Media in the age of open source

Media in the age of open source

Summary: Is there any such thing as pre-release code in the open source world?

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TOPICS: Open Source
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The seizure of Jason Chen's stuff for getting his hands on a pre-beta iPhone took me back 25 years, then dropped me back into the present.

Back in the spring of 1985 I was preparing to join Newsbytes, an online news service then hosted at The Source, but there was a problem with our other hire, Englishman Steve Gold.

He had just been arrested.

Steve was, like me (and like Jason) a freelance writer. He was doing some security work for the old Prestel network, and hacked into it. For this he would stand trial, be convicted, and live in legal limbo for years until the Law Lords finally overturned it.

The question on that spring day of 1985 was whether Steve was a risky hire. Emphatically no, I said. Why, he's a made man. If you're not willing to skate on thin ice to do your job, that would be a problem.

Flash forward 25 years. It seems little has changed. Judging from his blog, Jason has the kinds of obsessions, like video games, associated with my son's generation. He's like Steve.

But this is not a story that resonates at all with open source. A proprietary vendor feels that its secrets have been compromised. It wants people to ooh and aah when they see the new iPhone has two cameras, that you can hold it up and engage in videoconferencing.

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a (well I live in Atlanta, what else was I supposed to say?).

It is true that if someone got their hands on the next HTC or Motorola Android phone, there might be a stink. But it would not be that great. The Android code, the capabilities it supports, are transparent and available. Vendors can choose among the options.

Is there any such thing as pre-release code in the open source world? All repositories have some, but the word for such code is buggy. It's worthless. Pre-release code gains value only after it's tested and accepted formally into the code base -- in other words when it's released. We need find no code before its time.

Here at ZDNet Open source, I have long known that our most popular stories are straightforward announcements of code releases and new features. My co-blogger Paula Rooney is great at getting those stories in to us and you show her your love for it. Numbers don't lie.

The kind of stuff I specialize in -- asking questions of vendors, readers, and government -- stirring up controversy, it's not so popular with y'all. But going undercover to get behind a curtain, grabbing untested products before they're ready, that's not really a story in an open source world.

Back in Steve Gold's home of old blighty, this whole case is being laughed at. The American press is said to be in the tank for vendors, and its reaction to the Chen case is being cited as an example of why British reporters are just better.

I know that's still true in one case. But how do y'all feel about it?

Topic: Open Source

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9 comments
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  • Ethics

    Gizmodo offered money for something that did not belong to the person that was selling it. This was obvious. That is illegal in California and most of the rest of the country. It was unethical. If the person had given it free of charge it would have been alright if they had then returned it. But paying for or receiving payment for things that neither of you own is wrong.
    hayneiii@...
    • It's checkbook journalism

      If you pay a source who has inside information
      that belongs to their company, or belongs to the
      government, that's protected under California law.

      Now in this case the story did not uncover a
      scandal --just some specs. But the publisher will
      argue it's no different. The shield law does not
      say you have to have a scandal.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Paying someone to tell you something is fundamentally different than..

        ..paying somebody to give you somebody else's property without that person's permission.
        AzuMao
        • Is it? I don't know

          I'm just asking here. But if you sign an NDA on
          information and then sell your company out to a
          reporter, and the reporter uncovers a scandal,
          that's a good thing.

          Now in this case Gizmodo was working through a
          third party. Person X gets ahold of proprietary
          information from company Y and sells it to the
          newspaper, which uncovers a scandal. Go after
          the newspaper?

          Or is the real problem here that there was no
          scandal? All Gizmodo got was what Apple was
          going to say anyway, and only maybe. (I could
          easily see Apple handing out a variety of
          prototypes with different functions to different
          people.)
          DanaBlankenhorn
          • I think what if someone steals something they should be punished.

            And if someone pays for something they know to be stolen, they should also.
            AzuMao
    • RE: Media in the age of open source

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  • RE: Media in the age of open source

    Dana,

    Have you seen this?

    <b>Microsoft: Android Infringes On Our Patents</b>

    Early this morning, HTC and Microsoft announced an
    intellectual prpoerty licensing agreement struck between
    the two companies. The agreement allows HTC to license
    Microsoft?s patented technology for use in its mobile
    devices running the Android mobile platform. HTC will pay
    Microsoft royalties to use the patents. Neither Microsoft nor
    HTC said exactly what patents were covered under the
    agreement.

    This afternoon, Microsoft issued a second statement that
    shines a bright light on what?s happening here. Horacio
    Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general
    counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft,
    said:

    "Microsoft has a decades-long record of investment in
    software platforms. As a result, we have built a significant
    patent portfolio in this field, and we have a responsibility to
    our customers, partners, and shareholders to ensure that
    competitors do not free ride on our innovations. We have
    also consistently taken a proactive approach to licensing to
    resolve IP infringement by other companies, and have been
    talking with several device manufacturers to address our
    concerns relative to the Android mobile platform."

    In other words, Microsoft is coyly saying that if HTC hadn?t
    agreed to this patent deal, it would have sued the company
    for patent infringement.

    Interesting.

    Microsoft doesn?t come right out and say it, but I?d bet the
    company is actively pursuing similar licensing agreements
    with every other company that makes Android handsets.
    What I really want to know is, where is Google in all this?

    Google is the company that developed and distributes
    Android. Are Microsoft and Google still hashing things out
    behind closed doors, or is a major lawsuit on the way?

    http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/201
    0/04/microsoft_to_ht.html
    obvio.capitao@...
    • Well thought out ...

      That's a well thought out post and points out some really interesting areas. In a closed loop system like MS, it's well said. KUDOS from here!
      twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
  • RE: Media in the age of open source

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