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REVIEW: "Open Source Software Law", Rod Dixon

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 5, 2004
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      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 artech@...
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1580537197/robsladesinterne
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/1580537197/robsladesin03-20
      %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

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... slade@... rslade@...
      I detest life-insurance agents; they always argue that I shall
      some day die, which is not so. - Stephen Leacock (1869-1944)
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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