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Researchers' Right To Open Source Research

CmdrTaco posted more than 12 years ago | from the something-to-think-about dept.

Patents 144

bstadil writes: "There is an interesting debate over at SiliconValley.com about the right of researchers funded by Universities to make their IP Open Source. It's not at all simple. On one side Universities claiming their derive 5% of their Budget from IP licenses and it's vital for continued high level of 'Output,' on the other hand researcher who claim the public is billed twice by licensing the output."

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my balls hurt (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610359)

from this frist post

I mean damn, can one person be this much of a badass?

cherish my balls! fp BITCHES

where'd the funding come from? (5, Insightful)

anothy (83176) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610382)

in my mind, the eventual disposition of the IP rights depend on where the funding for the research came from. in public institutions, like state schools, this should be clear: they're public institutions, funded by public money, so the public should get the benefits. that's simply an evolution of the original concept of public educations: we give money to educational institutions so society as a whole can benefit. in private institutions, it's less clear, since the public money (almost all private universities still get lots of public money) is usually a minority. but lots of big companies help fund research in public schools and still expect to get the results, and that doesn't make sense.

what creates the greatest public benefit? (1)

Mdog (25508) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610396)

Consider a situation where researchers come across some discovery that is really great at improving cosmetic surgery, and there are cosmetic medical equipment makers dying to get hold of said technology. Isn't the public served better by having the researchers charge for this new technology instead of giving it out for free? My point is that not all discoveries are useful especially for pressing human needs, and universities would do better to charge for them and funnel that money into cheaper tuition, rather than let people get cheaper nose jobs.

Yes this is stupid but it's not a troll.

Re:where'd the funding come from? (2, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610454)

but lots of big companies help fund research in public schools and still expect to get the results, and that doesn't make sense.

Why pay for a building, staff, utilities, recruiting, wages, insurance, legal, etc. for a R&D department when you can rent one?

Re:where'd the funding come from? (3, Insightful)

haystor (102186) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610661)

If these companies paid taxes on that money that they donated then perhaps they might be able to expect something in return.

However, if these are truly donations, you are not allowed to expect any financial considerations for donations that are written off.

This is simply a matter of whether the school wants to make cash from research. Frankly I'm not impressed by 5% of their budget coming from research. I'll bet that it eats up a great deal of professors time. This is time that could be spent with actual students who apparently are subsidizing this along with the state taxpayers.

Re:where'd the funding come from? (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611357)

Actually a donation is a tax-saving device.

If I earn $100 this year, and donate $10, then I pay income tax on $90 at the end of the year.

Depending on taxation levels and so on, I can sometimes end up with more money in my pocket by "giving away" $10 and paying tax on $90, than I would have if I kept all of my money and paid tax on $100.

That's how a lot of corporate donations work.

Re:where'd the funding come from? (2, Insightful)

richie123 (180501) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610459)

This is why we have the principal of academic
freedom, if it becomes regulated that
researchers have to give over their work to
whoever pays for the work to be done, then the
researcher becomes little more than paid
employees of funder.

Good research needs to done by people who have
as little vested interest it the outcome of the
research as possible (not the quality of the
research, but the actual results it produces).

University researchers need to have the freedom
to license their work as they see fit, but they
also have a moral responsibility to serve both
the public and private interests who fund their
work.

In my opinion researches should be allowed to
decide how they license their work, but should
take that power very seriously and to be as open
as possible. Research work that has been paid
for by the public should be put into the public
domain, and work that was paid for by private
companies should be placed under a
non-discriminatory license that guarantees some
usefull degree of access by all.

Re:where'd the funding come from? (2)

karot (26201) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610535)

On one hand I agree with your sentiment...

...on the other, why are they arguing the point now?

This case should have been argued before they signed their employment contract, just like the rest of us would if we thought that the IP clauses in our employment contracts were inappropriate.

The horse has bolted, the blood is signed on the paper. Learn from this mistake, and perhaps help others. Otherwise, hire a lawyer and waste a load of money why don't you?

Re:where'd the funding come from? (2)

dvdeug (5033) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611316)

As if professors (worse yet, grad students) have any say in this. In public institutions, this is something that the public should have a say in, and in fact the public does have a say in. Last year, for example, Oklahoma citizens voted to let professors take their research private with a company.

Re:where'd the funding come from? (2)

dirk (87083) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610669)

in my mind, the eventual disposition of the IP rights depend on where the funding for the research came from. in public institutions, like state schools, this should be clear: they're public institutions, funded by public money, so the public should get the benefits. that's simply an evolution of the original concept of public educations: we give money to educational institutions so society as a whole can benefit. in private institutions, it's less clear, since the public money (almost all private universities still get lots of public money) is usually a minority. but lots of big companies help fund research in public schools and still expect to get the results, and that doesn't make sense.


I agree with this idea, but I don't think the GPL is the ideal way to go. If we REALLY want this stuff to be for the people, it should be public domain. The GPL places limits on what you can do with it (yes, I know it also gives you additional rights you normally wouldn't have, but it is still less than public domain). These things are really property of the people, and that means the people should be able to do anything they want with them, including use them in closed source software. Saying they should be free, as long as you follow these restrictions isn't really free. Universities shouldn't be in the business of open-source or closed-source software. They should be in the process of learning and discovery. They shouldn't advocate open or closed source.

Public Domain OR the R&D program itself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610839)

It makes certain sense for the R&D program or it's institution to own the IP and license it out, as long as it fairly benefits the same organization that the original funding was to benefit.

But if the IP is to be licensed to some, it should be licensed to all on a non-decriminatory basis. And that rules out no-cost, open source licenses, because it gives insufficient benefits to the funders or the thing funded. Open source licenses are just for vanity or attempts to control subsequent use.

Re:Public Domain OR the R&D program itself. (2)

Stephan Schulz (948) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611001)

Here is what we did in our research group: We developed our system (without expecting any commercial gain), and released it under the GNU GPL. Recently, a commercial company become interested in our code, and we sold them the license to release proprietary versions. Of course, our version will remain (and be developed under) the GPL, and the company even agreed to release parts of their development back under GPL.


Of course, this only worked because we had no outside contributions to our code base, but it seems to be a reasonable model.

Re:where'd the funding come from? (2, Insightful)

fasta (301231) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610705)

This comment reflects a widely held misconception about how research at public and private universities is funded. Much less than 10% of the research in the physical or natural sciences, or computer science or engineering at major universities (public or private) is funded by the institution. Almost all research is funded by federal agencies (NIH, NSF, DOD), and internal funds for research often come from indirect cost recovery from the federal grants. States and private endowments simply do not pay for research. (At fortunate institutions, they pay for buildings.)

