[Dev Chat Followup] Input on a new license for EteRNA content

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  • Updated 4 years ago
  • (Edited)
This intro primarily paraphrased from Rhiju's comments in the developer chat on July 7, 2015, with a condensed version of the points raised, with the names of those who raised them, following. Read the original conversation in the dev chat log starting here: http://eternawiki.org/wiki/index.php5/2015.07.31_Dev_Chat#licensechat

EteRNA content is currently licensed under the  Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This will likely not be strong enough to protect biotech companies from taking any designs we make through EteRNA-Medicine. We would like any clinically used products to benefit EteRNA, and to to cite EteRNA players as inventors. A different license for the EteRNA-Medicine labs could be used, or another option is to start working from a more thought out license, such as the one that Foldit has.

Please take a look at this and post any comments you may have.

Items raised in the dev chat were:
  • [Machinelves] "By definition anybody can take whatever they want [under the current license]", [LFP6] so long as it is for a noncommercial purpose
  • [Jennifer Pearl] "My friends have been mentioning that with me developing tools"
  • [jandersonlee] "You might lose some players depending on the license"
  • [LFP6/jandersonlee/rhiju] Old content would remain under the existing CC license
  • [rhiju] "We are also beginning to talk to legal team and IP experts. It would be pretty astonishing if eterna could patent molecules with, say, 500 inventors listed on the patent. But that's probably what would have to happen, since we will have a strong record of who proposed sequences, core ideas, and mods to get to these functional molecules. There are going to be crazy issues with getting that patent, and we are excited about figuring out how to make this happen!!"
  • [jandersonlee] "Might need to have a separate site/server to easily separate the content"
  • [Machinelves]  "It would also be good to protect the data since it can be potentially exploited. At the same time, we don't want to hand over keys or partnerships to anyone who will themselves exploit our inventions. So it will be critical to choose carefully who to do business with" [Rhiju] "We are trying to line up partners ahead of time who we trust -- its going to be an interesting process."
  • [Machinelves] "The whole goal of this research is to get medicines to market so at some point we need to make this leap"
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LFP6, Player Developer

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Posted 4 years ago

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jmf028

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Didn't even know we were on this path so soon, excellent. One question: Why 500 inventers?
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LFP6, Player Developer

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I assume the thought is that there are more contributors than just the player that submitted the solution, via mods of mods, analysis, etc.
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rhiju, Researcher

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(quick note from devs) -- we are following this thread eagerly. thanks LPF6 for setting it up. players:  everything in the agreement/license is up for discussion. if there are parts that creep you out let us know. if there are parts that you think might allow an external company to poach eterna players' inventions, let us know. 

and: i am actually talking to foldit devs in person now, and again in 8 hours -- if you have questions about their license, i can ask.
(Edited)
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machinelves

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hello! I am just now able to take a look at this thread, sorry for the delay, and to have missed the opportunity to ask foldit devs about the license. Hopefully there will be another opportunity! 

Quick note on anything that would "allow an external company to poach eterna players' inventions".

I had forgotten that we specifically set up the creative commons to be protective and not strictly open free for all. So we actually don't have to worry so much right now about other people taking our work and exploiting it as I had previously been concerned.

People currently cannot exploit our research monetarily, since this particular creative commons license is non-commercial.
Additionally [ I am not a lawyer so I don't know for sure ] but I would think we are also protected from people patenting and squirrelling away our research by virtue of the requirement that it is Share Alike:
  • ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

So under the current license, the only poaching that would be taking place would be noncommercial and bound to continue to be shared under the same terms. Therefore it is currently possible for others to use our research, but not to make money from it, and not to lock it down or bury it as a competitive strategy.

That being said, because our data is openly available, it is possible for people to collect it, and depending on laws on copyright, fair use, derivative works, modification, inspiration, etc. could potentially patent slightly divergent flavors of our work.

And I have heard of, though cannot cite at the moment, cases where companies will even have the audacity to take research, modify it enough to make it patentable, and then come back and sue the originator of the research for it being too similar to their newly patented ( and yet stolen ) data. Hopefully that is urban legend, if I can dig up a real world example I will cite it.

So one thing to possibly address in the next license is specifically addressing and defining what constitutes our intellectual property.

