Open source swimming instructor

If computing is like a YMCA, and open source is a sloped pool, Mark Radcliffe is the swimming instructor. He gets companies comfortable with the water, he makes sure they feel safe, and after a while they're swimming in the deep end.

Mark Radcliffe of DLA Piper
The Register has a profile today of Mark Radcliffe, the kind of advertising a lawyer can't buy, the kind that is priceless.

Radcliffe, who works at DLA Piper, has been behind some of the most controversial legal efforts in open source over the last few years. He's given credit for Sun's CDDL license, and for the SugarCRM attribution license.

Both the CDDL and an attribution license were eventually approved by the OSI, but Sun has since become a GPL advocate and SugarCRM now uses GPLv3.

Matt Asay is a big Radcliffe fan, and when you look at his work in context you can be too.

If computing is like a YMCA, and open source is a sloped pool, Mark Radcliffe is the swimming instructor. He gets companies comfortable with the water, he makes sure they feel safe, and after a while they're swimming in the deep end.

He is able to speak multiple languages, going all the way into the core of computing. His B.S. is actually in chemistry, from the University of Michigan, and he didn't get his law degree from Harvard until 7 years after that. He has both scientific and legal credibility, and obviously has found that his great contribution to the world is as a negotiator.

Based on his publication history, he's also on our side. He has written extensively on trademarks and the copyright wars, coming down on the side of what works, of the law following business models, and of the search for business models leading the dance.

Roy Blount Jr. picture from the NY Times
His role reminds me of a story told by Roy Blount Jr. (left, from The New York Times) during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Roy was in his birthplace of Decatur, where I live now. He had left town as a youth because his father, a banker, wasn't moving quickly enough on civil rights.

Then-mayor Elizabeth Wilson, a black lady, set him straight. She said Blount Sr. had done all he could, but you can only move as fast as you can. Then she pointed to the square they were standing on, a place she had been proud to help build.

It was Roy Blount Square. Roy Blount, Senior. The African dancers who were entertaining that night then said that wherever someone's name is, there his soul resides, there you can find him. And so Roy Blount Jr. danced.

They probably won't build a square for Mark Radcliffe, but do you think maybe they should? It's the insiders who gently lead people to the right path who are the unsung heroes.  


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