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The Almighty Buck

Public Money, Private Code 307

mizukami writes: "Salon.com is running a story about universities moving to profit from code they've developed, rather than release it into the public domain as has been the norm in the past. The story gives the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 as a leading cause."
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Public Money, Private Code

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  • Fine by me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NiftyNews ( 537829 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:05AM (#2784795) Homepage
    That's okay by me, as long as they start including a little check-box on their Alumni Donation Forms that says "I've already donated my code, which you have sold at a profit."
    • by xeeno ( 313431 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @10:14AM (#2785150) Homepage
      I can just see it now. Grad students will be forced to sign non-compete documents. Just imagine. Some poor schmuck finishes his thesis after 6 years of slaving away, publishes a paper in his area of expertise, and is sued by university for breach of contract because he collaborated with someone from a competing university.
      What's next? Journals filled with nothing but abstracts and hundreds of blank pages because the results of the experiments are copyrighted? Why don't we just ditch the entire peer review process while we're at it - nothing good has ever come of it.
      If you're a publically funded university then the results of your research should be public domain, end of story. It's sad to see that universities are becoming more and more all about the money.
  • we need more money for education... well now you have a choice, either they can sell the code they have developed, or taxes can go up...
    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:30AM (#2784919)
      we need more money for education... well now you have a choice, either they can sell the code they have developed, or taxes can go up...

      If NCSA hadn't been quite so... obstructive, the university probably have gotten a huge donation from Netscape Corporation at the height of the bubble, which if they were smart they'd have converted to cash money. The same's true for UCB and Cisco... probably many other situations too, where companies are spun off, or founded by graduates using intellectual property.

      Universities aren't built to make money directly be releasing products per se. You can't even count degree-granting as such; your money buys you the right to attend classes and sit exams, not to pass them. Universities also earn money by conducting research for industry, but the nature of research is that it's open-ended and ongoing, more like a time-and-materials contract (like a consulancy) than a units-shipped model (like a games house).

      Universities can make money in the private sector, but they way to do it isn't to imitate corporations. Taking equity in a spin off to exploit research funded by the university itself from an internal budget in return for facilities space is a proven model.

      Finally, this scenario is different in the UK, where the majority of university funding comes from the taxpayer. The license attached to that code should make it free for use by UK citizens, but charge a fee to everyone else.
    • What if they are better at selling code their badly trained students developped than other unis at selling perfectly designed code ?

      No... it would be worse.
      Their code should remain Free as it is the only chance they have to attract investors otherwise.
    • either they can sell the code they have developed, or taxes can go up.

      Bzzt! Logical argument violation code #4af1: 'False Dichotomy'.

      Other options would include eliminating government spending for things like faulty missile defense systems or the NEA and using the savings to spend on education instead.
  • by Wind_Walker ( 83965 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:08AM (#2784809) Homepage Journal
    Nowadays, it only makes sense for educational institutions to start making money off of their programs. Think about it: For the "serious" programmers, they go and get their PhDs in Computer Science, and then what? Get paid to be a code monkey? I don't think so. They go and teach.

    However, teaching isn't all it's cracked up to be anymore. With the government cutting the money for higher education ($100 billion last year) and with the ever-tightening restrictions imposed by Affirmative Action (raising dropout rates to 25% in some fields) it's no wonder that schools are starting to find ways to make money any way they can.

    It may be going off on a rant, but it's time that we take money from the military and start giving it to the school systems (especially publically-funded schools like universities are) because otherwise, the U.S.A. is going to become a group of complete loser jocks who couldn't tell you the difference between a hole in the ground and the goatse.cx guy.

    It was only a matter of time...

    • It may be going off on a rant, but it's time that we take money from the military and start giving it to the school systems (especially publically-funded schools like universities are) because otherwise, the U.S.A. is going to become a group of complete loser jocks who couldn't tell you the difference between a hole in the ground and the goatse.cx guy

      That's simply not true. Very few public schools are research intensive. Most of the time they are private schools like CMU or MIT or Ivy League schools which are also in operation solely through tution, alumni giving, and proceeds from research.

      As great as it would be to come up with some horrible conspiracy about how Microsoft has double agents working in University Administration, it's simply not the way it works.

      The only way you can give great research opportunities to undergrads and have world class professors teaching intro CS classes at someplace like MIT is... tada: MONEY.

      I think the real difference here is that most technologies were always spun off before with some sort of licensing deal to develop a product. The reason aarpanet made it through is because there wasn't any obvious indication of how huge it would be. Most "old school" engineering research is often sold to another company or a few professors might spin off a company to develop a product from the technology.

      Microsoft didn't do this.
      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        Very few public schools are research intensive.

        Really? Back when I was in college [vt.edu] the professors ALL had research projects on the side. It seems that part of being a tenured professor is that you have to do research and get yourself published, etc...

        Now most undergrads aren't doing research, mostly because the system isn't set up for them to be researchers. Many (especially in the engineering and CS degress) barely have enough time to finish their homework/projects/work in the evening, much less do exaustive research in some new field. Post graduate students naturally have plenty of research projects.

        Still, one thing that became painfully obvious after awhile is just how much money it takes to run a school, and how little of it there was to go around. I'm not surprised in the least to find them looking for more things to sell.
      • by Surak ( 18578 ) <surak@mai[ ]ocks.com ['lbl' in gap]> on Friday January 04, 2002 @10:18AM (#2785175) Homepage Journal
        That's simply not true. Very few public schools are research intensive. Most of the time they are private schools like CMU or MIT or Ivy League schools which are also in operation solely through tution, alumni giving, and proceeds from research.

        Hmmm? University of Michigan, Purdue University, Wayne State University, Michigan State University, and the University of California (especially Berkely) are all public and are all research intensive universities, to name five right off the top of my head. (UCB is where we get the infamous BSD-descended operating systems, btw).

        As great as it would be to come up with some horrible conspiracy about how Microsoft has double agents working in University Administration, it's simply not the way it works.

        FWIW, Microsoft has a long-standing history of recruiting from major universities. Microsoft and Bill Gates both have a long-standing history of donating money to schools. C'mon, you can't tell me there isn't SOME favoritism in there. :)

        The reason aarpanet made it through is because there wasn't any obvious indication of how huge it would be.

        ARPANet/DARPANet was a military project, not a university project. DARPA - Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. Duh. The universities wouldn't have had a choice.

        Microsoft didn't do this.

        Nobody said they did, but as an aside, isn't just FUN to blame Microsoft for everything? Had a bad day at work? Microsoft. Couldn't find a parking spot? Microsoft. World Trade Center explodes? Microsoft. See how fun it is? :-P
    • ... with the ever-tightening restrictions imposed by Affirmative Action (raising dropout rates to 25% in some fields) it's no wonder that schools are starting to find ways to make money any way they can.

