May 13, 2015 · biz-legal-foss

Final Questions for Business & Legal Aspects of FOSS

One of the final assignments for the Business & legal Aspects of FOSS is to write down some questions I would ask students taking the course about the course's material. If you are curious what kind of work I have done for this course, you can read some of it here. A lot of the work has been researching various comapnies that use FOSS and seeing how they fit into the greater FOSS ecosystem. Onto the questions!

Final Questions

On one of the final days of class, the students worked to collate a group of questions they found interesting and wanted to answer. Below are those questions and my answers.

When does code you create become copyrighted?

Code becomes copyrighted the moment it is in a measurable, tangible form, so the moment you save it.

If you could wave a magic wand, and open source any piece of proprietary software, what software would you choose?

I would try to find what closed source piece of code affects the most global infrastructure, maybe that's in power grids, maybe it's in air traffic control systems, not really sure.

If the software above was open sourced, would it’s company remain stable? How would the company continue to make money?

I think having this global infrastructure code open source would help keep those systems in better shape and thus greatly improve lives. Foe example, if the code was for power grids, it being open source could greatly help nations keep their power on, lessening the chance for brown outs or power outages, which are worrisome situations during times of natural disaster.

What do you feel like was the most beneficial thing to learn in the class?

Hearing how various companies that use open source practices operate was a great way to see all the successful ways a company can use open source and sell software.

Explain the some of the motivations a company may have to open source software.

A company may open source software when they plan to stop support for a particular piece of software. I have seen this happen many times in games, where a publisher or developer will basically put a game and franchise out to pasture by releasing the game open source, meaning the code and engine, not the content (sound, art, levels, etc), while also releasing a cheap version of the game for fans to purchase on Steam.

Are there any changes you would suggest making to the profile template? What parts did you find most interesting or important?

I'm not sure where this would fit or if it should be in a new section, but a section detailing how the project/company/software/whatever fits in the greater community. This section would discuss more about who would use/work with the software/company being profiled, and serve as a way to see how involved they are in their community, not just in their own work.

If you could have spent more time, say an extra week, on any topic, which would you have liked to cover more in depth?

I would have like to spend more time discussing how open source businesses work and how their business models could be applied to other industries.

Why are you using license insert license X here for your open source project?

For this question I will discuss Twine2Unity and why it has a LGPLv3 license. Twine2Unity is a game tool that allows game writers to use Twine to write their non-linear story and give game developers an easy way to bring that data into their game, as long as it is made in Unity. As this software is for use by game developers, copyright and ownership are a big worry when tehy see open source. the LGPLv3 allows others to fork the code, make as many modifications/changes as they wish, and the only work they need to do to be compliant is attribute the original work and show the modifications to the project maintainer. At that point, the project maintainer may see some changes to the original purpose of the software, but is not allowed to use them, only changes to the original purpose that improve that functionality are fair game. This allows any game developer to use Twine2Unity as a starting point, engineer on top of it as much as tehy would like, and still have ownership over new features they add.

If you would suggest a video to be watched as part of this course, what would it be?

Don Daglow, a game industry veteran, worked on the original Intellivision and Electronic Arts teams gave a great talk about going indie in games at GDC 2013. The talk is free to watch and would be a great video for students to watch that are considering starting an open source project, just replace game with open source project, and for the most part the information given will be very helpful. Watch the video here

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