There is an interesting question about the right to patent genes for example, which I think applies to all aspects of the natural world. I don't personally care for patenting particular genes, chemicals, strands of RNA, etc. because I don't think we can own the natural world, geometry, or physics. However, I do hear that in order to move forward with production, we need to have a license that is compatible with production relationships. I suppose the next step would be to clarify exactly what kind of relationships we are looking to form, what kind of profit and cost models are to be expected, and get a real outline of the intended production pipeline. That will inform us as to what kind of licensure is needed to protect our IP, and also manage the costs of production.

I find it very easy to have a knee jerk reaction against any kind of for profit model, but the whole point of this research is to get medicine into people's hands. So I am happy to listen to the reality on the table and see if we can figure out something that keeps things moving while also protecting the research that we all hold so dear.

Okay those are my initial thoughts on our current license... now on to examining the foldit license. :)
    (Edited)
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    LFP6, Player Developer

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    Defining what content we have, the different aspects of said content we're looking to license/protect/share, what we want people to be able to do with it, and what we want to restrict people from doing with it is definitely the important thing here.
    (Edited)
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    bekeep, Learning Researcher

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    Just to chime in here. My understanding is that you're correct: companies aren't interested in content that we've already created.  Take individual sequences, for example.  Even if they weren't under a Creative Commons license, they are out there in the public, which means any company is going to have a hard time patenting them (and therefore making money off of them).  As far as individual sequences are concerned, the only way that a company would probably want to develop them would be if we entered into an agreement that let them do so.  This would probably mean entering an individual agreement with a specific company for a specific project, which would involve an individual license that is only tied to that project.

    As far as software is concerned, however, Eterna can make money by giving companies licenses to use the software we develop.  Of course, we could give academic and non-profit institutions a license to use it for free (I think this model is pretty common).

    Other content: comments, profiles, forum posts, etc. are automatically given copyright protection (for the literal phrasing), at least under US law (as far as I know).  If you guys want to read more about this stuff, Teresa Scassa is an IP attorney in Canada who has taken a big interest in citizen science.  She's got several articles out on the topic and is writing more.
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    machinelves

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    Since we are also publishing papers on our research, those act as prior art I think, though my understanding is rudimentary. However as you say I believe it is difficult to patent anything in public domain, particularly if there is official, dated documentation of its release ( such as being published ).

    So citing algorithms, production / analysis methodologies, etc. in publication may offer some protection, without the pitfalls of giving away the full blueprints as is required in actual patent filing.

    Thank you for the reference to Teresa Scassa's research. I found one of the papers to which I think you are referring?
    https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/Typology_of_Citizen_Science_IP_Rights_Scassa.pdf

    She raises relevant points such as:
    "Citizen science project coordinators should be concerned about the management of intellectual property rights because of their potential to lead to unanticipated consequences that may hinder the dissemination or use of the research output.

    For example, when citizen scientists are invited to contribute content in which they have copyrights, such as photographs or written accounts, it would be difficult for a researcher to disseminate the datasets containing these contents or to reproduce the copyright-protected contributions without authorization."

    I'm not sure I agree with this next statement as a whole, since contributing raw data is still a procurement and curation that would not have occurred in the same way by another individual's hand, but it is also relevant since she thinks this is the case, and I do agree with the second half of the conclusion that detailed prose qualifies as original expression. Perhaps there is some precedent for defining procurement of raw data as not deserving of IP protection? I assume with all the emerging citizen science projects, if there is not already such a case, there will be one eventually. For example, where do we draw the line between what is data and what is design? Is a piece of DNA not a piece of data? Yet it is patented left and right by companies who invest significant effort and research into discovering those pieces of data. How is this qualitatively different from a citizen who has invested significant time and effort in finding just the right RNA sequence to solve a puzzle? It looks like, from the table on pages 10-11, Teresa defines activities at Eterna to be under the category of 'problem-solving' and not strictly 'data gathering'.

    "A contributor who provides only raw data to a project has no intellectual property rights in that data; by contrast, observations expressed in detailed prose or in a photograph may qualify as original expressions."

    "In terms of patents in the citizen science context, a key issue might be whether the contribution of any individual participant amounts to inventive activity such that they should be included as a co-inventor in a research project that leads to a patentable invention."

