August 22, 2003  ·  Lessig

I don’t even know how to begin this story, so stupid and extreme it is.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was convinced by Jamie Love and others to hold a meeting about “open collaborative models to develop public goods.” One of those models is, of course, open source and free software. Lobbyists for Microsoft and others apparently (according to this extraordinary story by Jonathan Krim) started lobbying the US government to get the meeting cancelled. No surprise there. Open source and free software is a competitor to MSFT’s products. Lobbying is increasingly the way competition is waged in America.

But the astonishing part is the justification for the US opposing the meeting. According to the Post, Lois Boland, director of international relations for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said “that open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights.” As she is quoted as saying, “To hold a meeting which has as its purpose to disclaim or waive such rights seems to us to be contrary to the goals of WIPO.”

If Lois Boland said this, then she should be asked to resign. The level of ignorance built into that statement is astonishing, and the idea that a government official of her level would be so ignorant is an embarrassment. First, and most obviously, open-source software is based in intellectual-property rights. It can’t exist (and free software can’t have its effect) without it. Second, the goal of WIPO, and the goal of any government, should be to promote the right balance of intellectual-property rights, not simply to promote intellectual property rights. And finally, if an intellectual property right holder wants to “disclaim” or “waive” her rights, what business is it of WIPOs? Why should WIPO oppose a copyright or patent rights holder’s choice to do with his or her rights what he or she wants?

These points are basic. They should be fundamental. That someone who doesn’t understand them is at a high level of this government just shows how extreme IP policy in America has become.

  • Brian

    I think this shows the true state of insanity in this country. The level of greed/resistance to change is just amazing.

  • George Tobin

    Boland was right. Let’s get real. This conference idea was not a nobly dispassionate proposal to examine the ontological status of open source software. This was in fact an an openly politicized attempt to get an international, government-sanctioned intellectual property organization to provide a forum so that the usual suspects can vent about the evils of capitalism in general and Microsoft et al. in particular. Why should the USPTO send somebody to listen to that that crap or give credence to it merely by being there?

    If someone has a specific, serious proposal to change the legal status of open-source software then let the WIPO examine that concept when and if it is ripe for such examination.

    I think it is flatly disingenuous to presume that this proposal was anything other than a highly politicized stunt with no basis in any specific concepts or proposals ripe for WIPO-level discussion. Boland was right. Lessig was way over the top calling for resignation.

  • http://www.farceswannamo.com David Woycechowsky

    Some historical context is probably helpful in not getting too frustrated here.

    Looking over a longer term, the US does have a history of being too stingy with intellectual property rights. In the patent context there have been arguably arbitrary and arguably capricious obviousness standards (see AG Pro v. Sakraida). Also, in the patent context there was the longstanding blanket denial of software patents.

    In the copyright context there has been denial of copyright based on failure to follow hypertechnical procedures (Gold Rush movie, that Capra movie).

    Against this temporally dilated background, it is easier to understand the simple minded more-ip-better attitudes that we commonly observe. Not everyone has an easy time walking away from their Reagan era political stances.

    The real challenge on a going forward basis is how can we strategically dole out intellectual property rights so that you only get rights economically commensaurate with the economic benefit you give.

    In SCO v. IBM, this will probably be a relatively straightforward process when the copyright infringement evidence (and counter-evidence) emerges.

    Crafting better standards for who really deserves a given software patent monopoly seems like a funner issue. The WIPO will get there in time. Not all big players are wedded to expansive patent rights these days (eg, some of the amici briefs in the Warner-Jenkinson case).

    Hopefully, when the debate happens. the big players won’t think of some way to game the obviousness law in their collective favor — I mean, that would take some real creativity ;)

  • Chris Lawson

    George Tobin ought to apply for a job with Lois Boland. He is equally adept at missing the point. Open Source is a real, expanding phenomenon. Even if the WIPO has to listen to the occasional political rant, it should be there. But even more importantly, Boland didn’t refuse because she was concerned about the politicisation of the meeting; she refused because she sees open source as *opposed* to intellectual property laws, and this statement is, as our esteemed host says, ignorant and an embarrassment, and ought to get her sacked.

  • http://www.hamrick.org/ Matthew S. Hamrick

    I believe that George Tobin may be missing the point here. Open Source Anything is based on international intellectual rights. George makes a common mistake of confusing Open Source _fill in the blank_ with the public domain. If you look closely, you will see that the end products of open source projects tend to come with license agreements. In my work I have seen source code licenses for many proprietary products. The structure of agreements covering the usage of open source products is similar (if not identical) to agreements covering the use of proprietary “closed source” products. They tend to describe who owns the intellectual property, who is being granted a license, what the licensee is allowed to do with the licensed product, who owns derivative works, and who gets to collect fees for derivative works.

    To say that open source is at odds with intellectual property and IP law is to completely miss the point. Intellectual Property law creates the legal environment that supports both proprietary and open source projects. WIPO is the international structure for establishing international agreements WRT IP. Lessig is not wrong in asking for Boland’s resignation. Boland should know better.

    Tobin is wrong to state that only proprietary interests should be represented in an international IP forum. The reason that there is international interest in open source is because a great number of people, including people from the commercial sector (like myself) recognize a tremendous benefit to “the commons.” It is irresponsible of Boland to not represent US commercial interests with a stake in open source software and projects.

  • http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/hqm Henry Minsky

    This is so awful I don’t know where to start. I don’t have time to deal with this kind of thing, but I have a little bit of money. Who should I send it to do the most good. I already donated $50 to the FSF to help defray the SCO extortion case.

  • lessig

    oh come on George, “the usual suspects can vent about the evils of capitalism”? You mean like IBM? It is first grade in this field to understand that open source and free software is not anti-commerce, or anti-IP. It might be anti-proprietary software, but it takes a particularly careless mind to miss the distinction. Such minds do not deserve high office (all evidence to the contrary).

    And Henry: EFF, and Jamie Love’s organization is CPTech.

  • Ian Lindley

    With all due respect to Mr. Lessig, and with the caveat that I too think defenestration is appropriate with regard to this statement… if in fact it was made … I think perhaps Mr. Tobin’s point is the one being missed.

    I think his argument was that the function of having this get-together re: open-source was not to discuss directions for or desirable changes in law relating to open-source development, but simply an opportunity for a bunch of pinko commie bedwetters to bitch about our fine upstanding IP right holders’ activities.

    I suspect he is probably quite aware of the legal basis for open-source development. I believe he just thinks the purpose of the session was to promote open source, not to engage in a meaningful dialectic process or otherwise share information. Is this a valid and reasonable complaint? I’m too intellectually lazy to inquire further, but I suspect it’s at least based on the questionable premise that rich capitalists carving up the world is OK, but (metaphorically) penguin-suited computer geeks having a go is wrong.

  • lessig

    If that is what Mr. Tobin thinks the meeting would be about, he is not informed. But that’s quite besides the point of my post. Whether you support there being a meeting or not, my criticism was of the reasons given for opposing the meeting. They betray ignorance.

  • http://www.opencursus.be Wouter Vanden Hove

    The Open Letter to the WIPO addresses following 7 topics
    1. The IETF and Open Network Protocols.
    2. Development of Free and Open Software
    3. The World Wide Web.
    4. The Human Genome Project (HGP).
    5. The SNP Consortium
    6. Open Academic and Scientific Journals
    7. The Global Positioning System.

    Note that Free software / Open Source is just one of them.

    Full text can be found here:
    http://www.cptech.org/ip/wipo/kamil-idris-7july2003.pdf

    A few days later an article about it appeared in Nature.
    [118 Nature, vol 424 | 10 July 2003]
    Full-text see: http://mail.fsfeurope.org/pipermail/discussion/2003-July/004003.html

    The initial answer from WIPO:
    “Francis Gurry, an assistant director-general at the WIPO, said that the organization welcomed the idea. “The use of open and collaborative development models for research and innovation is a very important and
    interesting development,” he said in a statement. “The director-general
    looks forward with enthusiasm to taking up the invitation to organize a
    conference to explore the scope and application of these models.’

    Someone wrote on this blog:
    “I think it is flatly disingenuous to presume that this proposal was anything other than a highly politicized stunt…”
    Like a typical Slashdotter… I propose that you first READ the Open Letter before making lousy comments like that.

    Someone else:
    “…a bunch of pinko commie bedwetters to bitch about our fine upstanding IP right holders� activities.”
    And how many Nobel prizes have you got?

    One vote more for Boland’s resignation.

  • Darius Cuplinskas

    For anyone who thinks the WIPO meeting was supposed to be a stunt, please have a look at the original July 7 letter to WIPO, available online at http://www.cptech.org/ip/wipo/kamil-idris-7july2003.pdf .

    The letter calls for a meeting to examine the IPR implications not only of free software, but of a wide range of emerging economic models based on open collaboration. The signatories include economists like Josepth Stiglitz and Hal Varian, not generally known for their anti-capitalist views.

  • http://drew.intercarve.net Drew Vogel

    Consider this excerpt from this page on the WIPO’s site:

    “7. Given its increasing global relevance, the intellectual property system cannot continue to evolve as an issue limited in scope and focused mainly on maintaining and developing intellectual property rights protection. The more intellectual property becomes central to economic growth and wealth creation, the greater will be the challenge of developing the international intellectual property system in a way that it be instrumental to social and economic development. In addition, while stressing the economic benefits of intellectual property creations, it becomes most necessary to also attribute a rightful place to the less economically tangible but equally important cultural aspects, namely the artistic and intellectual pleasure that such creations bring, enriching our daily life and lasting cultures.”

  • George Tobin

    This is fun. Let me reply:
    1) The proposed conference was specifically intended to be about promoting ‘open’ models of innovation that don’t rely on patents.’ The Nature article specifically states the signers’ goal of promoting alternatives to current protections with respect to software and pharmaceuticals. Whether one endorses this agenda or not does not change the fact that the conference was expressly intended to advocate /endorse /promote models closer to a “patent-free” paradigm. The express intent was to act to reduce the scope of current intellectual property rights for both pharmaceuticals and software.

