policy, but by signing it, you pretty much gave up any right to complain about this.

      Now, if I understood your description correctly, you could argue that your code contributed to those two other students didn't fall under the contract to which you agreed... But in that case, you've just moved the violation from
    • The schools point was that this tranfer was not legimate

      It wasn't legitimate. You signed a contract with the university saying what you wrote was theirs. You had no more right transfering copyright to the FSF than you had selling their buildings.

      So the GPL licence was not valid in this situation.

      Your placing the GPL on your code was not valid. But the GPL attached to any code mixed in is still valid. The school can distribute the software if they abide by the terms of the GPL. If they don't they can't. If t
  • Free, open, unencumbered use of technology has been the baseline norm throughout most of human history.

    It is special monopoly protections of "Intellectual Property" that is the more recent development.

    The subject limitations, use limitations and duration of such special monopoly privileges should be reviewed carefully to see how far they should extend to bring the most benefit to society as a whole.

    The default baseline should be that any idea is open to anyone to use, to improve upon and to teach to othe


    • Intelectual Property rights extend back to the Renaisance at least, and I wouldn't call physical property rights exactly strong under a feudal system. Free access to physical property for any one who can manage to bash your head in and take it was certainly the baseline norm for longer than not.

      Which is not to say I disagree with you; Societal sanction of property rights should be structured so as to benefit society as a whole. I think this argues for strong physical property rights, and intelectual prope
    • by Arandir (19206)
      Free, open, unencumbered use of technology has been the baseline norm throughout most of human history.

      That's not true. At one time only royalty could use a certain technology called "royal purple". And arcane webs of legal restrictionss (guild laws) on technical trades have been the norm for the past millenium. The famed reinheitsgebot, which governed German brewing and taverning for the past five hundred years, is a prime example. It said who could make beer, how to make beer, and how to sell beer. Until
  • by conradp (154683) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:21PM (#14988939) Homepage
    "ownership" of intellectual "property" "rights" is just an absurd term to use for "exercising certain monopoly powers granted by governments to restrict other people's freedoms so you can make money." And given the absurdity of many recent patent claims, I think there's a good chance that the word "intellectual" doesn't really apply either.
  • This is a direct copy of this related story [slashgeo.org]:
    Vector One discuss national mapping and the UK Ordnance Survey [geovisualisation.com] and link to a The Guardian article [guardian.co.uk]. The OpenGeoData blog has a podcast with Ed Parsons [opengeodata.org], CTO of the Ordnance Survey. While GIS User host an announcement by the OS about advanced spatial address data access [gisuser.com]. From the Guardian article: "Sir Tim Berners-Lee told an Oxford University audience last week getting "basic, raw data from Ordnance Survey" online would help build the "semantic web", which he define
  • Why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CWoop00 (963363) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:42PM (#14989150)
    I've owned a couple of startup software companies. I've sold a few and closed a few. In almost every case, I am personally liable and must put many of my assets on the table to operate the enterprise. I do need to be rewarded for this type of risk or I'm just not going to put my butt on the line like this and thus goes a couple hundred jobs.
    • I do need to be rewarded for this type of risk or I'm just not going to put my butt on the line like this and thus goes a couple hundred jobs.

      The risk is that you might not be rewarded: your business might fail. It's not society's responsibility to reward risky business ventures; if it did, then they would not be risky.

    • You don't NEED to be rewarded, you WANT to be rewarded. That's why they call it a "risk". You are not going to get rewarded as much with free software as with proprietary, that is true, but so what? In our current environment of copyright, selling copyrighted software is a legitimate business endeavor. However, don't deny the rest of us from making and distributing free software. We might start cutting into your profits, but that's a risk you'll have to take.
  • by cheesedog (603990) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:43PM (#14989157)
    Perhaps the most accurate conclusion is that there is no natural right to exclusive idea monopolies (either in patents or copyright), as these cannot exist without the arbitrary intervention of government.

    On the other side of the coin, the right to create and invent is a natural right [blogspot.com], and has been with us since the beginning [blogspot.com]. It is only in the past several centuries that this natural right has been eroded by idea monopolists and those who want to tie up exclusive rights to natural discoveries through physical force, in the form of patent and copyright law.

