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What to Protect in Open Source Software

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the what's-in-a-name dept.

Software 96

eldavojohn writes "I found a brief blog by Marc Fleury on something that seems to almost be an oxymoron — what you need to legally protect in Open Source Software. The short of it is that you should trademark your name and brand it. Which might explain Xen's stance on the use of the brand 'Xen'. Another short blog notes that you should also maintain control of your distribution channels. Fleury also states this interesting tidbit on protecting intellectual property in OSS, 'Short of filing patents, there isn't much you can do in OSS. Let's face it the IP is there for everyone to see. If you are in a mode where a lot of the value is the code itself then open sourcing under GPL or equivalent reciprocal license may be a good choice for you. At least you will make sure that ISV's that re-use your license get in contact with you and many of them will pursue dual-licensing, a strategy that is known to work to monetize an OSS user base (mySQL).' Is there anything else you should take measures to protect in open source software? Is it possible to maintain control of a project under the GPL or are you constantly faced with forks?"

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96 comments

The same as with anything (5, Insightful)

andy666 (666062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440185)

You protect anything that is truly new and creative. Which is rare in most technology.

Re:The same as with anything (1)

Feminist-Mom (816033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440225)

It's not very open sourcey, but trade secrets are a good way to go in many situations. This avoids the patent nonsense and if what you have done really is special then it won't be "obvious to an expert" what you did. Of course many things can't be done this way.

protect the trademark and expect forks (1)

PatentMagus (1083289) | more than 6 years ago | (#21441567)

The trademark can be used to label versions approved by the trademark holder. That's about all there is. Can you protect against forks? Not with the GPL or many of the other open source licenses. That's a good thing. Someone forks the code, adds in the stuff that scratches their particular itch, and throws their own trademark on it. That's what open source is all about. If you want to control your code, then don't open source it.

I've been involved in more than one project where the original code was orphaned, held by a control freak, or through lack of control had turned into bug ridden spaghetti. The solution was always to grab it, fork it, and then (if possible) merge back into the original code base.

The funny thing is that this is exactly what trademarks are intended to do. They differentiate similar goods and services. If you really think your fork is the best one, protect that trademark and watch the other forks for stuff you can merge.

Re:The same as with anything (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442105)

The name is not creative and the name is what this is about. Naming some software after a computer in a TV show that was named after a philosophy and spelt with an "X" to be scifi is not creativity. Trying to prevent other people copying the name as well by legal action just looks silly and a waste of money. It looks like the organization got large enough to start employing Eloi instead of hungry Moorlocks - it may end in tears.

Duh, (4, Interesting)

pb (1020) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440219)

Didn't Red Hat already demonstrate this principle, years ago? Hopefully for his sake, they didn't trademark it too, pfft...

Re:Duh, (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442051)

Red Hat owns JBoss, which Marc Fleury produces. We can assume he's got an idea of what he's talking about.

That said, given the way Centos has been taking off lately, I'm pretty sure the value of a Brand for things people aren't paying for will be shown to be fairly low. Certainly, if you're reaching people who's only knowledge of the product is the name and image then a brand is a big deal... but in technical and/or OSS circles, not so much.

Re:Duh, (1)

arebenti (1191303) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442213)

trademark protection is okay but software patents [affii.org] deprive authors of their works.

Repeat After Me (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21440249)


Open Sores Software is NOT free.

Have a weekend.

Cheers,
K. Trout

Re:Repeat After Me (3, Funny)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440291)

Have a weekend
No thanks, I'm full.

Err, what? (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440319)

By the by - RedHat has had the same stance: you trademark the name and logos, no problem. That protects your name.

Otherwise... protect it from what? If somebody swipes the code and locks it down under proprietary license, you can go after them for violating copyright terms. Otherwise, the whole stinkin' point of Open Source is to share the code. Can the author of TFA say "duh" for us?

If what you're licensing as open source code is covered by software patents (blecch), then it's already covered under patent law.

If you're that worried about distribution, do what RH and nearly every other distro maker does - have official mirrors. Anything outside of that and you don't have to take responsibility for it.

Otherwise, unless you fully grok what it is you're getting into by doing so, maybe you shouldn't open the license on your source code? This ain't rocket science here...

/P

Re:Err, what? (4, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440429)

Exactly, and if they are so worried about forking, make the code good in the first place. Other then ports and the like, most forks are caused by bad leadership or poor maintenance of the code. And also, a word to all potential "open source" businesses, if your code is open and not-proprietary and you let the community contribute and such you will succeed, if your just trying to make a Windows-like OS and sell it for $45 at a retailer with some proprietary things mixed in, chances are your going to fail. Only the truly open companies that are in Open Source will triumph otherwise, the hobbyists who collaborate will be better.

Re:Err, what? (3, Insightful)

djikster (1189729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440563)

RHEL, the major source of income for RedHat, has been distributed for free under the CentOS name. They simply take the RHEL source repository, and build everything, and create a "new" distro. Of course, most of the work is done by RHEL, and they're losing revenue because people don't buy RHEL due to the fact that they can get it for free as CentOS. However, RedHat does not seem to be doing too poorly recently, so I assume most of the money they make comes from support, which is odd, since AFAIK the level of support they give can easily be bypassed by a competent sysadmin.

