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Sticks, Stones and the GPL

It's nice to know someone is reading my column. According to some of your letters, it seems my recent column on the GPL touched a nerve. To my critics who referred to me by names other than Phil, I can only respond with an equally mature "Same to you!" For those who prefer a more reasoned discussion...

OPINION

Bounty Hunters: Shootout at the Software Corral

Connoisseurs of 1960s TV might be familiar with Paladin, a Western that featured a San Francisco character with a business card that read "Have Gun, Will Travel." He was a dapper cross between a private detective and a bounty hunter who roamed through the West tracking down bad guys. He was mainly a...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

SCO’s Woes: Too Late To Turn Back

The news is out: SCO is losing money. Fast. Considering that SCO has no revenue and lots of expenses, the news is not surprising. Raising revenue and cutting expenses might help, but neither will be easy. The company reported a significant net loss in the third quarter, which it blamed mostly on a l...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Sender ID: Shakespearean Tragedy in the Making?

With a flair for the dramatic even Shakespeare might appreciate, commentator Larry Seltzer recently predicted that Sender ID -- a spam-filter technology some call the "king of the e-mail security mountain" -- would soon be history. "It's a tragedy," Seltzer wrote. "Microsoft's uncompromising licensi...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Time for a Court Ruling on the GPL?

Michael Newdow may not be a household name to the open-source community. The California atheist sued a Sacramento school district to prevent his third-grade daughter from having to recite or listen to the Pledge of Allegiance because it includes the words "under God." But Newdow's case has some inte...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

CA’s Ingres Challenge: Programming on Contingency

Lawyers and programmers have a lot in common. Programmers write code and lawyers write legal documents. Both consider the issues, generate written work product, check it for bugs and then release the product. Both professions rely on libraries to avoid reinventing each aspect of the product. There a...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Ancient Lessons and Open-Source Insurance

Sometime around 5,000 years ago, Chinese merchants learned to spread their cargo over several ships so that if one were lost, they would not lose their entire shipment. It was the birth of what we now call the insurance industry. Before too long, the concept spread. Phoenician ship owners on the hoo...

OPINION

Sticks, Stones and the GPL: Responding to Readers

It's nice to know someone is reading my column. According to some of your letters, it seems my recent column on the GPL touched a nerve. To my critics who referred to me by names other than Phil, I can only respond with an equally mature "Same to you!" For those who prefer a more reasoned discussion...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Patent-Free Does Not Necessarily Mean Worry-Free

In Diamond vs. Chakrabarty, the United States Supreme Court ruled that patents could be granted for "anything under the sun that is made by the hand of man." That includes software. Law practice tip: If you need to argue in court that software is not patentable, point out that Chakrabarty does not a...

OPINION

Munich’s Migration to Linux Raises Issues

There is a line Jack Kerouac used to describe the independent, nonconformist nature of the Beat movement during the 1950s. He said, "Imagine explaining to 10,000 raving Tokyo snake dancers in the street that you are looking for peace but you won't join the parade." That may not be exactly the explan...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

A Consumer’s Review of the General Public License

Last week, I examined the nuances of a marketplace for licenses, and its relationship to a parallel marketplace for products that use those licenses. This time, for those readers who might actually be in the market for a license, let's review the one that gets the most ink -- the General Public Lice...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Understanding the Marketplace of Licenses

When J.S.G. Boggs needs money, he draws it. He draws one side of a banknote on high-quality paper, actual size, and presents it to the merchant. The merchant, knowing that the banknote is not official, can accept it or ask for real cash. If the merchant accepts it, Boggs writes the details of the tr...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

China’s Love of Linux Has Roots in Ancient Past

Bill Gates was recently quoted as saying, "You know what my toughest competitor is? It's pirated software.... If you really look around, you'll find way more pirated Windows than you'll find open-source software. Way more." Gates couldn't be more wrong. At least in China, his tough stance against pi...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Shocking Behavior and Smart Open-Source Policy

There is a classic scene in the movie "Casablanca" where Claude Raines attempts to close down Rick's Cafe. When Humphrey Bogart demands to know why, Raines says, "I'm shocked! Shocked to think that gambling is going on in this establishment!" Meanwhile, the casino employee walks up and hands him his...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Beyond the Buzz: Open Source and Biotech

Everyone is talking about open source, even presenters at BIO 2004, the international biotechnology conference recently held in San Francisco. As the argument goes, if open-source software can be developed in centralized communities of interested parties less expensively than proprietary software, c...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Can Sun Emulate Linux by Open-Sourcing Solaris?

Sun recently announced it would open-source its Solaris operating system. While declining to get specific about timetables and the type of open-source license the company plans to use, John Loiacono, executive vice president of Sun's software group, promised that Sun will "be very aggressive and pro...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

The EULA, the GPL and the Wisdom of Fortune Cookies

Next time you open a fortune cookie, consider making it more entertaining. Read the fortune aloud and follow it with the words "in bed." It completely changes the meaning and adds some after-dinner fun. After reading the GPL analysis FAQ prepared by Microsoft in 2001 -- apparently to discourage the ...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Poker and Shell Games in the SCO Suit

The tension in the room is as thick as quicksand. The smoke gets heavier by the hour, and with each poker hand, the players wonder how long they can hold out. Who will hold? Who will fold? Who is just bluffing? One by one, they drop. The ongoing legal wrangling between SCO, IBM, Novell, AutoZone, Da...

INDUSTRY INSIDER

GPL: Viral Infection or Just Your Imagination?

Most of us are afraid of getting infected with a virus, whether it comes from a common cold or an attachment in our e-mail. Are open-source licenses viral in nature? Can they infect downstream users? The question is the subject of considerable debate. Companies refer to open-source software as "pote...

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Clean-Room Development Avoids Copyright Battles

If I write a novel about a boy wizard attending a wizarding school, and I never read or heard about someone else's copyrighted novel about a boy wizard attending a wizarding school, does my novel infringe on the copyright of that other novel? Not if I can prove that somehow I missed the Harry Potter...

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