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Community Rights and Community Wrongs

Nov 01, 2010, 17:32 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Andy Updegrove)

"Although the continuing debate over the future of Java and OpenOffice should not surprise, the fact that developers have allowed themselves to be caught in this position to begin with should. The reason? The community has overestimated the power of software licenses – even FOSS licenses – to protect their rights, and opted not to take advantage of other tools that could.

"Yes, today's restrictive licenses embody powerful rights, but those rights are no stronger than the ability of their owners to assert them. Placing all one's defensive reliance on a single legal tool can make no more sense than relying on a single weapons system. It's all too easy to be outflanked by an enemy with a more diverse armament.

"As recent events have demonstrated, the powers of developers are limited when compared to the power of a Fortune 500 company, like Oracle, if that company does not care whether independent developers continue to support the projects that it acquired. What developers are now realizing is that the license-based action options of large and diverse pools of code contributors are difficult to pursue, and not necessarily very attractive."

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