Re:Err, what? (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440859)

Of course, most of the work is done by RHEL, and they're losing revenue because people don't buy RHEL due to the fact that they can get it for free as CentOS.

You oughta talk to a CIO some time...

SysAdmin: "Sir, We don't need to buy RHEL subs. We can just use CentOS instead."
CIO: "Okay, and what happens a couple years down the road if the CentOS project goes 'splat' and all our mission-critical stuff is still on it? And how do we know it's exact RHEL code? And what about the apps and bits that only RedHat makes (like certificate tools for instance)? What happens when you're out on vacation or leave for another job, and we gotta get tech support on this thing?"
SysAdmin: "Umm, err, umm..."
CIO: "Who do we rely on if something isn't quite working on the hardware side? You do know that Dell and HP won't even touch an OS or software issue if you're not using an OS that they support, right? And if our Oracle RAC servers starts goofing up, how do we explain to their tech support that we're using an RHEL variant that they simply don't support?"
Sysadmin: " ... "

...you get the idea. It isn't for lack of tech know-how to run the day-to-day stuff that keeps most corporations buying RHEL in spite of CentOS, it's all those nasty little side issues that keep cropping up.

Sure, with a bit of forethought, you can actually get around all the hypotheticals I put up there. Problem is, it'll eat more time and energy to do so than to simply use something that the hardware and app makers support - and invalidating support (either by warranty or contract) is going to be seen as wasteful by the PHB's - cost savings in subs-not-bought be damned.

Personally and professionally, I like CentOS. I squeeze it in wherever there's a need for a non-mission-critical Linux server, and the hardware isn't still under warranty or service contract. This way I save the beancounters some dough but still fill the needs as they arise.

OTOH, there are perfectly real reasons why RH makes so much dough off of RHEL (same with SuSE).

/P

Re:Err, what? (2, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21441989)

I squeeze it in wherever there's a need for a non-mission-critical Linux server

Personally I prefer not to have mission critical servers if I can help it. If you have a few machines for some other purpose, have the software installed so things can switch roles and enough disk capacity for copies on different servers then losing any single server doesn't slow you down much.

Re:Err, what? (1)

zantolak (701554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21444403)

Okay, and what happens a couple years down the road if the CentOS project goes 'splat' and all our mission-critical stuff is still on it?
What do you do if Red Hat goes splat? What do you do if any organization whose software you use goes splat?

Re:Err, what? (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#21445853)

What do you do if Red Hat goes splat?

I think the argument is that it's less likely that an established, profitable company will go splat than some hobbiest group will simply tire of the work and go and do something else instead.

Re:Err, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21444651)

Oh, I prefer CentOS because the upstream software feed (up2date and that awful up2date-in-drag yum plugin they use now) is also a single point of failure for RHEL. And the odd split-ups of their software into different "channels" about which the client knows nothing until the channel is activated upstream is an issue. And the lack of a single installation image, forcing one to use CD's or merge from CD's rather than working from a DVD is a problem. And their refusal to include NTFS drivers in their kernels, their lengthy time between releases which means that RHEL releases of critical software like MySQL and PHP can be completely deprecated by the time the next RHEL comes out makes it difficult to support newer applications, while CentOS provides them in the centosplus repository. And that horrible excuse for a software management tool called RHN, where just using yum is far more reliable, configurable, and flexible. The list of issues goes on, and on, and on. I'm glad RedHat is in business for the robust software they provide, but they should frankly hire the CentOS maintainers to replace some of their own staff.

Re:Err, what? (2, Interesting)

bignetbuy (1105123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21446677)

Wow. Such nonsense. Let's deal with you:

1) Yum is a single point of failure for RHEL? Your flagrant abuse of IT vocabulary is a single point of failure for your career. The use, or lack of use, of yum will not break a RHEL server -- thus disproving that yum is a single point of failure.

2) multiple CDS/merging? RHEL5 has a DVD ISO available.

3) Lack of NTFS drivers? Why should Red Hat risk incurring copyright/patent issues? To satisfy your need to read from inferior filesystems? I'm glad they don't.

4) Lengthy release time? That's a *FEATURE*, you moron. It's called stability. Real IT shops don't like upgrading their servers every six months, ala Fedora. Real IT shops with hundreds or thousands of servers need stability. They need time to plan their upgrades. Only gurlie men with 3 servers in a bathroom rack want distros released every month. Also, RHEL is supported for SEVEN FREAKING YEARS after release. That's the result of the stability and "lengthy" release time you bitch about.

5) Horrible RHN v/s yum? You just slandered yum by calling it up2date in drag and now you praise it? Make up your mind.

In closing, enjoy your 3 server shop and your CentOS. Keep suckling off the Red Hat teet. Real companies with real business needs will keep Red Hat and indirectly supporting your pathetic career.

Re:Err, what? (1)

awrowe (1110817) | more than 6 years ago | (#21448449)

No, don't hold back, tell us what you really think.

Re:Err, what? (1)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440867)

Red Hat isn't losing much money on Cent OS because they target two separate demographics. While RHEL is targeting the business who needs solid tech support and a business to stand by them with pointless patent lawsuits and the like, Cent OS is for the home user or for trial at businesses to make sure their hardware is detected and that the business can function under Linux. When there is Fedora which is also a RHEL-based distro from Red Hat and Ubuntu and Mandirva has better hardware detection in my opinion and more packages, there is little need to run RHEL for anything other then support. Also, Red Hat has by allowing Cent OS has gained much more respect as a business and when monopolies (read as Microsoft, Adobe and proprietary software vendors either break up or go bankrupt, reputation will be a real meter on choosing a software vendor and Red Hat will be right up there.