The PUBLIC, not GPL users! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610815)

The article says it should be "Open Source". No, it should be released to the "Public Domain".

Closed-source software developers pay for that software too and are also members of the public.

Re:where'd the funding come from? (2)

blakestah (91866) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611124)

in my mind, the eventual disposition of the IP rights depend on where the funding for the research came from.

So academic research department should be little more than extensions of whoever is buying their time ?

I am quite sorry, but that is far far far from the current state of affairs. If Bill Gates wants to fund something and own the IP, he can do that in house. He can hire consultants to do it. But he cannot hire a university professor to do it on university time. And it should come as no surprise that the rules are no different when it comes to government funding.

Universities OWN all licensing rights to IP generated within them. Sometimes companies have some limited rights of first refusal to license IP from universities.

The question should be rephrased as it is not the researchers against the funding source - but rather against the university. IP rights provide money to maintain the infrastructure that allowed the professor to conduct his research. Shouldn't it be the role of the researcher to establish the IP and let the university deal with it ? Now, if the university wants to open source something they already have exclusive licensing rights to, that is their decision.

Money does not buy you IP generated at universities. Money should guarantee the research gets done - and that is the ONLY reward for the funding source.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2611171)

Amazingly insightful post for Slashdot.

(No, I'm not being sarcastic)

choice (2, Insightful)

tps12 (105590) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610383)

I don't think either of the situations described in the article make sense: either a researcher is forced by her university to keep the source private, or she's forced (through the proposed laws agains "billing the public twice") to open it. I don't think either one needs to be the case, and I think what we have now is actually pretty sensible.

And what is the situation now? Basically, researchers are employed by the university. You can ask your employer (as you could working anywhere) to open a project's source, but in the end it's a management decision. I mean, there are probably some guys at Microsoft who'd like to open the IIS source to get rid of some bugs, but it just doesn't make sense given the business model in use. Researchers are always free to look for employment elsewhere, just like everyone else.

Re:choice (2)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610484)

I don't think its that simple. Researchers are no t simply employees ofthe university, to be managed as some bean counters see fit. Researchers typically are engaged on their own projects-- projects chosen not on the basis of how much income the University might recieve, but rather on how such a project contributes to scientific understanding.
As for free source-- I've been porting various bits and pieces into fink. I've run across many licenses that explicitly forbid (or otherwise restrict) republication of modified source code-- usually on the grounds that this can make validation of program results difficult. And, of course, scientific publication has a tradition of citin previous works. The BSD advertising clause enforces this (with mixed results).

Restrictive usage terms can limit the amount of testing and validation a computer program is subject to. For example, many genomics programs use models of probability to help a researcher determine the statistical significance of a particular result. These models have not been fully tested, but widescale usage of a program will help the researchers more accurately access significance. Propriatary licensing hinders this process, and encourages labs to develop their own tools--sometimes an inefficient, error prone process.

Re:choice (0)

Thatman311 (316281) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610688)

Researchers at a University are just simply employees of said University. What that university tells them what they can and can not be researched has to be followed. Researches have a boss and some have employees (called research assistances). The only different between a researcher and a typical employee of a corporation is the researcher is usually given the freedom to research what ever the hell they want to for how ever long they want to (or are allowed to in the case of having to look for funding).

So this "we are researchers so we can do whatever we want do" is bogus as they have to be accountable just like all of us in the corporate world. Just want they have to produce and how they go to produce it and what that product is used for is different.

Re:choice (1)

elflord (9269) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611026)

The only different between a researcher and a typical employee of a corporation is the researcher is usually given the freedom to research what ever the hell they want to for how ever long they want to (or are allowed to in the case of having to look for funding).

Another big difference is that the corporation puts up the money to pay their employees, while university employees may be funded by grant money.

as they have to be accountable just like all of us in the corporate world.

Yes, but accountable to whom ? In particular, if their research is funded by a grant, they typically are accountable to the entity that provides the grant (typically, they are expected to file a research report). In pracitce, they are only held accountable by the university for duties that the university pays them for -- teaching, and administration.

The public is not being billed twice (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610387)

They can't honestly expect me to agree with them when they state that since taxpayers fund the university, they shouldn't have to pay for products the university develops. Taxpayers pay for a lot of things, include government research grants, but no-one who pays their taxes believes that they somehow 'own' a share of that research! Taxes are just taxes, nothing more.

Re:The public is not being billed twice (1)

ho11yw00d (538713) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610430)

I agree with you completely!

Therefor, I declare my authority to levy taxes against you. Please submit to me a 1040 along with a recent pay stub.

And since your expectations are so low, you can expect _ABSOLUTELY_ nothing in return.

(I prefer cash.)

Re:The public is not being billed twice (2)

interiot (50685) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610434)

Re:The public is not being billed twice (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610461)

Yhbt. Yhl. Hand. Foad.

Re:The public is not being billed twice (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610481)

Well said! But you'll get slapped down: after all, this is Slashdot, where paying for things is "bad" and dirty fucking hippies rule the roost.

Silly fucking smelly hippies, go take a bath.

Re:The public is not being billed twice (2)

elflord (9269) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610993)

Taxpayers pay for a lot of things, include government research grants, but no-one who pays their taxes believes that they somehow 'own' a share of that research! Taxes are just taxes, nothing more.

I beg to differ. I like to see government spending of my money accounted for. I would like to see it used in a way that benefits the interests of the public. If my money is being used to fund research, I would like the research to benefit the public, as opposed to propping up some greedy corporations. If the corporations want to fund research to further their intersts, that's fine with me. I only have a problem with their research being funded with my money.

Well, who'd have though of that? (2, Funny)

A_Non_Moose (413034) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610388)

A School actually passing on knowledge for the education of others.

Who'd of thunk it?

Re:Well, who'd have though of that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610405)

Yeah, this one post really sums it all up. Our higher education system is (ideally) the ACADEMY in the sense of Socrates. Patenting the results of academic research is just as outrageous as patenting algorithms and software. I finished grad school only a few years ago and it was sickening to see the professors scheming to incorporate and get rich, instead of educating students. It used to be that the idealists (including me) would lament the pursuit of research funding at the expense of educating the students. Now that seems tame compared to the rapacity of those blessed enough to have the talent and opportunity to become university professors.

Re:Well, who'd have though of that? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610413)

>Who'd of thunk it?

>I post intelligently;

No, you don't.

no "right" to anything (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610393)

You communist hippies really scare me. It's always gimmee, gimmee, gimmee with you guys isn't it?

