Like most lawyers, I receive calls on a fairly regular basis from third party service providers looking to sell me one of any number of legal-related services — translation, legal research, drafting, advertising, the list goes on and on. Today’s call was from a source code escrow provider. Thankfully, I was out of my office at the time, so the call went to voicemail. When I listened to the message it began as most do. The caller explained that she had reviewed my firm’s web site and determined based on my biography that I was involved with software licensing. She then went on to explain the services provided by her company and to extol the value of those services to someone in my area of practice.
It was clear from the message that the caller was reading my biography as she was leaving the message, and I would probably have stopped listening to the message once I realized this if I had not been fairly impressed with her ability to interject facts from my bio into her message as she spoke. Just then, at about the time that a typical reader of my bio would reach the part mentioning my work with open source software, the caller suddenly paused in mid sentence and said that she (ummm) saw that I was also involved with open source software licensing. Then, switching to a slightly more serious tone (and clearly reading from a prepared script), she began again just about as suddenly as she had stopped, indicating that open source software licensing was, as I surely knew, one of their biggest competitors and a “real threat” to their industry. Without missing a beat, she then asked that I call her back to discuss my involvement with open source software to help her “help” me better understand the advantages of source code escrow over open source.
What a hoot! I never really thought of open source software licensing as sufficiently threatening to strike that level of fear in the hearts of those in the source code escrow industry, much less sufficient fear to merit canned sales scripts to try to deal with the threat. It certainly makes sense though — with each software licensee who receives source code under an open source license there is one less licensee in need of a source code escrow or a third party escrow provider. I am not sure that open source is yet poised to send the source code escrow industry the way of the dinosaurs, but based on my call today, the escrow industry sure seems to be looking at it that way.
I still may call the salesperson back to hear what she has to say. Who knows, if I play hard to get maybe she will throw in a set of steak knives or even a toaster. ;-)