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Showing posts from June, 2013

Permissive Licenses and Richard Stallman's Blindspot on the Rails Community

Recently, I had to go through a very, very difficult contract negotiation that hinged largely upon the inclusion of open source software in client deliverables. Suffice it to say, that at this point, I'm fairly convinced that L/GPL licensed software simply cannot be included in software deliverables if the client intends to a) distribute that software and b) include trade secrets or confidential information in that software. It may be technically possible, but it is a huge nightmare-headache. 

As a result, I took a second look at this essay, by Richard Stallman, arguing that LGPL is, in fact, too lenient in its requirements, and that people releasing open source libraries should really think about releasing them under GPL. The gravamen of his argument is this:
If we amass a collection of powerful GPL-covered libraries that have no parallel available to proprietary software, they will provide a range of useful modules to serve as building blocks in new free programs. This will be a …

Legalese or Plain English? Either Way, TechCrunch has it Wrong

There was a post today on TechCrunch about a VC that uses a plain english term sheet, as if this were some earth-shattering innovation. Well, first, it isn't, and, secondly, TechCrunch seems to really miss the larger point: This term sheet is a summary of a larger, totally standard contract. In other words, the whole goal that TechCrunch seems to be excited about - a contract that is in plain english, hooray! - is false. This is a memorandum of understanding, a letter, a summary, that precedes the formal agreement itself. So, basically, this is a non-story.

However, it does lead to the more interesting question of contract drafting in general, and whether it is a better practice to use plain english or stick to the legalese. As with all things, I argue that it depends highly on context, and the intended audience for a contract.

For instance, when drafting a Terms of Service, or End User License Agreement, it is probably the right thing to draft so that a normal human being can und…

Open Source Licenses: When to Use Permissive v. Copyleft

If you work in any industry that heavily relies on software (read: all of them) you will eventually run into open source licenses. So let's take a look at a broad and growing divide between the two main types of open source licenses - copyleft v. permissive. Spoiler: if you are going to be including open source software in client deliverables, it is far easier to stick with permissive licenses, where copyleft licenses should are best used for academic projects, for developer tools or projects that are dedicated to some non-commercial, public good.

Open source licenses were first used in the mid-1980s, under the mantra that "information wants to be free" - not necessarily free in price, but in that it should be freely adaptable to different people's desires. Unsurprisingly, some of the earliest licenses came out of Berkeley and MIT, including the GNU Project, under Richard Stallman. The whole idea was to distribute software that was the result of - and useful for - ac…

Followup on Console Gaming

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I recently posted about how a Wired opinion piece seemed to really miss the boat on console gaming. Well, apparently, Sony agrees:
Kaz Hirai says the PS4 is 'first and foremost' a game console, more features to be revealed.
"The most important thing we need to do is agree and understand that the PS4 is a great video game console that appeals to video gamers," he said. "If we miss that part, I don't think we get the initial establishment of the console. That formula has worked for us with all our consoles, including the PS3." Additionally, this just in from Reddit:


It was posted under the title "A concise list of all the problems with the PS4 (directly from the hardware architect Mark Cerny" and it's a list of features that gamers consider to be positive. In addition to this, the internet is currently exploding with reviews of The Last of Us, a PS3 exclusive, which is being haled as a "masterpiece." So we will see how that goes for …

NSA and Your Digital Life

Right now the internet is on fire with the news that the NSA, through a project called PRISM, apparently has been tapping into a whole bunch of very large internet services for the better part of a decade.

I just wanted to note that we are going to have to wait a few days to get a clear look at this, because within about 90 minutes of each other, these two posts went up on Techcrunch:

Report: NSA Collects Data Directly From Servers Of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook And More
Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft And Apple Deny Participation In NSA PRISM Surveillance Program
You can read more at the NYTimes, its Editorial Board,  Guardian, Washington Post - the last two seem to have been the original source of this information.

Also, this is particularly great: NSA chief, two weeks ago: ‘We’re the only ones not spying on the American people.’

I'd encourage everyone to take the chance to read this essay, written by former Supreme Court Justices Brandeis and Warren about the Right to P…