    2) The express goal of WIPO is, in the words of the current director general, the “maintenance and further development of the respect of intellectual property throughout the world. It means that any erosion of the existing protection should be prevented…”

    3) Ms. Boland said that the US (as a member of WIPO) should not be in the business of acting to reduce the scope of intellectual property rights, a statement completely consistent with the express goals of WIPO and accurately responding to the true intention of the conference promoters.

    4) So how the hell is that wrong and worthy of a demand for resignation? She appears to have a better grasp of her role and that of WIPO than does Prof. Lessig.

    That is my point.

    No matter how warm and fuzzy James Love and the Naderite agenda may make you feel, Ms. Boland was correct to keep away from it. If “patent-free” government funded-innovation is your dream, then by all means strap on those Birkenstocks and march the issue through any and every appropriate forum.

    PS: Mr. Hamrick & Mr. Lessig: I do know the distinction between open source and public domain. I did pass the bar and people have actually paid me to draft license agreements. However, I think many people treat “open source” as if it were a political buzzword meaning death-to-Microsoft-free-software-for-the-people. I also think that some people who know better but with a broad political agenda intentionally attach meanings to “open source” that should not apply. When I wrote “change the legal status of open source software” I did not mistate nor did I imply that it was identical to public domain. I get agitated precisely because I believe that Mr. Love et al. often imply political connotations to the term “open source” as if it were synonymous with an anti-capitalist agenda rather than a reference to copyrightable code subject to legal protection.

    Dumping on Lois Boland for being too politically incorrect to welcome an anti-WIPO agenda to the WIPO was a cheap shot. And ad hominems about �careless minds� when you clearly blew off a few distinctions yourself is unfair, Mr. Lessig.

    Nevertheless, thanks for a providing thought-provoking and enlightening exchange. Great blog!

  • http://www.nationaljournal.com/pubs/techdaily William New

    Hi, you might also be interested in my stories on the WIPO flap, which we published in Technology Daily two days before Krim followed up. One story interviews WIPO official Francis Gurry on the subject and the second story is an interview with Lois Boland on the WIPO meeting.

    As we are subscription-based, I have included them below, with apologies for space consumption:

    National Journal’s Technology Daily

    Intellectual Property
    Global Group’s Shift On ‘Open Source’ Meeting Spurs Stir
    by William New

    A request for a meeting on open development issues has plunged the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) into a Washington political battle, causing it to shift its position on the issue.
    At issue is whether WIPO should hold a meeting next year on “open and collaborative projects” such as “open source” software, which allows users to view and modify underlying code.
    The meeting was proposed in a July 7 letter sent to WIPO Director General Kamil Idris by 68 distinguished scientists, academics, technologists, open-source advocates, consumer advocates, librarians, industry representatives and economists worldwide.
    Although the letter cited a broad range of open collaborative projects such as the World Wide Web and the Human Genome Project, the fight has focused on open-source software and on one signer of the letter — James Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, who has actively pushed for the meeting.
    WIPO’s initial response to the idea was so favorable that proponents began planning for a meeting. After receiving the letter, Francis Gurry, WIPO’s assistant director and legal counsel, e-mailed a statement to a Nature magazine reporter calling such open development models “a very important and interesting development.”
    “The director general of WIPO looks forward with enthusiasm to taking up the invitation to organize a conference to explore the scope and application of these models as vehicles for encouraging innovation,” he wrote.
    But a few weeks later, WIPO backed off the idea. Gurry said he and other WIPO officials received “many calls” from consumer groups, trade associations, professional associations and representatives from governments.
    “What happened in the intervening weeks is that a request for an open discussion on a range of ‘projects’ became transformed into an increasingly domestically, as opposed to internationally, oriented, polarized political and trade debate about one only of those ‘projects’, namely open-source software,” Gurry told National Journal’s Technology Daily on Tuesday. “In those circumstances, the possibility of conducting a policy discussion on intellectual property of the sort that might be appropriate for an international organization devoted to intellectual property became increasingly remote.”
    U.S. government officials have argued that WIPO is an inappropriate place for such a meeting.
    One developing country representative to WIPO on Monday expressed disappointment at hearing that the meeting is in doubt, and Love and representatives from the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) were furious to learn of the shift. Love last week called the decision a “temporary setback,” and vowed, “We’re going to make this happen.” But for meeting opponents, he said, it would be “as if you made an atheist pope for the day.”
    CCIA President Ed Black said on Tuesday: “Does this indicate that WIPO is abdicating authority and responsibility for these issues, including open source for the future? If so, we will all live by that, but then so must they. They should step up the plate or step aside. … It is inexplicable that they would shut the door on what are clearly important issues.”

    Intellectual Property
    U.S. Official Opposes ‘Open Source’ Talks At WIPO
    by William New

    An international intellectual property body is not the place for discussions about “open source” software, which allows users to view and modify the underlying code, because it falls outside of the organization’s mission, a senior U.S. official argued on Monday.
    Reviewing the original mission of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said Lois Boland, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) acting director of international relations, it is “clearly limited to the protection of intellectual property. To have a meeting whose primary objective is to waive or remove those protections seems to go against the mission.”
    Boland was referring to a July request by a group of scientists, academics, open-source advocates and others for a meeting at WIPO on “open and collaborative projects,” including open-source software. The WIPO secretariat initially replied favorably to the idea.
    In a telephone interview, Boland gave several reasons why the Geneva-based WIPO should not hold the meeting, including a tight budget and late scheduling. She also said WIPO’s agenda should be driven by member nations, and the idea came from outside the organization.
    Officials from the 179 WIPO nations will convene in late September to decide their agenda for the next two years; the agenda has been in the works for months and does not include open-development issues. “It would have been somewhat unusual for such a meeting to materialize out of nothing,” Boland said.
    In the past six months, WIPO has had to cancel several meetings on topics directly relevant to the organization due to budgetary issues, she said, adding that with those problems, the organization should not “go out on a limb and express receptivity” to an open-development meeting.
    U.S. government officials have had “informal” communications with WIPO, Boland said. A WIPO official said that since receiving a wide range of communications, WIPO has stepped back from the idea of a meeting but has not fully rejected the possibility of addressing the topic.
    The U.S. government has an interagency process for developing formal positions at WIPO. A meeting that included officials from PTO and the Copyright Office was held last Thursday at the State Department. The Commerce Department and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are part of the interagency process, too.
    Boland said the United States “would certainly have some rather bureaucratic objections” to WIPO considering a policy on open-source software. “There are technical and legalistic arguments to that.” Open-source software is not protected under copyright law but only contract law, which is not the domain of WIPO, she said. That point has been heavily disputed by copyright experts.
    Boland suggested that the U.S. government supports open-source growth as a development tool and she proposed it for consideration by a U.N. body focused on development.
    She also reprimanded WIPO officials for publicly giving the impression that the body might consider open-source issues. “We think people working within the organization need to be better stewards of interactions” with nonprofit groups and other non-member organizations, she said.

  • Anonymous

    George, you misunderstand Lessig: he’s only talking about the world as it should be (“the goal of WIPO, and the goal of any government, should be to promote the right balance of intellectual-property rights, not simply to promote intellectual property rights”), not as it is. If we were talking about the world as it is, then of course Boland didn’t say anything wrong. But in the world as Lessig would have it, then of course she did. Always pay attention to the distinction between Lessig’s world and ours.

    Lessig goes wrong, of course, when he suggests that opposition to his agenda (to his view of how the world should be) is somehow ignorant. There’s nothing ignorant about Boland’s view, unless Lessig thinks (and perhaps he does!) that everyone who disagrees with him is ignorant.

  • Fuzzy

    In my opinion, “promoting �open� models of innovation that don�t rely on patents” does nothing to “erode… existing protection” or to “reduce the scope of intellectual property rights”. If one were graphing the two, they were be on separate perpendicular axis. If you think that the owners of free and open source “intellectual property” do not take it seriously or want the protection of their rights to be eroded, you seem to have missed the many times that the FSF or other “property right owners” have taken steps to enforce their licenses. Fortunately, most commercial entities have not needed to be taken into court to bring about compliance with the licenses. Confusing the political goals of some of the advocates of ‘software libre’ (free software), like Richard Stallman, with the commercial goals advocates of open software, like IBM and HP, also gives the appearance of ignorance.

  • http://www.opencursus.be Wouter Vanden Hove

    “Open-source software is not protected under copyright law but only contract law, which is not the domain of WIPO”.

    what a week! First SCO-lawyers saying the “GPL is pre-empted by US Copyright law”, and now this. Is there some hidden contest being held here?
    And the winner “Stupidest IP-statement of the year 2003″ is …

  • Bill Zimmerly

    “And how many Nobel prizes have you got?” -
    � posted by Wouter Vanden Hove on Aug 22 03 at 9:46 AM

    Although off topic, I can’t resist the observation that ever since Arafat was given the Nobel Peace Prize (even as he was signing checks for the families of homicide bombers), I have lost total respect for the Nobel.

  • http://drew.intercarve.net Drew Vogel

    Mr. Tobin, please site your source for this quote:

    “maintenance and further development of the respect of intellectual property throughout the world. It means that any erosion of the existing protection should be prevented…”

    I am very interested what is hiding behind the “…”

  • lessig

    Mr. Tobin,

    What distinctions did I fail to make — in the argument I actually make as opposed to the one you paint above. Again, my criticism is of Ms. Boland’s statement. According to Jonathan Krim’s story, here is what she said: “that open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights.�

    Is that statement true?

    It would be true if “open source software” somehow opposed intellectual property rights. I take it you concede that is wrong.