How about you guys produce something original for a change instead of riding the coattails of hard working people trying to get rewarded for their excellence?

The law? (1)

Karma 50 (538274) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610395)

The movement also runs counter to U.S. laws that permit publicly funded schools to enter into exclusive licensing agreements with private companies

Just because something is legal, doesn't mean that not doing that something is bad.
The law permits me to do lots of things that I choose not - I am not behaving counter to the law.

This is brought up again later,

``I think the Bayh-Dole Act is one of the great economic success stories in the nation,'' said Terry Young, executive director of the Texas A&M Technology Licensing Office. He says the law should remain untouched.

Again, irrelevent. The law lets universities do things. If some people don't want to enter into exclusive agreements, then the status of the law is unchanged.

Re:The law? (2)

cperciva (102828) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610421)

The law permits me to do lots of things that I choose not - I am not behaving counter to the law.

No, but you are violating a statute of Quantum Mechanics: That which is not forbidden is compulsory.

Reduces the stature of science? (1)

Ebon Praetor (459548) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610399)

But he says the money isn't the issue -- it's respect. Open source publishing devalues what they do, he said....
"I don't think computer programmers should be treated any differently than other scientists,'' Green said. "It sort of diminishes the stature of the science."


And I'm sure that the private funding to get the desired results out of research (i.e. tobbaco harm studies funded by RJ Reynolds) doesn't diminsh the stature of real science. They seem to diminsh science more than the people who publish their findings. Take any of the great scienctists: Einstein, Curie, Borh...they all published and shared their studies for the sake of bettering science and making a name for themsleves. What happened over the last century to make researches into money-grabbers?

Re:Reduces the stature of science? (1)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610537)

Open source publishing devalues what they do

Slightly offtopic, but this phrase is important in just about any open-sourcing. I've got a friend who's a great marketer - he instinctively understands how to reach his audience and he's good at what he does. When I mentioned open-source *anything* to him, he pretty gave me the above quote. People will not believe that they can get something for nothing. If they have a choice between grabbing free research off the internet, and paying $5 for that same paper, they will immediately place more importance on the $5 copy. One way to increase the public's view of open source may - ironically - be to charge a higher price for it.

Re:Reduces the stature of science? (3, Insightful)

elflord (9269) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610976)

If they have a choice between grabbing free research off the internet, and paying $5 for that same paper, they will immediately place more importance on the $5 copy. One way to increase the public's view of open source may - ironically - be to charge a higher price for it.

This is not true, in my experience. No-one with any sense naively accepts selling price as a true measure of worth. The academic community has a process of peer review and publication. Research that is published in a reputable journal, or produced by a reputable scientist will be valued highly. Research, whether "open source", or sold for $5, $1000,000, by a crackpot will be ignored.

Re:Reduces the stature of science? (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611385)

No-one with any sense naively accepts selling price as a true measure of worth.

Who says people have sense?

True story: I was in the electronic gizmo section of a department store a few weeks ago looking for a set of headphones. There was an early-20's couple standing a bit further down the aisle from me looking at the mini-stereo systems. I heard the girl say to the guy, "Hey, maybe we should get this one. It has lots of lights on it."

You'd be surprised what adds value to something in the minds of some people.

Re:Reduces the stature of science? (1)

testharness (522244) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610804)

What happened over the last century to make researches into money-grabbers?

How about ..

1. The 80's
2. The late 90's
3. The fact that many of them are paid so little
4. If they don't grab the money ( after doing all the work ) some suit will grab it instead.

Paid twice; screwed once (2, Insightful)

ho11yw00d (538713) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610404)

Research funded by grants and government funding should be open. I'm all for capitalism, but if the public is going to "invest" in these schools and consistantly get nothing in return, we're getting fleeced.

As the article states, very few of these properties are lucrative and it's like the administrators are holding on to a free lottery ticket. I won't pay for my own gambling, let alone someone elses.

The answer is obvious... (4, Insightful)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610407)

...only to Bill Gates or Richard Stallman.

Bill Gates thinks that all the software in the world should be licensed, (and he should hold the license).

Richard Stallman on the other hand, thinks that all the software in the world should be licensed, (and he should write the license).

To everyone else, I think it depends what you are trying to achieve with your software.

Would the IP protocol be here today if it hadn't been open source? Would Linux? Would Doom? [Doom: It's free, then it isn't!, then it's open source!]

I think it depends what you think is more important: great software or great profits

Personally I like both- and Doom shows one way to get the best of both worlds; but there's plenty of other ways through this particular maze.

Re:The answer is obvious... (2)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610456)

Richard Stallman on the other hand, thinks that all the software in the world should be licensed, (and he should write the license).

Actually, Stallman advocates that you assign all rights to the FSF as well as use the GPL.

Re:The answer is obvious... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610496)

Ha ha ha, what a silly dirty smelly hippy he is. As if anyone would sign over anything with any real value to the FSF. What a bunch of shit.

Re:The answer is obvious... (2, Informative)

ab315 (443209) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610597)

The FSF asks for copyright assignments because of the legal advice that the best chance of the defending the license is if it is held by a single well-funded organization. If you've ever tried to sue someone infringing your copyright then you've got to be aware that you are putting your personal savings, house, etc on the line if the case goes down the pan and you have to pay legal costs, which could be huge. If you assign to the FSF you eliminate your personal liability. The FSF has a legal warchest ready for fighting any infringement of the GPL. Basically if you don't assign to the FSF or someother big organization that you're in a really weak position and could lose a lot if you actually tried to enforce the license.

Re:The answer is obvious... (-1, Flamebait)

Thatman311 (316281) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610699)

What is the difference between what you said and what the previous poster said. Now the FSF *OWNS* your copyright and you are powerless to prevent the FSF from doing what it wants with it. Nice...sounds like the biggest con job I have heard of.

Re:The answer is obvious... (2)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610775)

The difference is that the original author still has a legal copy of the source code, and a licence to use it in almost any way they see fit (except that if the author wants to close source it, the GPL won't let him do that).

The FSF though, in theory, could close source it. However you could get them to sign a contract forbidding them from doing that when you sign it across.

Re:The answer is obvious... (-1, Flamebait)

kz45 (175825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610642)

I think it depends what you think is more important: great software or great profits

if you have great CLOSED sourced software you can get great PROFIT.

Even if you have great OPEN source software, you will never have a great PROFIT.

great software is great software, regardless of the amount of money you spend on it, and the license it is released under.

Re:The answer is obvious... (2)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610739)

True; the two are not necessarily incompatible. However, you only have to look at the success of Microsoft, with extremely mediocre software.

