From contracts to code, an intellectual property attorney is essential.
GNU Public License(GPL)version 2, GPLv3, BSD, Eclipse Public License, Common Public License, Apache Software License, Mozilla Public License, project contributor agreement, starting an open source project, subscription agreement â€” these are just a few of the issues facing individuals and companies that develop, distribute, and use free and open source software. Itâ€™s a complicated world, and competent, experienced counsel is essential.
The topic for this monthâ€™s â€œOn the Docketâ€ came to mind because I retired from Red Hat at the end of August. It got me thinking about those attorneys in private practice that Iâ€™ve recommended to open source projects, companies, and contributors over the years. Some of the lawyers were collaborators; others appeared with me on conference panels; and still others were opposing counsel. Each has earned my respect. So, here is my list in no particular order. (To the extent I have missed a worthy candidate, my apologies.)
*Eben Moglen, Dan Ravicher, Richard Fontana, The Software Freedom Law Center, New York, New York. The Software Freedom Law Center is the place for developers to get advice. The SFLC runs educational programs for both in-house and outside counsel on open source licensing, including its Open Source Law Immersion Program. Eben is exceptional with customers, helping managers understand open source issues. Although Eben is returning to teaching at Columbia this fall, he will still be involved with SFLC. Dan and Richard are both patent attorneys. Dan is the founder of the Public Patent Foundation, which has successfully challenged a number of patents in the public interest. Richard was deeply involved in the drafting of GPLv3.
*Karen Copenhaver, Choate, Hall&Stewart, Boston, MA. Prior to returning to private practice at Choate, Karen served as general counsel for Black Duck Software. In that role, Karen was responsible for assessing the combinations of various open source licenses. In my mind, Karen is one of the most knowledgeable attorneys around. Karenâ€™s practice at Choate focuses on technology transfer and licensing of intellectual property, with a particular focus on open source licensing and open source business models.
*Diane Peters, formerly of the Linux Foundation, Beaverton, OR. Diane served as general counsel to the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), and following the reincarnation of OSDL into the Linux Foundation, Diane left to pursue other interests. While employed at OSDL, Diane was deeply involved in all aspects of open source development, licensing, and related intellectual property issues. Diane is a superb advisor.
*Larry Rosen, Rosenlaw&Einschlag, Ukiah, CA. Larry wrote the book on open source licenses, literally â€” he is the author of Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law (Prentice Hall 2004). Formerly the general counsel to the Open Source Initiative, the body that certifies licenses as conforming to the definition of open source, Larry continues to advise numerous open source companies and projects, including the Python Software Foundation, the Apache Software Foundation, SpikeSource, JasperSoft, and Black Duck. Larry writes and speaks extensively on open source and open source-related intellectual property issues.
*Heather Meeker, Greenberg Traurig, Palo Alto, CA. Heather and I have appeared on open source panels a number of times. In addition, Heather has written a book on intellectual property licensing, papers on open source licensing practices, and regularly contributes articles on open source to a number of electronic publications. The companies she has represented or advised include VMWare, Autodesk, and Mozilla. Heatherâ€™s practice at Greenberg Traurig includes advising clients on open source licensing strategies and in intellectual property matters related to mergers and acquisitions.
*Mark Radcliffe, DLA Piper, Palo Alto, CA. Mark serves as general counsel to the Open Source Initiative, the certifying body for open source licenses. However, Markâ€™s legal practice extends to a wide range of intellectual property transactions, and his list of representative clients is impressive. The representations Mark has undertaken include Zimbra, SugarCRM, and Hyperic, and advising Sun Microsystems on open sourcing the Solaris operating system. Mark has a sound understanding of open source licensing and has been recognized for his legal skills.
*Jim Harvey, Hunton&Williams, Atlanta, GA. Jim is in a somewhat different category. Although Jim represents companies developing open source, he spends even more time representing large users of open source technology, advising them on information technology transactions. Jim actively participated in the GPLv3 process as a member of the end-users committee. Well versed in technology licensing, Jim is also widely recognized for his legal skills.
*Dov Scherzer, Brown Rudnick, New York, NY. Again, I know Dov from several joint speaking engagements. He has produced one of the most comprehensive slide decks on open source licensing I have ever seen. In addition to speaking on open source, Dov has also written a number of papers on open source strategies and open source policies. Dovâ€™s practice includes a wide range of technology transactions, and heâ€™s a recognized legal practitioner.
*Peter Moldave, Gesmer Updegrove, Boston, MA. Peter and I have participated in a number of open source panels, and Peter has also written and presented on open source practices and trends. Peterâ€™s legal practice includes a significant focus on software licensing. He has a demonstrated knowledge of open source licensing practices.
*Ed Walsh, Wolf Greenfield&Sacks, Boston, MA. Once again, I primarily know Ed from open source panels on which we have presented. A patent attorney, Edâ€™s practice also includes extensive work in the area of technology transactions and licensing. He has advised clients on open source practices and related risk management.
While each of these individuals brings a unique set of skills and perspectives to the subject of open source, each is a capable attorney thatâ€™s invested the necessary time to understand open source licensing and business practices.