Improving the Open Source Legal System


In this talk I argue that open source licensing can be conceptualized as a unique international legal system, and I follow this premise by discussing ways in which this system can be improved by making it more legally certain and predictable.

Open source exists in tension with the country-specific system of so-called "intellectual property" law that supposedly underlies it. In this talk, I will argue that open source can be usefully regarded as a distinct international system of property rights transfer masquerading as a form of copyright licensing, based not on statutes or court decisions but on norms of code sharing practices that are rooted in developer custom and tradition.

Given this premise, we can determine how well functioning open source is as a legal system, and think about how it can be improved. In particular, I argue that we should enhance the predictability surrounding open source licensing, by achieving better community understanding, and legitimization, of this tradition-based legal system, and by developing better community-based means of dispute resolution.

Speaker: Richard Fontana

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