Open Source Needs an Arbitration Board

Opinion: The ongoing intellectual property fight between Furthermore and Miro shows the need to address possible IP conflicts before they become public or courtroom battles.

Weve got to find a better way to settle open-source disputes than fighting them out in the press.

In the latest tussle, Furthermore and Miro, the copyright owner to the open-source Mambo OS content management system, are fussing over whether some Furthermore copyrighted code was improperly placed in Mambo.

The OSSI (Open Source Software Institute) offered to act as a neutral mediator between the Furthermore and Miro, but Miro CEO Peter Lamont would have none of it since, Lamont claimed, OSSI was on Furthermores side.

OSSI disagrees, so its stepping out of the middle of this mud fight. As it stands now, there are no communications between the two sides.

If nothing changes, Furthermore has already told Mambo customers that if they dont come to an arrangement with Furthermore, they may be sued.

What a mess.

Despite stories you may have read elsewhere, Futhermores legal claims against the Mambo community are still as good, or bad, as they ever were.

One of the problems with this fight has been that many open-source supporters keep trying to see it as a battle between good open-source people and evil proprietary software goons. Its not. It never was.

As Philip H. Albert, a partner in the San Francisco-based law firm Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP, told me last week, "This is, as described, not really an open-source case. Its more a matter of copyright infringement and contract law where it just so happens that the people being accused do open source."

The fact that the code in question is a derivative of GPL-licensed code, thus placing it under the GPL (GNU General Public License) really isnt relevant. The real question is whether the programmer, Emir Sakic, took code he did under contract to Furthermore and placed it into Mambo.

Next Page: What open-source business needs.