Legal Sense: CMS Edition

This one is even more exciting than the SecondLife statement.

After the announcement that the USPTO was reexamining its patents in a case against open source course management software, Blackboard incorporated is announcing that it is specifically not going to use its patents to sue open source and other non-commercial providers of course management software.

From a message sent to users of Blackboard’s products and relayed by the Moodle community.

I am writing to share some exciting news about a patent pledge Blackboard is making today to the open source and home-grown course management community.  We are announcing a legally-binding, irrevocable, world-wide pledge not to assert any of our issued or pending patents related to course management systems or transaction systems against the use, development or support of any open source or home-grown course management systems.

This is a major victory. Not only for developers of Moodle, Sakai, ATutor, Elgg, and Bodington course- and content-management solutions, but for anyone involved in the open and free-as-in-speech approach to education, research, technology, and law.

Even more so than in Microsoft’s case, Blackboard is making the most logical decision it could make. Makes perfect business sense: they’re generating goodwill, encouraging the world’s leading eLearning communities, and putting themselves in a Google-like “do no evil” position in the general public’s opinion. Also makes perfect legal sense as they’re acknowledging that the law is really there to protect them against misappropriation of their ideas by commercial competitors and not to crush innovation.

A small step for a corporation … a giant step for freedomkind.

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

2 responses to “Legal Sense: CMS Edition

  • enkerli

    Anon,
    Thanks for the message. I do see your point about ethics but I think we’re still working on other issues. What I meant had less to do with “the law is protecting them because they have a moral right to be protected” than about “they’re slowly but surely acknowledging that the law isn’t there to help them crush innovation by independent developers from the Open Source communities.”
    Again, I’m neither in favour of the current patent laws nor completely against them. I just notice that there might be a reasonable middleground where people could discuss the purposes of those laws in a thoughtful fashion, going beyond specific abuses. To me, the reason that the patent system should be changed goes way beyond specific cases of abuse.
    And, speaking of abuse, I get more upset with biopiracy than with software patents because software developers have more ways to “fight back” than people who have been using natural resources in local environments. But that’s just me.😉

  • Anonymous

    You write that “it makes perfect legal sense as they’re acknowledging that the law is really there to protect them against misappropriation of their ideas by commercial competitors and not to crush innovation.”

    It would be cool if it really were that way. But in fact, the Blackboard patented something they didn’t invent, so they have no moral right (and should not have legal right, either) to “protect” it.

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