Re:Err, what? (2, Insightful)

allcar (1111567) | more than 6 years ago | (#21445533)

Also, Red Hat has by allowing Cent OS has gained much more respect as a business

I'm not sure what you mean by "allowing". The license allows Cent OS to do what they do, not Red Hat. This is a triumph for the whole OS system, not one particular company.

Re:Err, what? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440663)

If somebody swipes the code and locks it down under proprietary license, you can go after them for violating copyright terms. Otherwise, the whole stinkin' point of Open Source is to share the code. Can the author of TFA drool some more for us?

There, fixed that for ya ;)

-mcgrew

PS: Your sig- I'm so old I was a beta tester for dirt. They never did get all the bugs out.

Re:Err, what? (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21441901)

If you're that worried about distribution, do what RH and nearly every other distro maker does - have official mirrors.

Or sign your releases, like Debian does (not per-package signing, like RPM-based distros usually do).

Re:Err, what? (3, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21444751)

By the by - RedHat has had the same stance: you trademark the name and logos, no problem. That protects your name.


Novell did the same and went one step further. If you want to make a distribution based on openSUSE [opensuse.org] , all you need to do is remove the trademarks and such. Now how do you do that? Novell has kindly made rembrand which removes the branding. [opensuse.org]

That way it is fairly easy to make your own distribution. No need to recompile, unless you want to. If you so desire, you CAN recompile everything and then use makeSUSEdvd to make your ISO.

All the rest of the packages has their own licences and regulations.

Re:Err, what? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21446035)

By the by - RedHat has had the same stance: you trademark the name and logos, no problem. That protects your name.

And remember, what's really being protected is the user's ability to differentiate your official product from other people's similar products. Trademarks are not at all counter to the goal of free software.

Why "protect" it? (4, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440345)

Why even "protect" it? First off, the most you should do is trademark your name or possibly your logo, the problem is, if you have a large enough base of people using your software, and you go out of your way to make it "protected" chances are someone is going to fork it into a more free version such as what happed with Firefox and Debian. As for forks, very, very, very few people are going to fork your code unless either there is a leadership disagreement, your work is not free enough, there is serious problems with the code or it is unmaintained, those are just about the only cases where it actually "forks" now if it is big enough of a project, there is going to be forks, however probably 80% die out within the first year and the 20% that remains are either lagging behind the main version or have very limited appeal. People will be quick to point out such things such as Cent OS and Red Hat Linux, however Cent OS is aimed for hobbyists or small businesses who don't need commercial support. Red Hat sells support, not Red Hat Linux. So moral to this post is, don't over "protect" your work, its no big deal if someone forks it, in Open Source, may the best code win.

Re:Why "protect" it? (1)

mattcasters (67972) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440789)

I couldn't agree more.

Personally I think that the best line of defense for any open source project is constant innovation and a good (nice & big) community.
Those will do the job of keeping your project alive, well and un-forked much better than any other measure you can think off.

Cheers,
Matt

Re:Why "protect" it? (1)

VENONA (902751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21445057)

"if it is big enough of a project, there is going to be forks,"

I don't see that. OK, CentOS, white box linux from RHEL, but I can't call that a fork, which would imply taking the code in a new direction, not just stripping out some branding.

The only serious forks I've seen have been in the security space--vulnerability scanners and such. As a security guy, that hits close to home. But still, that's a very small piece of the puzzle, in the overall scheme of things. If you were to include innumerable small PHP projects which litter the mailing lists with endless brain-dead vulnerabilities, I might go along with the idea that there have been a lot of forks. But real forks (not two guys getting pissed off, declaring a fork, and writing 6 LOC between them), in major projects? Nah. I ain't buying it, unless you can give some examples.

I very much doubt you can give a good example of a credible fork from Debian because it wasn't free enough. That's a fairly alien concept. Maybe the username Webmaster404 explains it all. In my experience, when 'Web developers' start sounding off, I generally find that these 'developers' haven't even read the basic professional texts of their purported profession, such as O'Reilly's HTTP The Definitive Guide.

I do know a couple that are scary smart. It happens. It just didn't happen in your case.

Re:Why "protect" it? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21445603)

I very much doubt you can give a good example of a credible fork from Debian because it wasn't free enough
I think the grandparent meant the issue with Debian forking Firefox and creating Iceweasel, which had some extra patches applied that weren't accepted upstream and all of the Mozilla Corporation branding removed.

Re:Why "protect" it? (1)

VENONA (902751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21458029)

I'm not prepared to argue the point. Too much time has gone by, I'm doing a long Thanksgiving weekend, and the thread is too hard to chase. You tend to have good instincts about this sort of thing, so I'm willing to go with that viewpoint.

Re:Why "protect" it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21544251)

--
What you do with a computer does not constitute the whole of computing.


It does for me.

Re:Why "protect" it? (1)

VENONA (902751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21568545)

Then by all means continue to celebrate the narrowest of all possible viewpoints.