    It would be true if WIPO’s mission was to maximize intellectual property, as opposed to striking the right balance of intellectual property. No serious economist believes IP should be maximized; no serious attention to our own history would suggest we have believed in maximizing IP. The aim of WIPO and the US government should be to promote progress, which has always meant a balance of IP.

    And it would be true if WIPO’s aim was to foce holders of IP rights not to “waive” or “disclaim” their rights. But again, why possible interest would WIPO have in interfering with the choice of authors and inventors?

    So again, exactly how is the statement attributed to Ms. Boland true? Forget political-correctness, and all the stuff about “my world” versus the real world: Is it true or not true?

  • Robert

    George,

    I don’t understand your point. I think it is fairly obvious that she
    was misinformed about the legal status of open source work
    and the motivations for using it. (i.e. commercial click-
    to-accept software relies on contracts — she stated they
    did not; Open Source software relies on copyrights — she
    stated they did not; Open Source software and collaborative
    research and development models are not about stipping legal
    protection from copyrighted works, patented technologies,
    or trademarks.)

    Basically, she is not qualified for the position she holds.

    Therefore some people want to ask her to step down.

    Pretty simple, isn’t it?

  • http://www.flora.ca/russell/ Russell McOrmond

    I believe it is important to recognize our own language problems in these conversations. Those opposing Free/Libre and Open Source Software are not “proprietary” as in the context of copyright law FLOSS is just as proprietary as the closed-source alternatives.

    I have found that the best distinction to use is “software manufacturing”. We are really talking about folks who for historical reasons dating back to when software was always bundled with hardware treat software as if it were hardware. Hardware is is manufactured, distributed, and sold on a per-unit basis, and these folks mistakenly believe this is the only and most logical way to think of software.

    In this context it is clear that the opponents to FLOSS are simply yet another case of candle makers lobbying against the introduction of the electric light bulb.

    The candle maker analogy is a useful one. The light bulb did not eradicate the candle making business that still exists today, it just removed their monopoly. Having free markets, which FLOSS promotes, is far more supportive of free market capitalism than the alternative forms of capitalism that are barely deserving of the name.

    BTW: Canadians interested in this topic may want to visit the digital-copyright.ca forum.

  • James Day

    Claiming “open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights” is actually a very good thing. It makes it very clear that WIPO proposals are partisan and not an appropriate basis for law.

  • http://Curiosityabouttheabovecomments Dave Owen

    Once upon a time, at lunch, my father-in-law and I got into a discussion about politics. It remained a discussion, rather than escalating into an argument, because I refused to take his bait: each time he resorted to name-calling in order to provoke me emotionally, I simply continued to point out the inherent weakness of whatever argument he had just presented.

    After about a half hour of this, one of his sons (who is, by the way, eleven years old, and had been listening intently the entire time) spoke up. He said, “This is the first time anyone has ever been able to have a conversation about politics with my dad without yelling.” He then pointed out a flaw in one of his father’s arguments, which impressed the heck out of both of us.

    So to those who pepper their otherwise apparently rational statements with petty little barbs like “pinko commie bedwetters” and “strap on those birkenstocks”, you should know that it is obvious even to eleven-year-olds that those who resort to name-calling probably aren’t winning the argument. ;)

  • Eric O’Dell

    Even if Open Source were opposed to intellectual property — one may fairly argue that Richard Stallman is obviously opposed to the very idea, while Eric Raymond is equally obviously in favor — how is this a disqualifier for consideration by WIPO? It’s not necessarily a bad idea for an organization to consider its own cause for existence, nor is it a bad idea to listen to the opposition. In fact, both practices are essential not only to avoiding extreme positions but also to developing a deeper understanding of one’s own views.

    It is safe to say that Microsoft and other industry groups lobbying the State Department are not for intellectual property in any sort of broad, unqualified way. As has been noted by others here, Open Source — even Stallman’s GPL’ed version of it — is positively dependent on intellectual property rights. Microsoft and its fellow travelers are only in favor of intellectual property when it suits their purposes. If SCO v. IBM is, as it seems likely, the tip of the iceberg, strong IP proponents may increasingly have reason to wonder if they are actually undermining their own interests by creating a legal minefield that servers only to benefit the minelayers, i.e. intellectual property attorneys. This is definitely a scenario WIPO ought to consider, and one which is not likely to receive much examination without the presence IP skeptics of the sort common in the Open Source camp.

  • Anil Wang

    Mr Tobin, you have a few things wrong.

    First of all, open source depends on intellectual property rights.

    Second of all, �open source� is not a political buzzword meaning death-to-Microsoft-free-software-for-the-people. If it were the case, then no open source development would exist on Windows. Although most open source development is on a flavour of Unix or Linux because compilers and scripts are part of the OS, open source development on Windows is still pretty strong. Cygwin/XFree, Mozilla, OpenOffice, Mono, Apache, and JBoss are just a few of the key open source projects on Windows.

    Finally, open source is not anti-capitalist. While the BSD/MIT license is a bit communistic (“from those with are willing to give to anyone with a need no matter if they are open or proprietary”), the GPL and LGPL embody the “quid pro quo” quality of capitalism. If I create a GPLed work, I don’t want someone stealing it without giving me something in return. If you make changes to my code, I want to be paid those code changes. It’s an even (non-monitary) barter.

    Open source is valid intellectual property and it has gained enough prominence and importance to business to deserve the respect and support of WIPO.

    The meeting being canceled what just that, a meeting to discuss open source IP. No decision was or had to be made. Something is very wrong when it’s forbidden for WIPO to even talk about a prominant IP issue.

  • http://www.loadedguntheory.com Tim Thomas

    I love listening to a large portion of the techno-elite speak. It’s so depressing, and speaks well for their impending doom. I hear more and more darwinistic talk all the time. I keep hearing people say that it’s perfectly acceptable for people at the top of the heap to behave badly. Because, well, they’re there. Its ok for Microsoft to set the government’s policy on software design, because they’re the most successful computer software company going. Its ok for Haliburton to get the contracts to rebuild Iraq, because they were a succesful company that made some fantastic strategic contacts. The moral decay is astounding. I feel like I’m watching the edge of a precipice. I see the capitalists at the top shouting “Let them eat cake!” I make no predictions of how it will end, but I’m pretty sure if Sophocles and Shakespeare have endured for hundreds of years on the universality of their stories, then corporate America is nearing its end. Its how the story goes. It is inevitable. I posit that ultimately the saying should not be “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”, but rather “Those who try to outsmart the past…”

  • Sean Upton

    Mr. Tobin, surely you must have learned about Hume’s dictum at some point in your education. You assume that the goals of WIPO as they are, and as they should be are one in the same – and you assume that becuase this is the mission as espoused by the status quo (right or not) that this is the way it should be. Give me a break. I don’t see why striving towards balance would ‘erode’ intellectual property – you assume this is about more or less, when it is really about better or worse. This is a normative question – treat it like one.

  • http://www.advogato.org/person/raph/ Raph Levien

    Drew Vogel asked for the source of this quote:

    “maintenance and further development of the respect of intellectual property throughout the world. It means that any erosion of the existing protection should be prevented��

    A quick Google search turns up this Vision and Strategic Direction of WIPO, which cites the “Medium Term Plan 1996-1999″ as the original source for this quote.

    Hope this helps.

    A quick scan of some of these WIPO documents turns up quite a bit of motherhood language about the public good, as to be expected. It’s not clear to me yet whether any of this is strong enough to hold WIPO to a standard of actually upholding the public good, or whether it’s window dressing for continuing to expand the economic power of big businesses through strengthening of copyright, patent, trade secret, and trademark laws. George Tobin’s comments seem to imply the latter, in which case it is of course important to criticize and oppose the worst of their excesses.

  • Carl Anderson

    I find it truely dishheartening that the WIPO fails to acknowldedge the importance of open-source and open standards to American business. At this point, much of the IT sector has (IBM, Apple, etc.) large commitements to open-source technology. Is there position just a matter of being outlobbied by companies that depend entirely on closed-source, or is Boland simply bogged down in outdated paradigms regarding her mission. My opinion is that its both.

  • http://istumbler.net Alf Watt

    It’s Simon’s assertion that really gets to me, the very idea that commerce drive innovation is in my mind immediately contradicted by looking at the most successful commercial software: Office and Windows, in that order.

    Neither have provided anything close innovative new features in more than five years. In fact I’d argue that they now consume more user time than ever as their complexity and feature list increases and the time to implement a solution goes up with that feature count. “It looks like your writing a letter,” the paper clip interrupts. And he’s right, and the time it take me to tell him to piss-off is wasted, millions of times a day across the market.

    Truly innovative products, like the combination of HTTP & HTML which drove the web, and the underlying IP networks that provided the infrastructure for the web came out of open, cooperatively developed systems. The best business, even initial leaders like Netscape, can do is emulate the work of these pioneers and attach marketing campaigns to them drive consumption. Hardly the groundbreaking progress which the likes of Microsoft and Oracle like to claim in their press material.

    The software business is just that, business. It’s goals is not to innovate but to sell units, and there’s not a single example I can think of where a successful company was also the technological innovator in it’s field. The market, as much as it likes to think so, does not reward innovation, it rewards reach and marketers ability to make you feel insecure and drive you to purchase.

    Innovation is born out of necessity, take the expansion of chemical technology during WWII for example. Sometimes it is the result seemingly pointless and random experimentation but consider that experimentation may be it’s own necessity for some of us, simply a method for keeping the mind occupied and increasing our chances of survival.

  • http://drew.intercarve.net Drew Vogel

    Thank you for the effort, Ralph. I was expecting some sort of exception to the rule put forth in the quote. I think the reality is even more fruitful:

    “that both, the acquisition of the protection and, once acquired, its enforcement, should be simpler, cheaper and more secure.”

    Licenses from the FSF, OSI, CC et al are a form of protection for IP rights. Therefore, the WIPO should attend the meeting in an effort to make it simpler and cheaper for the owners of IP to adopt these licenses, should they choose to do so.