It seem self evident to me that Microsoft deliberately minimises the quality of their software to improve their profits. Over time their quality has improved, but that has never been the main point of their software; their only point is to make money.

>Even if you have great OPEN source software, you will never have a great PROFIT.

Look at IBM. By using Linux they can improve their profitability.

Re:The answer is obvious... (-1, Flamebait)

kz45 (175825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611058)

the moderators are obviously OSS zealouts. I was just trying to make a fucking point.

Holy Troll Batman (2)

abe ferlman (205607) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611004)

Wouldn't you know it, my mod points expired yesterday.

Richard Stallman thinks that all the software in the world should be licensed so everyone can use it. Bill Gates is a megalomaniac. Richard Stallman is at worst a populist demagogue, but I think if you look at what he's done with his life and compare it to anyone else you'll see that his motivations have to do with making software free for everyone, not personal fame, riches or glory.

A lot of people who live in glass houses are throwing stones at Stallman these days. Show some respect. Free software would be nowhere without him.

It's not just employees... (4, Interesting)

cperciva (102828) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610412)

I'm a graduate student at Oxford University, and in the University's statutes they claim ownership of any code I write while I'm here. I am negotiating with them to try to get permission to release some of my work -- right now I'm working on network protocols, and a protocol isn't much use if nobody uses it -- and they haven't been entirely unreasonable, but after two months I still haven't got anything in writing.

It is one thing for a university to claim ownership of work produced by their employees; it is quite another for a university to claim ownership of work produced by people who are paying to be there.

Re:It's not just employees... (1)

tps12 (105590) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610435)

It is one thing for a university to claim ownership of work produced by their employees; it is quite another for a university to claim ownership of work produced by people who are paying to be there.

Not really...you just "pay to be there" in ways beyond your tuition.

Re:It's not just employees... (1)

wrinkledshirt (228541) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610494)

Anyone who's in a creative arts program should be careful about this too. My university had something like this for creative writing students.

Re:It's not just employees... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610506)

Oh for fuck's sake. You've signed an agreement with them that they own that IP. If you don't like it, leave. If you break that agreement, I hope they sue your ass off.

When the fuck will you stupid Slashdotters wake up to the fact that you are obliged to honour contracts you enter into? You're all a bunch of fucking stupid smelly hippies.

I have one consolation, though: people as stupid as the parent poster are too fucking dumb to ever write anything important. The best you can all hope for is that you write some Open Source Software: after all, they let any old retard do that.

Re:It's not just employees... (1)

windows (452268) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610542)

You pay to be there but you use their facilities to do your work. I'd tend to think if were a student there but used only resources independent of the university that they'd have no right to something you'd do. You could say so what that you used their resources but I don't think you can pretend that the resources of the university weren't necessary to your work.

You may be paying to be there but you used resources owned by them. If you purchased the resources yourself and didn't go through a university, then you would own your work yourself. In a lot of cases, perhaps not with computers so much but in other areas of research, it's simply impossible for the average person to purchase the needed resources. My point is you may have paid to attend the university but you don't own their resources you used to do your work.

I don't think the university is outside of their rights to claim the work of students using university resources.

Who owns what and why? (Re:It's not just emplo..) (3, Interesting)

chris_7d0h (216090) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610742)

And where would you draw the line?

At my current company I "signed my life away" as part of the employment contract.
The contract basically states that anything I create while being employed by the current employer will be theirs. It does not seem to matter if I create it on my personal computer and use none of the company's resources.
As a matter of fact, most of the things I've created have not been based on anything provided by the company (aside from company paperwork which I'd be happy to give them the rights to :-).
Some software specific to integrate with the company's other software and hardware have I created on one of their Laptops. I could just as well have created everything on my own PCs, but since it's tied to stuff from the company (by use or intended use) I see no moral dilemma handing it to them.

The question is; where do you draw the line between what can be seen entitled to the company / university? If a CS student is "inventing" something and only uses his/her own equipment, is that enough to give him/her the rights to use it?

Do the universities include "knowledge", which the student paid to receive, as university "resource" and thus are eligible to make claims regardless? If CS students base all their work on material bought privately from, say "Amazon.com", would that be enough to get the University's IP hoard off their back?

For my part, I've seriously thought of jumping the boat next time I feel a discussion will come up about an "invention", claiming a patent, which I deem is valuable for a larger audience.This is before I make it known to the company.

As it is now, I might get a $5000 award for something regardless whether it's value is tens, hundreds or more.

Where are the rest of you standing on this delicate issue? How do you reason each time something you create are up for a patent?

Re:It's not just employees... (1)

Bilestoad (60385) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610556)

Surely if you enter into any agreement - be it a tenure, or a program of education - in which the institution's ownership of academic works is clearly stated (it was in my university's guide book) then you accept that when you join, or commence, or whatever you like to call it. In this way I think the title of this /. story is misleading and disingenuous.

I wish you success with being able to release your protocols but I think any "right" is long gone. Hopefully Oxford will recognize the value of good will that comes from allowing distribution of code. The first I ever saw of Carnegie-Mellon University was in a copyright notice on TCP/IP sources.

Re:It's not just employees... (2)

karot (26201) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610596)

IANAL, but AFAIK, they can only lay claim to your IP (I assume you can prove it is yours) if you have signed it over to them.

Why else would employers go to such trouble to make that clear in employment contracts???

Re:It's not just employees... (2)

Trepidity (597) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610664)

When matriculating at universities it's standard to sign a whole slew of paperwork. An IP contract is probably one of them, and most people probably don't read it.

Re:It's not just employees... (2)

cperciva (102828) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610685)

When matriculating at universities it's standard to sign a whole slew of paperwork. An IP contract is probably one of them, and most people probably don't read it.

That may be the case at most institutions, but not at Oxford. Here people simply sign a blanket agreement to "abide by the statutes which govern the university".

Re:It's not just employees... (1)

elflord (9269) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610953)

When matriculating at universities it's standard to sign a whole slew of paperwork. An IP contract is probably one of them, and most people probably don't read it.

I certainly haven't signed an IP agreement, and I'm working at a University.

Re:It's not just employees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610660)

I guess next time you'll remember to read and understand the contracts before you decide whether to sign them. Agreeing to let Oxford University control your work wasn't very wise.

Have you considered quitting Oxford so you can work on your networking protocol freely? This is what RMS did when he began working on the GNU projecthis speeches [gnu.org] contain a full description of what he did and why. Briefly: prior to making the GNU project, he was employed at MIT. He quit MIT because he didn't want MIT to gain control of the GNU project.