Theme song (0, Offtopic)

kwabbles (259554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440381)

The only two songs that I've been able to remember word for word in their entirety for my whole life have been the national anthem and the MST3K theme song.

Does it contain a subliminal message?

Re:Theme song (0, Redundant)

kwabbles (259554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440425)

I think the message is to protect open source software.

Sorry about that folks.

Fork... the nightmare of the OSS developer.. (3, Insightful)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440413)

Is there anything else you should take measures to protect in open source software? Is it possible to maintain control of a project under the GPL or are you constantly faced with forks?"

FORK!! FORK!! there, run scared... haha

It is really funny how open source developers are so afraid of a fork. It seems that it would be the worst thing that can happen to their precious software/idea... imagine some forking Linux and making it so good that Linus does not matter any more? or what about apache, or any other project.

Recently, I was in a talk given by the founder of Moodle, and when asked which where the treats of his project, he named, maybe competitors, lack of interest and almost as if he did not want do acknowledge it, with a very weak voice, he said "forks".

Of course a fork would mean that the oh great lords and owners of the source (Linus, Theo, Miguel, etc...) would be put aside and they could end as simple coders...

Sorry for the flame :) have a nice day

Re:Fork... the nightmare of the OSS developer.. (3, Interesting)

mmcuh (1088773) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442001)

Of course a fork would mean that the oh great lords and owners of the source (Linus, Theo, Miguel, etc...) would be put aside and they could end as simple coders...
Linus Torvalds has said many times that he thinks that forks are a good thing, and he don't mind Linux forks at all (although he'd of course want to merge back any good ideas and good code from them). Theo de Raadt started OpenBSD himself as a fork of NetBSD (the entire *BSD family is a tree of forks originating from the original Berkeley software). People in these positions in the free software world have usually thought enough about "free software" to understand that forking is very seldom bad, most of the time harmless, and sometimes very good.

Re:Fork... the nightmare of the OSS developer.. (1)

init100 (915886) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442507)

or what about apache

It is interesting that you mention Apache when discussing the alleged fear of forks, as Apache is itself a fork of the NCSA httpd. The name Apache even stems from "A Patchy Server", in that Apache initially was distributed as a set of patches for the NCSA httpd.

Re:Fork... the nightmare of the OSS developer.. (2, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21444749)

The reason they're rightfully afraid of forks is that most of those trying to make a business selling service and support get the majority of service and support because they're the company behind the product. Red Hat gets RHEL support because they're Red Hat and not someone else. If someone forked it off and made a better $foo-Linux, then company $foo would get the service and support. Same goes for those in it for recognition, being the guy "who made some software which another company took over and now everyone associates with them" obviously has a lot less in it than *being* the personified leader, like Linus is to Linux. But yeah, if you're completely neutral towards your baby project, you've got nothing to fear...

Re:Fork... the nightmare of the OSS developer.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21445379)

Software that does not permit Forking, is not Free Software, according to RMS's definition.

So the google-ware that is free software but people have to promise that they won't fork, restricts the rights of people to modify the code, and thus, is not Free Software. Read-only free software != free software.

Forking is.... (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 6 years ago | (#21446835)

difficult at best. I am involved in the LedgerSMB project and in fact I helped to found the fork (we split off from SQL-Ledger because the author was not interested in fixing security holes). Since then we have found that the codebase is ACID compliant only in the Timothy Leary sense (i.e. the code reminds you of code one might write while on LSD)....

LedgerSMB is a rare fork because we are still around 1+ years later. This occurred only because the community was, as a whole, dissatisfied with the way SQL-Ledger was founded and we made sure we had enough resources to sustain development before we started. Now a year later we are finally taking it to the next level, have a new architecture/framework in place and are starting to move the code over to it.

Nearly all forks fail and most of those that succeed do so by being absorbed back into the main project. We actually encourage collaborative forking in LedgerSMB where the idea is to build different solutions on a common framework. THe only way a fork succeeds is if the core developer(s) don't meet the needs of the community and if a fork comes along that can (a number of dead forks of SQL-Ledger also exist). If you do this, why worry about forks?

Re:Fork... the nightmare of the OSS developer.. (1)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450061)

Forks don't exist! They are filthy lies made up by so-called Open Sores coders! Sure, programs get bugfixes and new features once in a while, but nobody has ever seen a program fork in the software company! That is because it just doesn't happen! All programs were designed by intelligent developers for their own unique purpose! Look at your desktop, it is full of evidence of this! Do not listen to the filthy lies told by Open Sores heretics, purchase only software made by Microsoft! Windows Vista can now detect when it is crashing, and reboot quickly so you will hardly notice it!

Freedom immigrants vs freedom natives (5, Insightful)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440421)

Free/libre and open-source software is a product of freedom natives, people who regard freedom as a fundamental non-negotiable human value. Many freedom natives have been born in environments where they were in interaction with lots of other freedom natives.

A freedom native will make money with free software by offering great user support.

Now people who believe in control (control freaks) have learnt about the free software community and try to monetise by building upon its spectacular success. But being freedom immigrants, and keep being in interaction with other control freaks, they cannot comprehend how you can make money without using control. They think that the essence of capitalism is to squeeze the customer, lock users in proprietary platforms, etc. Thus, even though they adopt the free software insignia (they may use the GPL and place wikis on their sites), their mindset is still that of a control freak (they use their trademarks abusively, etc). They aren't true freedom natives.

