The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Thursday, November 17, 2005

Not So Open Source Media 

For those not already aware, Pajamas Media has changed their name to OSM or Open Source Media. Of course, as it turns out, there is already an Open Source Media out there (who aren't too thrilled with the new name). OSM is saying this is not a problem since they're really going by OSM and not Open Source Media (even though that's what OSM stands for). As far as trademark law goes, I'm not an expert... though as I recall from Business Law class, names that are similar enough as to cause market confusion can be considered in violation of a trademark.

As for the Open Source part of their name... I personally believe they are not adhering to the spirit of Open Source. In reality they are using that term because it's popular out on the internet, and are trying to tie themselves to a cool buzzword. A commenter in this Ann Althouse thread pointed to their "Terms of Use":

2. Our Site and all its contents, which includes, but is not limited to, text, graphics, photographs, logos, video and audio content, is protected by copyright as a collective work or compilation under the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. All individual components of Our Site, including, without limitation, articles, content and other elements comprising Our Site are also copyrighted works. Additionally all of the weblogs linked to by us are likewise protected. You must abide by all additional copyright notices or restrictions contained on this site and our linked weblogs.

3. You may not reproduce, distribute, copy, publish, enter into any database, display, modify, create derivative works, transmit, or in any way exploit any part of this site. The only exceptions to this are that you may download material from Our Site for your own personal use, provided such download is limited to making one machine readable copy and/or one print copy that limited to occasional articles of personal interest only. No other use of the content of Our Site is permitted. Please contact our Sales Department if you wish to have rights other than those stated above.

Of course the difficult part is that by blogging about this, I am technically breaking the Terms of Use. I find it rather interesting that a company made up of bloggers, where the majority of content depends on people being able to fairly copy and reproduce content (known as Fair Use Doctrine), would try to prevent people from using their site in the same way they use others.

As a software engineer, I find the fact that they include this type of text to be completely against the very concept of Open Source. Read their terms, then read the GNU Public License, or Creative Commons agreements which are the basis for "Open Source" software, and then try to tell me that OSM is truly "Open Source".

I also find it interesting that the only way to find these Terms of Use is by clicking on a link labeled "Privacy Policy" at the very bottom of the webpage. The privacy policy is physically above the Terms of Use, and the only way you'd know the terms of use were there would be to scroll down. Not only that, but they don't hyperlink their Copyright statements to these terms. I don't know if this is just poor site design, or they were purposefully trying to hide the terms. Either way, this should be rectified. It's hardly good form to try to hold people to terms of use they don't know exist.

Update: And as ZDNet points out, OSM is a company, not an organization, so should be using the .com TLD, and not .org. If they were a truly open source media, and not for profit, then .org would be appropriate. However, the entire point of this venture is to make money. You can't have it both ways.

Comments:

I think your right that they are "trying to tie themselves to a cool buzzword." But what makes it even more silly to me is reading the real "Open Source" definition (The Open Source Definition v1.9)

Also they owe all the smaller blog they strung along an appology.

  Posted at November 17, 2005 1:58 PM by Anonymous Sandi  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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