Did you consider selecting a free software license so everyone (including Oxford) could benefit from your work? This might make Oxford more likely to want to let you continue work on it using their facilities. The GNU GPL is a copylefted free software license you should consider, particularly if your networking software is valuable (think: embrace & extend).

Did you consider stopping work on your networking protocol until you get this dilemma solved?

Re:It's not just employees... (2)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610715)

"It is one thing for a university to claim ownership of work produced by their employees; it is quite another for a university to claim ownership of work produced by people who are paying to be there."

And it has not stopped you from paying to be there, has it? The biggest problem with academia is that so many people just accept all of the horrible flaws in the system, and keep pumping in money to support it.

Re:It's not just employees... (1)

Isle (95215) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610722)

You choose to be screwed yourself. There are many other universities that have more acceptable rules. (although americans could have a hard time finding one)

Oxford have their name to make up for their crappy rules. So choose another one. There are many good universities in the UK or in the EU and the really good ones are free (like beer and linux).

Re:It's not just employees... (2)

cperciva (102828) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610745)

You choose to be screwed yourself.

Sure, and all the people who use windows chose that as well?

When it comes to graduate study, most universities are monopolies, simply because most fields don't have very many people working in them. If I decided not to come to Oxford I'd be looking for a new field right now.

Re:It's not just employees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2611126)

Yes they did. In case you haven't ever installed it (common among windows-bashers on /.) you must say that you have read and understood all of the conditions. You can't even do that until you have at least displayed all of the conditions. If you choose to say yes without knowing what you are agreeing too, what kind of fool does that make you?

Re:It's not just employees... (1)

ToasterTester (95180) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611072)

"It is one thing for a university to claim ownership of work produced by their employees; it is quite another for a university to claim ownership of work produced by people who are paying to be there."

Do you have a clue what you pay to go to school and what it costs to run the university. The money the university makes helps run the school and keep tutions down.

Of course it's vital... (2)

john@iastate.edu (113202) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610414)

Universities claim that everything is vital to everything they do -- that's just their nature.

For decades campus computing was largely ignored, but now that there's real money in it, the unblinking gaze of the bean counters is focused upon it (being the dinosaurs that they are, it will take a few years for the nerve impulses of the dotcom die off to reach such the central administrative nerve center).

The true meaning of this attention, while originally flattering, has begun to sink into the mind of the researchers, and predictably they have discovered the faustian nature of their bargain.

A division of income sources (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610427)

The article doesn't address a pretty fundamental issue here.

Where and how is public funding being used? Where and how is private funding being used? Where are the overlaps in this case?

One could, of course, argue that since the research is being held within buildings paid for by public funds, using utilities paid for by public funds, that certainly the public holds an interest in all cases where such research is being carried out.

Private interests have an interest in seeing the work completed and the institutions themselves have an interest in licensing fees coming back to them as well.

This is a confusing problem. It's certainly not black and white now is it? If I were judge, however, I would rule in the public's interest. I view public funding as a moral obligation to return something to the public after accepting money from it. If private interests are allowed to influence where the results of research goes, then the private institution should be billed for the amount of public funds used during the course of the research.

As for the institution itself charging license fees... wow... that's an interesting one isn't it. To that I would answer, YES! Charge license fees all you want, but only to private interests and not to public ones.

Hrm... I'd say that was a fair assessment of this situation. If I were judge over this matter, I would rule in this way.

HOWEVER... we know that's not what is likely to happen is it?

Corporation A and B's lawyers will argue that public interests are served by providing a quality product for sale resulting from all of this research... :) Hyeah... get something for free and sell it back to us... yet that argument is made all the time and it makes sense to some judges in these cases. Bah!

Question of Ownership (2, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610445)

But universities -- and some programmers -- oppose the open source movement, fearful valuable trade secrets could be lost.

All things exist, in space and time, they are merely ours to discover. Stanford, I can understand as it's a private school, but UC Berkeley hasn't a leg to stand on. Perform a service, do some research for IBM or such, sure, but it occurs to me that if a public institution claims ownership then it should be public. No secrets, no problem. Probably something else behind this is schools competing for prestige. UCB and Stanford both have a large number of Nobel prize winners, each. But that's no excuse for double charging the public, taxes, tuition, etc. + license fees.

Re:Question of Ownership (2)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610493)

Berkeley has a big leg (ahem) to stand on: that they aren't getting enough public funding, due to tax cuts in California. They definitely subsidize their students' education far more than Stanford does, but they simply can't afford to *not* go to the private sector if they want to provide a first-tier education. If people care about public education, they will fund it to the degree that private schools get, and then complaining that the products of research aren't public will be a valid plaint. Until then, providing a penny of support doesn't merit a pound of privilege.

Why can't they do both? (5, Interesting)

alienmole (15522) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610452)

I would think in many situations, universities could play both sides of the fence: make systems available as open source, but charge money to license code to companies that want to package it without source, in proprietary products (the SleepyCat approach [winterspeak.com] that was discussed here recently).

This approach has a better chance of working for universities than it does for ordinary commercial enterprises, for at least two reasons:

  1. The sort of software universities produce is more likely to be the kind of code that will be integrated into other systems, which lends itself to a dual licensing approach. Universities aren't selling shrinkwrapped software to consumers: they're selling more basic technology to companies that want to exploit it commercially. This could be perfectly suited to a dual licensing approach. Legitimate businesses, for the most part, are unlikely to try to base products on software that they don't have rights to.
  2. Universities don't rely on software licensing for their entire livelihood, so if an open source strategy happens to result in somewhat lower revenues, they can handle it. However, open source may be one of the best and cheapest ways of "advertising" a university's software products, so these factors could balance out.

Besides, this is exactly the sort of issue on which we should look to universities to lead the way. Open source is an important form of cooperation, and its heritage is the very academic freedom and open sharing of information pioneered by universities. There are benefits to this cooperation that may not be completely in conflict with the profit motive; however, the truth of that claim can only be verified by those with sufficient vision to look beyond the next quarter's results. Universities are one of the few organizations which have both the vision and financial ability to do that. MIT's recent decision [mit.edu] to make its course material freely available over the web is an example of this.

Re:Why can't they do both? (1)

Glorat (414139) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610650)

I am un undergraduate at Imperial College and I must say the issue hasn't cropped up here. Of all the individual projects us final years have been taken, none of the students have been worried about IP. Indeed, some project supervisors *insist* that their student's projects are put under the GPL because they are Open Source advocates. I guess the issue depends from university to university

Funding. (1)

A_Non_Moose (413034) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610455)

``If taxpayer money is used to create the software, then it should be publicly available for free,'' said Harry Mangalam, of tacg Informatics in Irvine, Calif. ``The public is being billed twice right now.''

