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Linux Journal: A Senior Microsoft Attorney Looks at Open-Source Licensing

Jan 11, 2000, 23:22 (21 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bryan Pfaffenberger)

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"The Open Source movement has yet another fan: Robert W. Gomulkiewicz, a senior corporate attorney for Microsoft Corporation and, not coincidentally, the Business Software Alliance's top gun for the proposed UCITA reforms to commercial software licensing law."

"Writing in the Houston Law Review, Gomulkiewicz (1999) argues that open-source licenses typically contain precisely the UCITA provisions that are giving fits to consumer advocates, such as the denial of any legal recourse should a consumer suffer loss, harm, or injury through use of the software. What's more, he argues, the Open Source movement's history and recent success show why the UCITA's protections are needed. When somebody like Gomulkiewicz expresses admiration for what you're doing, it's time to stop for some serious reflection. After all, this is tantamount to Darth Vader publishing an essay that praises the way the Rebellion is headed."

"I'll fill in the background of what follows, but here's the main point. As Gomulkiewicz himself observes, the open-source initiative finds it expedient to downplay the "anti-commercial baggage" and "confrontational attitude" of the Free Software Foundation in general (and Richard Stallman in particular). But there's a risk. As Gomulkiewicz's work shows, this strategy can backfire by playing right into the hands of people and corporations who oppose everything our community stands for. In the end, open-source software isn't going to make sense to outsiders unless our principles are made clear from the get-go. If you're skeptical, read on; I hope you'll see why."

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