So, a freedom immigrant will try to make money with free software by maintaining a dual-licensing scheme for corporate clients, by maximising as much as possible their grip on their trade marks, by making shadow deals with distributors, etc. And if they succeed to create a cash flow with these methods, their user support may suck.

When I evaluate a free software application for use in my personal and business machines, I try to understand whether it is made by a freedom native or a freedom immigrant. I prefer software written and supported by freedom natives, even if the freedom immigrants use the same licence.

Re:Freedom immigrants vs freedom natives (3, Funny)

s.bots (1099921) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440767)

Xenophobe!

Re:Freedom immigrants vs freedom natives (1)

photon317 (208409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21441269)


Your "freedom immigrants" sound like MySQL AB :)

Re:Freedom immigrants vs freedom natives (2, Interesting)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442129)

A useful software product needs no "user support". If the user has to call for help, the product is incomprehensible or it fails when the user needs it the most.

Some very complicated products require training (e.g., Oracle) to use properly. However, once trained nothing further is required other than using the product.

Re:Freedom immigrants vs freedom natives (2, Interesting)

jhoger (519683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21444989)

Your mistake is assuming all users have the interest and are qualified or with short-term training can become qualified to install, maintain or extend this "useful software product." Quite often this is simply not the case. For the vast majority of businesses, IT is a cost center, not a profit center. Businesses will look outside their company for support rather than build up the expertise inside the company. That's why selling support around most any software product above a certain level of complexity, however well designed, can be successful. -- John.

Re:Freedom immigrants vs freedom natives (1)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21445227)

A useful software product needs no "user support". If the user has to call for help, the product is incomprehensible or it fails when the user needs it the most.

Some very complicated products require training (e.g., Oracle) to use properly. However, once trained nothing further is required other than using the product.
Great in theory, doesn't work in practice though. Any program that gets beyond very simple functionality needs support of one kind or another.

A shovel can work for decades without any servicing. But a digger needs a service every now and then, and active attention to lubricant levels and wear and tear on various components. Which would you prefer to use to dig the foundations of an office block with?

Re:Freedom immigrants vs freedom natives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21445653)

A shovel can work for decades without any servicing. But a digger needs a service every now and then, and active attention to lubricant levels and wear and tear on various components. Which would you prefer to use to dig the foundations of an office block with?

Depends. If it was a teeny weeny office block for cute hamsters in little suits and ties, I think I'd go for the shovel...

Re:Freedom immigrants vs freedom natives (1)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21447109)

Depends. If it was a teeny weeny office block for cute hamsters in little suits and ties, I think I'd go for the shovel...
I'm calling PETA!!

Re:Freedom immigrants vs freedom natives (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21445639)

It depends on what you mean by support. The lowest level of support is answering the phone and helping people with problems. Good (which includes well documented) software does not need this.

The next level of support means fixing bugs. Perfect software has no bugs, but almost no software is perfect (some is designed using formal methods, but it costs a few orders of magnitude more and so is very rare). Ideally, however, software should contain very few bugs and so fixing them for money is not a viable revenute stream (and if it is, your customers are likely to leave quickly).

The top level of support means adding features. This is where an open source company is best able to make money. They employ the people most familiar with the code and so they have the lowest costs to make changes to it. Very few software packages do exactly what the customer wants out of the box; this is why even closed things like Microsoft Office include scripting languages to add some of the missing features. The kind of support that people are thinking of when they say 'selling support' for Free Software is answering in the phone to people who say 'We are using this program, but we need it to be able to do x, y and z. How much will that cost and how soon can it be done?'

Re:Freedom immigrants vs freedom natives (1)

trifish (826353) | more than 6 years ago | (#21444903)

Linux, Firefox, and other big open source names are all registered trademarks. They protect the brand. Software is not the same as brand.

no protection against forks except excellence (4, Interesting)

markhahn (122033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440537)

being GPL means, most of all, that there is no protection against forks. after all, GPL _is_ the ability to fork (ignore RMS's politics and all the other noise.)

how do you avoid forks? by being on the right side - everyone pulls in slightly different directions, and any project would be a mess if it accepted all of them. it's also not just a matter of choosing - ideally, if a fork is threatened, the mainstream would trump the fork. that is, instead of some little feature X, develop a bigger, more general thing that is a superset of X. turn the fork into a trivial an unappealing, limited special case. I'm not advocating hyper-featurism, but to embrace big-picture generalizations.

Re:no protection against forks except excellence (2, Interesting)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442449)

Why would you want to avoid forks? If it splits the community evenly, well in time there will hopefully be two strong communities. If it splits for a specific purpose and forms a small dedicated community (eg. IceWeasel) it does little harm to the main package, and provides for improvements to be fed back via merging (like Cegega with WINE). The whole 'forks are bad' concept is flawed, some forks fail, some work fine independently, some create a symbiotic system of dozens of forks that interoperate (eg. Linux). Forks are a vital aspect of the open source landscape, providing specialist needs as well as diversifying communities.

Re:no protection against forks except excellence (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21447481)

I entirely agree... forks most often happen when a project has become unresponsive.