  • http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~moraes Mark Moraes

    Some people tend to equate intellectual property rights with patents. Open source a) tends not to file software patent applications b) tends to create lots of prior art that could invalidate many software patents. So open source could easily be seen to be at odds with the growth of the patent system. Thus, it wouldn’t be surprising that anyone who benefits from the patent system’s growth views open source as an antagonist.

  • Monty Harder

    I think we have a problem with the statement
    open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights.”
    because of the package deal implicit in the term ‘intellectual property”. There are an awful lot of different ideas thrown together under that tag, and while open-xource software absolutely depends on some of them (copyright, trademark) it is equally clear that it opposes, in principle, the notion that a mathematical algorithm, or the software that implements it, is patentable.

    The idea of GNU was to do a clean-room implementation of a Unix-compatible operating system, which would be unencumbered by any copyright issues, and the very name (GNU’s Not Unix!) disclamed any trademark concerns. But a software patent renders even the most immaculate of clean rooms guilty of Original Intellectual Sin and therefore damned by the Righteous Upholders of Intellectual property. The software patent makes it impossible for anyone to meet (much less advance) the state of the art, so companies have gotten into the practice of cross-licensing each other’s patents.

    Open-Souce software has no patents to license, (The GPL explicitly grants royalty-free use of any patents the author might have) and produces no per-seat revenue stream from which a patent owner may collect his rent.

  • Anonymous

    As Mr. Torbin has not responded yet, allow me to suggest one for him:

    I am a lawyer. Accordingly, I read the first paragraph of your argument, skimmed the second and third (i.e. read the first sentence) and read the last paragraph. But only because it was like 2 lines long.

    Thank you. Thank you.

  • Dana Powers

    Are you saying that if I have a patent on algorithm D – I can’t distribute a GPL’d implementation of that algorithm? Or maybe you’re just saying that most GPL’d projects don’t have patents behind them therefore …the GPL must be the opposite of patents…??

    Clarification please.

  • charley bay

    As another commercial developer quite interested in strong IP protection, I agree with Mr. Lessig that Ms. Boland makes ill-informed comments.

    “Open Source” is not contrary to, in opposition to, nor a threat to IP. As is said already in this thread, open source is merely an alternative development model (which is why companies like IBM and HP implement open source projects). The derivatives of open source can in many cases be fully proprietary — That’s not uncommon, and is merely determined by the copyright decisions made by the authors/contributors.

    The reality is that many commercial products will forever exist alongside open source, as the most successful open source projects are merely the ‘commodity’ projects: Servers, operating systems, ‘office’ tools, languages, and general-purpose libraries. Yes, if you’re a commodity vendor enjoying your monopoly or oligopoly, that appears threatening. However, there is no intrinsic need at any level to protect commodity monopolies/oligopolies. Rather, competition should merely take place through a value proposition, as is done in any other industry.

    I’m in the biotech sector, and work daily with public officials funded by Mr. Tobin’s tax dollars on projects like the ‘human genome’, and we could really benefit from some WIPO consideration of these issues. The idea of ‘public commons’ with a shared and distributed development model is no more an affront to capitalism than is the idea that C++ compilers everywhere (commercial and open source) have some ‘standard’ set of ten or more libraries that everyone can merely “use for free”.

    Are those libraries not public goods, defined by a standard, often implemented through collaboration among diverse interested parties, available to all, and controlled by no one corporate entity?

    Ms. Boland is ill-informed because it is ridiculous to say that the “standard C++ libraries” are anti-capitalistic, and that’s all we’re talking about in proposing open source as yet another collaborative development model *for the creation of value*, and yes, even *for the creation of new IP*. That is expressly WIPO’s mission, as is that of any government, and is most specifically the originally stated purpose for the meeting.

    If Mr. Tobin would like to suggest another development model that is already proven, reduces time to market, increases features and stability, enhances return on investment, and provides for much higher customer satisfaction, then I (and so many others) are greatly interested.

    In my particular case, customer satisfaction is often illustrated through a 10-year old male patient *not* dying of leukemia.

    –charleyb

  • http://bslug.org drew Roberts

    Those of us who write Free Software (I prefer to release mine under the GPL) use our time, efforts, and talent to create what the WIPO considers intellectual property. That is, we create with our intellects a work which we then copyright.

    So, Free Software is “Intellectual Property.” Now, many of us like to promote Free Software, are we or are we not promoting “Intellectual Property?”

    Now, we happen to like to share our “Intellectual Property” with each other and with the rest of the world. Some of us may even insist that we get paid for all of the Free Software that we pass on to others. I still call it sharing with others, because even though we may insist on getting paid if we give it to someone we do not try to insist that they see to it that they get paid if they pass it on to someone or that only we be allowed to pass it on.

    Is it that the WIPO is against “Intellectual Property” owners sharing their properties with each other and with the world at large? Should IBM and HP be prevented from cross licensing their patent portfolios? By making a cross licensing deal, are they undermining the vary foundations of “Intellectual Property?” Should they instead, only license from each other at market value, that rights to the actual patents that they need?

    Should I be ably to buy an original oil painting, by a living artist, from an art gallery of a man and a woman, take the painting home and paint a beard on the man? On the woman?

    all the best,

    drew

    (+1)/10 to email me.

  • Mason McDaniel

    I think this would fall under

    “We propose a meeting about the elephant in the bed.”

    Ms. Boland’s position seems to state that

    “Seeing as the WOBO (World Organization of Bed Owners) mission statement is relegated to beds, not elephants, I hardly see that this is the purview of the Bed Owner organization. Aside from that, it is unfortunate that we would discuss something like an elephant who is so clearly intent on breaking the bed.”

    That the elephant is using the bed, seems to be a very pertinent issue to those currently in the bed (other than the elephant), and that said elephant will likely have a significant impact on current and future activities in the bed should be reasons enough (if not exhaustive) to hold meetings regarding the elephant. Though he is certainly not a bed.

  • jeff putnam

    I’ve developed software for both open source and closed projects. And I think that both are appropriate and useful models with different purposes.

    What I find annoying currently is theincreasingly popular notion (usually left unstated, but very evident) that the government of the US is willing to grant rights to people (IP and other in fact) to the extent that people are going to profit by them.

    What this seems to mean to some is that open source software (in particular – though there are other examples outside the realm of software – and, indeed, outside the realm of IP) is, and should be, fair game for anyone to use in a proprietary, profit making enterprise, but not otherwise. This seems to me to be, in fact, IP theft (though some would probably consider it a kind of eminent domain seizure of unused property of value).

    In particular, I put a fair amount of work (a few years back) into a piece of software that was (then) freely distributed and available. I fixed bugs and added capabilities. A bit later on, the software suddenly became proprietary and was sold for quite a bit of money. Of course, I was not offered any money for it (would not have expected that) but a note of thanks to the many developers such as myself (with their names) who had put time and energy into the project would have been appreciated. (The source code was even stripped of all change notes with identification.) While my contribution to the project was fairly small, I did contribute work to it and felt a bit like that work had been stolen. Certainly I resolved to never again contribute my energy to something like that again.

    So, for me, open source (and the GPL) is a way to allow me to contribute to a project or to write my own software without the feeling that someone is going to steal it from me and profit from it themselves. This is intellectual property protection – it just does not involve my making a profit from it. And that should be my choice as the author/inventor.

    That society as a whole can benefit from such activities is a nice bonus indeed and seems something that should be encouraged rather than discouraged.

  • Richard Steven Hack

    As I disagree with the notion that free and/or open-source software requires intellectual property laws to be valid, I can’t say that I’m surprised at the WIPO’s response. It’s like expecting George Bush to be partial to the idea of giving a security guarantee to the North Koreans. Until you understand the underlying philosophical problems with the entire notion of intellectual property, you simply will never solve the increasing restrictions problem. And even if you do understand it, given the political climate, you won’t be able to solve the problem anyway. These things do not exist in a vaccuum. Unfortunately, Mr. Lessig, as a law professor, has a blindspot the size of the sun in his eyes with regard to this issue.

  • http://www.loyalty.org/~schoen/ Seth Schoen

    It’s not quite fair to say that free software requires
    copyright. It’s fair to say that most free software
    uses copyright and that using copyright is not
    inconsistent with free software. It’s especially strange
    to say that free software requires copyright since some
    (by no means all) free software advocates have long
    believed that software should not be copyrightable.

    Public domain software has always been considered a subset
    of free software. There has always been some public
    domain software in the form of original unclassified
    software works of the U.S. government. That software
    didn’t require copyright in order to be free software.

    Neither the idea that free software advocates are
    uniformly pro-copyright or uniformly anti-copyright
    is historically reasonable. Free software advocates
    have always had a very broad range of views and
    always disagreed with one another.

    But almost all free software advocates are united in
    wishing for a copyright policy which would not burden
    or deter the development of new free software, including
    through collaborative development methods. In a better
    world, WIPO might be one place to talk about what that
    copyright policy would look like.

  • Chris Howard

    Ok, if the meeting was killed partially because the idea didn’t come from one of the member nations that’s easy to fix. Get one of the member nations to sponsor it.

    And another thing. People seem to get all misty-eyed when they talk about open source software. I use the stuff because it’s free and it works. I get to my goals quickly and cheaply. That is the epitome of efficiency. The software market is changing; SCO is just the first of many companies that will find themselves without a business because of free software.

  • Anil Wang

    > Are you saying that if I have a patent on algorithm D – I can�t
    > distribute a GPL�d implementation of that algorithm?

    Not necessarily. Several open source applications use patents. For instance, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics, see http://www.w3.org/TR/SVG/) has a patent on it. It’s possible to make GPLed SVG applications because the SVG patent is licensed without restriction (which is a key requirement of the GPL). There have also been patents that are freely licensed to open source applications, but require payment if you want to use them in proprietary software. This type of licensing is also compatible with the GPL.