      I'm sorry but i simply cant let this statement go by. Do you have any proff for this statement?

      As for the idea of universities making money, I think that we are witnessing the further progression of a wrong headed idea that "ALL THINGS SHOULD BE RUN LIKE A BUSINESS." Recently, Penn voters voted down a plan to privatize schools. The questions becomes why would making a profit help education?

      It must be made clear that SCHOOLS ARE THERE TO TEACH, NOT TO MAKE A PROFIT.

      For some reason, many people inclduing this poster simply arent critical thinkers about what "Making a Profit" means, what values it implies. Hell, just today Argentina told the "free market system" to fuck off as it has left the country penniless. Lets be clear, the free market system is anything but free to most people of the world. It is made especially to let a certain group of people get rich, to hell with everyone else. I think this poster fits right into this group, esp with his post i am responding to.

      Anyway, thanks for reading,
    • It may be going off on a rant, but it's time that we take money from the military and start giving it to the school systems

      [Rant#2]Haven't you heard? We're at War Against Evil (tm). It's vitally important for every American to support the War Against Evil (tm) in every way they can, and you suggesting that money should be taken away from military contractors in Texas...errrr, The American Armed Forces The Greatest Fighting Force In The World is unacceptable.

      In these Times of Tragedy, we cannot afford to question the leadership of President George W. Bush, Who Made a Really Good Speech And Is Defending America, lest the terrorists win by dividing us as a country. I'm sure you now realize that Erradicating Evil From The Face Of The Planet is more important that trivial concerns like educating the next generation of Americans.
    • by ErikZ ( 55491 )
      Um, for the past 8 years the military has been doing nothing BUT trimming down.

      The biggest cost sink in the government today is social security. Maybe we should kill that program eh?
      • The biggest cost sink in the government today is social security. Maybe we should kill that program eh?

        I know that was meant to be a rhetorical question, but given that one cause of unemployment is lack of qualifications, in the medium to long term diverting welfare money into education does make a lot of sense.

        To take it a step further, since education up until 18 is freely available, perhaps dropping out of school should reduce eligbility for state aid.
    • Trust me, educational institutions are already making enough money on their own without selling the fruits of students' labor. But then, they've been doing that for a long time.

      What many people apparently don't realize is that alot of research conducted by universities is subsidised by various interest groups [dod.mil]. The research that comes out of these programs becomes property of the University and is passed on to whoever funded the research. The only thing the students (who did most of the work) receive in compensation is 3 or 4 credits.

      I doubt this is true about CS and related programs at Penn State (where I recently graduated from), and to my knowledge, they do not claim ownership of students' code. But don't get me wrong, they stick it to us in another way.

      Students in "non-engineering technology majors" are now assessed a $750 surcharge per semester to (supposedly) cover costs of their respective majors. I don't know exactly how many students this includes, but you can bet Penn State is making a boatload of money from it.

      So no, we don't need to take money from the military to dump into an already greedy education system.

  • I don't know about america, but here in the UK most universities are fairly tight on cash as the government doesn't have enough money to go around. Reciently there has been the introduction of tuition fees to UK universities in an attempt to increase the funding available.

    Now Universities have a lot of one thing.. talent. Why shouldn't they use the inventions and intelectual property that they own to generate more money to improve facilities and teaching quality?

    Yes, in the past universities have produced decent free products that have encouraged development and standards. But this doesn't mean that it won't happen any more. Each invention needs to be considered and dealt with appropriately. Some inventions will be best as open free code / standards, some will make the university in question money if sold.

    So long as the money is re-invested to allow the university to grow then I think this is a great thing.

  • by dirk ( 87083 ) <dirk@one.net> on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:11AM (#2784824) Homepage
    This article seems to be stuck on the whole "they should release it open source like Linux" idea. I agree that Universities shouldn't be privatizing their ideas and making gobs of money off them by selling them to private interests. But I think they should give them away so everyone can use them, and the only way to do that is to make them public domain (or possibly something like the BSD license). I know everyone will say the GPL is the best way to go, but as they article said, this is for the public good, and that includes people who don't want to use the GPL. If you want to use this code is a closed source app you wouldn't be able to benefit from this (and that includes individuals as well as corporations). I think if they are going to release it, make it PD or BSD, that way the greatest number of people can benefit from it. GPL is a good license, but it's not the freedom something like this requires. This requires the greatest amount of freedom, not freedom with restrictions that your stuff has to be free as well.
    • by bfree ( 113420 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:38AM (#2784960)
      Well if I was making this decision, I would state that ALL code MUST be released GPL AND then the university itself can decide if it would like to release it under any other license. Some code would be released under no other licenses (not much I would suspect) while most code would probably also be released under some other licenses such as BSD (if the uni doesn't want money) or a licensing deal to indivdual applicants where the university would charge them to give them the software under another license. If this happened ALL software developed in any university would be available for all to use provided that they redistribute any modifications they make to the original code, and each university could decide either globally or per project if they wished to try and make money from it by allowing other uses of the code. If it is release PD or BSD only than the university cannot make any money from it. Say that MS wants some code written in a Uni, but they aren't willing to take it under the GPL, then they will have to crawl up to the university and say "we would like a XXX licensed copy of the software, what can we do for you to get it?". The universities should have the power to control how money is made of their work (and to take a share if they wish) but they should also have to give as open access to the information/code as possible while not losing the right to control proprietary money making off their software. How much could TCP-IP have made by now?
      • FFTW [fftw.org], "the fastest Fast Fourier Transform in the West", is an implementation of the DFT (Discrete Fourier Transform) that was developed as part of a research project at MIT. FFTW is released under the GPL, and Section 1.4 in their FAQ [fftw.org] one can read that they are using the system you describe:

        We could instead have released FFTW under the LGPL, or even disallowed non-Free usage. Suffice it to say, however, that MIT owns the copyright to FFTW and they only let us GPL it because we convinced them that it would neither affect their licensing revenue nor irritate existing licensees.
      • Another possiblity is how SoftUpdates was handled. It was released as a shareware--I do not really remember the exact license--project, but after a couple of years was released under a BSD license. This allowed money to be made, yet the code was open sourced for everyone to use after the couple of years.
        • Why? What benefit does Shareware have for anyone? What benefit is university research if the only way to use it is with their own shareware system? How does shareware benefit the people who (to varying degrees in various countries) pay for the university system? How does shareware let the actual authors (say PhD or Masters or Degree candidates) continue to use the software they developed and reap benefits from it? My idea is to ensure that everyone can see the universities research and even use it completely Freely BUT if they wish to distribute a modified version and NOT release the source to the modifications (i.e. build on the universities work for monetary gain) then they have to negotiate a deal with the university (which can say yes, no, bsd only, gpl only or $xxxxxxxxx).
          • How does shareware let the actual authors (say PhD or Masters or Degree candidates) continue to use the software they developed and reap benefits from it?