Notice, please that he said "IF". Damn straight, if by extension "I/we" are funding these projects we should have the right to see what we are getting for our money. Taxes, tuition and student fees in addition to private funding, everyone has a claim, right? Everyone has rights to the code and the results.

Of course the opening paragraph was very telling:
Before computer whiz Steven E. Brenner accepted his tenure-track research post at the University of California-Berkeley last year, he demanded that the school's intellectual property police leave him alone.


Amen. It seems like the "good of mankind" feeling is winning over the "for the good of corporation kind"... now that code is free speech (for the moment) maybe he should have his own DeCSS like mirror for his code?

And let me get this straight:
The school in question is both publically and privatly funded, correct? IP disputes occur and are won by whoever has the most money, correct?

This, to me at least, sounds like a warped verions of prostitution, and in prostitution STD's are the result of...ahem..."Passing the *uck, around"...so the idea that IP ~= STD is forming in my mind.

What I am driving at is that Intellectual Property is a "Socially Transmitted Disease".

Re:Funding. (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610689)

If taxpayer money is used to create the software, then it should be publicly available for free,

If the invention was created with public funds, then the government should retain IP rights, and license the invention to anyone willing to develop it commercially. Any license fees would then return to general revenues, and presumably help offset the cost of providing research grants etc.

Re:Funding. (1)

fasta (301231) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610730)

Before the Bayh-Dole act, the federal government owned the intellectual property produced by grants and contracts, and it was exceptionally bad at providing the patent and other protections necessary to get discoveries into the market place. Drug companies do not develop and market drugs if they cannot control the patent. Likewise, some software companies may not make the marketing and support investments necessary to commercialize a product if the product is available as open source.

Much of this discussion assumes that the "discovery", or IP, has substantial inherent value that can be exploited without additional investments in support, marketing, etc. For specialized fields like bioinformatics, this is simply not true - the program may provide important new capabilities, but it will have little commercial value without appropriate packaging, integration with other biological information, training, and support. The universities do not do these "commercial" tasks, neither does the government. Companies do this sort of thing, but not without some guarantee (e.g. an exclusive license) that limits their risk.

exclusive licensing != quality software (1)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611035)

Much of this discussion assumes that the "discovery", or IP, has substantial inherent value that can be exploited without additional investments in support, marketing, etc. For specialized fields like bioinformatics, this is simply not true - the program may provide important new capabilities, but it will have little commercial value without appropriate packaging, integration with other biological information, training, and support.
If the software has little commercial value, but (presumably) sustantial real value to humanity, that seems like a good reason right there to license it as Free Software, Open Source, etc.

The universities do not do these "commercial" tasks, neither does the government. Companies do this sort of thing, but not without some guarantee (e.g. an exclusive license) that limits their risk.
Many companies, particularly badly run ones, would certainly accept such a monopoly if offered one, but most software isn't written on this basis. Companies that sell word processors or statistics packages don't rely on monopoly control of the underlying math/science/algorithms; they're able to make their money basic on quality, features, marketing, etc. Wise consumers of software usually understand a company's statement "Our software uses proprietary/patented methods." to mean "We are idiots and we have a large legal department."

As a biologist (?), you understand that an entity that lacks competition within their niche will not experience any of the selective pressure that would cause them to improve. Applied to this case, if a researcher's software is freely licensed, companies will have to compete vigorously to have high quality implementations. If one company has an exclusive license, the implementation will tend to be of the poorest quality that will seem to the buyer to be better than nothing.

--Mike

If the issue is one of public funding... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610464)

The the license should clearly be public domain.

If the researcher doesn't like that, then he's not talking about open source, but some other motive.

Misinterpretation of the Profit Motive (1)

Shanoyu (975) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610469)

The vast majority of buisnessmen, universities, and companies want to throw licences around like they are candy. However they don't seem to realise that the profit motive is irrelevant when you are licensing things that are not, in and of themselves, profitable.

Those that are guilty of this stupidity at the highest levels are only shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to producing things that are good for licensing. Simply, licensing something you need to make a new product that is either broken or inefficent, hiding it from developers, and then using it to build a new product results in a product that may or may not be broken or inefficent. When the building part is unprofitable, it is simply arrogance and stupidity that results in the failure of that which it helps to create.

Computer Science should grow up. (5, Insightful)

EndersGame (472825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610498)

Computer science is a young field. We can produce papers and show one result without having to back them up with anything other than our word. _SOME_ computer scientists have the courage to put out their source, but now it sounds like the universities are pressuring them not to.

Biology has a culture such that if you produce a new mutant line and write a paper about your discovery, ANYONE can ask you for your line. If you don't produce it, you will loose any respect you might have built up over the years. How do universities handle this?

Let's just imagine if computer science was this way. If you produce a paper, you had to be willing to give the code. If someone took your code and found it wanton or you were unwilling to give up your code, it would be assumed that you faked it. Ouch! That would suck. It would certainly slow down our field, but I think at some point this should be the case.

Re:Computer Science should grow up. (2, Informative)

budGibson (18631) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610725)

Computer science is already like this. You are not taken seriously unless you can produce code. For instance, in his autobiography, "Models of My Life", Herb Simon of Carnegie-Mellon recounts the first AI conference. He and Al Newell won the right to edit the proceedings of the conference because they were the only ones with actually working code. Dave Touretzky, also of Carnegie-Mellon, is even more adamant on this point, and his web-site has been cited frequently in this forum as regards the DECSS. Dave is very respected in CS, see his views at:

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst [cmu.edu]

Re:Computer Science should grow up. (2)

Trekologer (86619) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610821)

And there's a very good example of why reverse engineering is a good thing based on this.

Let's say that I announce that I've discovered a formula to calculate all the digits of Pi, a number believed to be irrational (no repetition, no way to express as a fraction, etc), and release a library that will output the number, to x decimal places (I claim that the limit is purely arbitrary, to save computer time). If you need something really precise, my library could be very useful to you.

However, since I don't release the source (and the DMCA says you can't reverse engineer), you can't disassemble the library to tell if I've really come up with a new way to calculate Pi or just hard-coded x decimal places (my product is a fraud).

This also applies to research. One of my compsci professors said "Computer science is unlike physics or chemistry, where you have set rules. Here, you just make stuff up." For computer science to advance, we can't just hide behind IP protection laws and agreements. How can you tell if something is a new advancement or just snake oil?

Re:Computer Science should grow up. (2)

kilrogg (119108) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610846)

Your Pi lib isn't a copy-prevention scheme, therefore it isn't covered by the DMCA, reverse engineering is still legal.

