Note to Self
One of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) email lists is reviewing relationship between OS and IP.
I am a big fan of matching license to community. While I recognise that open source and intellectual property can be considered as opposites - I find myself lumping them both together.
Rather then recycling this viewpoint, here is a note to self (allowing me to supply a link):
Note to Self: Open Source / IP
Open source is a part of the intellectual property conversation. Open Source and IP deliberately go together; indeed it is what the license part of open source is about.
Open Source provide a range of licenses which provide guidance around the use (and reuse) of code. These licenses facilitate, by defining the terms under which, which we can reuse / recycle code with the permissions of the authors (i.e. copyright holders). Since OSGeo is an open source community we often have direct contact with these authors; in a few cases they have signed over copyright to a neutral organisation - such as the OSGeo foundation itself.
It would be nice if software worked like the fashion industry and did not make use of copyright protection. Since our industry does make use of these provisions - it is great that open source allows us an "out".
The specific nature of the open source license used by a project lets you know what has been negotiated with the authors with respect to IP. Depending the different aspects of the IP spectrum you agree with you may react strongly (or indifferently) to the options available. You can even use this as a measure of what you care about (either from the case of trying to protect; or from the case of trying to access).
For myself I try protect the freedom of developers to get the job done.
Open source is one of my best tools to protect this freedom.
Another valuable tool is the different foundations. You can tell a lot from the a foundation and its members by what makes their hit list when accepting new projects. OSGeo is very much about transparency; but not so much on the protecting developers from IP issues. Eclipse foundation suffers on transparency a bit; but is very responsive to protecting developers from IP issues.
Aside: The uDig community is looking at joining the Eclipse "location working group". It is a good fit of technology, open source spatial outreach, and access to a pool of developers we do not normally interact with. Perhaps when this process is done (or even started) we can provide further feedback on the experience.