            Are they the ones that reap the benefits or is it the University they work for?

            The source for SoftUpdates was always there for everyone to read. For commercial-use, you had to pay. Afterwards, everyone was able to use or develop it freely without even the fear of license collision.
      • As much as I like it, university work should not be put on GPL. Simply because even though you paid for the work as an individual, corporations have paid taxes too!!. Why should they release the derivative of that work, after all, they already paid for it (the initial one). That's what public domain means, free to use by everyone

        You can say that the corps don't pay what they should, but attack the tax system then and not something else.

        [quote]The universities should have the power to control how money is made of their work[unquote].

        Most certainly not. Why should they have that?

        • [quote]
          The universities should have the power to control how money is made of their work[unquote].

          Most certainly not. Why should they have that?

          Well they should have it because they decided what to do, how to do it and paid for anything that had to be paid for from their budgets! If the Uni does not have the right to control how money is made from their work who should? You suggest that no-one should, universities should simply give away their work for anyone to use as they wish, this is insane! A simple example, MS watch all Unis, and when one of them stumbles on anything worthwhile, a modified version will appear within a MS release within (insert suitably short time period) which contains an incompatable modification (think Kerberos) which then has handed MS the entire market for the Universites research (that's what the anti-trust case should have been about in my books). Even if we didn't have an MS, any work done by the communal effort of students, lecturers, individual tax payers and corporate tax payers should be protected for the benefit of all the people who inputted into the project. Simply making a work public domain provides no protection, it simply provides a means for anyone to do whatever they want (as does BSD really). Why is protection neccessary? Because as this entire article points out the Universities want to extract money from their work and I believe they are entitled to make the money (or is /. actually turning communist? as a eurpoean who has been called a communist/socialist on this forum so much it would crack me up to suddenly see /. change it's mind and forget the capitalist ideas so engrained in the majority of its readership!)
    • I have posted this elsewhere on this article, sorry for the redundancy. I used to think that all govt funded work should be released under GPL, but I eventually realized that "taxpayers" include "people that want to be able to make money on software", so it seems to me that the only way really be fair is to put it in the public domain and then let everyone develop from there. There is no reason to favor GPL'ers over BSD'ers at the regulatory level. The tax money comes from everyone, so everyone should have equal access to the results to use as they wish. I wrote this up in the debate on siliconvalley.com with Mundie and Perens. I saved a copy here:

      http://www.fulcrum.org/features/public_domain.ht ml
  • by Crimplene Prakman ( 82370 ) <prak@[ ].ie ['iol' in gap]> on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:12AM (#2784832) Journal
    Two causes for this:
    • The move toward more public education, including underfunding,

      and
    • The drive towards EVERYTHING being patented in the software world

    It's no coincidence that we in the /. community are here sharing opinion and working with open source, and are also interested in education. We share a thirst for knowledge and philosophy. But in this day where software is such big money, education costs are spiralling, funding is staying constant or dropping, it makes sense to the managers of these institutions to get back something from industry by patenting and licensing technologies they develop. Like the PARC and IBM labs have been doing for a while. Yes, it feels like college to work there, but now the commercial aspect is pervasive.


    Perhaps, when governments figure out that not all software patents are sensible, then we'll see a return to a more sharing, less "grabby" attitude in the knowledgemakers.

    • Hang on: Education shouldn't hinge on funding! It's there to develop PEOPLE, not MONEY. When money gets involved, corruption follows. What education needs is decent management, with the right levels of integrity and the correct "philosophy", not just idealistic open-source types, but the same ideas that made Socrates and Plato the giants they were, the same goal of people development, teaching people to think.
      • I know - I work in education, both at the consumer/training level, and at the academic university level. The contrast in management styles is amazing - the priorities are completely dipolar. On one side, you have "the almighty buck", we teach whatever you'll pay us to stand there and waffle about, on the other you have "the almighty word", we teach whatever we as bastions of the community agree you need to know in order to develop your foundation skills in your chosen discipline.

        The issue is one of management, but it's also one of expectation. The world is getting more global, more capitalist, more liberal. One of the libertarian ideas is "if you don't like it, get a different one". In order for educational institutions to survive in a liberal market, they need to be attractive to the best candidates, in order to turn out as many overacheivers as possible, in order to attract the best candidates, etc. Market forces exist even at the idealogical pillars of society.

        And what's the best way to facilitate such attraction? You got it, funding. And how do you improve funding? Either attract private funding (graduates, important donors who like/need the press), or hire a business-savvy funding manager. And what's the best way for a business-savvy funding manager to raise funds? Sell product.

        The only product (other than education) that a university can sell is technology. Innovation. Knowledge-creation. And the reason it is attractive to sell it is because of our bizarre legal idea that anything I thought of patenting can be patented, which means anyone with an idea (even if fairly common) can patent it. Now, if the whole world of industry is already doing it, and making silly money in a high-profile way, then OF COURSE a fund-raising manager is going to see it as an early opportunity! It's selling knowledge creation! It's freely available on campus! It won't detract slightly from the research of the PhD students, and will likely attract more as students see the $$$.

        Of course this doesn't even broach the sticky subject of market forces at the student level, i.e. do I as a student choose a project with industrial value, something patentable? or do I choose something worthwhile to society, and knowledge in general? Alas, that's a question for another day...

    • But in this day where software is such big money, education costs are spiralling, funding is staying constant or dropping, it makes sense to the managers of these institutions to get back something from industry by patenting and licensing technologies they develop.

      The big problem is that when you charge industry for something that cost is simply filtered down to the consumer. So basically every tax payer. paying twice for the same innovation. Once through the funding universities with our tax dollars and yet again through goods we consume from companies that pay to license these technologies. Universities taking my tax dollars to conduct research which turns right around and forces me to pay some company even more money angers me greatly. I thought that universtities are for the open exchange of ideas and the education of students. Boy was I ever naive. >=P Perhaps its time to rethink our whole university system? Our higher education system is *really* screwed up! In lots of large public universities there are literally hundreds of students in ONE class which the professor doesn't even teach. Getting a teaching award at many state universities is often the kiss of death (I've heard this from several professors). Our universities should exist primarily to *teach* not be an extension the R&D dept for companies. This isn't how things should work people.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Last time I heard, you guys paid $30k+/year, whereas in Europe your course really is paid for mostly/all by the state. For e.g., at my uni, there is a gov commitment to pay at least 3/4 if you are UK resident.

    I've always seen American uni's as just another business. Or are they so incompetent with funding that they claim to need $30k per student (a lot more than this country claims as being a full yearly course cost!) PLUS government funding?

    If the Gov gives the occasional grant.. surely that's no diff to giving the occasional grant to (random example) the airline industry? It doesn't guarantee all taxpayers free plane tickets.

