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Intellectual Property and Open Source: A Practical Guide to Protecting Code Paperback – Jul 25 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (July 25 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596517963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596517960
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.3 x 23.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #560,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

About the Author

The title that best describes Van Lindberg's job is "translator" - translating from "lawyer" to "engineer" and back. He enjoys working with both computer code and legal code to get things done.

As an attorney, Van helps people build businesses around ideas. His experience allows him to analyze and evaluate intellectual property in a sale, license or litigation context. Van also participates in the Open Source community. He helps businesses work with and develop Open Source software and helps developers navigate the legal system to achieve project goals. He has direct experience in digital circuit design; operating system design; application programming; networked and distributed systems; virtualization; wireless networking; high-availability systems and programming languages.

Outside of the traditional IP areas, Van is particularly interested in the Open Source licensing model. He has been involved (mostly as a user, but with occasional contributions) in the Open Source community since 1994. Van's favorite computer language is Python.


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Format: Paperback
Recently I was faced a problem to determine which code can be used within the software when different licenses are mixed. Which was not a pleasant task. Studying legal related topics usually doesn't count into 'ten most interesting' things software engineers like to do.
However, sometimes you have to face the problem. Van Lindberg deconstructs the legal related issue in very structured way. First of all he defines all the legal related terms and provides examples for each case. After the background is settled he goes into details ' how to deal with particular, license related issues when you start to develop something. What I have found most interesting was explanation of GPL license ' which is widely used and very often miss understood. Another issue that is raised within the book, and worth thinking about, is your employment ' does it inflict your thinking outside company? Are you aware of that it can?

What I can see at a first glance are the differences between USA law and European one. This makes it difficult to suggest this book as source of legal knowledge for anyone who lives outside USA. On the other hand, Van describes most common licenses that are available on the global 'market' ' which can help you some way. What I have missed, however was detailed description of BSD license. I think that BSD can be treated as competitor for GPL ' some way, and it would be nice to see its detailed explanation ' unless it is so simple that it doesn't require it. Would I recommend this book? It depends. If you live in USA I think it is good source of knowledge served in very clear way. If you live outside USA ' I think you will only benefit from few chapters like GPL, Reverse Engineering, Choosing a license ones. If you need explanation of basing legal terms ' I think you can go for it ' regardless of your living place.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 21 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
The best legal book on open source I've read (and I've read them all) July 15 2008
By Matthew Asay - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I've been involved in open source and the software world for over 10 years now, and have read every book on open source and legal issues that has been written. This is by far the best.

Why? Because it lays out in clear, easy-to-understand language what open source means for the developer. You don't have to be a legal expert to grasp the principles laid out in the book. In fact, Lindberg walks the reader through commonly obtuse principles by analogizing to software principles that the reader will easily understand.

In addition, it's very well-written. Lindberg has an outstanding style that makes this readable. I won't say it's like reading Charles Dickens, but at times it really is that enjoyable.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Good Organization and Great Writing July 17 2008
By James Grimmelmann - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I was lucky enough to see this book in draft form, and even before the final spit-and-polish touches, it was a pleasure to read. The author has a real gift for metaphor; almost every chapter is organized around a vivid, memorable concept. He compares the format of a patent document to the ELF file format; he uses the secret recipe for the Flaming Moe to talk about trade secrets. The result is an introduction to IP law that's unusually fun to read.

But the clarity and verve of the writing doesn't detract from the book's main goal: showing the reader how the IP system works and affects open source software. The author has exercised very good judgment in paring down an immensely complicated body of law into an approachable set of important principles. The reader gets the big picture overview, a clear understanding of the truly important details, and a good sense of what else is out there and how to find out more. This book doesn't try to be a definitive reference or a dumbed-down sketch. Instead, it hits the sweet spot in between: informative and readable.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Targeted well for the technology professional... Sept. 6 2008
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a software developer, it's almost a certainty that you either participate in or use open source software somewhere in your computing environment. But even though you may have the source code sitting in front of you, it doesn't mean you can anything you darn well please with it. Van Lindberg's book Intellectual Property and Open Source: A Practical Guide to Protecting Code does a very good job in presenting the intricacies of open source licensing in a way that won't automatically put a developer to sleep. Granted, there's still a lot of legal concepts to wade through, but in my opinion he hit the right mix between legalities and practicalities.

Contents: The Economic and Legal Foundations of Intellectual Property; The Patent Document; The Patent System; Copyright; Trademarks; Trade Secrets; Contracts and Licenses; The Economic and Legal Foundations of Open Source Software; So I Have An Idea...; Choosing A License; Accepting Patches and Contributions; Working With The GPL; Reverse Engineering; Incorporating As A Non-Profit
Appendices: Sample Proprietary Information Agreement (PIA); Open Source License List; Free Software License List; Fedora License List and GPL Compatibility; Public Domain Declaration; The Simplified BSD License; The Apache License, Version 2.0; The Mozilla Public License, Version 1.1; The GNU Lesser General Public License, Version 2.1; The GNU Lesser General Public License, Version 3; The GNU General Public License, Version 2, June 1991; The GNU General Public License, Version 3, June 2007; The Open Software License, Version 3.0
Index