    So with regard to her particular concerns about feasibility of applying licenses that allow redistribution ( commercially or non commercially ) of citizen-science gathered research, I think the important thing is to clearly contextualize and disclose exactly what will and will not be considered distributable IP, and to get clear permission from users on rights for distribution. We have discussed on a few occasions having a EULA popup that new users ( and on introduction, existing users ) would agree to, to be sure among other things of this, and for example general disclaimers for users who are under 18, etc.

    It would be good to include in such a EULA clarity and outline of what licenses we use, and which kinds of IP are under which license, and whether anything is exclusively licensed to the user or not. Many websites that accept user generated content of any kind require a carte blanche access to rights for that content, if not to directly exploit it, simply to avoid liability for exactly the issue you mention where US citizens are automatically granted copyright simply by the act of publishing their IP. ( if I understand correctly - on this and everything else I have said please anyone correct me where I am misunderstanding ). 

    I see in the above paper, a photo of a tree from another citizen science project is included, with a credit to the citizen who took the photo, but I'm not clear on whether their actual permission was obtained. If not, it would be ironic, seeing as citing the author does not necessarily permit use, and certainly not publication. I guess I'll assume explicit permission was obtained? :D

    Anyone wishing to see a nice comparison between Patent, Copyright, Trade Secrets, and Database Rights is advised to check out her Table I on page 7 of the above linked paper.

    All in all an interesting paper and very relevant to what we are doing, especially during the exciting transition from purely foundational research into actual production pipelines. 

    Also, yes as you mention below, MIT's OSI permits sale of the software.

    I'll address applying an individual license for companies wishing to pursue application of specific aspects of our research in Rhiju's comment below.
    (Edited)
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    rhiju, Researcher

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    Just read the Scassa paper. Funny that Eterna got highlighted in the 'red' part of Table 2! See thread below proposing different forms of IP -- I think we have delineated the types and some working models for ownership & licenses -- but please comment below if we are missing some type of IP and need to discuss.
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    LFP6, Player Developer

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    Something that definitely needs to be concidered is the various types of content in EteRNA. Player puzzles, scripts, solutions, comments, profiles, etc. are all different and may require different protection. For example, should scripts be licensed under an OSI software license like GNU or MIT? Do we want them to be that open? Should script makers have a choice?
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    machinelves

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    this is a really good point, and I wish I had read the whole thread before commenting above!

    Right on LFP6, you are exactly right that there are many kinds of IP on our site, and each one has different nuances. I was thinking those nuances would be defined within one contract. It's an interesting idea to license out each piece under different contracts.

    One challenge there is clearly defining in some meta area / contract which pieces are covered by which licenses. I think this is not insurmountable, but any time a whole site is not covered by one unifying contract, it does introduce ambiguity for the legal standing of any piece of IP not explicitly labelled everywhere it is used with its pertinent license. 

    However, it's an interesting enough approach that I think it is worth considering. Maybe we could have a meta license that explicitly defines each category of IP and assigns an appropriate sub license to that category? The solidity of this approach is beyond my pay grade, but perhaps a little research or asking eterna's legal team would clarify whether this is at all common practice.
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    LFP6, Player Developer

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    I don't think that having one license is necessarily a bad idea either, just that it would need to be written so that all different content has correct coverage (everything that needs to be dealt with is, but in a way so that everything correctly applies or else is noted as not applicable, ie the reason why CC shouldn't be used for software).

    Hopefully that made sense? :)
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    machinelves

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    Yes that makes sense, I think you are saying to be sure that we are specific as to what license applies to what piece of IP, particularly such that it is appropriate to the particular kind of IP. And you raise a really good point about CC not being for software itself, per CC's own FAQ:

    "Can I apply a Creative Commons license to software?

    We recommend against using Creative Commons licenses for software. Instead, we strongly encourage you to use one of the very good software licenses which are already available. We recommend considering licenses made available by the Free Software Foundation or listed as “open source” by the Open Source Initiative.

    Unlike software-specific licenses, CC licenses do not contain specific terms about the distribution of source code, which is often important to ensuring the free reuse and modifiability of software. Many software licenses also address patent rights, which are important to software but may not be applicable to other copyrightable works. Additionally, our licenses are currently not compatible with the major software licenses, so it would be difficult to integrate CC-licensed work with other free software. Existing software licenses were designed specifically for use with software and offer a similar set of rights to the Creative Commons licenses.