    Of course, from this you can argue one of two things -- 1. "exactly, Uni's are private businesses, in fact, the government should stop giving them money altogether" or 2. "exactly, Uni's are public entities, in which case they should be equally accessible regardless of income, like libraries". Anything else is inconsistent.
  • by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:12AM (#2784835) Homepage Journal

    This really got to me:
    Bill Hoskins, who is currently in charge of protecting the intellectual property produced at U.C. Berkeley, thinks it must have been a mistake. "Whoever released the code for the Internet probably didn't understand what they were doing," he says.
    No, Mr. Hoskins, they knew what they were doing, apparently you don't. If making money was all that mattered to you, you should've joined a corporation.
    • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:35AM (#2784943) Homepage
      • Had his predecessors understood how huge the Internet would turn out to be, Hoskins figures, they would surely have licensed the protocols, sold the rights to a corporation and collected a royalty

      What a curiously idiotic statement. All they had to do was to to use their 20-20 prescience to decide that this arbitrary piece of technology was going to be huge, and then they could should have kept it proprietary and commercial, because god knows that wouldn't have slowed the adoption of it, right?

      This is either a misquote, or Mr Hoskins needs beaten around the head with the basics of capitalist society. You can't dictate to the market until there is a market, and you can't create demand for a new technology by cackling and saying "All your install base are belong to us". Even Microsoft couldn't do that until they'd killed all the effective competition.

    • Berkley did not invent the internet, they did not even invent TCP/IP.

      They (Bill Joy really) coded an implementation of the TCP/IP protocol which was already defined and implemented on several other systems.

      They did add the standard sockets/inetd interface. And the TCP/IP stack as coded is the basis of nearly all current UNIX and all Windows implementations of TCP/IP.

      However this happened largely because the code was free (as in beer), if Berkley had tried to charge for thier TCP/IP stack and patent thier sockets implmentation then SUN, Microsoft et all would probably have written thier own version rather than get into a contractual relationship for a fundamental part of thier systems.

      This principal applies to almost any part of the internet as it now exits. Free and open software gets used because it is cheap, easy to improve and easy to standardise. Proprietry software is avoided because of expense, vendor lock in, difficulties in standards setting etc.etc.

      As Mike Berniers Lee said "If we had charged for Mosaic nobody would have used it".

  • I just gotta say that I think it's so sad that the very foundation of the internet (open source, free sharing, open borders, world access to information) is slowly being choked by commercialism and governments.

    Surfers of the world unite! Be free! Information is not evil, and coding is not a crime!

    OK. OK. In seriousness, how can we promote the free sharing of code within academic institutions so hard pressed for cash?

  • Univer$ities? Heh, I was getting tired of poking mostly Gates :-)
  • This could backfire (Score:5, Interesting)

    by testy ( 138681 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:14AM (#2784844)
    If colleges are doing this as a method of enhancing revenue, I have to wonder if they're prepared for the loss of potential alumni contributions that actions like this could cause. There is also the possibility that schools could be found (by a court, for instance, or tax authorities) to be functioning as for-profit entities; that opens up a can of worms that no administrator wants to deal with.

    Finally, I'm curious as to how many talented students will be motivated to continue cranking out code for a lab that may take it from them and sell it with no compensation. Comp Sci departments are already struggling with high dropout rates as skilled students leave to make money in full-time positions. I don't see these kinds of actions as ways to encourage good students to stay in school and finish off their degrees.


    • > If colleges are doing this as a method of enhancing revenue, I have to wonder if they're prepared for the loss of potential alumni contributions that actions like this could cause.

      Where the heck did you go to school? On my planet the only thing that affects alumni contributions is how well the ball team did this year.

      And of course, the 98% of the donations go straight back to the athletics program anyway.

      Most public universities in the USA are just fronts for hiding the fact that the state legislature wants to own a professional football team. Though I advocate higher education, I'll never donate a dime to any school I ever attended.

  • (sarcasm)
    Of course they'll sell their code! It's the only way to be an American! *Giving* code away, well, that's just un-American.

    And we don't want to be un-American, do we?
    (/sarcasm)
  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:16AM (#2784852) Homepage
    The Internet wouldn't be what it is today without it having been released the way it was. If they tried to profit from the protocols, etc. the thing wouldn't have been much different than the other networks of the day- they'd have not seen the money they think they would have. Basically, that UC Berkley guy's a clueless fool for thinking that it was a mistake and that Berkley would have seen much of anything from it.


  • It may not be in keeping with what we specifically would like to see done with the code, but...as far as i'm concerned, they're not doing anything wrong, or bad, or illegal by trying to make money off code that was developed on their boxen, and on their time.

    If you cant stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, if you don't want your cow gettin' out, keep your barn door shut, and if you don't want Corporate Entity X making money off your work, don't develop it on their gear on their time. Simple as that.

    • Because it's not their box, or their time. This is a university, not Corporate Entity X. The students already paid to be there. They aren't making "works for hire". Regardless of the legalities of it, and I suspect there may be some issues - while patents are almost always required to be signed over to the school, I'm fairly sure that the school doesn't get copyright on works developed by students, else alot of Lit majors would be up the creek - it's morally bankrupt.

    • ... they're not doing anything wrong, or bad, or illegal by trying to make money off code that was developed on their boxen, and on their time.


      In many cases, those boxen and the labor by the researchers/students were paid for by federal grants. In other words, US citizens have already paid for the work. Why shouldn't we benefit from it instead of paying for it a second time to use under some restrictive license, if at all?

  • by westfirst ( 222247 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:20AM (#2784875)
    The article is good, but it misses some points. First, Los Alamos is a far cry from a university. They develop atomic weapons there and those are classified.

    Second, many government research contracts force the professors to share their code. The Mach kernel, for instance, began life at Carnagie Mellon thanks to government money. Rick Rashid, one of the project's leaders, released it with a very open BSD-like license. He says that work developed with the public money deserves to be as free as possible. This has been going on for some time.

    I suppose it could be getting worse, but I don't know if it is as bad as the author suggests.
    • by msouth ( 10321 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @11:00AM (#2785412) Homepage Journal
      Disclaimer: I did not read the article.

      Second, many government research contracts force the professors to share their code.

      Can you back this up? I am not sure why it was in the same paragraph with:

      The Mach kernel, for instance, began life at Carnagie Mellon thanks to government money. Rick Rashid, one of the project's leaders, released it with a very open BSD-like license. He says that work developed with the public money deserves to be as free as possible. This has been going on for some time.

      In this case, you have a person who realized that decided he should license things this way, and did so. I think that, when it happens, this is why.

      I have worked on various projects that were funded by your tax money, and they are now being sold as proprietary software. In that case, the person who got the grant did not decide to put it out as open source. I also do not have numbers to back myself up, but I am guessing that the vast majority of government contracts do not require the source code to be released under a BSD type license.

