"Biological Open Source"

Janet Hope janet.hope at anu.edu.au
Thu Nov 16 04:22:38 UTC 2006

On 16/11/2006, at 3:06 PM, Forrest J. Cavalier III wrote:

> I like it that you approached license-discuss for comments.

I'm glad :).

> Because the sphere of application is so different,
> I think trying to conform to the letter of the OSD is going
> to be frustrating, as you are finding.
> But the OSD is a definition based on underlying principles
> of fairness and cooperation.  I'd enjoy seeing discussion of the
> underlying principles (explained in the rationale paragraphs of
> the OSD) applied to biotech.

I've tried to do this in a chapter I'm writing for a book on OS  
biotech and in other presentations etc.  It seems to me that the key  
aspects of OS licensing, expressed in a generic way, are:
1. credible commitment to specific terms of collaboration through the  
mechanism of IP licensing -- meaning (1) that both licensor and  
licensee promise to behave in a particular way and are prepared to  
submit to some form of sanction (whether community shaming or legal  
action or a combination) if they don't and (2) that the owner of the  
IP clearly stakes a property claim, so that both licensor and  
licensee have protection from third party claims
2. free competition between licensor and licensees and among  
licensees, including the freedom to fork
3. optionally, copyleft: the idea that property rights can be used to  
make downstream technologies "free"

> If you want a discussion, and not shotgun feedback, can you
> consider picking, say, the top 3 things you want to discuss?
> Then go in order?  Multiple threads are going to be hard
> to follow on this, for me at least.

I'd like to see discussion of all the points I raised under the  
heading "specific queries".  But I guess for me the most important  
question is whether a patent licence can achieve the three goals  
above, especially freedom to fork.  I'm not clear on which aspects of  
the OSD are supposed to protect that freedom, but in any case, it's  
interesting to know whether there's something about patent law that  
prevents you from functionally achieving the same goals as an open  
source copyright licence.

A few things have already been written on this but I'll bring them up  
if and when the discussion warrants.

> You already identified some conflicts with the OSD.  They
> look like interesting places to start discussion.

Do you agree that these are conflicts?

Dr Janet Hope
Centre for Governance of Knowledge and Development
Research School of Social Sciences
Australian National University
T: +61 2 6125 0172
F: +61 2 6125 1507
janet.hope at anu.edu.au

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