    Our licenses are currently not compatible with the GPL, though the CC0 Public Domain Dedication is GPL-compatible and acceptable for software. For details, see the relevant CC0 FAQ entry. We are looking into compatibility of BY-SA with GPL in the future; see the license compatibility page for more information.)

    While we recommend against using a CC license on software itself, CC licenses may be used for software documentation, as well as for separate artistic elements such as game art or music."

    https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/Frequently_Asked_Questions#Can_I_apply_a_Creative_Commons_lice...


    Bold and underlined my own addition. 

    And also I wonder about the subtleties of having a general license that says non-commercial share alike, and then expecting to be able to apply a separate commercial license to anything produced under the originally non-commercial license umbrella. Would the first license not still stand? 

    I'll need to read Rhiju's post below in more detail to comment further, but this is something we want to be clear on for sure, so that we don't accidentally lock ourselves out of being able to go into production on our own research.

    As for the point CC makes about lacking patent-specific clauses, here is an excerpt from a EULA on just that, which may be useful to consider:

    SECTION x.x - You agree to a prohibition on Patent Action, and that You may not file a lawsuit in ANY court alleging that any of the following infringes any patent claims that are essential to own, use, copy, modify, publish, review, or otherwise engage with [ this software ]:

    x.x.x - [ This software ] as a whole

    x.x.x - Any part, component, element, or individual aspect of [ this software ]

    x.x.x - Any of [ this company's ] Intellectual Property

    (Edited)
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    bekeep, Learning Researcher

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    We have talked about having a general license that is superseded, on occasion, by a more specific license.  For example, if we have a medical partner who wants to preserve certain rights or the medical application requires a slightly different scope.

    We could do something similar to address different kinds of content.  I just don't want people to be drowning in licenses.  People don't read EULAs as it is.  Perhaps a good approach would be to use general language like "scientific discoveries" (which is the language the Foldit license uses) in a general license, along with sparing use of more targeted language as needed in a more specific license.

    One thing that we should focus on regardless of how we go about it is to make the language accessible to all players.  Creative commons does this, by having a "plain-language" license that gives users a (hopefully) accurate picture of how the license effectively works.  Foldit also does this.

    Giving script makers a choice about how to license their scripts would add a layer of complexity to the progress, but might be worth it to give them more autonomy.  It might be helpful to see if the current script makers have diverse feelings about how others should use their scripts.  If not, it might make sense to go with the consensus approach.  If we do want to give script makers explicit choices, I would encourage the use of a default license that applies unless a player switches to a different one (which would then become the default for that player).

    FYI - OSI allows people to "sell" copies of the software? http://opensource.org/licenses/MIT
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    LFP6, Player Developer

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    AGPL doesn't, and I think that's still OSI.

    I think that simplicity should be important, but the different 'categories' of content should be identified and appropriately protected. For example, CC actually is not a valid software license.

    I'd think starting with a general license would be good, and adding specific clauses where needed. I didn't know if a software license for software would be wanted, as opposed to just including it in the custom licensing. There should be a human-readable and legal version of the licensing terms as Foldit and CC have done, to both provide understandability and prevent abuse.
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    machinelves

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    I wholeheartedly appreciate making licenses readable. However, while it is true that the average person does not read a license, and will be unduly burdened to read through multiple licenses, the fact remains that the people who will seek to exploit our research are the ones we are writing the contract for, and they absolutely will read to the letter every word of every contract we use, if they want to exploit our data to the fullest extent they are legally allowed. So while it's annoying for licenses to be wordy and specific, they are not written for the average joe who will never do anything with our data. They are written for the big pharma company with more lawyers on staff than we have active researchers and scientists put together, and they absolutely have the bandwidth to read and exploit our contracts.

    I think LFP6's suggestion for different licenses for different kinds of IP would actually preserve some readability for less critical path IP such as scripting, comments, puzzles, etc... though now that I am thinking about it, I wonder if we are too quick to consider those things of any less valuation than the raw data coming out of the lab. Because a particular script for processing the data could be just as pertinent a 'discovery', same with forum comments, or random puzzle designs. Working on fundamental research means we still don't know what is and is not scientifically relevant. 

    But ( and LFP6 please correct me if I am wrong ) I think his wish in general was to offer the general user base an alternative to the heavyweight license meant to protect core research, by allowing some kinds of user-generated IP to have lighter weight licenses. Whether we all agree on this remains to be seen, but I think it is worth considering.

