Lift11: Michel Jaccard, Governances of multi-author and open source collaboration projects (best practices and legal tips)

Lift11 Workshop notes. I do my best but all this is filtered through my sometimes imperfect brain.

Practical and legal issues. First, defining the scope.

Common question faced in their practice: what do I do with my employees who are spending paid time on Facebook? Can I run commerce online?

What are we talking about? Open collaborative projects. Two types:

  • OSS (software)
  • R&D and knowledge-sharing projects (Wikipedia, standard-setting bodies, consortiums, WTO, etc)

We’re going to focus on Software projects.

Basic question: is there a necessity to think differently in the online world compared to the offline world? Most of the time, in regulation, it’s not needed. Most legal rules can be applied, with some subtleties.

What makes open collaborative projects different from more traditional creative work efforts? IP laws have been designed around the idea of a single creative mind (Shakespeare and Mozart), but today, most projects result from a collective effort. Mismatch.

Issues — practical and legal.

Practical: massive number of participants, continuous updates for long-term projects, hard to keep track of all contributors (case of company unable to contract with a US company because they’d outsourced part of their work to an ill-defined community and it had become impossible to get back to the various participants), lack of control in cross-border projects, funding/sale of project (who does it?), enforcement of rights.

Legal: international => different legal regimes, no unified set of rules applicable to the project, numerous legal fields (IP, contract, corporate)

Multi-author (=> joint work, article 6 Swiss Copyright Act or “joint works” pursuant to section 101 of the US Copyright Act) — does each author detail a copyright on the joint work? Which law is applicable? you can’t claim ownership of part of the work. Default system in copyright law is unanimous agreement of all co-authors for what you’re going to do with the work… tricky. (This means it’s a little dangerous to launch into a collaborative project without some kind of agreement.)

Private international law: which is applicable, which jurisdiction, special local protection rules, privacy issues?

Contract law: who is party, is there a contract law relationship? Who is accountable of what towards whom?

When it comes to businesses you can put pretty much what you want in an agreement, not so with individuals.

Is having a “lead person” sufficient an agreement to interface with other parties?

Not securing the IP aspects of a software project can negatively impact the valuation of the company. Have agreements in place before anybody starts writing a single line of code…

IFOSS Law Review — took them 2 months to figure out a name, and 3 months to get funded, and the editorial board is a bunch of experts on the topic — couldn’t open a bank account! They ended up being funded by the Mozilla Foundation.

Needs: centralization of rights on the project to overcome some legal issues, minimum quality standards, governance on the general project.

What can be done?

Do everything beforehand. Governance. Make an agreement, but do you have the authority to do so? Everything need not be negotiated — acceptable rules for contributors, can be 3-4 pages. Just to say that the rules governing the community will be those the community comes up with.

steph-note: sorry, going a bit fast and the topic is “out of my jurisdiction”, having trouble following

3 types of governance rules (access, …, …)

  • access (no legal access regime by default)
  • assign IP to the community (= sale) — vs. license, which is very difference

Under Swiss Law, ToS that are 34 pages long are not enforceable, even if you make people click “I read and agree”. Will not stand in court. It needs to be concise. Good faith: if I don’t understand, I am not bound. It’s up to the person making you agree to make sure you understand what you are agreeing with. Swiss market is a bit difficult for online purchasing — often the terms are just in German! steph-note: this sounds too good to be true, not 100% I understood this completely correctly

Important to set up governance that will allow an exit.

WIPO. Approved “Open collaboration projects and ip-based models” project in nov 2010. Will analyze and compile existing models of Open Collaboration projects.

In 90% of situations Creative Commons works, but what’s missing is something similar to CC but which includes governance.

Badmouthing (with authorization): Business Model Generation, co-created with 470 ppl, but copyright Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, and designed by a third guy. Trick question: who owns the IP? On the online platform, it says copyright Alexander. Now that they’re starting to be famous with the book, they’re pretty suable. It’s a total mess in terms of ownership. Would be problematic for derivative works where you need consent of all authors. But actually they even made people pay to be co-creators, and told them they’d get credit and receive a free copy. Nothing however about IP…

Wikipedia: another nightmare. user-generated and user-controlled. 5 pillars, but any user can modify the policies. Foundation reserves certain legal rights. They realized that the consensus stuff didn’t work and had to put in place committees etc. — would have been less trouble if they’d put it in place at the very start. (steph-note: @anthere disagrees — might also be me not understanding well what was said, so take with a big grain of salt)

Other example: Mozilla project. Governed as a “meritocracy”. Policies. 3 aspects: definition of roles and responsibilities, transparency, reciprocity.

Similar Posts:

This entry was posted in Live Blogging and tagged law, lift11, michel jaccard, workshop. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Lift11: Michel Jaccard, Governances of multi-author and open source collaboration projects (best practices and legal tips)

  1. Anthere says:

    Wikipedia: another nightmare. user-generated and user-controlled. 5 pillars, but any user can modify the policies. Foundation reserves certain legal rights. They realized that the consensus stuff didn’t work and had to put in place committees etc. — would have been less trouble if they’d put it in place at the very start.

    I fear Michel Jaccard is not well aware of how the entire system works and is saying a fair bit of non sense here.

    First, the consensus stuff as you say, does work.

    Second, the Wikimedia Foundation has not put into place any type of committee to decide how to run Wikipedia. The community does it. Wikimedia Foundation does not have authority on the matter. It really only get involved when there is a legal threat.

    Third, it is nice to say that the Wikimedia Foundation should have set up committees from the very beginning rather than supposingly later. Unfortunately… the Wikimedia Foundation just did not exist at the beginning. It was created a whole 3 years after Wikipedia started because we needed a legal entity to hold the hosting responsibility and the trademarks. It is certainly not the Wikimedia Foundation which created Wikipedia and decided how it should be run. WMF did not reserve certain rights. The community gave it certain rights to preserve in the name of the collective. Makes a lot of difference, right ?

    I think taking Wikipedia as an example of how an organization should set up a neat collaborative project is really a poor example because it simply did not come in that order. Forget what the press says…. Wikipedia is run by Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Chapters are supporters. Essential certainly, but supporters nevertheless.

  2. Anthere says:

    Comment above naturally depending on whether Steph reported 100% of what Mr Jaccard said of course ;)

  3. Thanks a lot for the clarification. First off, do not blame Michel entirely — I sometimes misunderstand things and rephrase, so I might have a part of responsability here.

    “They” in this case is the nebulous entity “wikipedia”, not the foundation. (Ambiguous, as the sentences juxtapose, I know.) “nightmare” is also my word, so is (I think?) “committee”. Key message here was, however, wikipedia as an example of having to set up some sort of governance “after the fact” rather than “before the fact”.

    I’m sure Michel or Juliette will clarify if necessary.

    Sorry if the “notes” state of my notes is source of a misunderstanding.

  4. Pingback: Lift12 Workshop: Lots of Clouds, Stormy Weather for Information Privacy? | Climb to the Stars

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>