  • dh003i

    Despite what dim-wits like Tobin may say, “intellectual property” is not fundamental to capitalism (rather, it is the result of socialist interventionist policies). In fact, to talk about “intellectual property” is oxymoronic when we consider the true nature of real property rights. See Kinsella, Against Intellectual Property. This is not an argument made by some anti-capitalist pseudo-communist. This is an argument made by a full-fledged Libertarian, completely consistent with Libertarian principles (which have a strong tradition of property rights).

    http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/15_2/15_2_1.pdf

  • Thomas

    The letter notes that “The free software movement is very important to the success and the future of the Internet, and it is also quite important in countering Microsoft’s massive monopoly power, particularly given the number of commercial competitors to Microsoft that have disappeared.”

    Lessig, who signed the letter (that isn’t mentioned above, is it?), says above that “Open source and free software is a competitor to MSFT�s products. Lobbying is increasingly the way competition is waged in America.”

    Yes, it is. And Lessig is just another lobbyist, as far as I can tell. His letter argues for its position by urging the need for a MSFT counterweight. And those bastards at MSFT responded in kind–how dare they!

  • Christian Schaller

    What I find amusing is Tobin’s claim that since WIPO is about IP it shouldn’t be involved in anything/anyone who belives that the lessening of intelectual property rights might be right. So I guess
    that following this logic then any politician who proposes to remove any law is an anti-government anarchist since government is about law.

  • Wouter Zelle

    Lois Boland’s email for those that want to educate her civilly (flames are counterproductive!):

    lois.boland@uspto.gov

    Talking points:
    - Constitutional limits on copyright (means vs end).
    - Nature of open source (based on copyright).
    - Advantages of open source (to business) & examples (IBM, Apple, Tivo, etc).

    It’s not wise to talk about the problems some of us have with software patents and excessive copyrights. She’ll probably write you off as a anti-IP zealot since it will be too overwhelming for her to comprehend. Focussing on open source is less threatening and much more likely to achieve results.

  • hungerburg

    its relieving to hear, that WIPO will discuss creation of knowledge, art etc. beyond the private property stereotype (there’s evidence for calling it like this).

    its homepage boasts with an increase in protection of intellectual creations during the time of their regime; put to the extreme: its policy is the privatisation of intellectual property.

    for a UN body, this seems to be too narrow a perspective: at least there should be room for evaluation of the achievements in their economic and social context.

    the supposed schedule can only add to its credibility. (pls. excuse the comparison: the security councils job isnt either to further the needs of the weapons producing industry.)

  • Andre

    Open Source is as much intellectual property as closed source (“proprietary”) software. The only difference being the beneficiary of it. In Open Source software (“OSS”) the public (at least the ones who choose to use it, which can be everyone) benefits from it, not by receiving money from it but instead by not spending money for it. It also benefits the economy in general and new businesses in particular (see the current article in ACM Queue about the use of OSS and Linux in TiVo devices). In Closed Source software only the monopoly holder of that particular piece of code benefits from it, usually in monetary terms.

  • Anonymous

    “I’m a rich man, but if I were to kill one of them, I might be convicted of murder…so what’s the point?”—Mr Burns, badly remembered.

    What’s the point of owning things if other people can get them (or goods as them) for free, just because it’s easy and it will make them happy?

    That is to say, the power and status created by property _differentials_ are more important to a lot of entities than actual property levels: if I have something you need and you can’t get it for free, I can get you to do things in exchange for it.

    Or, as I answered someone who asked if I were into S&M: “I leave unnecessary ritualised power-games to my job, where they belong.”

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Burns: This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail.

  • http://cyberknights.com.au/ Leon Brooks

    Whether most OS development takes place on a UNIX-ish or not is an open question, and I’m guessing that Anil’s right on this score. But the answer is not so clear WRT to use of OSS.

    I’ve seen a heck of a lot of MS-Windows desktops sporting OpenOffice.org, Mozilla and/or The GIMP in the last few months, more even than I’ve seen Linux desktops in total (despite choosing Linux as a core field of expertise), so I think a lot would depend on how you asked the question (e.g. “do you use OSS?” vs “how many OSS programs do you use?”).

    Either way, OSS is in such common use – far wider than its detractors can bring themselves to believe – that WIPO really do need to include it in their agenda today, not in two years. If they don’t get a handle on OSS now, their ignorance of the topic will come back to bite them on the rear, as it has so many others. Their reluctance to wake up is on par with the pre-1995 “what internet?” Microsoft.

  • Mark H

    I think that we need only look as far as the Internet to see the power and opportunity created by free and open standards and by definition software applications.

    The Internet has become sucessful precisely because of RFCs and software like bind (DNS) and sendmail (EMAIL). RFCs are standards which give away the “blueprint” of the Internet as the media likes to portray Linux, GPL and OS in general.

    The momentum of the Internet has been created because open standards promote cooperation and a level playing field. Companies who innovate dislike Microsoft because they hold the reins with regards to innovation of applications developed for their platform.

    isn’t it interesting that some very sucessful companies have embraced Linux, like Oracle and IBM etc, and there are only two kinds of company who dislike it – those who are effectively redundant like SCO and those who don’t invent things like Microsoft, instead they adopt, buy and integrate – never innovate.

    Linux is like the Internet – it will grow for the same reason as the Internet because it creates a level playing field large enough to supoort evolution to take another step technologically.

    Anyone who believes that innovation happens in closed corporate environments needs to look hard at where innovation really comes from. Typically very small tight teams working together – the garage revolution.

    Given all this I can’t understand why WIPO doesn’t see this and whole-heartedly support cooperative development of Open Source as a level playing field platform for future innovation and generation of new IP and true innovation and invention. Seems clear to me the agenda and intent are different to the stated goals/

  • Roman M

    My impression of the comments to this article is that it only took one or two (Ian Lindley, George Tobin) Adequacy Style Trolls to sway the entire forum into a different channel of discourse. Stay focused people, if it was not for Free Software we would not have the internet today the way it is – based on UDP, TCP/IP, HTTP(S), FTP protocols where information is exchanged in HTML. We would have to have other free protocols, but who knows if protocol specs or an implementation could ever be free if it was not possible to specifically state so. The GPL allows us to state that something is free and that this freedome cannot be taken away from it. WIPO’s own Lois Boland just shows that WIPO itself is an outdated organization. If it cannot accept a discussion about such important issues as GPL and the Free Software (and Open Software) then WIPO is already dead. I am not a US citizen I do not live in the US either but USPTO should be approached by the FSF reps (RMS? ESR?) in order to setup meetings to discuss FSF and GPL independently of WIPO.

    Also, please stop replying to trolls.

  • Steve Harris

    > And Lessig is just another lobbyist, as far as I can tell. His letter
    > argues for its position by urging the need for a MSFT counterweight.

    I seem to remember a US court finding which established that MS is a monopoly, in which MS went to great lengths to argue that significant counterweights exist to MS’s dominance. Were MS’s lawyers misguided about the need for a counterweight?

    > And those bastards at MSFT responded in kind–how dare they!

    In kind? What meeting did Lessig have cancelled?

  • OmniGeek

    With all due respect to Mr. Lessig’s opponents (some of whom fail to show any respect in their postings — you know who you are), there’s a very important point being missed here.

    Open Source is here to stay, and it WILL become the dominant paradigm in many areas of software worldwide; the network synergy of the Internet and the critical mass of networked Open Source folks have assured that. China, India, and much of Latin America are energetically pursuing Open Source agendas as a way to develop their own technological bases without being beholden to Microsoft nor having NSA backdoors in all their systems.

    India in particular bears watching, as they’ve started developing their own domestic encryption software industry specifically to avoid foreign control of their vital tools. China is standardizing on Linux (the Red Flag Linux distribution has much Chinese-developed content) out of economic self-interest and desire for nondependency on foreigners. And there are many other examples.

    In the US, there have been several (so far abortive) efforts at Digital Rights Management, some of which would have the effect of outlawing Open Source operating systems like Linux (if you mandate built-in DRM, you cannot allow the user access to the source ’cause they would just compile the DRM right out). Such efforts would not stop Open Source development (which is very international), but they WOULD harm the US position as a technological leader in the world.

    The issue with regard to WIPO and the US’ official stance toward Open Source is thus not whether Open Source will flourish or die , but whether the US and other wheels within WIPO will participate in this state-of-the-art effort or be bypassed by it due to an excessive focus on “protecting” proprietary software vendors. Our technological edge is NOT something we can take for granted, and bad IP policies CAN make us into a backwater.

  • System Control

    One thing to consider when discussing the recent comments of the patent office or state department, is that the US Government is rightfully protective of it’s inellectual property. We are seeing widescale loss of manufacturing capability as well as technological processes to other countries without return reward, and this is certainly cause for alarm especially as worldwide we see continuing escalation is anti-US rhetoric.

    Many of these blog boards are filled with non-US posters who would love nothing more than to have America’s intellectual property given away to the rest of the world under a “public license” of some sort. Yes, there are some good examples of how some open projects have helped the US, but the majority of those projects were managed by US-based organizations such as the IEEE, not lone programmers such as Linus Torvalds from outside the US.

    Many of the top Open Source advocates would like to see ALL intellectual property rights waived, and this is not only contrary to whoever may want to profit from software development, but also in the interest of security for a variety of reasons. Source open code is more easily reverse engineered, as well as how treasured algorythms developed by US Govt funding get broadcast to the rest of the world including potential advesaries the minute it is “GPL’d”.

    I request that each of you consider the backdrop of the unstable and untrustworthy world in which we live, and realize that protection of intellectual property is an important role for the US Government, and the free copying and loss of distribution control over America’s intellectual property can be contrary to both the security and economy of the US. Sharing is often good. But you often have to be careful who you are sharing with.