    As LFP6 says, regardless of the end result of the license, we can make a human readable version, even with complexity.

    Now what Ben suggests about having an occasional specific license that supersedes the general license is interesting. One concern here is understanding how this is not a bait & switch... are we to have an open license until we make something worth going into production over, and then suddenly it gets locked down? Or is this to simply add additional protections and open up ability for profit models to be compatible with production and distribution costs?

    While tedious, we will have to get into specifics of these production relationships to understand exactly what kind of licensure we need to both enable and protect next steps in the process.
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    Astromon

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    Good point they will read the small print indeed as we all should. So the more detail the better with contracts.
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    rhiju, Researcher

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    I wanted to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread!

    I want to sum up a tentative plan moving forward -- and we welcome further responses.

    (1) We are committed to keeping eterna a fully open project where player sequences, ideas, and scripts are not sequestered but available for the public good, especially the advance of medical research. We think the Creative Commons license (Non-Commercial Share-Alike) remains a good way to move forward on publicly available player contributions.
    We have discussed with academic and corporate partners what Eterna's very public and open nature means for them. We have now confirmed with several potential partners they are unlikely to 'steal' this content for commercial use if it is in the public domain. Instead, any partners who fund eterna lab puzzles would create design challenges involving sequences that would not be commercialized. In terms of what they would gain, the partners would be more interested in the automated prediction/design algorithms generated during these design challenges to create their own (non-public) products -- see next.

    (2) To sustain Eterna in the longer term, we are taking steps now to ensure that algorithms like Eternabot can generate revenue as demand for RNA design increases. Eternabot code is in a private repository and does not include code directly written by players, except devs who have agreed to 'sign over' copyright to Eterna, currently administered by Stanford. We will make that code publicly available for non-commercial use, especially as we write papers describing improvements. But we will charge for-profit entities a yearly license for use of Eternabot and related design algorithms.  There is strong precedent for this model in other software communities, such as the Rosetta software that underlies Foldit.

    (3) In addition to player in-game contributions and algorithms, the other major set of eterna 'creations' are peer-reviewed papers. These will continue to be published, following standard licensing of publications. However, we are additionally committed to making all eterna papers open-access, even if this requires additional journal fees. 

    Thoughts from the community?
    (Edited)
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    LFP6, Player Developer

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    I'm still concerned about using CC to cover scripts. They specifically state that it is NOT a valid software license. I'd suggest taking a look at AGPL.
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    rhiju, Researcher

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    very good point. scripts need a distinct license; I missed that above.

    @LFP6, AGPL looks good. My feeling is that devs or anyone else should not be able to make money off player's eternaScripts. so AGPL would be quite appropriate. It would also allow players to reuse other players' AGPL-covered scripts in their AGPL-covered scripts, if I understand correctly -- please correct me if I am wrong.

    The last question is: would AGPL on eternaScripts prevent adoption of eternaScript ideas into softare like eternaBot that we could license for commercial users to help sustain eterna.  if devs adapt ideas tested in eternaScripts into eternaBot, the ideas would minimally have to be rewritten (we use different languages) and reoptimized. Does that seem acceptable to players? If the ideas encoded in players' eternaScripts are put into 'competing' (outside-Eterna) software packages, is that OK with players? My sense is that would be OK -- sharing of ideas is what makes scientific research work. If some players want to hide their script ideas, they would see the AGPL license and could decide to not use eternaScripts but use separate bots (like Nando did with ViennaUTC). 

    LFP6 and Elves, would appreciate your thoughts.  I think we're honing in on a reasonable solution, and can start drafting EULA & plain-english versions.
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    LFP6, Player Developer

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    If any user content is licensed as noncommercial, whether under CC, AGPL, or any other license, no one can use it commercially. That was actually one concern I forgot to mention (doh). In order for it to be used commercially, the licencor/rights holder (in this case, the content creator, NOT EteRNA or Stanford) would need to give permission.

    I personally do think that it's reasonable to make such profit to sustain EteRNA, and would love to see that, but the license needs to reflect that you have permission to do so.
    (Edited)
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    machinelves

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    (1) So is it the case that research & techniques published in journals are in public domain? I'm not sure about things like player written scripts, unless our EULA specifies that and the player has agreed to the EULA.

