A friend’s post alerted me to the potential overreach of copyright and commercial law when it comes to the human body. The particular post was about tattoo artists who tried to make money of sport professionals who had integrated the tattoos into their professional persona: The company who had bought the tattoo artists’ designs claims that the copyright to the art extends to the performances of professionals showing the art. Hence they wanted money for any performance, here as part of the professionals appearing in video games.
It is easy to extend this to high-tech. The consequences could be dire, if the enhanced human body would become subject to overreaching intellectual property rights held by companies. Imagine a pacemaker for your heart that has only been licensed to you and you lack the necessary data and rights to make it work over time. I’m sure some company will come up with a pacemaker that needs to get a license key every year or so from the company’s license server. Would the company let the person die, if he or she fails to pay the annual license fee? In case you wonder whether anyone would accept such a pacemaker into their heart (pun intended): Just imagine being poor enough to not be able to pay for the medical procedure. Or imagine requiring a particularly innovative pacemaker function that only this one manufacturer offers and you can’t pay for the perpetual license.
If this seems far-fetched, you should note that this is already happening in other contexts. For example, John Deere, a leading manufacturer of tractors and other farming equipment is only leasing its tractors and the software to farmers. John Deere argues that farmers don’t own the tractor and its data any longer, John Deere remains the owner. As a consequence, all data from the farmers’ tractors is planned to end up in John Deere data centers and farmers who don’t keep paying might be cut of their equipment and its data.
The Internet and interconnectedness is making it happen. It is indeed time to clarify ownership and limits of ownership, in particular when it comes to the human body and its rights. Indeed an interesting time for lawyers (and everyone else).
I recently participated in an NII Shonan workshop on open source ecosystems. As a follow-up, we are preparing a book of articles. I’m contributing a chapter on “license clearance in software product governance”. Obviously, open source plays an important role. Please find abstract and paper below.
Abstract: Almost all software products today include open source components. However, the obligations that open source licenses put on their users can be difficult or undesirable to comply with   . As a consequence, software vendors and related companies need to govern the process by which open source components are included in their products  . A key process of such open source governance is license clearance, that is, the process by which a company decides whether a particular component’s license is acceptable for use in its products   . In this article, we discuss this process, review the challenges it poses to software vendors and provide unanswered research questions that result from it.
Read the full paper as HTML or as a PDF. The final reference will be announced once the book has been published.
When talking with companies about the use of open source, sooner or later we end up discussing the problem of license compliance. This is perhaps the most prominent aspect of open source governance for companies getting started with using open source. It can be surprisingly difficult to coherently explain the cause and effect chains that create the potentially high costs of not properly governing your open source engagement!
On June 20th, the the 2017 Bitkom Open Source Forum will take place in Berlin. In my opinion, this is the best vendor-neutral opportunity in Germany to meet and listen to open source experts and how open source is shaping the German and international software industry. I will present my main blockbuster talk on
why software vendors, large and small, “give away their intellectual property” by contributing to an open source project.
Essentially, I will be talking about the business models and industry strategies underlying contribution to and leadership of open source projects, platforms, and foundations. Participation is free, even for non-members, and I recommend you register early (by email) to make sure you get a seat at the table.
I’ve been participating in various workshops and working groups on open data now. It is hard scrabble, but things are moving. Today I participated in a workshop of the open data task force of Bitkom which I am a member of. The highlight of the day was the participation of Saskia Esken who explained some and handled questions and answers on the new open data for government law that is coming up in Germany.
In related news, the task force finished its open data manifest, a collection of quality attributes of what good open data are and what to ask of providers and the government. A small handbook is in work as well.
A few days ago, I participated in a panel on entrepreneurship in the beautiful but small city of Göttingen, Germany. While a university town, it isn’t exactly the Silicon Valley either, much like my current home town of Erlangen.
Thus, on the panel, I ran into the usual German morals on what makes a good entrepreneur, respectively, how to treat one: