The importance of open source in a legal process

The importance of open source in a legal process

Summary: When the open source process is energized, reporters take the job of the slot editor, calling on readers for basic research, digesting the results and constantly re-starting the process. Lawyers also take on this role, as at the EFF.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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EFF patent bustersThe open source process does not just apply to software.

It can also apply to the law. This is especially true in the area of patent law, where open source has an ideological difference with the proprietary world.

This difference is often sorted out in law courts, as in the case of the new alleged Linux patents, being pursued by a unit of a firm which has also claimed to control video downloads.

What is unique in these cases, and there have now been several, is the role of the open source process in defending against the suits. The EFF has institutionalized this, in a way with its Patent Busting Project.

But it's also called upon less formally, as it often is at Groklaw. The idea is to enlist the community in finding prior art, which can help invalidate a patent. (Picture from the Markus Cinema System.)

This brings us back to the field I'm working in, journalism, and to you.

Before the Internet and open source, journalism was a fairly elilte activity, even if the ground troops were mainly 24 year old kids fresh out of school. Now it's often a mass activity, with even reporters acting more like editors, in a position referred to as the "slot."

pneumatic tubeAt my first daily news job, the "slot" editor would take the work of reporters out of a pneumatic tube, assign it to another desk editor for checking, then re-check the desk editor's work to prepare the day's list of stories for the decision-makers. (Yes, it was indeed a series of tubes.)

When the open source process is energized, reporters take the job of the slot editor, calling on readers  for basic research, digesting the results and constantly re-starting the process. Lawyers also take on this role, as at the EFF.  

I often have to tell sources that this blog is not a column, that it's an interactive process, that readers are part of the discussion, and that they too can join the discussion, either to correct misimpressions or address reader concerns.

This education process is ongoing, and the launch of blogs by news organizations like The New York Times may further it.

The point here is that more than just software is transformed by the open source process. The process of law is transformed, the process of journalism is transformed, society is transformed. And that transformation continues.

Open source is, at heart, a process revolution.

Topic: Open Source

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