That's one of Linus Torvalds strengths. He's a genuinely nice guy, but not a pushover, and he's got strong opinions and passions but (except for a few blind spots) is entirely able to keep them under control. So Linux is responsive but focussed, and thus doesn't get forked.

I would have to disagree that the way to trump a fork is always to do something bigger and better. Sometimes you may just need to find the 20% of the extra functionality that covers 80% of the use cases, or provide a hook that the extra functionality can be tied in to, so you don't have to absorb the whole thing.

Also... *any* open source license is "the ability to fork". That's what makes it open. If you can't fork, it's not really open source.

That's really disgusting (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440557)

It's either missing the point or is 100% targeted at the "how to exploit open source for personal gain" crowd.

In the ear. With a rake. Sideways.

Re:That's really disgusting (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21445063)

Or perhaps he agrees with Theo de Raadt and other BSD license users that you should be able to lock away your own locally developed software bits and not share? I disagree with their licensing, but the model does have some followers.

Of course, when they get caught with their fingers in the cookie jar, as an OpenBSD got caught importing the GPL licensed Broadcom drivers and refused to cooperate with dual licensing, they can get quite upset about anyone *else* not simply handing over their toys to put in the OpenBSD toychest.

Why is that discusting? (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 6 years ago | (#21446877)

My business is based on the premise of helping people and businesses use FOSS. Why is that disgusting?

Note that all my code is released FOSS, and I actively promote projects where my business is not the only vendor.

I do find the principle of one entity controlling development for financial gain to be distasteful. Hence the protection is to ensure that one has a broader core team which represents a more diverse set of interests.

No. (5, Insightful)

WestCoastJTF (1192081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440689)

Is it possible to maintain control of a project under the GPL or are you constantly faced with forks?

No. It is utterly impossible. That's why Linux and the GNU project had to close up shop.

I didn't see the second blog advocate control (2, Insightful)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440809)

over distribution.

However, I think that projects should try to position their official site as the primary point of distribution (i.e. have the project actually manage getting packages for main distros up), and control main distribution points through the project. This doesn't mean you can control secondary distribution points, but it does mean you should try to influence and coordinate the distribution channels so that new updates get pushed out fast.

This is a major issue with licenses like Mr Rosen's OSL and the AGPL. Forced distribution makes it more difficult to protect your trademark and ensure that people are getting the most secure versions from you.

It's very important to protect... (4, Funny)

tttonyyy (726776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440819)

...the comments. They get bullied by the rest of the code because they're "different". Even the compiler excludes them, the poor little buggers.

Mod parent insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21442011)

After all, SCO seemed to think that they could make a buck or two this way! ;)

Re:It's very important to protect... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21445005)

// Dear diary, I got exceptions thrown at me today again :(

Re:It's very important to protect... (1)

mux2000 (832684) | more than 6 years ago | (#21446589)

If they felt so excluded and miserable, maybe they should have found a fscking job! Really, the only reason compilers don't include them is because once they get in, they do absolutely NADA! Fsckin' leftists...

Forks not neccesarily bad (4, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21440901)

One of the selling points of open source is, I'm afraid, precisely that the creator doesn't have final control over it. This is what gives users assurance that they'll be able to maintain the software even when the creator's interests diverge from theirs. If adding a particular feature or fixing a particular bug wouldn't be of any benefit to the creator, or worse might actually go counter to the creator's plans for the software, but would be of major benefit to me as a user it's a good thing for me when the creator can't assert control and prevent me from adding that feature or fixing that bug.

Forks as negotiations... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21447429)

Forks can also be used to convince the main trunk of a project to change direction, or to kick a stalled project into gear again. When Tcl was stagnating at one point, we started working on a fork... and Ousterhout started developing and releasing new code again, and we ended up turning the fork into an extensions package. Which was a good thing, Ousterhout's one of the best programmers I know, his code is a pure joy to work on.

Re:Forks as negotiations... (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450905)

Exactly. And I'd point to two of the more famous forks (or potential forks): the GCC/EGCS split, and the threatened XFree86 split resulting from the X11 license change. Both were the result of the project owners not doing what users wanted or needed, and both in the end resulted in changes on the part of the project owners that benefited the users.

Patent and SUE, SUE, SUE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21440939)

Patent, trademark, copyright and hex everything you can that's even vaguely unique, then sue the stuffing out of anyone who dares make a fortune with it. Regular Slashdot trolls have nothing on the patent trolls, who not only offend everyone but also get paid for it!

Knife the Fork -- Listen to Users (4, Insightful)

darkonc (47285) | more than 6 years ago | (#21441083)

The only real reason for successful forks is that you're not listening to the users and the developer community. If you're listening to the developers' comments, providing wanted changes and accepting good quality patches, then you're not going to face much in terms of parellel forks.

Ubuntu is an exception that proves the point. It went off in a very different direction than Debian. -- as such, I don't consider it as much a parallel fork as a symbiotic tangent.

Re:Knife the Fork -- Listen to Users (2, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21444813)

Ubuntu is not an exeption. It is how forks work. At a certain moment you have a large enough user base that different people will see things differently. At that moment one or the other will say, hey we will fork. In an ideal situation this would mean that 50% use the old version and 50%.

It is evolution, one could say. Not forking is the unnatural way. It would mean no diversity. I leave it to the reader as an excersise wether this is a good or bad thing.