Re:Computer Science should grow up. (2)

Trekologer (86619) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611271)

Your Pi lib isn't a copy-prevention scheme, therefore it isn't covered by the DMCA, reverse engineering is still legal.

One could argue that compiling code is an access control mechanism. That is, preventing the user from accessing the "Pi generating algorythm". It could be covered by the DMCA.

You mean like Science/Celera Genomics? (1)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610893)

Biology has its own problems with openness. Consider the recent debacle of Science agreeing to publish a paper the only relevance of which is a dataset that won't be freely released to the public. (See this story [wired.com] at Wired, for example.) Are independent persons really able to verify that this data is what Celera Genomics says it is?

In addition, it seems like a great deal of the software described in biology articles is not available in an Free Software or Open Source form.

Both of these disciplines, at least as far as the academic side is concerned, need to remember what academia is all about ("Is it good for humanity?").

--Mike

It should be the researcher's decision (4, Interesting)

YoJ (20860) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610501)

I think that research work done while taking money from the NSF and other public agencies should be freely available to the public. In general this means that the research is published in public refereed journals that anyone can buy and read. In some sense the "intellectual property" of the research is being given away to the public, since anyone can read it. In another sense, the researcher and the university "own" the idea since no-one else can claim credit for it. But products and patentable ideas get a bit murkier.

I think everyone agrees that it is immoral for someone to do research while accepting public money and then keep the research secret and proprietary (except in extraordinary circumstances). There is also something fishy about a company being granted exclusive rights for an idea that was developed using public funds. The universities would like to patent everything themselves, but in practice it is often the decision of the researcher whether an idea should or should not be patented.

If I am on a project and write code, I ask whoever is in charge if I may release the code to the public. If they say no, I would want a pretty convincing explanation of why not. I don't think public research should have any secrets.

It's more than an open source issue... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610600)

This article is just the tip of the iceberg. I did my PhD and post-doc at a large research university. The dirty secret that they never tell you is that the claim ownership to everything you think or do. I do mean everything ... if you are a particle physicist and come up with a better way to start seedlings for the home garden in your basement completely outside of the work environment, they own it. Of course they claim that it's in the inventor's best interest that they own it because they have the backing to market things... for a small 90% commision of course. The IP grab is on and it's not just in the business world. The dirtiest part of this is that I've never seen any acedemic environment where they tell you this up front.
The IP agreement for my last job attempted to be just about as greedy. I made them add a clause saying that anything I invent on my own time that's not directly related to their business is entirely mine and that have no claim on said material.
The current position is still being hashed out ... it's a somewhat acadmeic position. When I interviewed I asked explicitly about IP policy and was told that IP for things outside of work was not covered. It turns out that after you accept the position and can get into the doc's on the internal network they are claiming complete ownership of everything too. Good thing I filed for patent on a few things during the previous gig and didn't wait.

In other News... (1)

EccentricAnomaly (451326) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610647)

Melvin Kelvin, descendant of the esteemed Lord Kelvin credited with the discovery of absolute zero has begun suing world thermometer makers for patent infringement...

It's just as silly, evil, and wrong to patent algorithms as to patent math or basic science discoveries... what if Leibnitz and Newton patented calculus? Boy, I'd love to have a patent on pi...

Patents don't protect inventors anyway... just look at how RCA held up Philo Farnsworth's Television patent in court until it expired and he couldn't get any money for it.

So few know of Farnsworth, or his inventions... (3, Interesting)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611394)

...it's a damn shame that he's largely unknown by the public, not unlike Tesla.

He'd invented numerous devices, 165 of them in fact, many revolving around television. RCA screwed him out of their value- Sarnoff, the CEO of RCA at that time, did everything he could to destroy Farnsworth in the courts.

Because of this, devices like the Fusor, perhaps the smallest working hot fusion device ever devised, went by the wayside until recently.

Fusor Links:

Fusor Patent at the USPTO [uspto.gov]
A 1999 article in American Scientist about the Fusor [americanscientist.org]
Richard Hull's webpages [infi.net]

Kansas universities (1)

pantherace (165052) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610656)

The Kansas board of regents tried to make a rule similar to Whatever you do, it is ours (even on your own time). Suffice to say, the faculties, students, and just about everyone else was pissed. It was shot down, and a new rule was passed. Basically, anything anyone does is theirs, unless it was specifically funded by the University/KBOR (as in a grant, or hired for a specific job). If say I were hired to write an interface to a library computer system, KBOR/University would own it. If however, I did the same thing on my own time, I would own it.

This is one of the better approaches to IP (at least the current one is) I have seen, because unless you are hired to x, x is your property.

IP Endurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2611352)

Lots of universities save more than 5%, by having undergrads write and develop entire systems.

If they do claim IP property, they must
1) Acknowledge contributers - and pay them a token amount
2) Accept the risk that if they modify or derive other works - the ex-student could one day sue their asses off or seek royalities
3) Accept the fact that if they are not storing the ENTIRE development process, claims that it is theirs will not travel too far.

I agree with above, specific grants might be made on O/S or treated differently, but at the same time, the grants would cost 50% more, so the entire documentation process made airtight.

If the universities want more money, then they should go after the US govt for patent infringement and not paying royalities. Cross referencing ex graduates against patent holders, against thesis archives would keep lawyers busy for eons.

The money, sadly is not in open source software. It is in drug R+D, Defence, energy, and exploration gizmos Students who cobble up software to drive these home made gizmo's get further outside grants and seed money. You want to put the brakes on this ?

Old saying - if it aint broke dont fix it.

Public/Private, and SBIRs; U's and Dual Lic's (1)

BlindGlobe (449615) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610694)

Two comments:

A large number of people have mentioned "public funded, therefore public property. However, there are many companies who scratch a living from SBIR's from NSF and/or NIH (small business innovative research grants). Public money, but not public use.

Is it reasonable?

Second, some university IP places will consider dual licenses as a good thing; a public OS license, and a second closed license (costing $$) for those interested in closed-source use. However, it depends on the investigator (after all, sales of software or libraries usually require some (limited) form of support, which isn't what most of us want to provide).

I'm speaking as a prof at a Uni, and am dual-employed (joint position) at a second non-profit research institution, which DOESN'T have the same flexibility as my Uni position (the latter "own everything...", though I'm looking at changing this at some point, at least for my own work). It makes life interesting, some times...

Note that it's why I like the GPL - using GPL'd licensed software restricts the licenses that the university can use -- it's my research, and if I am supposed to distribute the results, then there is only one approach that can be taken. W/o the GPL, the university has much more control over the license (though by the same token, they could restrict redistribution, that being the only alternative :-(.)

