Saturday, November 1, 2008

Intellectual Property and Open Source

The Open Source movement makes software available free for people to use or even to pass on to others. This flies in the face of normal commercial practice, where people jealously guard their intellectual property rights. Traditional laws support these rights - so when new open source projects come into being, often as a result of work done collectively, it can be difficult to disentangle issues of ownership and control. Van Lindberg's new book is an amazingly thorough guide to the whole business. He explains the legal niceties without resorting to too much jargon, and supplies practical support materials in the form of sample licences and agreements. The first part of the book has eight chapters giving an introduction to intellectual property law, then the second part is six chapters offering an intellectual property handbook for developers, particularly those working in the field of open sources.

He warns that it's a book of general principles, not specific advice, for the very good reason that cases of copyright, patents, and intellectual property rights are very case specific. Nevertheless, he does discuss lots of instructive individual cases, and I imagine that anybody with a need to know in this complex field of legislation will find what he has to say both instructive and chastening.

He explains the law on copyright, patents, and inventions by comparing it to computer programming, which it turns out to resemble remarkably closely. One new ruling (or code) is bolted on to that which already exists, and the whole statute grows by a process of accretion.


1 comment:

MANTEX said...

Don't you think you ought to acknowledge that you have lifted this review from somebody else's posting - namely mine, at