Mono and Copyright

When I originally started writing this article, Miguel de Icaza was in a difficult situation. The situation has now been addressed. On his blog yesterday Miguel announced that there is now a Novell/Xamarin Partnership around Mono.

Background

Miguel came up with the idea of developing a Linux/Unix implementation of Microsoft’s .NET Application Development Framework, otherwise known as the Common Language Infrastructure. He named it Mono. Miguel developed Mono while he was working at Novell (I think that under the terms of his employment contract it became a property of Novell).

When Novell was sold to Attachmate, apparently Mono wasn’t considered to be a core part of the business. In April 2011 hundreds of staffers were laid off. A month later Miguel founded Xamarin to support Mono, and this month, was able to come to an agreement with Attachmate to take over support of Mono. The two specific statements from his blog post that are most important are:

  • Xamarin obtained a perpetual license to all the intellectual property of Mono, MonoTouch, Mono for Android, Mono for Visual Studio and will continue updating and selling those products.
  • Xamarin will be taking over the stewardship of the Mono open source community project. This includes the larger Mono ecosystem of applications that you are familiar with including MonoDevelop and the other Mono-centric in the Mono Organization at GitHub.

Why are those points important?

Some of you know that one of my interests is Copyright Law. Two of my major suggestions, which has caused a fair bit of upset at the Canadian Recording Industry Association were that

  • Copyright should be non-transferable
  • Copyright should be owned only by people

Consider the position that Miguel was in. Because of the change of ownership of the company, he was no longer working for the company that held the copyright to his work. This is why he had to go to such lengths, to regain control to his own creation. Was that right?

I don’t think so. That is why Copyright should not be transferable. Miguel got messed over totally, through no fault of his own.

I’m no fan of Mono. But I’m less of a fan of an artist (and a programmer is an artist) getting screwed over by the system, and Miguel got screwed over by the system. Sure, he ended up back in control of Mono, but he might not have.

What if someone else had approached Attachmate and made a better offer? Miguel could have ended up sitting on the curb, with no control over his own work. That would have been totally and utterly disgusting.

Regards

Wayne Borean

Tuesday July 19, 2011

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5 thoughts on “Mono and Copyright

  1. The article wasn’t clear, but I’m assuming he was working on the project while at work at Novell on company time, so therefore, the project belonged to Novell and was theirs to do with whatever they pleased. If he was drawing his salary in the process, then he was properly compensated for his efforts and the story would normally end there.

    When Attachmate took over it would have moved into their control, but since they had no direct interest in it, the foundation of Xamarin and negotiations to acquire Mono were logical business decisions. It’s just a bonus that the original creator of the work was the one to win in the end.

    In a case like this, I can see how your view on copyright would stifle business in Canada, because companies would be unwilling to invest in the hireing of people to produce such works if it was at all possible that they (the employees) could take the works with them when they moved on.

    1. In a case like this, I can see how your view on copyright would stifle business in Canada, because companies would be unwilling to invest in the hireing of people to produce such works if it was at all possible that they (the employees) could take the works with them when they moved on.

      I’m more interested in protecting artists, than I am in protecting business. Miguel did an incredible amount of creative work on Mono. Without him and his talent, it would not exist.

      That’s why I back the artists rights over the corporations rights.

      Wayne

  2. Let’s do the maths here.

    If Wayne was hired by a publishing firm and the publishing firm got to keep the copyrights, this would be the break down of the costs of production:

    Wanye:

    1) The task of composing the material, which would be compensated with either a salary or a percentage of the gross profit.

    2) The task of sourcing the material, which would be compensated with either of the aforementioned means.

    The firm:

    1) The task of sourcing and composing the material, which would be performed by Wayne and compensated with means of a percentage the gross profit.

    2) The task of providing the necessary means to source and compose the material, which would be compensated with a percentage of the gross profit.

    3) The task of publishing the composed material, which would also be compensated with a percentage of the gross profit.

    However, if the copyrights were made non-transferable by law as suggested by Borean, Wayne would become the only legally recognized owner of them. This would mean that not only Wayne and Wayne alone could dictate every term as set out by a deal between himself and the publishing firm (yay to the hippe types out there), but also that any exclusivity agreement between Wayne and the publishing firm would simply have no effect in the given jurisdiction. In other words, the only means for the firm to reclaim the cost of production at any time (including prior to the completion of the production) would be to gain an authorization from Wayne to do whatever necessary with the composed material to generate income. This would also imply that the success of a publishing business would be largely based on the author’s conducting his or her part as the owner of the copyrights in good faith.

    But, you know what? I think Wayne is just an artist of the Ponzi-scheme sort and just wants someone to cover the costs and run off with the result without paying a single penny, and Borean is just, as per usual, full of it.

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