Friday, June 11, 2010

Peace, Love and Linux

I had to chuckle to myself when I read the article from Paul Ryan Uptake of native Linux ZFS port hampered by license conflict this week. One of the of my 1st projects coming back to EMC a few years ago was to analyze porting ZFS onto the Linux platform. Thru this project I gained a lot of respect for the thought that the Sun folks had put into their software architecture and construction. I learned the things needed for the port were more then achievable. We faced the same kind of dilemma that now confronts the folks in this article the License Issue. My conclusion at the time was, that this would be a non-started. From a software professional I decided I needed to put my 2 cents worth in here. I use the resources and energy the Linux community has on a daily basis,  but I always wrestle with the question of  “Where’s the Money”. I know that the company I work for expects to some form of ROI on my works as they should. I love the principal of open source and the community approach as well. This all being said I’m at a loss as to how to bring these sides together. Oracle/Sun deserves their ROI as much as my company does. boiling this down to a maturity issue in my prospective Linux has clearly done a good job at propagating itself into the industry and user community. ZFS is clearly a suite of software that deserves its chance at revenue generations for its creators whomever they may be. The long and short of it all here isn't that those whom wish ROI are evil, and for the goodness of the community should release their labor without said chance to recoup profits. Moreover we need this to mature in support both models. I can’t tell you how many times I've looked at this problem here and various start-ups, and gone damn if I give that away I’ve lost my companies leverage in the market space. Then had to come up with some overly complex creative solutions that calms the lawyers and meets our product delivery goals. This is not a suggestion to throw the baseline GPL foundation away but we need some form of provision to enable the industry at large to introduce, deploy and maintain their own set’s of components in this ecosystem. In the long term that strengthens both the open source interests as well as the business interests at large.



  1. Hi, Mich, and welcome to the blogosphere. You might want to check out the Transitive Grace Period Public License created by my buddy Zooko. He makes a pretty good argument that it balances the need of innovators to profit from their work and of the public to have those same innovations become part of the commons.

  2. So to follow up Jeff, This looks interesting my concerns are after a brief read of the agreement. How is the extent of the time period determined it appears to be arbitrary as to the duration the originator of the combined work has. The patent clause is interesting but why is it released at the beginning. Would it not make sense to grant the holder of the unique derived work the ability to hold the patent for a pre-agreed amount of time giving then a broader legal and greater IP value?. In essence a formula akin to I the maker of new widget have rights to this works for no more then 2 years past patent grant at which time said holder must release the patent & rights back into the public. A lease so to say on all aspects of the IP.

  3. as a short cut the agreement is here

  4. Mich, Thanks for the post. I'm dealing with that very issue now and trying to decide how to respond to a product manager who told me a client's code was only of interest, if it is in open source. Any suggestions? And on your suggestion to Jeff that the IP patent holder in open source have a lease of a couple of years, given how long it takes most products to pass from concept to revenue-generating product (the old pig through a python problem), unless the period was more like 3-5 years, I don't know how the patent holder would get much return.

  5. John,
    The lines of IP protection are real blurry these days. If this is release under GPL version 2 there is some room to protect your modules. Under 3 ‘which I am not a expert on’ I have been led to believe that it gets a lot stickier as to implied ownership of IP into the open source side of the equation.

    I agree with you on the time line for Patents restrictions its a balancing act right, on the side of folks like TGPPL I would not be correct to set up a game plan where you could run around the system via a very slow patent process. I liked the notion of perhaps having some gates i.e. you have lease x without patent work and y if patent is in progress then a z when granted. This really is the sticking point for the growth of Open Source as a sustainable Industry force. As software vendors matures within this constraint they will run out of the wiggle room the current license provides them. Common development baselines are one thing but when that process normalizes the IP generated it will stifle release of products due to the lack of protection for completive advantage.