A developers community can only listen to so many people at the same time. Some will have opposite interests and conflicting interests.

Re:Knife the Fork -- Listen to Users (1)

darkonc (47285) | more than 6 years ago | (#21449309)

No, Ubuntu is the exception to the rule that (parallel) forks come from unhappy users.

One thing I do disagree with, however is your contention that an ideal fork would be 50/50. In my world, the best split would be most of the developers in one fork (usually the original) while the ones for whom the new fork is compelling and who do development for the critical elements of the (new) fork go there. That way, you'd end up with maximum cohesiveness for the whole project, and enough people in the new project to keep it 'alive'.

From Ubuntu's case, I'd also add a friendly cooperation between the two camps.

Uh? (1)

blackdew (1161277) | more than 6 years ago | (#21441115)

Wasn't it demonstrated well enough by debian forking firefox a couple of months ago that trying to play stupid games with trademarks in OSS is well... stupid?

Re:Uh? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442131)

Personally I think it made it look Debian look stupid - the deliberate and childish insult of "iceweasel". Eventually whoever is playing schoolyard politics on the Debian "board" will get bored and go away and perhaps developers can run it again instead of wasting time fighting over a logo for someone else's software.

Childish? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442317)

The very point of debian is free software. If they can't use the firefox name on their own build then using something else is fine.

Why is iceweasel bad?

Do you know the Matt Groening quote about iceweasels? (Have you been reading your /usr/games/fortune?)
Where's the insult?

It's not schoolyard politics. Debian has a philosophy and criticising them for sticking to it is the childish thing.

Re:Childish? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442919)

They made it very obvious at the time in my opinion. Check out some mailing list archives and form your own opinion.

to paraphrase "If we didn't review the code it doesn't get our logo" sounds fair enough to me and not the action of a weasel and does not merit calling people names in a schoolyard fashion.

Re:Childish? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21445083)

I never considered "iceweasel" to be name calling, merely an amusing name for an unofficial firefox.

Ah well.

Re:Uh? (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21443295)

Personally I think it made it look Debian look stupid

Please. Go research what actually happened, then please tell us all what you think Debian's options were, realistically. The Mozilla Foundation was the one that suddenly said, "you can't use our trademarks anymore".

Re:Uh? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21445341)

Now remember why exactly that was. The important thing is the code - some idiot playing politics over a perfectly normal use of trademarks (ie. we only put our logo on it if it is work under our control) is a fairly irrelevant game and has nothing at all to do with the GPL. From the context of the announcement the weasel name was nothing but a deliberate insult and was intended to be seen as such - making weird excuses for those that never wished to use any is time wasting speculation IMHO when you can read what happened instead.

sounds like.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21441387)

..some mental exercise out of the 90's

Isn't this the JBoss guy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21441515)

The guy that was busted for trolling Java sites? [linux.com] That's about all I have to contribute to this 'debate'; says it all really!

Re:Isn't this the JBoss guy? (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 6 years ago | (#21444617)

I see that the poster was doing so as an AC. I do also understand that there are some times when posting like this is required. Comments like this should not be done as an AC. It could be taken as 'Trolling'

Just to clear up any misunderstanding, here is the final paragraph from the boss of JBoss in response to the accusations.
"... As a company we are growing rapidly to meet the expert professional services needs of our customers and partners. We want to be role models for open source developers around the world. To do so, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. Our visibility and success puts our customers and partners in a situation where you expect and demand that employees of JBoss Inc. hold themselves to that higher standard. Let's put the professional back in professional open source. 'Astroturfing' is hereby banned at JBoss, starting with me."

IMHO, if other CEO's took this line then the blogging world would be a better place.

Disclaimer:
I do not use or have never knowingly used any JBOSS product nor do I work for any JBOSS/RH related company.

OSS developers really should secure patent rights (2, Informative)

The Empiricist (854346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21441531)

Maison Fleury glosses over patent protection too glibly. The Open Source Software community has been aware of the threats from software patents [mit.edu] for years, yet has done little more than argue that software should not be patentable. During this time, OSS developers have created countless innovations. Had some of these innovations been patented, software patents would not pose as much of a risk because the OSS community would have powerful leverage. Even the risk from patent trolls would be somewhat mitigated because OSS developers could withhold licenses for key innovations from potential licensors of the patent trolls' technologies, drying up all streams of revenue. OSS would also have greater political leverage because it would be easier for groups like the FSF and the OSI to point to the patents as evidence that OSS spurs innovation, not just high-quality craftsmanship.

Patent protection is known to be expensive. But, a lot of money has been invested in OSS. Some of that money could go to paying the costs of securing and maintaining patent rights for OSS innovations. Furthermore, many law firms encourage pro bono work. The OSS community could probably leverage those free legal hours as easily as it leverages developers' hours. The real obstacle to securing patent protection for OSS is political: OSS developers tend to boycott the entire patent system and hope that it will just go away. Unfortunately, ignoring the value of this form of intellectual property protection is a mistake.