  • http://www.allspaw.com john

    System Control — you wrote:

    “Many of the top Open Source advocates would like to see ALL intellectual property rights waived, and this is not only contrary to whoever may want to profit from software development, but also in the interest of security for a variety of reasons”

    You’re revealing how little you know about the security of software, and the ability for people intent on breaking it. The ability for people to see the source code of an application or device does show its inner workings, and could prove to be useful in undertstanding its mechanisms. But it also provides for developers to spot the holes and vulnerabilities, and to collaborate on fixing them. Take the OpenBSD project for example. They claim correctly that OpenBSD has not had a by-default, remote vulnerability in 4 years. To compare how quickly closed or open code is “reverse engineered” is a minor point….open a newspaper and find virii and worms called ‘blaster’ and ‘sobig’ for examples of how minor a point it is.

    “Source open code is more easily reverse engineered, as well as how treasured algorythms developed by US Govt funding get…”

    Well then tell that to the Department of Defense, who has literally hundreds of opensource products in production networks. Why did they choose OpenSource ? Because Stallman, Torvalds, and Raymond are among their directors ? No. They did it because it was a good idea, and they didn’t choose those products lighty. Read some more here…..

    http://www.egovos.org/pdf/dodfoss.pdf

    “”Many of the top Open Source advocates would like to see ALL intellectual property rights waived”

    …you’re pretty off the mark here. The binary thinking that promotes that oh-so-wrong thought that it’s “all or nothing” won’t score you any points with anyone who’s familiar with these issues. No prominent OSS has suggested, from what I can tell, that all IP is wrong and should go away…..only that Intellectual Property is being misused and mismanaged.

    And as for government developing secure OpenSource products, look no further than SELinux….developed by the National Security Agency, opensource, and free for any one (including dark and evil spies) to download it and pick it apart. Oh the horror!

  • System Control

    I work in the US Government specifically to initially design and ultimately maintain very large scale networks so I am very familiar with how business is done here, and what both our short term and long term concerns are. Yes there are some Open Source projects underway, but they are typically very small in comparision to our work with Windows and many flavors of proprietary Unix. *BSD is virtually non-existent. Some Linux is in use, but without the ability to even use ACL security it is very limited in it’s ability to protect information even from one another.

    Bottom line is the teachings and ideals of many of the open source crowd are more about making software “free to the world” than anything, which is often contradictory to the US government’s position in regards to our security and our ecnomy. You can point out minor exceptions here and there, but without better oversight of their processes and legal liability when technology is illegally transferred, in my opinion their software development and disribution model is somewhat flawed when held in comparison to the understood goals of the US Government. Those of you outside of government may have a different view, I am just giving you one from within.

  • john

    System Control — I will agree that Wintel and the proprietary Unices are in larger use in the government, but I will argue that it’s not due to rejection of OpenSource licenses for security reasons….it’s just because the applications needed to run are not mature enough on OSS to warrant consideration. But there ARE many applications where OSS has been evaluated, and chosen on its own merit, despite what claims you have to its ‘insecurity’….

    I also was a fed at one time, and to ignore the use of OSS in National Lab’s networks would be wrong. When I did crashworthiness research for NHTSA, we used mucho expensive SGIs, Crays, Dec Alphas, and Intel Paragons.

    Those heavymetal boxes have since been replaced by Linux Beowulf clusters at pretty much every National Lab….Oak Ridge, Volpe, Sandia, LLNL, etc…even the Naval Undersea Warfare Lab. There is hardly a research organization or department needing high computation who doesn’t have one. The ability for these low-cost, (relative to the old ones) high-speed, and scalable clusters to do the heavy computation needed for each of their projects prove just how dedicated the government’s research organizations are to the OpenSource movement, whether they know it or not.

    Also, if you take a look at the developers’ mailing lists for Beowulf and other parallel-processing software, you’ll see that many of the developers at those labs contribute to the evolution and development of the code…all under the GPL.

  • System Control

    Yes, as I said there is increasing use of Linux within the government, but these labs you speak of are often isolated from the normal networks and/or have unique firewalls independent of open source protecting them. Unfortunately, these labs are also ripe areas for the loss of sensative US military secrets like we as a nation have witnessed the last few years.

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2000/06/ct061500.html

    There were also previous contradictory processes in place that freely gave away our US technological advancements to whoever wanted a copy for themselves:

    http://linuxtoday.com/high_performance/2001060800920PRHE

    Thankfully due to recent escalations in security awareness, these projects are being further isolated from normal network access and even shut down completely in some cases. Many of the US Government’s secrets deserve to remain secret, despite the IP beggars of the world pleading for them to be released at no cost, which is only of benefit to them. If this requires our government to invest more heavily into the commercial market in order to reject the bribe of the free software trojan horse, so be it.

  • http://sourceforge.net/projects/c2h/ serge masse

    I for one am realy afread of an alliance between the Gates and Bush networks. Such an aligarchy surely threatens the survival of the US republic and the freedom of the world. It’s not just and IP issue.

  • http://www.allspaw.com john

    I really do think that you’re being a bit extreme in calling free software a ‘trojan horse’….you’re name isn’t Brett Glass, is it ?

    Keeping military and government secrets secret is completely different than having the source code of the operating systems they are run on, stored on, or protected by being under the GPL. You seem to think that having software OpenSource-d requires you to release secrets to the public, and it’s very suprising that a Fed who is charged with building networks would make such an incorrect assumption.

    Also, the link you provided to the hardware theft at Los Alamos has no relevance to whether they use closed or opensource software. Not sure what your point is there….how does it relate to OSS ?

    “these projects are being further isolated from normal network access and even shut down completely in some cases.”

    where are these Beowulf clusters being shut down ? I’d be very interested in seeing any article or mention anywhere that they aren’t actually increasing in their use. Also, in the case of many of the Labs, the vast majority of their classified research clusters aren’t even connected to the Internet, and are completely standalone. A moot point again.

    In addition, if you want to make the claims about GPL, then do so, but not all of OSS licensed software. As I’m sure you know, the BSD (as well as others) do not require modifications to source be made public at all.

    Note: I am not arguing that opensource software be mandated, used, or adopted by the government. I am arguing that the government (correctly) has identified areas in which using OpenSource software HAS been adopted, developed on, and (in some cases) released into the public, because it was the right choice for the situation, and those decisions were not made lightly.

    To equate the use of opensource software with increasing a risk of national security is naive and unfounded. The fact of the matter is that the people making decisions at agencies such as the Labs, Department of Defense, Army, NSA, and FBI all have the intelligence to make educated decisions about which software and development paradigms to use, and in increasing cases, have chosen OpenSource projects. Of course it’s still not larger than Wintel or proprietary installbase, but trying to downplay or condemn OSS’s use in the government would be like carrying water in a sieve. It just doesn’t work.

  • System Control

    That is your opinion, but I assure you it is not the prevailing theory in many parts of the government NOW, if you actually worked here before. The comments that lead to this thread are simply validation of my position.

    The relevance of missing hardware at Los Alamos is a condemnation of the security practices of these labs, which you used as your example of security. If they previously saw no danger in open source as well, then it should be of little surprise.

    You can continue to support open source, and I see benefit of it as well, but only when it is maintained by a professional organization such as IEEE. Having the US government rely on Linux is a potential security risk, as the kernel itself is currently maintained by a foreign national. Your claims of peer reviews to offset this are empty, as you have no way of ever verifying the number of “good eyes” ever outnumbers the “bad” ones. And there are a lot more eyes in places like China than in the US.

    You may be aware that the People’s Republic of China has named Linux as their “official” operating system. What you may not be aware of, is that soon their government will not allow ANY US designed software to be allowed on their networks at all:

    http://asia.cnet.com/newstech/applications/0,39001094,39146335,00.htm

    The US should be extremely careful in what it “contributes” to foreign governments, and thankfully is now implementing new protocol. We should also be aware that whatever is contributed by anyone in the free software movement is also working against the US software economy.

    There are obviously two firmly entrenched camps here, and my side will not be easily swayed, nor will yours. However I am quite certain that the long term ramifications of further proliferation of “free software” to the rest of the world, including to our advesaries who are normally trade restricted, is contrary to the US’s long term goals. Cheers.

  • hungerburg

    Being from Europe, I find this kind of disturbing to likening “foreign national” and public enemy. Hopefully not many Americans do think like that.

  • john

    I understand your points, System Control….but my points are not of my own opinion, just facts.

    Again, you are equating OpenSource with the GPL and Linux. While that might be a fun argument to have, the government who is worried that their contributions to an OpenSource projects will fall into “enemy hands” can simply license their software under the BSD license, or some other non-GPL license.

    To be clear: using OpenSource software does not automatically mean that you are under any obligation, legally, to provide the source to any modifications you make. It is under the GPL, but not other OSS licenses.

    “Your claims of peer reviews to offset this are empty, as you have no way of ever verifying the number of �good eyes� ever outnumbers the �bad� ones.”

    fortunately, I don’t have to verify my claims…experience and history has proven the claims that projects such as OpenBSD have made with regards to security. As to the “foreign national” that maintains the Linux Kernel….Mr. Torvalds lives, works, and develops here in the US, and his contributions to the code are actually quite small when compared to the massive amounts of contributions from US citizens and yes, (gasp!) even employees of proprietary-software companies. (IBM, SGI, HP, Intel, etc.)

    I’m still under the impression that you’re not quite seeing what OpenSource development and software products are, require, or benefit from. My point is that if the US government or military doesn’t want “secrets” leaked, then they won’t include in a release of software required under the GPL….that point should be pretty obvious. But both the US military and government *has* benefitted from the peer-review process that OSS development models are based on.

    If using OSS was such a threat to national security, then why are agencies mentioned above use, develop, and contribute to OSS software, in your opinion ? I’m sure you won’t suggest that they have done less research on it than you have, right ? Or that they are secretly swayed by Raymond, Stallman, or Torvalds ?