  • This really sounds like asking "Where are the boundaries (if any) to mammals" during the late Mesosoic era. The answer, as I see it, is they are best off out of reach of the dinosaurs busy racing to extinction.
  • by Peter Trepan (572016) on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:11PM (#14989363)
    I've finally put my finger on the problem with the idea that open-source software is bad for the economy: It employs the Broken Window Fallacy [wikipedia.org] of economics.

    The fallacy goes something like this: A boy breaks a shopkeeper's window. The shopkeeper must then buy a new window from the glassmaker, who then buys bread from the baker, who then buys shoes from the shoemaker, making the child seem like a boon to the economy for having broken the window.

    The problem with this thinking is that the money the shopkeeper spends on the window is money he does not spend on something that he actually wants. So the boy who breaks the window isn't a boon to the economy after all.

    People argue that the creation of stuff like OpenOffice deprives the fine folks working on MS Office of their jobs. What's ignored is the fact that every company who once spent $300 a pop on Office licenses can now put that money toward projects that didn't exist before, or better yet (but more unlikely) pay it to their employees. And the guys at MS Office are now free to work on something that doesn't already exist.

    Money is just a placeholder. The economy is actually about value, and OpenOffice adds what was previously considered hundreds of dollars of value to the computer of everyone who downloads it - at no actual charge.

    When software can be distributed to the whole world for free, it's actually better for the economy than paid software.
    • The point was that there should be no limit to open-source software.
    • When software can be distributed to the whole world for free, it's actually better for the economy than paid software.

      To the human economy as a whole yes. To one specific economy, possibly not. It all depends on how much that economy is able to extract from other economies through various IP licenses (including but not limited to actual products, or just to copyright). I don't think there's much doubt that the US is currently gaining a lot on IP, at least in the short term. I also think it's killing innovat
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:15PM (#14989400) Homepage
    I'm taking the "where are the boundaries" question in a very loose, metaphorical sense, and I also don't think it's really helpful to phrase it as the boundaries of intellectual property -- it's more interesting to think in terms of the boundaries of applicability of certain methods of working: cathedral versus bazaar, open versus secretive, free-as-in-speech versus proprietary.

    Some examples of boundaries:

    • The wiki approach has worked fairly well for Wikipedia, but generally not so well for wikibooks [wikibooks.org]. (I say this as someone who has spent a lot of time working on WP, and some on wikibooks.) This seems to be because an encyclopedia is uniquely well suited to the wiki approach (lots of factual articles, on lots of different topics, with no need for strict coordination between them).
    • Certain types of software work well as open source projects (TeX, emacs, gcc, Linux, BSD, ssh, Firefox), but others don't (tax software, big-budget commercial games, software that has to interoperate with proprietary systems, inherently boring projects, projects with very small user bases).

    On the other hand, there are some cases where the boundaries are evaporating, and it's very cool. For instance, I've written some copylefted physics textbooks. At the time when I first wrote them (8 years ago), it was very hard to get photos. I ended up doing a lot of photography myself, which was fun, but there were limits on what I could do, both in terms of quantity and in terms of quality. Nowadays, if I say, "I need a photo of someone swimming as an illustration of Newton's third law," I just hop on over to Wikipedia, grab a nice photo, and drop a thank-you note to the photographer. We both get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

  • Onus (Score:2, Insightful)

    by supradave (623574)
    The onus should be on the IP owner to get those rights, not the burden of the layperson to avoid the automatic rights given to the IP owner. What I write here shouldn't be copyrighted in anyway whatsoever. I'm giving an opinion to somebodies opinion and it's copyrighted by OSTG or ConstortiumInfo or Andy Updegrove. Since this is derivative (or is it), I don't know who owns it. Maybe I own it.
  • I've argued in an article to be published (sorry, I don't have it on the web yet) that basically there is no reason to limit ourselves. The end of the current intent to impose a regime of control over intellectual property will allow us both the ability to produce better AND the ability to live more harmoniously because humanity's knowledge, the most valuable thing that exists in today's economy, will be better distributed and thus poverty.

    Here is an example: things like open source are often considered li
  • And only morons believe in it.

    The only "intellectual property" is a secret that I know and you don't. Once I reveal it to you, it's no longer property, no matter what contractual restraints I try to impose on you as a condition of my revealing it.

    Intellectual property is merely an attempt to impose contract law over property law. It's an attempt to restrict and control other people's behavior for personal gain, nothing more. It is by definition restrictive and slows the progress of the species; contrary to

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