Commercially-oriented research is often crap (5, Insightful)

ab315 (443209) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610709)

A lot of what passes for commercial research is crap. For example, the stomach-ulcer drug "Zantac" was one of the biggest-selling drugs of all-time with billions of dollars in revenue. A perfect example of the commercial research model. Unfortunately the drug was complete crap, because all it did was treat the symptoms of stomach ulcers and not the cause, so you had to take it forever while the ulcers would silently get worse, requiring increasing doses. Of course, this is a great revenue generator -- the drug seems to work in trials, because it relieves the pain but somehow those patients just need to keep coming back for more. There was ONE guy in the world, a pathologist from New Zealand, who actually found out the real cause of many stomach ulcers -- a simple bacterial infection of the stomach that could be cured with cheap generic antibiotics. He spent twenty years trying to get the medical community to listen to him, but was completely ignored! After all he couldn't be right because Zantac was so successful! Standard treatment for ulcers today is testing for the bacteria (H.Pylori) and antibiotics.

Commercial research maximises profits, not progress. People who make real breakthroughs won't be accepted in a commercial research model, because they don't conform to the norm -- after all if a researcher finds out that a billion-dollar drug is useless that is not going to look good for the university -- people have been killed for less. Any university which goes down that road is going to guarantee it ends up producing mediocre incremental advances. We don't need any more zantacs, we need smart people with intellectual freedom -- if we can't collectively afford that then we are doomed.

Capitalism and Public Knowledge (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610801)

To answer this question, just ask: why have Universities in a capitalist society?

The idea behind capitalism is that, if something is of public benefit, someone will do it and sell it for a profit.

For some "things" though, this doesn't work, because it's not possible to control the spread of the benefit so that the provider can make a profit. Economists call these "positive externalities". Education and basic research are classic examples. Ford may derive benefit from having a educated populace, but it won't pay for people's educations, because other firms would derive the benefit, too.

I think the answer to the question is clear: Universities should "open" all research results. If research has a containable economic benefit, it can be done by a private firm, and the public shouldn't be subsidizing it in the form of salaries, grants, facilities, etc.

When public universities pursue IP revenue, they are succombing to the natural desire of any organization to grow -- but that urge needs to be kept in check by government looking out for the taxpayers bottom line. If increasingly more can be done for society by the private sector, then the public sector needs to be able to shrink. (And if not, then not.)

Needed changes in the IP laws (3, Interesting)

3seas (184403) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610809)

IP laws today are "cannot" based. As in you cannot use unless you have approval, etc.

This practice needs to change to "Can" based laws. As in you can use but if you receive monies for doing so, you must direct a percentage back to the IP holder.

Though this doesn't directly address the public vs. private investment direction, I believe it would cause such a change in IP application perspective that would be far more beneficial to all involved. And that is what the overall objective is of IP laws - to benefit humanity to the greatest potential possible.

There has been several articles this past month or so on slashdot that go into the benefits and differences of private and public IP holdings. Now the hing to do is to merge the benefits of both into laws that everyone can better live with. IP "CAN" based laws.

Re:Needed changes in the IP laws (1)

elflord (9269) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610929)

P laws today are "cannot" based. As in you cannot use unless you have approval, etc. This practice needs to change to "Can" based laws. As in you can use but if you receive monies for doing so, you must direct a percentage back to the IP holder.

Your "solution" is worse than the problem you are trying to solve. The main problem is that every company "receives monies" from activity related to software use. How do you calculate "percentages" ? It puts an onerous burden on licensees. In fact, the solution you propose for copyrights is analogous to the way patent legislation currently works.

Re:Needed changes in the IP laws (2)

3seas (184403) | more than 12 years ago | (#2611392)

I spelt out no details, yet you have concluded a great deal out of so little I have said (which amounts to a general goal).

I have visited your web site, inspired by the .edu address of it and how it relates to the story this thread is a response to.

Perhaps you should visit mine? Let me suggest the "concepts" section of this web page [mindspring.com]

This way it just might be possible to design IP "can" based laws that work to genuinely advance technology, rather than being used to restrict and control technology and who benefits or not.

Gotta start with the general idea and then work on filling in the details. That's how creation works, even in the 3 most popular religions in the world.

Perhaps you have another reason for being opposed?
Are you somehow personally benefiting from "cannot" based IP laws?

.

Bioinformatics software distribution (4, Insightful)

fasta (301231) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610825)

The Silicon Valley article is a bit misleading, and doesn't accurately reflect the range of distribution alternatives being used for Bioinformatics software. It is certainly true that many Universities claim ownership of computer software copyrights, but it is important to appreciate that there many levels at which the implementation of these policies is decided. For example, both the WU-BLAST and the HMMer packages were developed by researchers at Washington U. in St. Louis. WU-BLAST [wustl.edu] binaries are available to academics after an appropriate license is signed, and licensed commercially. HMMer i is available under the GPL but a commercial license is also available. [wustl.edu]

Likewise, the FASTA [virginia.edu] package, can be freely downloaded by both academic and commerical users, but must be licensed from the U. of Virginia to be redistributed. This has allowed the software to be widely used by researchers and also incorporated into commerical packages.

As a Bioinformatics researcher and software author, my goal is to have my research and software be used as widely as possible. This improves my ability to obtain future external funding, to get my papers cited, etc. etc. Even at universities like Wisconsin and Stanford, which derive enormous sums from IP licensing, these funds are less than 10% the value of NIH and other external funding. Thus, it is not hard to argue that software licensing policies should maximize the likelihood of external funding, and the widest possible distribution (though not necessarily GPL) is likely to have the greatest impact and long term benefit. (Moreover, once software becomes widely used, it is much more valuable commercially.)

Thus, while a university's Vice-President for Research may be interest in IP licensing, a Dept. Chairman may be more interested in faculty success in obtaining external funding, and a broader software distribution.

I would love to see the wealth shared (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610913)

If the public universities are going to do this, then the money should be pooled and used to support ALL the schools. It was our money that went into it so use it for all.

Public domain would be better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2610948)

Public domain would be better so that anyone could use it for whatever they want to. After all, everyone payed taxes for it's development.

Disturbing Trend (2, Insightful)

bcilfone (144175) | more than 12 years ago | (#2610958)

This is just part of the trend to distribute risk among the public while privatizing profit. Welcome to America.

hello, do you know how to proof-read your posts?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2611259)

I spotted I think five typos in the original post. Would you people stop trying to get it out quick and make sure you get it out correctly, PLEASE? It is as though this bboard (Slash-whatever) is being run by teenagers.
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