    I also realize that we are WAY off topic at this point, so I’ll stop in what seems to be a futile digression.

  • Kyle Hamilton

    Much of the disconnect appears because typical economics and accounting express ‘value’ as ‘money’ (the setting of value in an easily-transformed manner). The IT industry of Silicon Valley (and other places — notably Lotus/IBM and Novell, as well as currently SCO and Microsoft) abused this model so radically that it’s falling apart — I mean, who pays $250,000 for a piece of software to copy your data to a bunch of tapes for storage? (Answer: Anyone who purchases Veritas Backup Exec for a medium-sized corporate network.)

    Because of this disconnect (and the fact that the executives of the aforementioned IT organizations of Silicon Valley usually didn’t have honest economics education), much of the programming world created things that could be bartered in their own version of an ‘exchange’… specifically, the open-source market. Essentially, it amounted to: “I don’t like the rules here, so I’m going to create a new set of workable rules and apply them somewhere else.”

    The rules of this new market were simple:
    1) Give credit where credit is due.
    2) Anyone can use anything they want, subject to the rules that the person who wrote it put it under.
    3) If you improve it, we’d like to get it back, to increase the value of the market. (This wasn’t codified in the original market, though it eventually was after people started seeing things based on their code when the first two rules weren’t codified, either.)

    Essentially, it created a barter system where the participants didn’t even ‘exchange value’… they just ‘gave their value away’. It’s this preconception that dogs Open Source today, and is why people like Lois Boland and George Tobin feel that it will destroy the ‘intellectual property’ concept.

    In the meantime, though, a few interesting things have happened:
    1) The Open Source Initiative was formed, after Eric Raymond explained the true state of affairs, and why it really was an exchange of value, even though no money changed hands. (See “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”.)
    2) Netscape released their core product — Navigator — as open-source. (This lent credence to the “all bugs are shallow to many eyes”, and “peer review is the best way to ensure that a piece of software isn’t poorly designed” concepts… though it was only one example.)
    3) IBM embraced Linux as a means of lowering their outlay and increasing their revenues — even in their previously-core mainframe businesses. (This lends credence to the fact that Open Source can, in the ‘support’ model, increase the capabilities of an organization’s economic machine.) The fact that they played by the rules isn’t really surprising — it’s just that someone actually got the idea.
    4) Linux, in all its flavors (including Red Hat, Debian, Mandrake, etc) became Microsoft’s number 1 long-term strategic threat. (There’s question, here, about whether it was because of an inherent superiority [which is doubtful], or because Microsoft’s monopolistic and extortionistic business model had generated so much resentment that people were casting about for any alternative that offered.)
    5) Many companies got a hell of a lot of economic benefit from open source — even without money changing hands. This scares economists because their model of the universe includes ‘exchange of value’, and it scares accountants because they can’t put the numbers in their ledger — and only the impact of those numbers can be seen by their absence.

    There’s many more things that have gone on, but I’ll stop there.

    Now, what people don’t understand in this particular discussion is that people who write open-source software understand the idea of intellectual property… and they don’t begrudge it. (Remember the codification of the rules of the market, above? ‘give credit where credit is due’. That fits into the definition of intellectual property, because it imposes a restriction on what you’re allowed to do with the code in question. Even if no overt ‘economic benefit’ comes in, under the old model of ‘everything has a monetary value associated with it’.)

    Even the MasterCard commercials got it right. “There are some things that money can’t buy. [...]” Money can’t buy you respect, and it can’t buy you credits to put on your resume. Thus, even the writers of the software get an economic benefit, under the ‘old system’. They just end up getting there in a different way.

    Now, onto the debate about ‘development models’. I am impelled to point something out here: When the Open Group (http://www.opengroup.org/) considers changing its business and development model, there’s something really rotten in the state of Denmark. The WIPO is designed to make it possible for companies to hold absolute control over their works… whereas the Open Group is designed to prevent the deterioration of the advancements that have been made in the past 20 years. (Has everyone forgotten the lessons of a closed, vendor-locked architecture for their business-critical applications?) Even the Internet is based on an open development model — new IETF standards are built on a strong commitment to quality in the specification. This quality is tested by at least two independent, interoperable implementations of the core specification, and makes it easier to comprehend errors in the specification before things progress so far that millions of lines of code must be discarded. And that’s why businesses chose TCP/IP as their network standard in the first place. It’s fast, it’s flexible, it has relatively low overhead, and it can even be put into a device the size of your hand.

    And, most devices that implement it use the BSD TCP/IP stack implementation… thus reducing their own time-to-market, by reducing the amount of code they have to write, and reducing their overhead, by making it so they don’t have to write the code, and ensuring interoperability, by using a codebase that is standardized and complete.

    Perhaps the cries of “they’re stifiling innovation!” come from the fact that people use what works, instead of untried and untested technologies — and the open-source software that’s out there just works. While reducing the economic burdens associated with a single vendor’s scheme.

    Oh, wait, people didn’t read this entire thing. They were too angered by my suggestion that end-users had had the temerity to get angry at Microsoft’s taxation of the use of their computers.

    Even if Microsoft is trying to force people to compete against them on their turf — closed operating systems that are distributed for a fee.

    Were you aware that Microsoft has limited some of their technologies so that their methods of use can’t be taught in the form of open source?…thus reducing the number of developers who are competent in the use of their technologies, thus artificially raising the value of anyone who does know (as well as products made by companies that actually get their products to market, as buggy as they may be since there’s no apparent legal way to gain expertise in an enjoyable manner for all the people out there who would normally enjoy working with it)?

  • Kyle Hamilton

    Oh… one more thing. The fact that we’ve now got world governments collaborating on something so important as Intellectual Property, without letting experts on the issues in to speak from both sides of the camp, scares the living bejeesus out of me. I’m already aghast at the “economic barrier to entry” that is promulgated by the International Telecommunications Union (the recommendations are very expensive, and the company that built most of the equipment to implement them (Bellcore, now Taligent [at http://www.taligent.com) wants over $250,000 for the full suite of specifications that cover central-office protocols.), as well as the IEEE. This barrier to entry only increases the economic impact and economic chaos that is going on — 46% of the wealth in the world is in the hands of less than 1% of the people, not counting that which is held by corporations. There’s an oligarchy here, and it limits what’s allowed, as well as what’s possible.

    If I wanted to be all conspiracy-theoristic, I’d wonder if this is just another ploy by the financial elite (government and business) to close a loophole that allowed some people to amass some measure of power without going through the status quo. Enh.

  • bawjaws

    John, You are spreading a common misconception about the GPL in your otherwise heroically patient replies to the hilariously trollish System Control.

    If you do not intend to redistribute the GPL’d software i.e. use it only within your organization then you are not required by the license to release your code changes. This means your only reason to contribute is the same as for BSD code, namely to prevent your in-house code becoming a difficult to manage branch of the main codebase.

    For (slightly) more info read:
    http://www.infoworld.com/article/02/08/23/020826opsource_1.html

  • john

    Bawjaws — I apologize…you’re totally correct, of course. What I have always wondered, and probably confused about, is if there is any sort of mandate in the US govt about being required to release the source to unclassified and non-sensitive software.

    At my stint at the Volpe Center doing crashworthiness research, the source code that was written to filter the sensory signals (data coming from dummy accelerometers during a crash) was released to the public….and looks like it still is:

    http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/software/nhtsa-tools-fortran/downloads.html

    Whether or not the contractor who wrote it was required to show the source or not, (does anyone know?) you’re right about the GPL….and Russell gives a good explanation. Thanks for the correction.

  • http://docbug.com/blog/archives/000024.html Bradley Rhodes

    Perhaps I’m just a cynic, but I don’t think Boland is speaking from ignorance but is simply showing unusual candor in her statements. Her position is that WIPO should promote international IP laws that support the current content industry, regardless of how that affects new upstart industries, national productivity, the economy or other important concerns. In the words of The Economist, she is being pro-business, but not pro-market. I agree with Lessig that this is abhorrent, but given how the U.S. continues to force brand-new IP protections down the world’s collective throat it seems to be a fair description of current U.S. policy.

    The sad part is many of the issues brought up by the proposal, especially fair use, shrink-wrap licenses, rights to hypertext linking and sui generis protection for databases really do need to be discussed by the international community of governments. WIPO would seem to be the obvious forum.

  • George Tobin

    Some Replies:

    –The quote from the director general of WIPO can be found (surprise!) at the WIPO web site.

    –I agree with almost every ringing defense of the importance of ‘open source’ in this thread. I do not regard the existence of ‘open source’ development as antithetical to capitalism. I do think that for many people (including, perhaps, some in this thread) that ‘open source’ has taken on a broad political nuance quite different from its technical definition. I think that “open source” is often misused as a term that includes free, public domain, non-proprietary and as a generic antonym for “Microsoft.” The fact that people use the term ‘open source movement’ to imply a broader agenda means that for some it is has a context other than its precise legal meaning.

    -I think open source collaborative development and innovation is a wonderful thing. I also think the availability of legal protection for proprietary IP is a wonderful thing. I think that Dr. James Love and Ralph Nader agree with only on the first proposition. That’s why I think any effort driven by Dr. Love is inappropriate for an organization devoted to preserving and promoting IP, not constricting its scope or creating legal pretexts for expanding government ownership. And I think that Ms. Boland agrees with me on that point. And that that was the clear meaning of her remarks.

    -I also think Prof Lessing has misused Ms. Boland’s remarks. As I understand it, she said “To have a meeting whose primary objective is to waive or remove those protections seems to go against the mission” and that her remarks about “open-source” were clearly meant to state opposition to such a meeting shaped by persons hostile to the existing legal order with respect to IP of all kinds. I think it unlikely that she is unaware of the IP status and nature of open-source software and the distinctions that are being repeated (sometimes very well) in this thread. She is alleged to have used �open source� in the (incorrect) common political context in an informal telephone interview in which the politics of the issue was the subject. To make a grand academic j’accuse for verbal impropriety over this statement was thus way over the top.

