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The Software Freedom Law Center and open source ecommerce


February 1, 2005

The Software Freedom Law Center, supported in part by a $4 million grant from Open Source Development Labs, is offering pro bono legal services to ascertain non-profit open source projects and developers "who do not otherwise have access to necessary legal services."

OSDL member IBM is fighting its own legal war over open source with the eventual goal of proliferating open source and profiting by selling its underlying hardware and infrastructure.

One way to ensure proliferation is to aid and protect the developers involved; to this effect, IBM recently offered 500 of its patents to open source developers, and now it is also one of the companies that has helped to fund the Law Center (although the Law Center is officially independent of OSDL).

The Law Center's board contains some legal heavy hitters, including Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig and Columbia University Law Professor Eben Moglen.

In a written statement, Lessig took an indirect swipe at SCO, IBM's competitor in the court and the big name associated with anti-open source efforts (although, to be fair, Microsoft is on the same side of the ball): "We should be skeptical of legal mechanisms that enable those most threatened by the success of open source and free software to resist its advance."

Moglen, chairman of the Law Center's board and director-counsel, has impressive credentials including a clerkship performed for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Moglen is a specialist in software-related intellectual property (IP) issues who has also been pro bono General Counsel for the Free Software Foundation, in which capacity he said that, in its aggressive legal challenges to open source, SCO had "resorted to nonsense to give investors the impression that it can evade the inevitable day of reckoning."


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