Some of the rights that can be secured through software patents are much better suited to OSS goals than copyrights or trademarks. Some OSS developers try to bend copyright and trademark protection in ways that, if accepted, would be harmful to the OSS community, if not the entire software industry. For example, "[s]ome have claimed that an application program that needs a library for its operation is a derivative work of that library." [digital-law-online.info] This line of thinking would make Gimp for Windows a derivative work of the Win32 API, making Gimp a product that is ultimately owned by Microsoft. Using patent rights to exclude use of a library by non-OSS would produce the desired result of encouraging the development of OSS without distorting copyright law in such a self-destructive manner.

Fuck You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21445403)

We live in europe (where all the real OSS happens), and we don't have time to look through all patents. If we did we would not have time to write any code. Sw patents are a scam by some US lobbies. They cannot compete with OSS at a technical level and they have turned ideas into property of a few corporations, and as a result this DOES NOT ALLOW A SINGLE DEVELOPER to work on something if he is not PATRONIZED by a corporation that will take care of his patent protection (and consequently hold the copyrights of the work).

But the "fuck you", is about this: Patent trolls NEVER mention that there is a mass stream of developers that deny software patents. They pretend this does not exist. On the other hand, and anti-patent people talk about software patents all the time. This switches the middle point of balance of the issue to the SW PATENTS ARE A REALITY side. So, no. Not only developers should not protect against sw patents, but they should also COMPLETELY ignore the us patent system and let it die.

Re:OSS developers really should secure patent righ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21529349)

Some OSS developers try to bend copyright and trademark protection in ways that, if accepted, would be harmful to the OSS community, if not the entire software industry. For example, "[s]ome have claimed that an application program that needs a library for its operation is a derivative work of that library." [digital-law-online.info] This line of thinking would make Gimp for Windows a derivative work of the Win32 API, making Gimp a product that is ultimately owned by Microsoft.

In case anyone missed that reference, it is exactly what the FSF claims in the GPL FAQ. [gnu.org]

OOXML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21441795)

First thing that comes to my mind when I try to think of good usage for trademarks, is OOXML. If Open Office was made by any proprietary company, they would have sued microsoft's ass off for trying to mix up OO and their own format by misleading naming.

The GNU GPL actively prevents forks (1)

Jessta (666101) | more than 6 years ago | (#21441981)

The GNU GPL actively prevents forks by removing the point of forking. Nobody forks the linux kernel because it's too much work and you generally get the same benefits by making your own patchsets and applying them to the code in the main tree.

What really prevents forks. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21447393)

The GNU GPL actively prevents forks by removing the point of forking.

The point of forking is to deal with a project that is going a direction you don't like, or that has an absentee maintainer. The goal of a fork may be to become a new trunk, to create a new project with different goals, or to apply pressure to the trunk to become responsive to your goals. The GPL has little to do with this, and as evidence I'll note that GCC itself has had at least one major fork and a couple of minor ones.

Nobody forks the Linux kernel because the Linux team, lead by Linus, are responsive and responsible enough to remove the need for forking. That's what prevents forks, not the license.

giving it away may be better (1)

m0llusk (789903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442169)

To grow markets for new products as quickly as possible, giving away all the key elements may be the best strategy. Keeping prices at zero means the barriers to adoption and marketing through personal networks are negated. Money can be made from selling distributions, instructions, and customizations, and this approach is also competitive from the start. Instead of creating a kind of dam for intellectual properties where flow is controlled and limited, letting innovations flow free while taking fractional advantage of them might have better yields. Future competition is likely to be more about rate of innovation, sustaining relevance, and having a trustworthy reputation than holding keys and keeping doors locked.

yuo fai$l 1t (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21442545)

name on the jar of open platForm, driven out by the raise or lower the

Protection (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21442979)

The only thing that needs protection is the right to use and distribute. There is a need for protection against those who would lock up the code in their own IP that could prevent the original creator from using his/her own work. But only complete abolishment can provide that. Everything else? Meh... Just sounds like control freaks with fat egos.

Something I suspect Trolltech do with qt.. (3, Insightful)

lpontiac (173839) | more than 6 years ago | (#21443721)

Keep your test suites to yourself. That's a significant advantage over anyone else when it comes to maintenance of the codebase.

Litmus Test (1)

3.2.3 (541843) | more than 6 years ago | (#21444221)

Is it possible to maintain control of a project under the GPL or are you constantly faced with forks?

It isn't truly open source until it's been forked.

Mod parent up funny-but-true. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21447347)

I wouldn't go as far as that, but really if it can't be forked, it's not open source.

Re:Mod parent up funny-but-true. (1)

3.2.3 (541843) | more than 6 years ago | (#21448113)

Thanks. :)

As far as going that far, that's why it's a litmus test. You might suspect it's testably open source. But a test will tell you if it's true and tested.

Open Source treated like Abandonware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21444455)

In my experience oss is treated like abandonware - businesses could care less about the licensing agreements and modify and redistribute oss code at will regardless of what the authors intended.

Infringement is NOT theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21447309)

However you will have little protection against thieves that want to copy what you have done without letting you know and put it under different licenses, I have seen it done, such is the nature of the beast.

He means copyright INFRINGEMENT, which should not even be a crime, right? Don't law enforcement officers have better things to do than to enforce this legal boondoggle for greedy businessmen like Marc.

I'm sure eveyone who posts here caught that glaring mistake right away.

Why protect open source software? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21447513)

I'm not sure what the point of this is.

If the project is truly open source, then there's nothing to protect it from.
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