Lindberg accomplishes a couple of purposes in this book. The first few chapters trace the history and general concepts of intellectual property law, such as patents and trade secrets. This is necessary, in that it lays the groundwork to be able to understand what part of your work may or may not be covered by intellectual property laws. While there are plenty of legal concepts and examples cited, he doesn't get so far down into the weeds as to make the material irrelevant to the target audience... technology professionals. The last half of the book then uses that foundation to talk specifically about open source software, licenses, and legal issues being faced today. And really, it's more complex than you'd think (but isn't *anything* legal overly complex?) Each of the licenses he covers has certain advantages and disadvantages that can make a significant impact on how you and others can use your software going forward. For instance, one license may allow the user to use it in any way they see fit, including using it in their own non-open source software. Other licenses actually force any software project using the open source code to also be bound by the same license, meaning that your work has to be made available in open source form to others. Based on what you plan on building and how you want to market it, this could make the difference between a thriving business or a ruinous lawsuit. And again, the writing is appropriate for the technology professional, not four year law students looking to become a partner and retire by the age of 40.

For anyone involved in creating an open-source project (or what they *think* an open source project should be), this should be essential reading. And if you've ever downloaded something from Sourceforge to include in one of your own projects, you also need to read this to clearly understand your rights and obligations. I know we techies would prefer to let other people figure out the legal stuff, but it's not worth it to have your next killer application idea bankrupt you in court...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
get knowledge regarding various Open Source Licenses July 26 2011
By mko - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Recently I was faced a problem to determine which code can be used within the software when different licenses are mixed. Which was not a pleasant task. Studying legal related topics usually doesn't count into `ten most interesting' things software engineers like to do.
However, sometimes you have to face the problem. Van Lindberg deconstructs the legal related issue in very structured way. First of all he defines all the legal related terms and provides examples for each case. After the background is settled he goes into details - how to deal with particular, license related issues when you start to develop something. What I have found most interesting was explanation of GPL license - which is widely used and very often miss understood. Another issue that is raised within the book, and worth thinking about, is your employment - does it inflict your thinking outside company? Are you aware of that it can?

What I can see at a first glance are the differences between USA law and European one. This makes it difficult to suggest this book as source of legal knowledge for anyone who lives outside USA. On the other hand, Van describes most common licenses that are available on the global `market' - which can help you some way. What I have missed, however was detailed description of BSD license. I think that BSD can be treated as competitor for GPL - some way, and it would be nice to see its detailed explanation - unless it is so simple that it doesn't require it. Would I recommend this book? It depends. If you live in USA I think it is good source of knowledge served in very clear way. If you live outside USA - I think you will only benefit from few chapters like GPL, Reverse Engineering, Choosing a license ones. If you need explanation of basing legal terms - I think you can go for it - regardless of your living place.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I'm so glad I read this book Feb. 18 2009
By M. Helmke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I took a trip this last week, one that involved several hours of airplane travel each way. I took this book along and couldn't put it down. If you are like me, you have heard about and read through some of the philosophical foundations of software licensing, copyright law, and intellectual property, but sometimes it all seems so complicated that you aren't really sure how it all fits together. Patents, copyright, trademarks and trade secrets, licenses and contracts all seem to overlap at times making a sort of intellectual property law soup that can be hard to digest. That is precisely why I picked up this book.

Now, I have read books by Lawrence Lessig and the writings of people like Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond. I am on board with the idea of making information, including program code, as free and accessible as possible. What has not been clear to me is the legal aspects. When is it possible to use GPL licensed code in a project? Which licenses have the greatest affect on the freedom of the code and in which ways? How is this different from software patents and why do these patents even exist? This is the tip of the IP iceberg.

This book was written by someone who works as a liaison between engineers and lawyers, translating for each side to the other. If this book is any indication, I bet he is quite good at his job. The information he presents is incredibly clear. While it is not intended as a substitute for legal advice from a lawyer who understands the specifics of the law in your locale, it is intended to give you an understanding of what the issues are, the definitions of and affects of patents, copyright, trademarks and trade secrets, and more, and I walked away after reading it feeling like I have a base understanding of the issues that is a lot deeper and clearer than I had before.

The book begins by giving a bit of history regarding the economic and legal foundations of intellectual property law. It continues from here into very specific discussions of each part, including the history and arguments leading up to why we have the laws we have today. Once the foundation is understood, it becomes more obvious how we arrived at our current (and rather messy) state of affairs.

The last third to half of the book focuses directly on open source software licensing. The book includes a discussion of the similarities and differences in perspective between the Open Source and the Free Software movements, the specifics of each of the main software licenses in use today and how they have and have not been tested in the legal system, gives advice for programmers and intellectual property creators who are also employees of a company to help them interact in good faith with their employers in the hope of preventing problems, and even such interesting legal areas as reverse engineering.

The book does not focus on the philosophy behind why someone would want to us a free or open license for their work. If that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere. However, if the specific legal issues interest you, but you don't understand legalese, I don't think I have seen a better text. I think it would be appreciated by a lawyer, a programmer, a project supervisor, or anyone who just wants to try to make sense of the topic.


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