Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Linux Containers

Open Source Cloud: Article

Could a New Type of Legal Entity Help Underground Open Source Development?

Could a New Type of Legal Entity Help Underground Open Source Development?

Sometimes it's the things you don't plan that seem to have the most impact.

Today was one of those days. I'd been talking with Bruce Perens earlier in the day after attending a talk he gave on a bunch of issues including software patents and the dangers they pose to the Open Source community ­as well as to individual open source developers. It was a fascinating talk that covered a host of issues - including his take on the current SCO debacle. (I've gotten his permission to reprint the talk in the next issue of LinuxWorld Magazine.)

A bit later, I ran into Zak Welch. Zak is Chairman of the Board of The Zynot Foundation,­ a group of open source developers that are working on a new Linux distribution that has been forked from the Gentoo distribution.

The Zynot Foundation booth was over in the ".org Pavilion" of the LinuxWorld show floor. This is the area where all the open source developers and non-profits like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation hang out. Zak's area was filled with a bunch of hard-core coders. There were ideas flying everywhere and acoustic guitars stashed in the corner. The place was a hotbed of innovation.

Zak is setting up this new group and has a bunch of innovative ideas on how to structure his project so that developers can make money from their work and also be protected from software patent lawsuits. He's incorporated as a 501(c)3 corporation and even has a lawyer on his board of directors.

So I got talking to Zak about some of Bruce's ideas on protecting the open source community and individual developers from patent lawsuits and that got him even more excited. We arranged to get together and meet Bruce later to discuss it more.

Later, when we got together with Bruce, what followed was a really interesting and cutting-edge discussion on what open source groups (and the companies that benefit from their work) can do to protect themselves from patent lawsuit liability and ensure they aren't knocked out of business by some deep-pocketed corporation using patent law to shut down competition from the open source community.

Of course, it all needs to begin with the developers themselves making sure they aren't violating patents with the work they're doing. Zak's approach to that is to come up with a "commiter's agreement" that all commiters sign saying they won't do so. In addition, both Bruce and Zak agreed that incorporation as a 501(c)3 corporation provides at least some "shield" for developers themselves.

But corporations need to play a part in this as well. In today's world, the amount of open source software in use in corporations is staggering. If this free resource were to be suddenly threatened, it could literally cause billions of dollars of damage to economies around the world. Even if you are outside America, if an American corporation's lawsuit shuts down an open source project that you use software from, you're going to be impacted.

Bruce indicated that there is a recently passed Volunteer Protection Act that may be able to protect members of a non-profit group. He indicated that it hadn't been tested, but that it should protect developers as long as they and their project meet the criterion set out in the bill.

Zak is convinced, however, that the existing laws governing the structure of non-profits don't fit the model of open source software groups. He's concerned that by having to "shoe-horn" his business into one of the models provided, it will cost more money than necessary­ and that none of the types of non-profit structures available really fit with the organization he's trying to build.

We recorded the whole conversation and it can be found (all 20 minutes of it) in MP3 format. If you have further interest in this topic, then it will be there for you to listen to.

It was a dialog bristling with ideas that are all critical for the open source community at this point in time. If you think your open source group doesn't need to worry about patent lawsuits, think again. Just listen to the MP3.

And the best thing was that the discussion was all on the spur of the moment. That's what happens when you hang out in the “.org pavilion” area: you don't have to look far to find innovation in the .org pavilion; it finds you

More Stories By Kevin Bedell

Kevin Bedell, one of the founding editors of Linux.SYS-CON.com, writes and speaks frequently on Linux and open source. He is the director of consulting and training for Black Duck Software.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Moroccanoil®, the global leader in oil-infused beauty, is thrilled to announce the NEW Moroccanoil Color Depositing Masks, a collection of dual-benefit hair masks that deposit pure pigments while providing the treatment benefits of a deep conditioning mask. The collection consists of seven curated shades for commitment-free, beautifully-colored hair that looks and feels healthy.
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
We all love the many benefits of natural plant oils, used as a deap treatment before shampooing, at home or at the beach, but is there an all-in-one solution for everyday intensive nutrition and modern styling?I am passionate about the benefits of natural extracts with tried-and-tested results, which I have used to develop my own brand (lemon for its acid ph, wheat germ for its fortifying action…). I wanted a product which combined caring and styling effects, and which could be used after shampo...
The platform combines the strengths of Singtel's extensive, intelligent network capabilities with Microsoft's cloud expertise to create a unique solution that sets new standards for IoT applications," said Mr Diomedes Kastanis, Head of IoT at Singtel. "Our solution provides speed, transparency and flexibility, paving the way for a more pervasive use of IoT to accelerate enterprises' digitalisation efforts. AI-powered intelligent connectivity over Microsoft Azure will be the fastest connected pat...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
Druva is the global leader in Cloud Data Protection and Management, delivering the industry's first data management-as-a-service solution that aggregates data from endpoints, servers and cloud applications and leverages the public cloud to offer a single pane of glass to enable data protection, governance and intelligence-dramatically increasing the availability and visibility of business critical information, while reducing the risk, cost and complexity of managing and protecting it. Druva's...
BMC has unmatched experience in IT management, supporting 92 of the Forbes Global 100, and earning recognition as an ITSM Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for five years running. Our solutions offer speed, agility, and efficiency to tackle business challenges in the areas of service management, automation, operations, and the mainframe.