Heading to New York?

I will be in New York on August 8th to speak on a panel at this year’s American Bar Association (ABA) Annual Meeting. The panel, titled “Life after GPLv3: New Developments in Open Source Software Licensing” is sponsored by the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law and is being held at 2:00 PM on the 8th at the Waldorf-Astoria.

We have structured the panel as a series of brief presentations by the panelists followed by a general Q&A session on the presentations. While the title for the panel is a bit innocuous, the presentations will cover a variety of relevant open source topics, including: GPLv3 and the GPLv3 drafting process (including differences between GPLv2, GPLv3 and other open source licenses), open source patent concerns, legal strategies for using open source software in connection with proprietary software, and issues raised by open source software under the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 and other corporate regulations.

My presentation will include a brief history and update on the “BusyBox lawsuits” brought over the last year by The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) on behalf of its clients Erik Andersen and Rob Landley (the two principal developers of the BusyBox open source utility) alleging copyright infringement based on a violation of version 2 of the GNU General Public License (GPL). I will be including information based both on my personal experience working with defendants in several of the BusyBox cases as well as discussions with others involved in the suits. Details on the panel and the other panelists are included below.

For those of you based in New York or headed to the ABA Annual Meeting, please let me know if you would be interested in getting together while I am in town.

2008 ABA Annual Meeting
Section of Intellectual Property Law

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
CLE Program: Life after GPLv3: New Developments in Open Source Software Licensing.
co-sponsored by the Section of Science & Technology Law

The past year has seen significant legal developments concerning open source software licensing, most notably, the publication of the GPLv3 license, which is much more comprehensive than GPLv2 and attempts to address the changes in software law over the past 15 years, as well as initial efforts to enforce open source software license requirements in the courts. This panel will explore the new GPLv3 license, how it differs from GPLv2, the status of GPLv3 adoption and recent litigation concerning the enforcement of GPL and other open source license terms affecting GPLv3 or other open source license use.

Sue Ross, Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., New York, NY

Gabe Holloway, Leonard, Street and Deinard, Minneapolis, MN
Terry Ilardi, IBM Corporation, Armonk, NY
Jason Haislmaier, Holme Roberts & Owen LLP, Boulder, CO
Jim Markwith, Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, CA


IP “Crash Course” Online

Thanks to the sponsorship of Silicon Flatirons, TechStars, the Longmont Entrepreneurial Network (or “LEN” for short), and Colorado Capital Group we were able to put on a great Intellectual Property “Crash Course” for Entrepreneurs presentation at the end of last month before a standing-room-only crowd at the University of Colorado School of Law. Thanks to all of you who attended the event (especially those who had to sit in the aisles or stand during the presentation)!

As I mentioned during the event, the presentation was recorded. While I had hoped to have had the audio portion of the presentation online by now, we are still working to have the audio synchronized with the slides before posting. Since many of you have been (patiently) waiting for the presentation to be posted online, I have gone ahead and posted a copy of the slides to this site. I am hoping that this will suffice until we can get the audio synchronized and uploaded. Please stay tuned for the audio — and thank you for your patience. ;-)

BSC SaaSy Slides Online

Albeit a bit belatedly, I would like to thank the Boulder Software Club and my co-presenters Kirk Holland (General Partner at Vista Ventures), Don Hazell (EVP Worldwide Sales and Field Operations at Rally Software) and Jim Pollock (President of AWhere Inc.) for helping to put together a great event on The Challenges of Software as a Service (SaaS).  We ended up having a super turnout for the event, even on a snowy night here in Boulder — so super that I am told we set an attednence record for the Boulder Software Club.  In addition to a background on SaaS in general, the presentation covered a broad swath of topics, including revenue models, platform design, R&D,  sales and compensation, marketing, support, partnering opportunities, distribution channels, valuation and funding, exit scenarios and (yes) legal issues too (although legal issues were far from the main focus of the presentation).  It seemed that everyone came away from the event with a lot of new knowledge, ideas and perspectives on the topic of SaaS (I know I did).  For those of you who have been looking for the slides from the presentation (the audio was not recorded as far as I know), you can find a copy online at the Boulder Software Club web site.