      I wrote something about this on the siliconvalley.com debate with Mundie et al:

      http://www.fulcrum.org/features/public_domain.html [fulcrum.org]

      • From the NSF's Grant Policy Manual:

        To preserve incentives for private dissemination and development, NSF normally will not restrict or take any part of income earned from copyrightable material except as necessary to comply with the requirements of any applicable government-wide policy or international agreement.


        The disposition of rights to inventions made by small business firms and non-profit organizations, including universities and other institutions of higher education, during NSF-assisted research is
        governed by Chapter 18 of title 35 of the USC, commonly called the Bayh-Dole Act.


        Essentially, since 1980, NSF (et al.) has stopped asking that federal research be released to the public, instead giving the grantee "first refusal."

  • is that a lot of code is derived from students, the students are paying to go to school. The university should have NO rights to the code that was developed by their students, only that derived from the faculty...
    • The students are using university property to develop the code. They only pay a fraction of the cost via their tuition; the rest is obtained from other funding sources including public and corporate ones.


      Since there are so many interests funding university resources, the answer as to who owns the intellectual property developed with these resources becomes a whole lot more difficult to figure out.


      I've dealt with the University of Alberta's Industry Liason Office [ualberta.ca]. Here is a summary of their performance since 1994 [ualberta.ca]. In the short term it is often diffcult to deal with them, but the overhead fees they charge are important: "The indirect costs -- or overhead -- of research include utilities (electricity, water, natural gas, and so on) physical plant (building maintenance, repairs), library support, financial and other administrative costs" (source [ualberta.ca]). Check out that page since it'll even give you a percentage breakdown of where the overhead fees are allocated. For instance, 11% of the fees go to the university's libraries. That means that other students will get access to more books.


      The ILO departments also provide important services to researchers such as patent background checks and market analysis. They're not just blood-suckers waiting to bounce on student- or professor-generated ideas.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The article starts off with the UC system as an example. I can't think of a more pretentious bloated system to use as an example. But it is the leading higher education system in the country so even though its not a surprising example it is valid.

    In the UC system you are lucky if you actaully see a professor your first two years. And the UC system has been busy turning itself into a corporation for decades. Learning smerning. Who needs learning when there is money to be made?
    And they make a ton of it. But isn't the corruption of education from sport an equally puzzling issue? I mean who doesn't realize college is now a joke? I would say UC has a great reputation because it has the top pick of the largest number of US students many immigrants. That has the more to do with UC glory than anything.

    And keeping your intellectual property secret has as much to do with marketing your school (you don't really want the public to be able too see how rather mediocre the professors are) as it does with profit. They go hand in hand.
  • Two quickies (Score:2, Interesting)

    by halftrack ( 454203 )
    1) Had his predecessors understood how huge the Internet would turn out to be, Hoskins figures, they would surely have licensed the protocols, sold the rights to a corporation and collected a royalty for the U.C. Regents on Internet usage years into the future. Does this person know how the IT market works, how people think about abstracktities like the Internet? "Isn't free, will only consider it."

    2) Software for modeling global climate change, the behavior of viral epidemics and traffic patterns are among the programs researchers can't get released, he says. This kind of software not having the greatest market (how often do you wish to simulate a viral epidemic) makes it extremly expencive makeing it more probable that those who do need it makes it themself - also releasing it commercial. That makes to great pieces of code that could have been the best ever had they learnt from any of each-others mistakes (even great code has got bugs and stupidities.)
  • by gpinzone ( 531794 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:27AM (#2784909) Homepage Journal
    Most kids struggle just to afford college. Tuition rates at most private and even many public universities are astronomical. Many students need to get a part-time job just to make ends meet. If these institutions of higher learning want to make a profit off their students' coding efforts, that's fine with me. Just as long as they send those students their royalty checks when the software those students developed starts making money. Hey, this will be a great way to beef up the PHD. program! Get paid while you learn! Granted, you won't make as much as you could in the "real world," but it's a safe alternative considering the dot-com bust. And hey, if the software doesn't sell, the student's don't get paid. Seems fair, right?

    I've got the funny feeling universities aren't going to be so "forward thinking."

    • A typical university agreement does involve royalty checks to the authors. But it still sucks.
    • I wish I could laugh at this...except that's the way it is now in the Physical Sciences, except you don't get royalties unless your advisor decides to include you in the patent.

      More importantly, you never see anything from the patents because the Universities get too greedy when it comes to liscencing - and therefore, no one ever liscences it. So you waste your time pursuing a patent when you should have just published it.

      As for the Ph.D. - students right now already are cheap labor - more like indentured servitude. You work you way to a Ph.D. and freedom. Students already are exploited as cheap labor and the Universities get away with it in the name of "education". Now all the work experience is indeed practical education, but the rights of the student to work he or she created are almost non-existant.
  • There was nothing public domain about it. Berkeley sued Cisco to get unspecified monetary awards over some basic Cisco technology. I don't believe Berkeley ever had any intention of releasing that technology to the world. They wanted to profit from it.
  • it the fact that what the Universities and Federal agencies are selling is funded with my tax money. Essentially all U.S. Tax payers have already payed for this software, and nobody want to turn around and pay M$ or some othe company for it again.

    Now if the University want to give up all public funds... It can do whatever it wants, but as long as they're using my tax money, I want my software :)
  • My personal opinion is the that government should be Free Software's biggest friend. I feel that public monies should be used to benefit as many people as possible (not frivously though), and that by supporting Free Software development, more people will benefit than buy investing in proprietary applications.

    So, how does one get the government to buy into this plan? Perhaps it's time that the Free Software Foundation [gnu.org] or Software in the Public Interest [spi-inc.org] hires a professional lobbyist to make some inroads into the US and other governments. Free Software is reaching the point where it is a highly viable alternative to propietary solutions. With the proper lobbying and data showing positive cost/benefit analysis, perhaps we can get more momentum behind Free Software.

    • More government handouts are not a solution.

      Government should not be in the business of taking people's money as taxes and using them to promote one thing over another. I'm sick and tired of government using our tax money for social engineering.

      If we want free (as in freedom) software to succeed we should accomplish it by earning that success...by writing good software that people (not just us geeks) want to use because its better quality, less expensive, more flexible, and unencumbered by the licensing issues, and the privacy-invasive marketing and advertising schemes.

      Trying to accomplish it by government dictate with taxpayer's dollars is doomed to failure and is just socialist social engineering.

      GKC
      • Trying to accomplish it by government dictate with taxpayer's dollars is doomed to failure and is just socialist social engineering.

        You need to stop watching Bill O'Reilly. What's so bad about the government HELPING PEOPLE?? Would you prefer, say, Microsoft driving the free software development? Do you actually think that a soulless corporation is preferable to the government? At least the gov't has a reason to want the country to succeed - they want to exist! Corps don't care about nations and cultures, in fact they're mostly "obstacles to business".

