Lex Pan Law: Why we support the OSI

This week, we’re pleased to spotlight another OSI sponsor, Lex Pan Law, and learn why open source is important to their organization.

Lex Pan Law is a full-service technology and intellectual property law firm based in Portland, Oregon. With a deep background in patent law also provides specialized advice to engineering teams and engineering management about the complex intersection between technology and the law. Having a long-standing interest in the intersection of copyright law and technology, the firm has extensive experience and community contacts in the free and open source licensing world (including software, hardware, and content).

Founding attorney McCoy Smith has a long history with the OSI. He was on the License Proliferation Committee from 2004-2006 and has been a regular commenter on the license-review and license-discuss mailing lists for many years. McCoy wrote and successfully submitted to the OSI one license for approval, and arranged for the voluntary deprecation of another. After leading the open source legal function at a Fortune 50 technology company for close to 20 years, he retired to re-enter private practice of technology law, including legal services around open source licensing.

We asked McCoy of Lex Pan Law to share the firm’s intrinsic ties to open source, its reasons for supporting the Open Source Initiative, and its hopes for the open source movement. Here’s what he said:

A large part of Lex Pan Law’s business is advising companies on their use of open source software. To understand what open source is about, we feel you really need to participate in and support the OSI. OSI fulfills a valuable role in the overall governance, legal, and philosophical underpinnings of the worldwide open source ecosystem. Plus, I’m a frequent poster on the OSI mailing list, so how could we not support them?!

In many ways, I see the OSI as a sort of “Switzerland” of open source. There are many organizations that operate within the open source movement, but in most cases they will be explicitly or implicitly biased toward one licensing or contribution model over another. The OSI serves, as best that it can within the confines of what is “open source,” as a fairly neutral arbiter of some of the more important philosophical and legal issues within the movement. It’s also an excellent forum where varied opinions on those philosophical and legal issues can be debated and resolved in a constructive way.

For the movement in general, I think we will be seeing in 2022 a heavy emphasis on examining the financial and personnel support models of the vast web of open source projects that make up the building blocks of the modern web economy. I also anticipate seeing a continued focus on how code contribution models best support or detract from the robust and equitable development of open source code.

There are also some developments in the legal realm, particularly related to license enforcement, that may come into focus in 2022 and lead to some new thinking in years thereafter.