Back to IP Basics

I was fortunate enough last year to sit through a number of extremely interesting investor pitch presentations given by entrepreneurs involved with various technology start-ups. While (not surprisingly) no presentation was completely focused on intellectual property, each took the time to address the role played by IP in their overall business strategy. Some, of course, did this more competently than others — and it was definitely the case that those presenters who did not competently handle the issue of IP strategy lost some credibility with me.

Admittedly, my antennae were tuned a bit more closely to IP issues than many of the other attendees at these presentations. However, while even I would agree that IP strategy is not the only issue for a technology start-up, IP has become far too important of an issue to ignore. In fact, I think it is safe to say that most of the other investors and advisors at the presentations I attended shared an expectation that the entrepreneurs giving the presentations would have a basic understanding of the primary forms of IP protection and an appreciation of how those protections can be put to work to help add value to their businesses.

In part as a result of these experiences (and in part as a result of the continued importance of IP strategy to any technology start-up), I thought it would be worthwhile to start the year off by getting back to basics with an Intellectual Property “Crash Course” for Entrepreneurs presentation. Details on the presentation are included in the announcement below (click on image to view a full-sized copy).

Thanks to the sponsorship of Silicon Flatirons, TechStars, and the Boulder and Longmont Entrepreneurial Networks (or “BEN” and “LEN” for short) there is no admission fee for the event (as in, it’s free to attend). Space is, however, limited, so send an email to patty.shawcastilian@hro.com if you are interested in attending.

Open Source Compliance (On Your Own Terms)

As Sean Michael Kerner mentioned in a recent article over on InternetNews to which I contributed, the BusyBox lawsuits are one example of the increased scrutiny being applied to open source license compliance (and open source in general). For those of you following open source legal issues, this scrutiny should not come as much of a surprise. In a way it is almost a measure of how far open source has come in the commercial marketplace. As companies have continued to put open source to work in an ever-widening variety of uses, and as the scope and profile of those uses has increased, the level of scrutiny applied to those uses was also naturally bound to increase.

I view this evolution not so much as cause for concern, but as cause for understanding and compliance. Companies that do not take note and move to implement open source compliance measures on their own terms will increasingly find themselves being required to comply on terms imposed by others (including not only SFLC, FSF and GPL-Violations.org, but likely other groups as well). However, those that do, will find that open source compliance practices are evolving and that a growing number of tools exist to help make the use of open source no more risk prone than the use of proprietary software.

This topic of open source compliance on your own terms is one that I see a number of companies dealing with today. I will be covering it in my session at the 2008 Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) on March 25-26 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.


More details are available on the OSBC web site. While you are there, check out some of the other great sessions at OSBC this year. This is the 5th year for OSBC, and I think the best year yet in terms of content. I hope to see you there.






GOSCON Here I Come


I will be speaking next month at GOSCON 07 (that’s the Government Open Source Conference). This year the event runs from October 15-16 in Portland, OR. The event has grown quite a bit over the last two years and the organizers are expecting over 500 attendees at the conference this year. As Stephen Walli and others have noted, this is an excellent event if you have anything to do with free and open source software from a government perspective (and that includes government contractors and vendors). Stehpe was a presenter last year and speaks very highly of the event — click here for his account of the conference.

My session is titled “Open Source Licensing 101.” The topic is relatively broad and gives me a license to cover a number of different areas — and with the recent legal activity around open source licensing, there is no shortage of areas to cover. I am still developing the materials, but regardless of your level of experience with open source licensing the session should be of value.

Special thanks to Deb Bryant for organizing the event (and for inviting me to speak). From the looks of it, she has done an exceptional job building, growing, and maintaining the conference. I am really looking forward to being a part of this event.

Yes, It’s True. Another Webinar.

The week before last I was fortunate enough to spend about an hour or so doing a presentation for Matt Asay and his sales team from Alfresco. I say “fortunate” because as is often the case when I do a presentation for a sharp group like the one at Alfresco I end up coming away from the question and answer portion of the presentation feeling like I have benefited as much as the audience. The presentation was themed around “selling” open source and some of the legal concerns that open source salespeople are likely to encounter from customers. We also touched on some open source license language interpretation issues, as well as more general issues around how open source “copyleft” differs from traditional copyright.

Following the presentation, Matt suggested that we do a follow-up for a larger audience (thanks Matt). I, of course, agreed. The result is a free open source (or, if you prefer free “free and open source”) legal training webinar on August 29th. Matt has more information on his blog, as do the guys at Open Sources.

I hope you can attend.