With the growing importance of Open Source Software and with legal actions such as SCO's lawsuit against IBM, the issues of software licensing and copyright compliance have become a hot topic. Companies are finding that software license audits are becoming an important part of due diligence for financing and maybe even financial reporting. Today's software developers have to understand copyright law and how it applies to software licensing in order to do their jobs.
Unfortunately, legal training has not been a part of most developers' backgrounds, so many developers operate the way they remember from the more lenient past or do what they did in school or follow folklore. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and illegal actions can be damaging to a company. How do you train developers and get them to work well with the corporate legal department?
This video can help solve that problem. It introduces developers to the basics of copyright law and how it applies to software licensing, including Open Source Software. It helps developers join with the corporate legal department to make sure that together they do "the right thing".
Software developer Dan Bricklin explains the basics of copyright law and software licensing,
with a special emphasis on Open Source Software issues.
He also covers working with corporate legal departments and corporate software license policy.
A one minute trailer with excerpts from the video is available for download:
The full video runs 42 minutes and includes the following sections:
- Introduction (1:54)
- Overview (1:03)
- Reading and Using the Source Code of Others (3:09)
- Copyright Law (4:50)
- The Variety of Software Licenses (1:50)
- Specifics of Open Source (4:19)
- License Compatibility (1:00)
- More Emphasis on Licenses and Copyright Now (2:50)
- The GPL (8:41)
- The Law, Lawyers, and Corporate Executives (3:08)
- Corporate Software License Policy (3:33)
- How Does This Change the Job of Being a Developer? (2:43)
- In Closing (1:19)
- Credits and Extra Material (:51)
The video does not cover patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property issues. It does not delve into the philosophies of Open Source nor cover too much about its advantages and disadvantages. The focus is on legal concepts related to licensing and copying.
Dan is not a lawyer, and this video is not legal advice. It does, though, encourage the viewer to work with lawyers to work out the details of their situation. The background it provides should make for more efficient communications.
The target audience consists of software developers and their management.
The target purchasers are corporate legal departments and their outside counsel, corporate software development management, and corporate training departments. There is also a special version for purchase by individuals.
This video can be used in situations like these:
In today's world, all software developers should have at least the level of knowledge covered in this video of copyright law and how it relates to software licensing. Showing it as part of the normal orientation process for programmers, project managers, quality assurance people, and others involved in software development is a way to ensure that everyone has that level of knowledge and has a common basis for further discussions.
With its emphasis on using people in the legal profession to work out copyright-related issues, it also helps bring those people into the development process as valued participants, something that may be foreign to many developers, but is becoming more and more necessary.
Corporate Policy Setting
Companies that are developing corporate policy on software licensing and Open Source will find this video to be a great starting point for discussion.
Business Development for Intellectual Property Law Firms
Law firms that provide counseling on software licensing issues can use this video as a sales tool for explaining the need for their services and its value.
Open Source Advocacy
Developers who advocate for the use of Open Source within the corporation can use this video to help dispel some of the myths about Open Source and bring the discussion to a more informed, pragmatic, and hopefully fruitful level. The video touches on some of the advantages of using Open Source as well as showing some of the specific areas where it can be problematic.
Companies That Have Chosen Not to Use Certain Open Source Software
The video explains why there are cases in which a company may not be able to use certain Open Source software products (such as those covered by the GPL) as a basis for products it produces.
This video features a well-known software developer speaking to developers, not a lawyer foreign to them or an actor. Dan has been speaking to technical audiences for over 20 years and has a natural manner that speaks to them as a peer. He has credibility on this topic to corporate developers.
Dan is best known as the inventor of VisiCalc, the early computer spreadsheet program, and Dan Bricklin's Demo Program, an award-winning software prototyping tool for which he did all of the programming. He has both a degree in computer science from MIT and an MBA from Harvard, and has extensive experience in business and with legal issues (including as a party to lawsuits as well as being an expert witness). A recipient of numerous awards, he is a Fellow of both the Association of Computing Machinery and the Computer History Museum, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
There is a companion web page for the video with extra material related to the topics covered.
There is a blog specifically connected with this video: Software Garden Training Video Blog.
There is a press release from Software Garden about this video: Bricklin Releases Copyright and Open Source Training Video.
Here are some of the reviews others have done of the video:
- ZDNet's David Berlind: Bricklin on DVD: Good software copyright primer for enterprises (April 12, 2005)
The video is available on DVD (and soon on VHS tape for those that need a videotape instead of a disk). You can order online using the links below (we use CustomFlix, a division of Amazon, for DVD order taking and fulfillment):
If you have any questions, or for volume pricing, contact us at Software Garden.