        Also, you've forgotten the one rule of American society: people are idiots. Therefore, you have to work with the lowest common denominator. Motivate through rhetoric and only let a few think, because they're the only ones who can.

        Libertarians are so fucking naive.
  • by GKChesterton ( 462113 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:41AM (#2784980) Homepage

    These universities and labs should either be 100% private or 100% public. If they're public, if they accept public money, then the results should be available for all citizens to see and use. Alternatively, if they want to auction or license something off to the higher bidder, then the "revenue stream" should go back to the public taxpayers, not to the university or lab. We're the real "owners" of the product because we paid for it.

    On the other hand, if they want to become private organizations and get off the public dole, then they can do what they want.

    GKC
  • by spatrick_123 ( 459796 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:43AM (#2784990)
    If those bastards sell my "Hello, World" code from Intro to CompSci I'll sue them for everything they're worth!
  • by OS24Ever ( 245667 ) <trekkie@nomorestars.com> on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:46AM (#2785008) Homepage Journal
    There should be two methods of determining whether or not the university can make money off their product.

    Rule #1) If Students worked on the project, and were not compensated by things such as free tuition, comparable salary with public sector, or royalties of the distributed project they can not sell it.

    Rule #2) If the project was funded by the US Government, State or Local Government, it can not be sold.

    Rule #3) If the finances come from money that is considered 'tax deductable' by the person(s) giving the money, they can no sell it.

    Rule #5) All proceeds from said sale of software is taxable as a standard corporation.

    Until the rest of the Americans wake up and realize what is going on with education, it will continue to go down the tubes. It's not that Universites have suddenly gotten greedy, it's that they've suddenly gotten desperate. College Tuition is getting to be out of reach for more and more people. Or, more and more people are starting life with $40,000, $50,000, even $60,000 worth of debt for basic state universities.

    It's a sad commentary on America. Guess which departments of Universites are the best funded?

    Sports.

    It's pathetic.
    • $40000 for a state university? In Texas, it was around $1500/semester when I started, and around $2000/semester when I finished. We're a little below national average but not that much. I can see that much or more for private schools.

    • There should be two methods of determining whether or not the university can make money off their product.

      So now you are going to re-define the rules ? Well, let me take a stab at presenting the likely reply from the Intellectual Property Office.


      Rule #1) If Students worked on the project, and were not compensated by things such as free tuition, comparable salary with public sector, or royalties of the distributed project they can not sell it.


      Legally, exclusive copyright licensing from code written by students for class projects belongs to the school. This copyright licensing will help to maintain the very education that the student was receiving, and future students will receive better education at less cost because of this licensing.


      Rule #2) If the project was funded by the US Government, State or Local Government, it can not be sold.


      Money alone does not buy you intellectual property. If you fund a research project, that money assures that the project gets done, nothing else. If you want to fund a project and maintain the intellectual property, you might think about maintaining in infrastructure that can support researchers careers, instead of just donating a few hundred thousand dollars.


      Rule #3) If the finances come from money that is considered 'tax deductable' by the person(s) giving the money, they can no sell it.


      Again, this is a gross misunderstanding of what you get for your buck. At a corporation, you pay for the project, you pay for the researcher's overhead, you ensure he has a retirement plan, you give him benefits, you give him resources to ensure he can do the work, and part of his job description is creating intellectual property for the corporation.

      At a university, the researcher gets grants from a variety of sources. The University provides job stability, the University provides overhead, the University provides benefits for the researcher, and the University has exclusive licensing to all intellectual property (although the holder maintains some rights for royalties). But it is not part of the job description that faculty create intellectual property. Promotions do not consider it. It is just a bonus. And it is the decision of the University as to what happens to it. The University is still much more responsible for the actions of its faculty than the grant sources.

      It's not that Universites have suddenly gotten greedy, it's that they've suddenly gotten desperate.

      Would you deny that such IP laws have had benefits ? For example. the Cohen-Boyer patent between UCSF and Stanford created Genentech, and has funnelled a BILLION dollars back to those universities, which are now boosting research. Cohen and Boyer did not have to make this patent to keep their jobs, but the careers of hundreds of investigators that followed them are much easier as a result, and more basic science research will get done.

      On the other side, if Berkeley has licensed BSD originally, there would probably be no FreeBSD today, and much of our Internet software would perform much worse. Somehow there is a time to sell licensing rights, and a time to give them away, and a morass of ethical issues in between.
    • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @10:56AM (#2785387) Journal
      No, Universities have not "suddenly gotten greedy". The problem is, they've been too greedy for a long time - and the results are really starting to show!

      I place most of the blame at the feet of the upper-level administrators of the colleges and Universities. My father is a PhD, teaching at a state-owned college, and the level of corruption is incredible. The dean and his appointees all give themselves large raises every year, while he announces to the faculty that once again, he won't be able to give out a raise due to budget constraints. He also, of course, feels his job requires the college to provide him with a car.

      All of this starts a chain-reaction, where you get only bottom-of-the-barrel teachers willing to work there. These "teachers", in turn, pass students on through the system without ensuring that they've really learned the material. (For the small salaries they're paid, they don't want to put up with fights with students who scream and moan that it's "unfair I got an F in your class!")

      These same deans and administrators are more concerned that their campus looks impressive and top-notch than whether or not their teachers are using the latest textbooks. They know that lucrative govt. grants aren't possible without dazzling the TV and print media. In fact, they typically spend so much time being a spokesperson for the college/University, they fail to notice what goes on "day to day" in the institution.

      When they do win these grants, do they really help the students? Only partially. Again, grants are great profit-makers for the higher-ups. I've heard stories of schools that hire people full-time just to research and apply for as many grants as possible. Then, these people get a cut of the money off the top as a reward for each one they get.
  • The headline Public Money, Private Code would suggest that the principal objection here is that state schools might use taxpayers' money to develop applications for profit.

    Or are we talking about using students' code for profit?

    Either way it could be argued that the college is maximising its assets to bring in more money to increase the standard of education at that school. Idealistically, the more money a college makes, the less it has to charge for tuition, meaning more people can afford to study there.

    It's standard practice in the corporate world that the employer owns the rights to employees' code if that code was developed on the company's dime. Does this principle stand for students' work, done on University computers during classes?

    How does the /. community feel about a private school selling applications that were developed in-house by paid IT staff?

    I'm curious because I work in the IT services department of a private school.

  • by adadun ( 267785 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @09:51AM (#2785035) Homepage
    Science depends on the ability to duplicate research results. It must be possible for independant researchers to duplicate and verify the results of other scientists, otherwise the results might just as well have been made up. If research prototypes in the form of source code are being hidden behind intelectual property laws and proprietary licensing, science will stop moving forward.

