The Real Paul Jones

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Carolina Innovations: Open Source Licensing: The Basics, The Benefits, The Buzz

As part of the Office of Technology Development‘s Carolina Innovations Seminars, I’ll be speaking on “Open Source Licensing: The Basics, The Benefits, The Buzz” on November 9 from 5:15 to 6:15 in 014 Sitterson Hall.

In the spirit of Openness, please dear readers and potential attendees, use the comments here to let me know any specific questions or areas that you’d like to see covered. I don’t want to talk endlessly on the differences between GPL 2 and 3, for example, unless someone cares, but then if someone does I want to be sure to be prepared and to do a good job.

Some helpful source material (pun intended) can be found at these links:
Free Software Foundation
Open Source Initiative
GNU Project
GNU Philosophy including the 4 Software Freedoms
Software Freedom Law Center
Wikipedia on Free Software
Wikipedia on Open Source Software

For non-software, see Creative Commons, iCommons (international Creative Commons movement) , and the Science Commons Project.

This is another experiment in opening the conversation like the one I just did down at Berry College where using the wiki really worked well. This time a blog post instead.

So post below.


  1. Cannot wait for this talk. A VERY, VERY interesting topic to me personally is how cooperation is fostered in the Open Source world. With so many projects a little cooperation will be explosively rewarding. We, Serviza, are just releasing “The Monster” which is a maxed out system – max hardware and max software. The goal is to absolutely 100% erase the barrier to entry to the Open Source world.

  2. My partners and I are working on something we call The Open Prosthetics Project (, in which we work to develop prosthetic devices and open source all of the work-product into the public domain. We are creating a not-for-profit entity called the Shared Design Alliance which has as its goal to foster this kind of development. We feel that there is a lot of opportunity to apply the open-source ethic of software to physical designs. While there are some notable examples of this kind of effort, it is not nearly as far along as software and has some significant hurdles to overcome. I would be interested if you have any thoughts on this application of open-source. I will be giving a talk this Wednesday (November 1, 2006, 11am – 12pm) on this topic at the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke.

  3. I wish I could be at Duke for this talk. I’m not sure I can get to Duke for the talk and back for my seminar that afternoon. This is a great opportunity for what Eric von Hippel writes about in his “Democratizing Innovation” which you can buy from MIT Press or you can download under a Creative Commons license.

    One thing that this area needs, heck the world needs, is a Legal Clinic dedicated to helping out with F/LOSS licenses and patents. We have great places doing policy and study work — especially at Berkman (Harvard) and at Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain — but no place where you can actually get legal advice that would help you go open source. Less a defense group like the great new Software Freedom Law Center and more applied in advance of troubles.

  4. We saw Eric von Hippel speak at Duke last year which definitely had an influence on our project. Some sort of Legal Clinic like you describe would be great. There are many legal issues with open source physical designs that we wonder about such as patent infringement risk and liability issues. Some sort of preemptive legal help for potential open sourcers would surely help foster the movement.

  5. When companies leverage existing open source software such as SugarCRM and add value by creating new business modules that complement the open source system, what are the legal and ethical issues around selling a package that includes both the open source and non-open source components?

    I’d like to understand this interplay between proprietary software and open source software much better. What are the issues? What have been the successes? Are such uses of open source projects good or bad for the open source community?

  6. Paul

    11/3/2006 at 6:10 pm

    I’m not that familiar with SugarCRM, but many respected Open Source companies sell packages that included closed compoments. Not without folks asking a lot of the questions you just posed.

    Red Hat’s inclusion of proprietary drives for printers and the like has been criticized by Free Software proponents (pointing out some of the differences between Open and Free).

    The much loved Ubuntu ships with a proprietary installer. This prompted GNU friends to develop gNewSense just announced yesterday by FSF.

    They say (in part — read the link above for the whole story):

    “In announcing the release of version 1.0, the gNewSense developers stated, From a philosophical perspective we wanted to create a GNU/Linux distribution where the user has access to all the sources for all software on the system. This includes everything from the heart of the kernel through to the everyday desktop applications.”

    With the avowed goal of providing a completely free distribution – one without non-free kernel binary “blobs” or any other non-free software, the Free Software Foundation has announced sponsorship of the project. Ted Teah, FSF’s free software directory maintainer explained, “With all the kernel firmware and restricted repositories removed, and the reliance on Ubuntu’s proprietary distribution management tool Launchpad gone, this distribution is the most advanced GNU/Linux distribution that has a commitment to be 100% free.”

  7. Paul

    11/3/2006 at 6:14 pm

    Also just out are the audio tapes of speakers at the Free Software Open Source Symposium in Toronto last week. Many questions answered here. Choose your topic.

  8. Dougald Monroe

    11/8/2006 at 11:50 am

    No relation to Pamela Jones I assume.

    How can open source or open format be promoted in the academic/scientific community? For example, National Institute of Health grant applications are accepted in Microsoft doc format but not odf (open document format). Open format would seem to me to be especially valuable in the context of a University where transparency and longevity of records should be highly valued.

    To what extent should end user licenses that allow companies to access hard drives on University computers be seen as a threat to University mandated requirements for privacy, particularly in the setting of third party information such as patient medical records. The connection I see to open source is that open source licenses are not (to the best of my limited knowledge) associated with requirements for hard drive access.

    What is the status of the Veterans Administration open source software for managing patient records? My understanding was that there was to be a release of the source code but that this was delayed at the last minute.

  9. Paul

    11/8/2006 at 12:34 pm

    All Joneses are in the end related by way of Adam the original Jones.

    These are great questions. I’ll def try to get some discussion on these for Thursday.

    BTW I’ve put the presentation up as a Wiki. You can go there now and add references, links or even a whole new section if you like. Michael Tiemann has already helped a bit there. And Don Rosenberg sent good suggestions by email.

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