Re: San Francisco debate heating up

From: Brian Behlendorf <brian_at_behlendorf_dot_com>
Date: Sun Mar 04 2007 - 19:57:05 CST

On Sat, 3 Mar 2007, Greg Christopher wrote:
> Hello Brian, Alan...
>
> On Mar 1, 2007, at 11:31 PM, Alan Dechert wrote:
>
>> Brian,
>>>
>>> I did see the insinuation that the only reason we are
>>> advocating Open Source is because we want to enable
>>> someone close to us to copy Sequoia's oh-so-precious
>>> IP for a competitive offering. But, to be honest, that is
>>> exactly what is legally possible with an Open Source
>>> license, ....
>>>
>> True. And our disclosure language does not mention "open source."
>> It's about disclosure only.
>
> Wow that's an interesting point re:open source could legally copy the
> code for use. I was not aware that copyright law wouldn't apply to a
> public use of the source code such as deploying an open source voting
> system. Even the GPL which promotes copying of source code seems to
> start applying restrictions when that source code starts to get used
> for business purposes. I would be surprised if any such usage of
> Sequoia's source would be legal. There is some use of open source in
> Adobe products and we need to be very careful to make sure credit is
> given in those situations.

There's a whole lot of confusion apparent in the words above. Copyright law
continues to exist and be enforced just fine no matter how it's used. Nothing
in the GPL prevents you from using or deploying that software for commercial
use, or even redistribute for commercial purposes. It does require that the
cost of redistribution of source code is no more than the cost of media, but
you can still distribute GPL software with very expensive hardware if you'd
like, or charge for services & support, etc. Sequoia and any other vendor could
have the exact same business model they do today; all that changes is that
someone else can then take their code and provide the same support or services.

Of course the GPL is just one kind of Open Source license, and other Open
Source licenses would allow for private modifications - that is, they are
non-reciprocal. But, if there's a mandate that the code be published anyways,
then it's not a big problem.

> To really understand if it would be legal to repurpose
> Sequoia's source I would have to read the license agreement for
> Sequoia's system. They don't have a EULA. Thank goodness.

The GPL would be that license agreement, and there can't be additional
agreements - the GPL says it's illegal to add terms to it. So when someone
says GPL, that's all you need to know about what the license terms are.

> While I don't think it is in anyone's benefit to copy source
> for what is basically a glorified calculator, I do think there are
> some hours spent understanding and implementing rules based on the
> thousands of individual governments inside the U.S., and I could see
> where protecting that information would be important to Sequoia.
> However, all that information is public knowledge.
> I could think of some techniques that sequoia could use to
> protect their "IP", for instance watermarking. However, they would
> need a little time to be able to apply whatever techniques they
> decided to use to their current products.

Because source is disclosed, any attempt to prevent people from exercising
their rights under the GPL would be likely to be easily and legally
circumvented.

         Brian

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Received on Sat Mar 31 23:17:04 2007

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