‘retiring.’ Hah.

Good to see that Mark Webbink (my summer boss) hasn’t completely left the fray yet. (He’s also teaching at Duke– I’m jealous; Columbia offers no comparable course, to the best of my knowledge.) I look forward to seeing him tomorrow.

From the press release:

“[D]evelopers perform their best work when sound legal advice is available to them,” said Webbink.

Sums up my career change pretty well.

[Everything below is a followup added later…] 

In comments, someone said that this quote sounded arrogant and asked for explanation. I can’t speak for Mark, of course, but in my own mind, a modern open source developer faces substantial legal questions- patent, copyright, trademark, and DMCA among them. The options are:

  • be nervous, and perform less well.
  • be naive, follow the community’s traditional legal choices, and therefore not be nervous, and perform something like their best work.1
  • get good legal advice, make the right legal choices, and therefore not be nervous, and perform their best work.

Being in the first category is obviously bad. Being in the second category has obviously worked well for most hackers for a long time, but may be getting more dangerous. GNOME wants to fall into the third category, which is why the board retained SFLC and has worked on joining OIN. I personally would like as many open source and free software developers as possible (individuals, startups, and large companies) to fall into the third category.

  1. Note that for some developers, usually corporate, being naive and following their company’s traditional legal choices might be worse than this- it might mean not getting involved at all. []

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