Copyright/left at the centre of open source business strategies

Below is a rough draft of the cornerstone slide for a new presentation deck I am putting together to explain the various business strategies for monetizing open source software. The aim is to explain every single existing strategy using the elements on this one slide (although I am yet to test it out).

In our previous discussions about business strategies we have noted that there are four elements that shape a business strategy around open source software: the open source software license; the development strategy; the end user license strategy; and the revenue trigger.

As can be seen from the slide above, I have added a fifth element: copyright control. Copyright was previously considered in our research around business strategies but was seen more as an underlying influence than a distinct strategy element.

I have recently come to the realisation that copyright control is not just a part of each of the four elements, and not just a fifth additional element, but should perhaps be considered the central element which profoundly influences the other four.

Copyright control has a symbiotic relationship with both the open source software license (I’ll leave the copyright/left discussion for another day) and the development strategy, and is influential in determining both the end user license strategy and therefore the choice of revenue trigger.

This has become abundantly clear thanks to the discussion surrounding Oracle’s acquisition of Sun and MySQL.

Back in September I speculated that it was copyright, and not licensing or market share, that was at the centre of the European Commission’s concern about Oracle’s future ownership of MySQL:

    “I would argue, that Oracle’s potential control over MySQL is not about licensing, but copyright… copyright ownership does not just impact the ability to license code, it also provides control over potential commercial uses of that code. This is where it could be argued that the EC could be right to have anti-competitive concerns over Oracle’s future ownership of MySQL.”

This week’s comments from EC spokesperson Jonathan Todd confirmed my suspicions:

    Todd said Tuesday that Oracle would become the exclusive holder of the copyright and trademark for MySQL code “which means that despite the fact that MySQL is open source, it could be very difficult for a competitor using MySQL code to sufficiently replace the competitive constraint” that MySQL places on database rivals. The commission is concerned that Oracle could refuse to license MySQL to some companies or for some uses in order to favor its own software. “Just because MySQL is open source, does not mean that if you want to apply it in the commercial context, that you can do what you like with it,” Todd said.

Which is not to say that I agree that there is enough competitive threat to block the deal. But it has highlighted the importance of copyright control in terms of business strategies around open source. As John Mark Walker noted recently:

    “The remarkable thing about the Oracle – MySQL case is that it forces us to put up or shut up in a realistic, fact-based way not clad in ideological robes. Whatever your opinions, you now have a test case against which to apply them.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 comments ↓

#1 Twitter Trackbacks for 451 CAOS Theory » Copyright/left at the centre of open source business strategies [the451group.com] on Topsy.com on 11.11.09 at 11:11 am

[…] 451 CAOS Theory » Copyright/left at the centre of open source business strategies blogs.the451group.com/opensource/2009/11/11/copyrightleft-at-the-centre-of-open-source-business-strategies – view page – cached An open source blog by The 451 Group. […]

#2 uberVU - social comments on 11.11.09 at 12:42 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by caostheory: New post: Copyright/left at the centre of open source business strategies http://bit.ly/e8QkE

#3 Jack Repenning on 11.11.09 at 1:16 pm

Odd, that you should work so hard at so grand a plan, and yet utterly ignore the most successful and wide-spread OSS business strategy: removal of barriers in the infrastructure. Whether it’s Linux, Apache httpd, Subversion, or other examples, many companies today contribute to communitarian projects out of plain, hard-headed profit motives: you can’t run a web-based business if there are no web servers, or if the platforms where they run are overpriced. Maybe “cost controls” aren’t sexy enough to talk about?

#4 Matthew Aslett on 11.11.09 at 4:41 pm

Jack,

What you are talking about would appear to be what Matt Asay described http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10394478-16.html as open source providing a platform for monetization. This is actually covered in the explanation of this slide, but it not explicit within it. Largely though what I am talking about strategies for using open source – as Matt put it – to generate cash. I would see cost control using open source as a prerequisite of any business strategy that uses open source to generate cash.

#5 451 CAOS Theory » Copyright/left at the centre of open source … Software Rss on 11.11.09 at 2:21 pm

[…] the original post:  451 CAOS Theory » Copyright/left at the centre of open source … By admin | category: software license | tags: are-four, around-open, business-strategy, […]

#6 451 CAOS Theory » Copyright/left at the centre of open source … | Open Hacking on 11.11.09 at 3:19 pm

[…] more from the original source:  451 CAOS Theory » Copyright/left at the centre of open source … This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 at 10:07 am and is filed under Linux, […]

#7 Links 12/11/2009: MythTV 0.22 Reviews, Sidux 2009-03 (Μώμος) Released | Boycott Novell on 11.12.09 at 8:55 am

[…] Copyright/left at the centre of open source business strategies I have recently come to the realisation that copyright control is not just a part of each of the four elements, and not just a fifth additional element, but should perhaps be considered the central element which profoundly influences the other four. […]

#8 Twitter Trackbacks for 451 CAOS Theory » Copyright/left at the centre of open source business strategies [the451group.com] on Topsy.com on 11.17.09 at 7:04 pm

[…] 451 CAOS Theory » Copyright/left at the centre of open source business strategies blogs.the451group.com/opensource/2009/11/11/copyrightleft-at-the-centre-of-open-source-business-strategies/ – view page – cached An open source blog by The 451 Group. […]

#9 451 CAOS Theory » A capitalist’s guide to open source licensing on 01.14.10 at 12:38 pm

[…] I will be expanding on this argument, amongst many other things in relation to open source business strategies in a presentation at OSBC 2010 in March. Permalink […]

#10 451 CAOS Theory » Copyrights and wrongs on 02.08.10 at 11:16 am

[…] previously noted, Oracle’s acquisition of Sun, and with it MySQL, has highlighted the issue of copyright […]

#11 Anatomy of Copyright Assignment « TechLedger on 08.30.10 at 1:07 am

[…] we previously noted, “copyright control has a symbiotic relationship with both the open source software license and […]

#12 451 CAOS Theory » Copyright assignment – a little commercial perspective on 11.24.10 at 6:55 am

[…] noted over a year ago that copyright control was increasingly being recognised as a core element in open […]