Open Source Licenses and Embrace-Extend-Extinguish

msibley at msibley at
Thu Feb 14 16:29:13 UTC 2008


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Open Source Licenses and Embrace-Extend-Extinguish
From: "Chris DiBona" <cdibona at>
Date: Wed, February 13, 2008 5:34 pm
To: msibley at
Cc: license-discuss at

> Actually, protocols specifically are not copyrightable.
> thier specifications docs can be, as can software that exercises a protocol.
> The reason that dvds (and not cd) reading software is controversial is
> because the dmca has a special provision when a program circumvents
> encryption, no matter how trivial, to allow for the transfer of
> copyright works, then that program can come under certain penalties.

I have no desire to add crypto, since the data isn't security sensitive.

Trademarking is interesting, but it assumes that Dr. Evil wasn't
on his own name for the original designers work in the first place. 
Patent doesn't make sense because bastardizing the protocol only 
requires a new patent, referencing the old patent as prior-art. 

> Think of the companies that would not exist if it were not for the
> reverse engineering of wire line protocols. Dell, Phoenix/ami, emc,
> etc. etc...

I have no beef with reverse engineering. I want the major version 
duplicated and I want anyone to be able add features. I just want 
them to not break compatability with the major version while their 
doing it. 

For Example: SNMP uses an Object ID (OID) field to identify a 
particular resource on a managed device. A committee orchestrates 
what these OIDS mean, typically it may be bitrate, uptime etc.
OIDs are organized in a simple tree like a directory. 

In walks Dr. Evil, who copies SNMP and makes the OID that 
represents uptime to everyone, now represent a widget counter. 
He releases it as EvilNMP. Could he have remained compliant 
with the standard and still implimented a widget counter? yes. 
Has he caused damage to those who have collaborated on SNMP? 
If the intellectual property was protected, the answer 
would be yes. 

But the answer at the moment is no, beacause of the previously 
mentioned limitations of trademarks and patents. So if a protocol 
can't be copyrighted, then there is no practical legal protection 
against damages caused by EEE. 

If I paint over a street sign, I am not liable for damages caused to 
the standards body who designed the sign, because the sign was a 
protocol, therefore not IP. But damages are incurred by the general 
public, because I have polluted, and it costs money to repair 
pollution. The law does not recognize damage from pollution 
provided that the damages are sustained within the context of 
Intellectual Property? The state may make no laws regarding 
freedom of speech. Taking a dump on your neighbors lawn is 
not speach. 

If no one has beaten this BS in a court room it is over due. I 
think I will license my work. Even if it is no protection at least 
I might get my day in court. 

> If you want to slap a trivial layer of encryption over your protocol
> to 'protect' it from people like me, then this may not be the best
> place to get advice.
> Chris

> On Thu, Feb 14, 2008 at 1:10 PM, <msibley at> wrote:
>> Thanks Everyone!
>> I looked at the SISSL, and I like it. Suprised it isn't more popular in
>> fact.


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