    While posting on the internet is a form of publishing, determining who is the owner is key. And it sounds like from Scassa's work that may be defaulted in some cases to the end user and not to Stanford, so it would have to be codified & released with informed consent through some kind of EULA.

    As mentioned elsewhere, and by LFP6, CC is not appropriate for protecting software.

    (2) It looks like my next step is to look at the Rosetta & Foldit licenses. In the meantime, yes repository separation with clear licensing terms per ownership of the repository is advisable.

    If the code is to be noncommercial, then open source options may not be usable as is [ see exploration below ], but perhaps usable aspects of them could be adopted and modified.

    Charging for-profit entities for use via licensing is better than outright sale of xyz research, because licensing offers finer control over terms, and opportunity for updating those licensing terms as the landscape evolves.

    For example, it is better for Stanford / Eterna / Players to remain the sole owner[s] of our IP, such that production partners are only licensing access according to the terms of our agreements, and explicitly do NOT receive transferred "ownership" of our IP. 

    In other words, there is a distinct difference between what it means to license out access vs. what it means to sell ownership over a piece of data, and we can retain more control by creating explicitly defined license agreements, per client if need be. Legal can comment more specifically than I can on the subtleties here.

    (3) I'm very appreciative that we have community and dev support for open access of the research. I would love to keep our research owned by the global community in the pursuit of the highest good.

    There are some [ I'm sure non-exhaustive ] complexities with regard to a few considerations about licensing, which I'll outline below:


    A. Commercial Use

    Open source and what it means in the context of commercial ventures.

    It's not all good or all bad. In some ways open source inherently defends and promotes commercialization diversity; in other ways market share can be limited, but is that even a concern for us?

    It appears you can use AGPL and other flavors of GPL for commercial purposes, with the specific restrictions as defined in the particular license:

    “Both the AGPL and the MIT license only address redistribution and have no restrictions at all regarding how you use the software. Neither forbids any form of commercial activity.

    The only restriction is that the AGPL forces you to publish any code changes you make. So when you change the software to add support for displaying advertisement, you will have to publish these changes.”

    http://programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/237078/open-source-social-network-allowing-advertisin...


    One of those restrictions in GPL is for example that you cannot require all end users to pay you a fee in the case that you sell your product to a person who then chooses to distribute your product for free to other users:

    "If I distribute GPL'd software for a fee, am I required to also make it available to the public without a charge?

    No. However, if someone pays your fee and gets a copy, the GPL gives them the freedom to release it to the public, with or without a fee. For example, someone could pay your fee, and then put her copy on a web site for the general public."

    http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#WhyDoesTheGPLPermitUsersToPublishTheirModifiedVersions


    This means that it would be difficult to control the market for the product, since anyone with ability to go into production could potentially distribute it for free, or for sale:

    "If I use a piece of software that has been obtained under the GNU GPL, am I allowed to modify the original code into a new program, then distribute and sell that new program commercially?

    You are allowed to sell copies of the modified program commercially, but only under the terms of the GNU GPL. Thus, for instance, you must make the source code available to the users of the program as described in the GPL, and they must be allowed to redistribute and modify it as described in the GPL.

    These requirements are the condition for including the GPL-covered code you received in a program of your own."

    http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#GPLCommercially


    B. Definition of "User"

    A key difference between AGPL and GPL appears to be how "users" are defined, which changes who the license applies to:

    "For the GPL you only need to provide the source code to people to whom you distributed the object code, not to the general public (the GPL does allow them to give away the source to anyone). For the AGPL you must also provide the source to "all users interacting with it remotely through a computer network". i.e. users of your web site."

    http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1960802/can-i-use-libraries-licensed-under-agpl-for-commercial-pu...


    C. Derivative Works & Sharing Source Code

    Open source literally means our source code is required to be released, particularly when derivative works are created. This inherently means that any code licensed under a GPL flavor or otherwise open source license, will require even commercial ventures and licensees to release modifications they make at minimum to other "users", depending on how the license is written. ( If I understand? ) 

    I assume this is in alignment with our stated mission to go open access with as much as possible, but for clarity it should be understood that if there are any circumstances under which xyz research or source code needs protection, then that would have to be stipulated, since the licenses discussed thus far involve specifically making the source code available, even in commercial applications.

    And as mentioned, who is a "user" also depends on how the license is written.

