Serena Gets Creative with Mashups

The tools maker is embracing Creative Commons licensing for its business mashup software.

SAN MATEO, Calif. - As evidenced by its recent embrace of newfangled Web 2.0 technologies like mashups and now Creative Commons licensing, Serena Software, the formerly stodgy tool maker, is certainly not what it used to be.

In an interview with eWEEK at Serena's San Mateo offices-just as movers were preparing to shuttle the company to its new headquarters in Redwood City-Rene Bonvanie, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, partner programs, and online services at Serena, said the company continues to turn traditional software development on its head by releasing its business mashups software under Creative Commons licensing. Serena is expected to announce the move as early as March 10 or March 11.

Bonvanie said Serena is the first software company to license software applications under Creative Commons licenses, using one of a range of copyright licenses designed to protect creative work and encourage certain uses of that work.

The Creative Commons is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative work available for others legally to build upon and share. The organization has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons licenses.

The Creative Commons licenses enable copyright holders to grant some or all of their rights to the public while retaining others through a variety of licensing and contract schemes including dedication to the public domain or open content licensing terms. The intention is to avoid the problems current copyright laws create for the sharing of information.

Essentially, Serena is licensing its free, pre-built business mashups through Creative Commons, and encouraging other software companies to do the same. Serena aims to build an online ecosystem that fosters the creation and sharing of new approaches to solving common business problems, Bonvanie said.

"I think we would be the first software company to adopt this," Bonvanie said. "Look at a company like Adobe, which is in that world. They are not doing it. They want to protect their IP [intellectual property]."

Bonvanie said business mashups are graphical representations of simple business processes, such as vacation requests, sales discount approvals and IT change requests. With Serena Mashup Composer, a free point-and-click visual design tool, users can quickly connect applications and automate business processes without writing any code. The resulting mashup, which looks like a Microsoft Office Visio diagram, graphically depicts new ways to solve simple yet time-consuming business processes.

To date, Creative Commons licensing have been used primarily with traditional forms of content such as art, literature, music and movies. However, Serena is saying that business mashups are not based on source code, but are instead unique graphical expressions of a process. As such, mashups are perfectly suited to Creative Commons licensing, especially in situations where users combine mashups to create entirely new derivative works.

"A mashup is like taking a piece of music from one singer and mixing it with the music of another singer," Bonvanie said. "We have borrowed from the artistic industry. A mashup becomes this object of art that can be creatively used in any way people see fit. We will create these mashups under Creative Commons licensing and we hope others will follow suit."

Moreover, he said observers should not "think of this as the equivalent of open source. We don't care who owns the technology. What's important is that you can innovate on top of it." Bonvanie said Serena has been working with Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig, who is a proponent and founder of Creative Commons, on their approach to delivering business mashups under Creative Commons licensing.