REVIEW: "Open Source Software Law", Rod Dixon

Discussion in 'Computer Security' started by Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor, Oct 5, 2004.

  1. BKOSSWLW.RVW 20040527

    "Open Source Software Law", Rod Dixon, 2004, 1-58053-719-7, C$139.50
    %A Rod Dixon
    %C 685 Canton St., Norwood, MA 02062
    %D 2004
    %G 1-58053-719-7
    %I Artech House/Horizon
    %O C$139.50 800-225-9977 fax: 617-769-6334
    %P 287 p. + CD-ROM
    %T "Open Source Software Law"

    Chapter one discusses the concept of open source software (and related
    terms such as free software, freeware, and so forth), as well as
    introducing some (though not all) of the major groups and players.
    The text points out the difficulties of finding specific definitions
    when dealing with a community and philosophy of this nature, and the
    material is indicative and possibly useful, but even so the
    explanations could be much clearer and less demanding of the reader.
    The philosophies (and factions) of the open source community are
    outlined in chapter two, as well as basic ideas such as copyleft.
    There is further delineation of the reasons behind open source, which
    does rather beg the question of why the topic wasn't dealt with better
    in the first place. An interesting section is the analysis of the
    purported "viral" effect of the General Public License (GPL), which
    some fear will dilute developers' rights.

    The issue of licensing, and the different types of licence models, is
    reviewed in chapter three. The material is detailed and the subject
    evaluated in depth, but, oddly, the chapter does not seem to clarify
    the issue as much as, say, Brian Behlendorf's article in "Open
    Sources" (cf. BKOPNSRC.RVW). After an initially intriguing
    examination of the US "No Electronic Theft" act of 1997, and the
    implications for extending property considerations to information,
    chapter four turns into a meandering, and not altogether clear,
    editorial on the issue. Chapter five looks at electronic contracts,
    concentrating on E-Sign and UETA (Uniform Electronic Transaction Act)
    (governing the validity of digital agreements, with UETA having
    somewhat more consumer protection), and UCITA (Uniform Computer
    Information Transaction Act), which extends the rights of developers
    of software, including assumptions regarding contract formation.
    "Commercial Models," in chapter six, revisits the licensing debate:
    again, Behlendorf's article (noted above) seems to provide a superior
    appraisal. Due to ill-defining "open standards" as a confused amalgam
    of open source and open systems, Dixon's assessment of the impact on
    public policy is flawed, but chapter seven is mercifully brief.
    Chapter eight, as the third item on licensing, doesn't present many
    new ideas.

    While there are interesting and informative legal issues presented in
    this work, a great deal of it is a standard, and somewhat pedestrian,
    promotion of the open source movement. In addition, Dixon's writing
    is frequently verbose, turgid, and lacking in clarity. Given the able
    apologetics offered by "Open Sources" and "The Cathedral and the
    Bazaar" (cf. BKCATBAZ.RVW), the need for such a work is questionable.

    copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKOSSWLW.RVW 20040527


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    Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor, Oct 5, 2004
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