That's the title of a press release issued yesterday by the Linux Foundation (the full text, as usual, also appears below). Given the number of conferences that are being held on open source licensing issues all the time, you might understandably wonder why LF feels it's necessary to have two more. In fact, there are some pretty good reasons, and hence this blog entry.
One reason is that most open source conferences are organized by and for lawyers, and concern themselves with the arcana of licensing, offering an infinite number of rat holes to disappear down, but not much opportunity to look for solutions, talk about strategy and get creative. Another is the fact that many of those that set up and speak at such conferences love to hang out the crepe and focus on gloom and doom. A classic example held under the auspices of the AILPA (the American Intellectual Property Law Association) in August of this year was alarmingly titled The new GNU General Public License – A Direct Attack on Software Patents and Patent Licensing? (most of the organizers and speakers shared a certain common affiliation).
After all, it's good for business when you're a lawyer to make everyone think that absent high-priced counsel and careful legal supervision, your business will surely evaporate before your eyes. All too many of the topics that get talked about at such affairs are intended to perform the purpose of what we used to call an "Oh No! article in our firm newsletter – a story about a common mistake clients make, and that would therefore be likely to inspire a predictable number of readers to pick up the phone and give us a call.
There are other reasons that I'll mention below, but that will give you an idea what we're up to here. The "protect" function is a core part of the Linux Foundation's mission, by which we mean that we're trying to make it safe to develop, install and use Linux, whether you're a contributor to an open source project, a distro vendor, an enterprise, or an individual desktop user. One of the ways to do that is to make sure that accurate information gets out there, that disinformation gets corrected, and that those that have a stake in Linux can get together and talk about how to nurture and grow the Linux ecosystem safely – and that's where lawyers actually can play a productive role.
As a result, we'll be organizing legal conferences on a regular basis, and will be having our first legal summit in Boston at the end of October. This event will be for member in-house counsel only – no press or bloggers (present company excluded, but I'll not be blogging about what transpires at the meeting). That will ensure that people can discuss their concerns frankly and freely, without concern over how this comment or that might be spun in public by others for their own purposes. We'll discuss not only today's issues, but also what tomorrow may bring, and what we should be thinking about now to make sure that the sailing stays smooth for Linux. (Anyone that is not yet a member that wants to attend can find membership information here.)
We'll also be talking about open standards as well as open source, and about how each needs to serve and play nicely with the other. LF is unique in being a single organization where both disciplines are of equal concern. This gives us the opportunity not only to make sure that the interaction of open source licensing terms and open standards intellectual property rights policies are optimized for the benefit of the Linux ecosystem, but also to use LF as a crucible within which the different and sometimes difficult to accommodate needs of both disciplines can be worked out for the general benefit of the open source development process.
As a result, we've invited our members to send staff from both the open source as well as the open standards sides of their legal teams, and the agenda and discussion topics for the meeting have been set up accordingly. Karen Copenhaver will lead the licensing discussions, and I'll lead the standards topics, and together we're working to set up the agenda and canvass topics of interest in advance of the meeting to make sure that we nail what needs to be discussed, given the fact that this type of group rarely, if ever, gets together in one place for such a purpose. We've already got a large number of attendees signed up, and expect quite a crowd to participate, with good results to follow in consequence.
Next spring, we'll have another summit, but this time it will be an open meeting, and we'll reach out to everyone with an interest in the same types of issues. Once again, the focus will be proactive and forward looking, and directed at further developing a solid and safe legal infrastructure within which Linux in particular, and open source in general, can flourish. We'll be back with further news on that event in the months ahead.
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The Linux Foundation Announces First Legal Summits
Industry’s top open source legal experts to crack open legal issues at exclusive Linux Foundation events
SAN FRANCISCO, September 12, 2007 – The Linux Foundation (LF), the nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux, today announced it will hold two legal summits over the next 12 months. These conferences will provide the only vendor-neutral forums in which leading attorneys from open source companies and the community can collaborate to understand and solve legal issues surrounding Linux and open source software. The Summits will be hosted and led by the LF’s recently announced legal team Karen Copenhaver and Andy Updegrove.
The first LF Legal Summit will be held October 25 - 26, 2007 in Boston and will only be open to Linux Foundation members and their legal counsel, which will include representation from HP, IBM, Intel, Novell and other leading open source companies. At this invitation-only Summit, members will focus on the issues of greatest common interest with regards to open standards and licensing. Presentations and working sessions will focus on building a legal defense infrastructure for Linux and evolving intellectual property rights policies optimized to support open development models.
For companies and organizations interested in attending this member-only event but who are not currently LF members, please contact email@example.com.
The next LF Legal Summit will be held in Spring 2008 and will be expanded to include legal experts from all backgrounds to join LF member counsel in a collaborative learning environment. This conference will fill a glaring need for many attorneys who are looking for practical legal guidance on the development and distribution of open source software and the legal framework within which standards can be created to serve both proprietary and open source software models. This Summit is expected to be an annual LF event.
“Many of today’s legal conferences unnecessarily scare or confuse open source users, developers and vendors,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation. “The LF is able to provide a forum in which it can bring together its members’ legal counsel as well as its own legal team to translate issues into the straight-forward matters they really are and to bring practical education to a wider audience.”
LF legal advisors Copenhaver and Updegrove will leverage the LF’s neutral forum to provide the Linux ecosystem with important information on licenses, standards and patent issues in order to reduce any confusion and foster further innovation and adoption of Linux. Copenhaver and Updegrove will also work with the array of legal talent at LF member companies to coordinate legal resources to best respond to issues facing the platform and other open source projects.
Copenhaver is a partner in Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP ‘s Business & Technology practice focusing on technology transfer and licensing of intellectual property with a specific emphasis on open source business models. Most recently, Copenhaver was executive vice president and general counsel at Black Duck Software, Inc.
Updegrove is a partner and founder of Gesmer Updegrove LLP, a Boston-based technology law firm, and has represented and helped structure more than 80 worldwide standard setting, open source, promotional and advocacy consortia over the past 20 years. He has also represented hundreds of both emerging as well as established technology companies, and is the founder and editor of both the popular website www.consortiuminfo.org and the widely-read Standards Blog.
To learn more about these Summits, please visit https://www.linux-foundation.org/en/Legal_Summit. You can also read the recently launched blog on open source legal matters at www.linux-foundation.org/blogs/legal. This blog will provide updates on these conferences as well as other open source legal matters.
About the Linux Foundation
The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit consortium dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux. Founded in 2007, the Linux Foundation sponsors the work of Linux creator Linus Torvalds and is supported by leading Linux and open source companies and developers from around the world. The Linux Foundation promotes, protects and standardizes Linux by providing unified resources and services needed for open source to successfully compete with closed platforms. For more information, please visit www.linux-foundation.org.