    If the software produced is the result of the research, then hiding the source code is even more disasterous. Hiding research results it probably the best way to totally cripple science as we know it.

    Research must be conducted under the scrutiny of the public eye to be truly useful.

  • Given this is the current situation, I am clueless as to how to fix it. Universities use the money they make to fund programs, grants, and other stuff. I don't know how they actually use the money from licensing, but maybe some one out there that knows can post more details.

    Some how the idea of using tax dollars to enrich private corporations doesn't seem right, even if it is legal. There are plenty of corporations that fund university research through grants. For example, the CA avocado growers association pays for research into things like soil science. Usually the grant pays for a grad student and a lab tech does the actual experiment for the CA avocado growers project. The grad student does more basic research or their thesis project. I'm guessing that is similar to how it works in CS, EE or Mechanical engineering.

    this post is redundant

  • I clicked on the salon link to be greeted by a full page tv commercial style ad. Clicked back, so I don't know what the article says, but I know Cornell just sued HP for a patent they claim HP is using in one of their chips.

    Not sure what I think about Universities owning Patents. In general, I don't like the idea, but if it lowers the cost of college it may be a good thing. This may be a good way to lower the costs. College is to expensive, anything that helps is good, I hope the kids who helped invent whatever it is get a piece of the action.

    -Pete
    • This is why I only enable Flash on a case-by-case basis these days, since the time when weather.com had one with a freaking TRUCK HORN sound. Since Mozilla doesn't provide an easy way to do this, the next easiest way is to move the Flash plugin in or out of the Plugins folder. Mozilla notices this change without having to be re-launched. If it's not a Flash ad, you can get Mozilla to block it for you automatically.

      Then all you get is a full-page blank square with a little puzzle piece inside.

  • All it takes is one great programmer to accidently post the sourcecode to usenet or slashdot.

    Or simply EVERYTHING you write place it under the GPL.

    It'll probably piss off your professor or whatever but it will keep them from profiting on your work and making money from your tuition... remember you are paying them to educate you. everything you do is your property not theirs. ... now if you are employed by them? It's a different story, but then I refused to sign the "all your ideas and intellectual property belong to us" form at my current job. and EVERYTHING I write here has a GPL header on it and uses GPL libs on purpose. doesn't hurt my company one bit it gest the job done quickly and effectively. they can use it in-house all they want without giving it to the world.... but if they try and sell it? their screwed.
  • People, people, before you pass judgment you must consider both sides of the issue.

    Here are some reasons why maybe IP for universities is a good idea:

    (1) It rewards better universities over mediocre universities through market forces. A place like Stanford or CMU is likelier to get a patent and profit from them than Joe Blow Fraternity College.

    (2) It helps reduce the gap between professors and industry salaries. Universities have a hard time keeping profs in areas like computer science, business administration, finance and bioinformatics. If they are told that they would ultimately see some economic benefit from their ideas is likelier that they will stay.

    (3) Admittedly, research is funded by tax dollars, but so is most industrial research which is given generous tax breaks.

    To be clear, I haven't yet made up my mind on this issue, but the one sidedness of the postings in /. was appalling.
  • Old stuff (Score:3, Informative)

    by r_j_prahad ( 309298 ) <r_j_prahad@@@hotmail...com> on Friday January 04, 2002 @10:26AM (#2785215)
    This is not new. My university has been doing this as far back as I can remember, and they've required signed intellectual property agreements from researchers, staff, students, and contractors who participate in research projects for at least a dozen years now. The formula to decide who owns what percentage of the IP derived from any specific project is complex, but it has to be because of the way projects are funded there. One program I worked on was financed partly by federal funds, by an industry consortium, by an individual donor, and by the university's general fund money. The federal funding came from multiple sources, each with their own IP restrictions. The long and short of it was that if you worked on this project, it was guaranteed that nothing you invented was yours. If I thought up something new and unique and patentable in the shower before I went to work, they owned it, not me.

    But I'm not saying this is a bad thing, because the money the university makes off licensing IP is used in part to keep tuitions down and offset taxes. So I can continue to afford classes, and I can live where I live because the tax rates aren't outrageous.
  • Mosaic (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpish Scholar ( 17107 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @10:39AM (#2785290) Homepage Journal
    The University of Illinois, where Mosaic (the first graphical Web browser) was developed, licensed the source code to Spyglass for commercial distribution.

    Good news: Spyglass re-licensed it to a major corporation, so the university would get a percentage of all sales of that corporation's version.

    Bad news: The corporation was Microsoft, the version was Internet Explorer, and it was distributed for free (as in beer). A percentage of $0 doesn't fill the coffers very well.

    P.S.: The authors of Mosaic were annoyed by the university's policy, and wrote a new browser at a company named Mosaic Communications. The university claimed Mosaic was their trademark, so the company changed their name to Netscape.
    • There was also another, less well known side effect. The people in charge at NCSA felt really dumb for letting this thing walk out of there without making bazillions on it. They were not about to let it happen again. So, following this, everything that got started was looked at as being a possible "next Mosaic"--and if you wanted to get involved in it there were all kinds of license agreements and restrictions on it, etc. Or so a friend of mine that used to work there said. This had a severe chilling effect on possible collaboration, and a lot of good ideas probably dried up as a result of it.

      What's ironic about it is how much better it proably would have worked for them if, instead of attempting to license it as a proprietary thing, they had opensourced it and kept the project's home/leadership there. Then a splash scree/title bar saying "NCSA Mosaic" would be in the face of nearly every computer user in the world right now, instead of a fading memory in the minds of some tiny fraction of that.

      Or something like that.
  • Sad, but true (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ashcrow ( 469400 )
    This has been going on for a while now. My university has it's CS/CE students write code for major corporations for their junior or senior projects. Some people have said that there is nothing wrong with it seeing that it's just another way to keep universities open and provide good education, but there are many other areas that are exploited, For instance, space is given to the highest bidder in hallways and in open areas to seel items. Companies like Victoria Secret, Verizon, and Jarred Jewlers attempt to catch your eye while getting into your class. I really wish that I could learn for the sake of learning and not be 'tempted' by buisnesss men and marketers in my own state university.
  • by aphor ( 99965 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @10:45AM (#2785334) Journal

    If you think the move to privatize CS research is natural and good, you are mistaken because you do not understand the economics of the scientific process and peer-review. If the universities and labs make valuable software, then why shouldn't they make money off of it? Oh, they should "make money off of it" for sure, I'm not arguing that. What you have to understand about my argument is that you can make money without restricting software distribution. You don't have to say "you can't copy it or use it or see it unless you pay me first."

    Economically, it is crucial to learn the difference between economic value and market value. If you say the distinction is unimportant, let me remind you there is no such thing as a free-market economy where economic and market value are fully balanced. There are cases where a thing has more economic value than market value and vice versa.

