It seems like it should be quite the showdown. In the one corner we have one of Northern California’s “Top 100 intellectual property attorneys”, who has been published in CIO magazine advising software companies to build or purchase a portfolio of software patents, who has recently assisted a Global Fortune 100 company in “establishing an intellectual asset management program to exploit its patent portfolio”, and who lists Sony as a representative client.1 2 In the other corner we have the General Counsel of the Open Source Institute, the body responsible for stewardship of the Open Source Definition, and the certification of Open Source licenses.3
To many in the FLOSS world these two seem like they should be mortal enemies, but, of course, they’re both the same person: Mark F Radcliffe. Of course being pro-software patents isn’t necessarily incompatible with Open Source, but I’m a little surprised that I can’t find many people commenting on this, particularly when, as Larry Rosen (Radcliffe’s predecessor at the OSI) has pointed out: “as near as I can determine, there isn’t a lot of enthusiasm in the open source community for software patents anywhere in the world.”4
What is more pertinent to me right now however is Radclffe’s other strange dual role. Michael Tiemann, president of the OSI, in his recent well publicised vow to crack down on companies that abuse the term “Open Source” noted that licenses such as the SugarCRM License are not only NOT OPEN SOURCE LICENSES (emphasis his), but are a flagrant abuse of labelling from companies that think they can get away with it.5 What Tiemann doesn’t note here is that the author and/or proponent of the majority of these “Attribution Licenses” (including SugarCRM’s) is none other than Mark F Radcliffe. This particular conflict has been commented on before, and Radcliffe has explained that he recuses himself from such discussions when they come before the OSI.6 But whilst this was a strange enough position in the past, when the Attribution issue was merely the “primary issue” before the OSI Board7, it seems to be even more untenable now that the OSI have vowed to clamp down on the very “abuse” that their own General Counsel is actively promoting in his professional capacity.
Should be interesting to see what happens next…