Thursday, August 03, 2006

Blackboard, oh dear!

I've been on leave for the past three days and, while the whole Blackboard patent thing had kicked off before I left, it certainly gathered momentum during my absence. So many people have blogged about it that I won't even try to list them all here. I certainly wasn't even able to read all the posts on the subject today. What worries me about this sort of thing is the dangerous ambiguity and the myriad loopholes.

Recently, a far smarter colleague than I went through the business of trying to nail down exactly where the parameters fell surrounding the whole Moodle copyright issue. I read through his correspondence and gave up trying to understand what was going on. It seemed to me to be full of contradictions and I just knew I would wind up contravening one clause as I tried in my blundering way to comply with another. I was somewhat vindicated when he said he was just as confused, but that didn't solve our problem. I recognise that Blackboard and the Moodle guys aren't going to be interested in prosecuting the little fish, but I work for a Big Fish and it's important that the solutions we offer our customers are all legal and above board. I can see myself avoiding anything that is even remotely in danger of bringing a lawsuit down on our (clients') necks, severely restricting the breadth and depth of the sort of solution that we might otherwise have offered.

How sad. Why can't we all just get along?


Harold Jarche said...

Why can't we get along? Greed.

Anonymous said...

Oh I know, Harold, only too well - I was being semi-facetious. Not a good trick to try in writing, I'll grant you!

Anonymous said...

I presume that you've read the long discussion thread on the Moodle forums about the copyright issue?

Obviously there's a difference between what's legally enforceable and what Martin might decide to enforce, but my understanding is that the only thing he really objects to is advertising Moodle consultancy, hosting, training etc. on the web with the use of the name Moodle.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the "long discussion thread" you refer to is the one with my colleague. However, I don't think we're any clearer on what we're supposed to do if we think that a solution we're designing for a client will benefit from a Moodle. Martin seems to feel that what he is saying is perfectly obvious, but even after reading the discussion through twice it's still as clear as mud to me, and it still seems like he contradicts himself, and at no point does he say anything as straightforward as you have done in your comment... that I would have understood.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I don't think I've seen any really clear statement on the Moodle site itself, although I've heard discussion on the subject in so many different places that I really can't remember where I got my understanding from. And
you obviously shouldn't take anything I say as legal advice!

You can definitely use Moodle as a solution for a client though - the GPL licence allows that. It's only the explicit use of the word Moodle that you need to be careful about.