Comments on Voting Project

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Sun Aug 17 2003 - 02:16:06 CDT

I have been busy with a deadline on Friday night, so I am just now
catching up on the discussion.

Here are my personal comments and suggestions.

1. I suggest that the demo software be GPL.

2. Everyone doing work on this demo project is doing so as a volunteer.

3. Time people have spent in the past is a sunk cost. There is the
potential for getting paid to do work in the future, but there is no
obligation to reimburse people for work done in the past.

4. There is potential for raising money for developing production
grade software. I have offered to lead the effort of submitting an
NSF proposal.

5. In such an NSF proposal or other fundraising proposals, there is
the potential for declaring as part of the proposal text the type of
licensing terms. If we want the results of such a project to be GPL,
we can write that into the NSF proposal, and such a writing would be
binding on the University of California or any other institution that
participated. I would be in favor of making such a declaration.

6. I am in favor of hiring Alan Dechert to work on the NSF-funded
project, and that is justifiable because of his expertise. He would
then get paid for his actual work on the project based on his
expertise, which he obtained through years of volunteer work. If I
lead the effort to write a proposal to the NSF, I will propose
including Alan in an appropriate role.

7. There is the potential for any number of organizations being
formed to support boards of elections and the like and using the open
source GPL software developed as part of an NSF-funded project. This
is akin to Red Hat (and competitors) for Linux. It is also akin to
Cygnus, which was a company that provided tech support for open
source software (before it's acquisition).

8. The faculty, students, and staff working on the NSF-funded project
would get paid for their time, as is usual practice at Universities.
They would not have intellectual property rights to the software,
since that would be GPL, according to my proposal above.

9. When the demo is completed, we would collectively decide what to
do next. We do not know how much rework, redesign, etc., would be
needed. We don't yet know how useful that software would be for the
development of the production version.

10. Those people who worked on the demo might be able to continue
volunteering with the NSF-funded project. However it is most likely
that only those employed by an institution participating in the
proposal could actually get paid. I don't want to rule anything out
in terms of participation at this point.

11. As someone who has served as an expert witness on patent
infringement cases, I think I know a fair amount about intellectual
property. There are several types of IP: patent, trademark,
copyright, and trade secret. At this point, there is no patentable
invention. Alan's web publications may preclude anyone from filing a
patent application on this topic. And we should collectively write
publications to preclude others from filing patents and to
acknowledge our collective work on this project. I do not know that
there have been any trademarks asserted. There are no (tm) labels
that I've seen in any messages. I for one won't lead a proposal
effort that uses a trademarked name. There is a copyright on each
and every writing that we do. There is not even the need to assert
copyright, due to the Bern Copyright Convention several decades ago.
But copyright is on the expression of an idea, not the idea itself.
What's in each of our heads that we have not yet disclosed is a trade
secret. Everything we've written down and disclosed is not a trade
secret. I hope it is clear from this discourse that the primary IP
that Alan (or anyone in this group) has is copyright. Like the
software, I propose that any documentation and other written
materials for this project also be GPL.

12. My comments on the above are not to say that Alan doesn't have
some moral authority from having devoted countless hours to this
effort. But that moral authority is earned and not legal. Just as
any moral authority I have is from the respect that are given to me
as a result of my efforts on this project and elsewhere.

I think it is important for each of us to understand the nature of
intellectual property on this project, the future direction we
contemplate, and whether any of us intends to make money off of this
effort. Those of us who volunteer need to know if their efforts will
go to line someone else's pocket.

My vision for the NSF-funded project is to have something that has
the impact of Berkeley UNIX, but under a more favorable (to the
public) licensing scheme.


Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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Received on Sun Aug 31 23:17:11 2003

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