Oreillyism – A conversation for Open Source ™ people everywhere

I’ve been flying around the internet for the last 24 hours, trying to get my mind around something that is disturbing me far more than it should be. Why should i care if Tim O’reilly’s company filed a trademark infringement cease and desist order to some conference with the name web 2.0 in the title?

Now i have my answer I fear oreillyism. I take issue with the coiner of the word, Dallas (whoever that is), as to the specific definition however. To me, oreillyism is the tendency of very good, socially construted ideas to be ‘owned’ by someone once they become successful and their usage/meaning enters the mainstream.

Let us take a case in point. Webct was created at the University of British Columbia as a collaborative project amongst many different people in and out of UBC. Last year, while trying to incorporate moodle into a school, I was told by the head of IT “listen, we were onboard with webct when it first started, we were asked to be part of the development, and now we pay 27000 dollars a year for the ‘campus edition’. and now you want me to get involved in another ‘free’ open source project. How long before moodle starts to charge us 30,000 dollars for its software?”

Am i saying that Murray shouldn’t have made a company, and they shouldn’t have sold it…? no way. Business is what it is. Schools need money as much if not more than other people. The problem is that oreillyism creates the form of alienation above. When people enter into a socially constructed environment, (like social software advocacy for instance) there is a certain expectation, right or wrong, that all the free work they are putting in will not be directly profited upon by others.

naive? maybe.

But that’s neither here nor there. The truth is that it happens. How many projects that were supposed to be ‘for the community’ have we all worked on, helped edit, playtest or whatever, that are now being marketed.

Again. Marketing is fair play. Situations change. Children need to be fed.

But every instance of oreillyism creates more alienation, makes it harder for everyone to trust that the project that they are working on is not simply going to be sold by the organizers.

So, how do we avoid oreillyism?

  1. Please, everyone, clearly identify your trademarks so we can all know what we can and can’t use.
  2. If you are going to be, someday, selling your product to google, let us know. Sell shares to your helpers.
  3. If you have plans to do new marketing, post it on your website
  4. Just let us know what you’re doing. Odds are if we’re working with/for you, we like you, we’ll be happy to see you succeed.

We can all make money together. We can all work together. This is about finding a new way to do business. AN OPEN WAY.

comment added following this post on eschoolnews

I in no way meant to imply that moodle WILL charge anyone anything ever. My intention in using the example was to illustrate how trust is affected by ‘oreillyism.’

Author: dave

I run this site… among other things.

10 thoughts on “Oreillyism – A conversation for Open Source ™ people everywhere”

  1. harold… don’t be simplistic. That is the same argument Tom Hoffman made on elearnspace asking how George would feel if someone else made an elearnspace blog.

    1. the expression ‘elearnspace’ or ‘edtechtalk’ has not gone into common usage. (and i agree with george, if someone wants to use it, there’s really not much i can or would want to do about it)
    2. a more relevant example would be if someone approached o’reilley about his usage of the word ‘web’ in his conference title.
    3. They trademarked it 3 years ago, and then allowed it to go into common usage and are NOW staking their claim around the world, AFTER people have started using it. see this post http://battellemedia.com/archives/002596.php#comment_28742
    as well as many others on this thread.

  2. Dave,
    Are you basing your argument on some knowledge of trademark law, or are you just pulling this out of your rear end? I don’t see how the argument that O’Reilly *created* the term “Web 2.0” as the title of a conference, and therefore they have a right to prevent other people from creating competing conferences entitled “Web 2.0” is simplistic. A few searches of the O’Reilly site seems to confirm that they don’t make any other “Web 2.0” branded products, so I don’t see why you would expect them to try to protect their trademark against non-competing use of the trademark in blogs, book titles, etc.

  3. Your candor is always appreciated. The ‘simplicity’ that I’m referring to in the argument made by yourself (which simplified 800 years of british common law history to one sentence) saying that ‘all issues of naming are the same’. So, me building a car named Chrysler, a piece of software named vista, or hosting a brangelina conference are somehow the same. They are not.

    What I find simplistic is the style of argumentation that breaks important issues down to a rhetorical question.

    In this case i see you have ignored my actual post and have found a reference to your name in the comments of my blog. In my post I address my feelings about the trademark issue. I have no problem with them having one. Truth be told, they don’t own it in Europe. And Tim was invited to this conference and sent an ‘i’d love to but…’ in February. doesn’t really sound like fair play to send a scare letter two weeks before a conference that you’ve known about for 4 months

  4. My 2 cents worth (again).

    Regarding Moodle – they already have a commercial venture (moodle.com) and a community (moodle.org), which WebCT never had. I think that it is unlikely that Moodle will start charging for its software, but given the nature of the license, the community could take the source code and fork it anyway. That’s the joy of the GPL. Yes, we should be vigilant but there are some safeguards built in to the community.

    Also, I think that this post needs the link to the reference to Web 2.0 made in 1999 by Darcy DiNucci. O’Reilly and CMP were not the first by a long shot:

    http://www.allbusiness.com/periodicals/article/383501-1.html

  5. Which is why, in the case of the school and the WebCT deal, you should get thing stratified with a license agreeable to *all* parties before accepting an offer to aid another party in programming something.

    Otherwise, if you’re simply working on their product for free.. well.. unless you’ve reserved some right or have some under the law to protest their insisting on fees for their work, you really don’t have cause to complain. Was the person complaining just not used to how the whole “pay for software” world works?

    Moodle’s GPL.. that’s like comparing Apples and Orangutans if WebCT is a non-GPL (or BSD style) licensed software. However, if he’s expecting free support.. well.. people need to eat *shrug*.

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