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Community Rights and Community Wrongs

“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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