    A piece of research software, in the form of a source tarball, can be compiled into a useful productive component of a machine. It can also be modified, improved, extended, etc. to create a new source tarball which can be compiled into a superior component of a productive machine. The source of the value in any of these elements is the ingenuity of those who created the original source code (or those who created the theory behind it). Most of the combined science of prior history is always a necessary ingredient for this ingenuity and vision.

    Newton: "If I have seen far, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." Ask yourself if you could do without Newtonian Physics on the chance that prior work was unavailable because some greedy short-sighted boob decided not to let anyone read Aristotle (for example) on the off-chance something of great value would come of it and boob would be left out? If you think about it, I.P. licensors are usually assholes trying to set up a retirement plan based on the value of someone else's continuing work.

    You can't believe in God if you believe in intellectual property. You can't take it with you!

    Now the economy is "adjusting" to the wild ambitions of people who discovered the Internet late... People who were around for the whole thing know that the value of the Internet is actually pent-up demand coming from prior licensing bungling with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Circut-Switched networks are not as efficient as Packet-Switching.

    I'm sorry for the livid tone, but I'm tired of all the whining Ayn-Rand type wannabes running around thinking "I'm a good person, I suffer righteously, and I got the other guy down so I'm gonna stick it to him!"

    I know (because I'm educated) that the litmus test for what side you're on is whether you believe you're partly responsible to future generations or not. Just think about what kind of world you would like to be born into and live that choice. Damn. I'm too worked up to even finish an argument. I retract everything. Forget I said any of this...

  • I think that it's important to remember that many universities aren't as endowment-rich as Berkeley, MIT, et al. Money has to come from somewhere. Grants drive research and the federal government has seen fit to give universities and research labs the ability to sell what they invent.


    Like many things, taking that ability to its extreme may be a bad idea, but there is certainly some middle ground that can satisfy the university's need for funding and the researcher's desire to publicize his or her work. The approach of licensing technnology to nonprofit entities at no cost but licensing to for-profit corporations for a fee seems like a good compromise in many instances.


    Certainly there will be those breakthroughs that just beg to be free. The case of BSD (at least in retrospect) is certainly one.


    It just strikes me that a well thought out intellectual property program at a university or research lab should give much more than a passing glance at the impact of the technology that their institution develops and develop a licensing plan that is appropriate. The Salon article certainly promoted a certain agenda, but remember, not all IP directors are money hungry despots and not all professors a zealous advocates of free software for everyone. There are calm heads out there!


    -h-

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @10:52AM (#2785367)
    The U. of Illinois super-computer center really blew when they were extremely protective of Mosaic- the first really widespread internet browser. So Clark and Andressen just blew them off and became billionaires. If U of I just asked for a small piece of the company, they would have cleaned up.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @10:59AM (#2785408)
    And what did they get out of this? Just a a measely $92 million dollars in gifts from their founders (with another $60 million in suspension). Imagine how much money Stanford would have made if it ran these companies itself. Maybe about 64 cents.

    On the other hand Stanford did invest about $3000 initially in HP, plus some low cost land. That only got them about $600 million in donations from the founders over the decades.
  • Publicly funded Universities are making money off of their sports team by charging admission to games and procedes from advertising.
  • I'm sure the RIAA is thrilled about this. Now when university professors like Prof. Felten crack their encryption schemes, they won't have to worry about it being published.
  • Universities rarely release software into the public domain anyway. Most of the time, it's under some BSDish license. It's a bit of a nitpick, but there is a significant legal difference.
  • History re-write (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cgleba ( 521624 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @01:33PM (#2786588)
    Oh yeah, I almost forgot. . .

    If I remeber it correctly ARPA paid BBN Corporation in Cambridge, MA to put and IP stack on BSD, which in turn it gave back to Berkley so that it could become "public domain". After that Berkley re-wrote the IP stack and added a plethora of tools (I think Bill Joy tries to take all the credit for the IP-stack re-write. . .another history re-write).

    I'm pretty sure my history is correct. In that case how the hell this retard, Bill Hoskins, at Berkley ever expected Berkley to "license" it lord only knows.

    I absolutely love how technology-related companies and universities re-write history to show that they were on top. I wrote a 20-page paper about MS re-writing history a few months ago that I'll perhaps post here some day when I have more bandwidth. . .
  • by markj02 ( 544487 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @01:49PM (#2786716)
    It's wrong, but it makes sense--if you subscribe to the Republican legal and economic philosophy: only the profit motive propels people to do things efficiently, therefore only by privatizing everything do you lower costs and make innovation move into the marketplace faster. It's the thinking that would have condemned us to decades of Compuserve because it would have kept the Internet from happening. It's a classic instance of the adage that every complex problem has a solution that's simple, easy to implement, easy to understand, and wrong.

    The government has a place in developing and deploying basic technologies: roads, space technology, weapons technologies, communications technologies. Government support is what made this nation great and powerful. The market cannot address these needs, and it never has.

  • by Kiwi ( 5214 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @02:08PM (#2786881) Homepage Journal
    Bill Hoskins, who is currently in charge of protecting the intellectual property produced at U.C. Berkeley, thinks it must have been a mistake. "Whoever released the code for the Internet probably didn't understand what they were doing," he says.

    I remember, back in 1993, Eric Allmann (The original Sendmail devloper), in an interview, was lamenting that if he had a nickel for every Sendmail installation, he would have become a very rich man.

    Of course, this would have never have happened. We are looking at traditional market economics: The less something costs, the more people will purchase (or use) the item in question.

    The only reason that Berkeley's TCP/IP stack and that Sendmail caught on was because they were the most open-source implementations out there. If Berkeley listened to the likes of Bill Hoskins, people would have simply used some other more open codebase, or have implemented their own open codebase.

    For example, when somebody tried to extract licensing fees out of people using his MP3 decoding codebase, people simply re-implemented an MP3 decoder, not using his code. When Fraunhoffer started mumbling about MP3s being patented, people implemented OGG Vorbis.

    The same thing would have happened with a Bill-Hoskins-license code base. The code would be forgotten today, and some other free implementation would be the one everyone is using today.

    - Sam

  • by linuxlover ( 40375 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @06:13PM (#2788532) Homepage
    Look at what happened at University of Illinois. All Mosaic hackers are from university and the university claimed that the software they did belonged to uni. Students in disgust left and rewrote another browser --> Netscape. The rest, as we all know it, is history.

    Even before the release of Netscape, university tried to sue them for copyright infringement. But finally they saw the light and settled.

    Jim Clarke says all this in his book 'Netscape Time'. He also contrasts how Stanford and Illinois operate. Stanford EE and CS departments get their 'investment back' in donations (often in millions worth of shares of startup companies). Illinois, tried to cash in on students' work and ended up with a creamed face.

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