    -More importantly, I think it is blatantly disingenuous to pretend that this conference was intended as an opportunity to dispassionately extol the importance of collaborative means of innovation. The very fact that this idea did not arise from a response to any innovative proposal, new paper, new event, legal change, new invention or new development is an indication that this was more political than it should have been.

    I am willing to concede that Prof. Lessig is much smarter than Ms. Boland or myself (or the rest of you). However, I think that she and I have been considerably more honest about the politics in this issue This was never about the real status of ‘open source’ within the larger context of IP law or about the correct use of technical terminology. This was about blog-bashing an official in the Bush Administration for not agreeing to let a Naderite use the WIPO for staging a rather generic anti-drug company, anti-Microsoft forum under the pretense of serious academic discussion. The fact that ‘open source’ is not (by correct definition rather than increasingly common error) contrary to ‘intellectual property’ was never the real issue.

  • Ben

    Mr Tobin,

    Regardless of her reasoning, Ms. Boland has allowed herself to become a lightning rod for the very partisan bickering she seeks to prevent. Her ignorance of the true meaning of the term “open source” serves only to substantiate the fact that her own position is really couched in partisanism.

    OSS has been around long enough… she should know better.

    Furthermore, it is not clear that any points that might be discussed regarding the economic IP potentials of OSS would become an opportunity for the so-called Naderite, anti-Microsoft or other “special interests” with a political platform to voice their displeasure with the IP paradigms being discussed. Such disingenuity would be all-to-obvious.

    That is, of course, unless the discussions, academic or otherwise, proved to be less-than-balanced to begin with.

    –ben

  • http://www.ljean.org Jean Camp

    Let me boldly return the discussion to WIPO.

    First, any WIPO open source and free software meeting would not “materialize from nothing”. There is a significant working group on technology transfer to LDCs. The working group argues for innovation in management of IPR to create opportunity,and not simple incentives, as the optimal path for WIPO. In fact, either a report has been issued on Tech Tansfer to LDCs by the Becker Consulting group or soon will be. Although open code did not apparently enter the author’s mind, the clear recommendations seem to me clearly applicable to open code. So Ms. Boland as quoted above is ignorant of the activities of her own organization.

    The purpose of WIPO, according to its web site, is as follows:
    “The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is an international organization dedicated to promoting the use and protection of works of the human spirit. These works – intellectual property – are expanding the bounds of science and technology and enriching the world of the arts. Through its work, WIPO plays an important role in enhancing the quality and enjoyment of life, as well as creating real wealth for nations.” So Ms. Boland appears to be unaware of the stated purpose of the organization.

    Yet even this level of ignorance is a treatable condition and calls for education, not unemployment.

    WIPO has the theoretical goal of developing optimal intellectual property arrangements, not forcing the strongest possible IPR on member nations.

    As part of the global role of WIPO, the organization does put forth some effort to create a market where LDCs can advance and thrive. Particularly in health care, distribution issues have been signifcant in WIPO.

    However, it is true that no member nation requested the meeting. Therefor it seems there is a single true barrier – lack of a request from a member nation is the problem. Certainly there can be a meeting without all WIPO employees being sent back to graduate school or even forced to read their employee handbooks.

    Perhaps Iceland or France will make such a request. Sweden has been active in tech transfer to LDCs as well.

    Anyone from Iceland in this discussion?

    -Jean Camp
    (Not related to Strongly Entrenched Camp)

  • Anonymous

    Just so everyone’s clear: attacks on Boland are not partisan attacks in the usual sense. Boland held the same position under Clinton as she does under Bush, and thus no partisan animus, in the usual sense, attaches to criticisms of her.

    ben has things right, but backward. As Tobin has demonstrated, WIPO does take “partisan” positions on these issues. And as another post makes clear, the letter to WIPO is specifically anti-MSFT. The whole point of the requested proceeding is thus contrary to the current WIPO position, and hostile to MSFT. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

  • http://www.summitoh.net Ryan Watson

    I work for a county government, thus I have a different point of view. I think the problem with Ms. Boland (irrespective to Mr. Tobin’s rants) is that she has forgotten that above all else, she is a servant of the people of the country. This does not mean only “rich” constituants, it means everyone irrespective of money. It’s about time people around the world started holding the public servants to that principal. In the US, the government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. This is not subject to interpretation, it is a blanket statement, it means that the people who make up our government should never forget that their power is given to them by the people of the country. Don’t forget, there are a lot more of us, than there are of you!

  • Eric Brunner-Williams

    Catching up after vacation. Jamie Love is an idiot.

  • Anonymous

    Dear STAKEHOLDERS
    I am a civil engineer becoming cooperative planner for power sector. Simply I wish to know what will HE and/ or SHE want. We all had had such a typical experience that scientist and government were very difficult to be interactive at macro level issues. The fact, if we look down, many consumers and producers in the world need help to cooperate. If so serious, I will be ready to open up the market for the parallel development in Indonesia. A reverse engineering to public electricity and private industries can hopefully produce new infrastructure such as cooperative CHP and multipurpose dam as the distributed system we are looking for.
    Warm regards rom Indonesia.

  • http://www.djlpe.go.id Tjahjokartiko Gondokusumo

    Warm regards from Indonesia: Ir. Tjahjokartiko Gondokusumo

  • http://dankstreet.com Charles Maguire

    First, I would like to thank Mr. Lessig for his tireless work in protecting the Commons.

    Second, I would like to thank Richard Stallman for his vision and leadership with the GNU Project.

    Third, I would like to thank all the artists who release their IP to the Commons so we can all benefit!

    I concur with Mr. Lessig’s statement:

    “open-source software is based in intellectual-property rights. It can�t exist (and free software can�t have its effect) without it.”

    It is my understanding that, and please correct me if I am mistaken, the author through an open-access license like the GNU GPL or Creative Commons is, first and foremost, copyrighting his or her IP. The author, second and subsequently, gives permission to others to copy, distribute, and/or modify their work as long as they are given credit for the original work. Finally, in the case of the GNU GPL any extensions to the original work must be released under the same license.

    The second issue brought up by Mr. Lessig is an important one, the issue of balance in intellectual-property rights. The 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act and Digital Millenium Copyright Act to today’s proposed CBDTA legislation are tipping the scales in favor of corporations at the expense of the public.

    Policies like these are aimed at limiting the rights of private citizens and their ability to access information freely. The recent decision by the EU Parliment this week on Software Patents further illustrates the imbalanced corporate dominance in government policy making and the need for legislative review both here and abroad.

    I think voter initiatives are for the public what lobbyists are for corporations, a way to enact policy that protects your assets. The Commons is the public’s greatest asset, protecting it is vital to limiting the barriers to entry into any industry.

    If we only saw the world through a cooperation paradign instead of the current competition one we would all be living happily ever after. Remember TIT FOR TAT!!! It pays to cooperate when dealing with this strategy. See Axelrod (1984) The Evolution of Cooperation.

    Together, we will win this fight for our digital rights!

  • Anonymous

    According to a story in the Financial Times, the Dep Director of WIPO say they are still looking at the possibility of a meeting on “various options for protecting intellectual property and their impact on innovation.”

    Does anyone any further information on this?

  • johnny
  • http://www.rom-hotel-buchen.de Mario Miller

    In particular, I put a fair amount of work (a few years back) into a piece of software that was (then) freely distributed and available. I fixed bugs and added capabilities. A bit later on, the software suddenly became proprietary and was sold for quite a bit of money. Of course, I was not offered any money for it (would not have expected that) but a note of thanks to the many developers such as myself (with their names) who had put time and energy into the project would have been appreciated. (The source code was even stripped of all change notes with identification.) While my contribution to the project was fairly small, I did contribute work to it and felt a bit like that work had been stolen. Certainly I resolved to never again contribute my energy to something like that again.

  • http://www.badcitizen.net/phpbb/ BadCitizen

    I work for a county government, thus I have a different point of view. I think the problem with Ms. Boland (irrespective to Mr. Tobin�s rants) is that she has forgotten that above all else, she is a servant of the people of the country. This does not mean only �rich� constituants, it means everyone irrespective of money. It�s about time people around the world started holding the public servants to that principal. In the US, the government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. This is not subject to interpretation, it is a blanket statement, it means that the people who make up our government should never forget that their power is given to them by the people of the country. Don�t forget, there are a lot more of us, than there are of you!

  • John

    The reality is that many commercial products will forever exist alongside open source, as the most successful open source projects are merely the �commodity� projects: Servers, operating systems, �office� tools, languages, and general-purpose libraries. Yes, if you�re a commodity vendor enjoying your monopoly or oligopoly, that appears threatening. However, there is no intrinsic need at any level to protect commodity monopolies/oligopolies. Rather, competition should merely take place through a value proposition, as is done in any other industry. BadCitizen Forums

  • jeremy

    The second issue brought up by Mr. Lessig is an important one, the issue of balance in intellectual-property rights. The 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act and Digital Millenium Copyright Act to today�s proposed CBDTA legislation are tipping the scales in favor of corporations at the expense of the public.
    alizee

  • jerome

    The very fact that this idea did not arise from a response to any innovative proposal, new paper, new event, legal change, new invention or new development is an indication that this was more political than it should have been.

    emprunt consomation

  • http://sdating.net/doctors-herbal-group Leo

    I dont know but why i don find such informative and profitable blogs so often,I suspect blogging world is becoming so small that we cant find such lucrative blogs like this one.

  • http://www.brickred.com brickred

    The balance of having extremests and moderates is very important to keep the society functional.

  • http://www.brickred.com/product-development.html offshore outsourcing

    it is such a nice blog…i dont find these typ of blog these days

  • http://ibosstechsolutions.com iBoss

    Demand for Open Source Development is rapidly increasing