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Open Source Software Licenses versus Business Models

It's not about the choice of license -- it's about solving customer problems
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Wed, 01/23/13 - 5:28pm.

I wrote a recent blog post on which FOSS license to use and it provoked Twitter commentary that wanted more discussion on how FOSS license choice can affect a company’s business model. I’m still not sure I agree that the FOSS license dictates the business model or that the business model dictates the license. A few examples probably better illustrate what I’m trying to describe.

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Three Views on Creating Open Source Developer Communities

Make things relentlessly easier, mentoring and apprenticeships, and a**holes are ruining your project
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Wed, 02/15/12 - 11:30am.

I recently attended a great little conference about the craft of software development and where it’s going. It was called Monki Gras, and it was run by the fine analysts at Redmonk. It was held in London, UK. Three talks provided three great perspectives on the care and feeding of a developer community:

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Work-for-Hire in an Open Source Enabled World

Making sure the engineering economics works requires a little extra thought
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Tue, 01/24/12 - 2:44pm.

Some time ago, I worked for a consulting services company that assembled solutions for their clients using open source licensed software as the building blocks.  Clients needed education, however, when it came time to understand who owned the resultant work.  Historically, in a from scratch world, all the newly written software was owned by the client as a “work for hire.”  If the solution was built up around proprietary products, appropriate licenses were needed.  It doesn’t quite work tha

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The Role of FOSS Foundations

Clean IP management and neutrality encourage collaborative development.
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Tue, 11/29/11 - 8:52am.

There’s an excellent discussion begun over the past few days on the value of foundations in the free and open source software (FOSS) world. It includes people calling into question the Apache Software Foundation’s role, promoting foundations, and discussing the broader role of FOSS foundations.

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Do Lawyers Ignore Copyright Law?

Creating software versus creating contracts and a little irony to start your week.
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Mon, 11/21/11 - 12:47am.

I read an interesting editorial from Glyn Moody the other day on Stephen Kinsella asking the question whether or not copyright or patents were more damaging to innovation and creativity. In the end, Kinsella argues that copyrights were more dangerous. I think the question can best be seen with respect to software development in the following juxtaposition of two ideas.

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Software Discipline and Open Source

Software discipline is critical to successful community development
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Fri, 09/02/11 - 7:56am.

Good software is developed by good software developers.  It involves a discipline not found in most programmers.  Rigorous version and configuration management, checklists for style and review, “desk” checking reviews before commits, automated (continuous) builds, and fully automated test frameworks are all necessary steps to successfully, reliably delivering executable software that works.

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Peace and Harmony between FOSS contributors and lawyers

Version 1.0 of the The Harmony Documents Launch
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Thu, 07/07/11 - 10:52am.

Harmony is an effort that was begun and shepherded by Amanda Brock, the general counsel at Canonical, makers of Ubuntu Linux. The intent was to create a small collection of consistently-worded contribution agreements (both licenses and assignments) for free and open source projects to use to reduce the friction such agreements can cause when they’re encountered for the first time by corporate counsel unfamiliar with FOSS licensing. There’s a great description on the website.

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Re-inventing SuSE and Three Futures for Mono

Imagining the potential for Mono going forward
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Fri, 05/06/11 - 7:05am.

Over the past ten days we've seen the rolling announcements out of Attachmate as SuSE gets spun into a separate organization with a return to Germany and Mono employees (along with many other Novell employees) find themselves on the outside looking in.

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The End of the Symbian Foundation

The end of the Symbian Foundation was in sight before it ever began.
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Thu, 03/24/11 - 2:32am.

[Caveat Lector: I was one of the consultants Symbian Ltd. called in to help with early planning towards the Symbian Foundation.] It’s been almost six months since the Symbian Foundation announced it was shutting its doors. Nokia will announce their new SymbianOS licensing mechanisms by the end of the month. I believe the Symbian Foundation ended for two reasons.

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Red Hat Obfuscation is a Tempest in a Teapot

Voting with one’s pocketbook and one’s feet is exactly what software freedom is about.
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Wed, 03/16/11 - 2:12pm.

I encountered another reference in the mainstream analysis to Red Hat “obfuscating” their work on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This really is a tempest in a teapot. 

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  • It makes economic sense for Red Hat to get any true kernel fixes they discover back upstream into the mainline so nobody (including Red Hat) suffers.
  • RHEL-only fixes they discover should likely make it into Fedora if they are relevant, so no one on Fedora suffers.

Solving the Apple App Store Incompatibility with the GPL

What’s needed is a little legal linguistic grease to enable the two orgs and their differing goals to slide by one another.
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Mon, 01/10/11 - 1:43pm.

Here’s an idea for all open source legal experts to gnaw on and solve for the community. I saw today that Apple pulled down the VLC media player because of the conflict between the GPL and the Apple App Store terms of service.

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Of Coffee Houses and Code Communities

We can learn a lot about successful community building from Starbucks
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Wed, 11/24/10 - 10:41am.

Brian Proffitt has a great article on the difference between communities and crowdsourcing and how companies still often get it wrong with respect to their community building by treating them as a group that will get things done. I came across a good model for this separation of ideas quite by accident.

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Makers, Users and Buyers of Open Source Software

Understanding your relationship to a project lets you ask the right questions.
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Mon, 10/25/10 - 2:31am.

More and more is being written about governance and license compliance and open source. The FUD of lawsuits continues unabated. Simon Phipps has an excellent post on trying to break out of the conversational frame that some use around compliance and governance.

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How to Talk to Your Lawyer about Open Source Software

Lawyers know surprisingly more than they think about open source software.
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Wed, 09/29/10 - 6:56am.

If you’re a developer that wants to use free and open source software then sooner or later you’re going to need to talk to a lawyer. Many developers have a working understanding of software intellectual property, but unfortunately software copyright is a space fraught with exceptions and edges and ambiguities. Someone came up with the (now shortsighted) idea of applying copyright law to software back in the day when programs were no bigger than books, because it was a form of creative expression.

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It’s Not That Complicated

Too much is being made of FOSS licensing complexity.
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Thu, 09/23/10 - 7:53am.

We seem to be seeing a rise again in the discussions surrounding free and open source software licensing complexity, and the fear that open source may infect or taint your software. Glyn Moody wrote about the recent BlackDuck white paper on Android.

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Please Don’t Confuse Standards with Open Source Software

While standards and FOSS may overlap, they can’t be merged into one mega concept
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Thu, 09/16/10 - 10:31am.

Some people want to merge the idea of free and open source software with standards, and indeed open the discussion into one of “open standards.” This confuses two ideas that are very different once you get beyond the idea they both involve collaboration in a technology community.

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Open Source: No one is working for free

To understand the economics of open source, look to the R&D of collaboration.
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Thu, 09/02/10 - 12:53pm.

People continue to wonder how to make money in the free and open source software world. It’s dressed up in discussions of how one makes money when you give away the software for free, or why developers are working for free. It can likewise lead to a management backlash of not contributing to FOSS projects because some think their developers are working on FOSS instead of their own work.

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A FOSS project isn’t necessarily a software product

FOSS the question isn’t just build vs. buy but also borrow versus share.
Submitted by Stephen Walli on Fri, 08/27/10 - 1:21pm.

Confusion often reigns over how to judge free and open source software (FOSS) as people investigate using it in their businesses. Do they use Red Hat Advanced Server? Fedora? CentOS? Should they use the community edition of the Alfresco content management server or buy the product? How does one judge the “software” and whether it’s “right” for one’s business? These are all questions that confront developers and IT managers as they encounter the FOSS world.

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