    If "user" is defined as the general public, or if the whole license is granted by default as open source software, then any clause stipulating that source code must be shared with licensees means that even if a commercial venture is permitted, any new source code produced in the process of that venture must be released to other "users", depending on how that is defined.

    This may or may not be desirable [ please feel free to chime in here ], depending on exactly what we are doing with any commercial venture. 

    For example, if we invest time & resources into refining and developing xyz piece of IP into a product, and we use a GPL license, does that mean that any changes we make to the IP in the process will require us to release the new source code to pre-existing licensees / users [ per however that is defined in our license ]? Since derivative works will inherit the rules of this license?

    I'm not sure I have a decisive opinion on whether or not it is desirable to protect our source code or open source it. I like the idea of open access as we’ve been doing with paper publications, and lean towards that as my preference. And I also see complexities that we should at least be aware of in moving forward either way. 

    So let's examine some pros & cons...

    Pros of using a GPL flavor license requiring open sourcing of [ derivative ] works [ in commercial applications ]: 

    • Even if we partner with xyz company to assist in production, they will be bound by the license to release to us and anyone defined as a "user" any modifications that they make. 
    • Also, [x]GPLs tend to have wording that protects against some or all patenting of source or derivative works, preventing our original IP from being materially used in an attempt to circumvent the original license. 
    • By keeping the research open source, we maintain the respect and participation of the global research, scientific, and technology communities which value and are in mutual pursuit of cures to countless diseases, certainly more than we can do just on our own anyway.

    Cons of open sourcing derivative works are similar to going the explicative patent route vs. more opaque publication / prior art defense of IP:

    • In releasing our source code publicly, even with rules protecting the IP codified in the license, we will still have essentially released our schematics and trade secrets publicly, and controlling that in practice will require legal enforcement. 
    • In other words, it's easier to protect IP with walled gardens and black boxes than to release it and chase down people who violate the license. 
    • Some corporate / production interests find open source intimidating due to a perception that it may impede their ability to monetize and lock down the market for xyz product, and it appears that stipulating restrictions on ability to sell derivative works is not in the spirit of open source:

    “Question:

    I want to release the framework under a license that specifies that the framework is open-source, free, and cannot be sold. However, the framework can be used in commercial products, ... [ further conditions ]

    Answer:

    You can get such a license written, if you really like, but I'd rather you didn't call it open source. The Open Source Initiative definition of Open Source requires that other parties be able to sell the software. Therefore, you'll be confusing people.

    If you want a specific sort of license that fills particular requirements, I'd suggest getting a lawyer. There won't be a Free Software/Open Source license ready for you to use. If you're willing to allow your stuff to be sold as long as it stays Free/Open Source, look into copyleft licenses like the GPL family. LGPL is probably what you want for the framework, since an LGPLed DLL can easily fit into any sort of license scheme. You probably want a GPL version for the app, and I'd suggest the Version 2 or any later version for maximum compatibility.

    The GPL requires that all derivative works be licensed under the GPL. It is possible to sell GPLed software, but it's impractical to sell GPLed shrinkwrap software since anybody buying it can legally share with the rest of the world. If that's what you really want, or are willing to settle for, the GPL will work for you. The LGPL works much the same, but allows linking to other software regardless of license.”

    http://programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/84144/mix-three-different-licenses-for-an-open-source...


    D. Gated Licensing

    With or without [x]GPL open source code license terms, an alternative approach to carte blanche public license access is the traditional licensing path for protecting IP, where you gate access to a license by specifying exactly which groups of users have which levels of access. 

    For example:

    • user group A: specifically defined free access to the general public
    • user group B: specifically defined free & / or discounted access to academic institutions
    • user group C: specifically defined fee based access to production / corporate / for profit interests ( which itself may be tiered depending on the size of the organization & their intentions / industry / etc. )

    By combining clearly defined user groups or classes in the license, and gating access, we can clarify which license terms apply to which people & applications of which IP. It’s tedious to be specific, but will enable greater flexibility.

    This means that much like each type of IP has a specific kind of license, each type of user group has specific levels of access / permission, or even a specific kind of license per user type / IP combination. It sounds complex but it’s not too hard to wrap your head around if you just pick one place to start and branch out the options. Think of it as a logic table for licensing. :) 

    So we would:

    • Define the licenses that apply to each type of IP
    • For each type of IP, define the terms that apply to each user group. This may take the form of different licenses per user group, or simply involve modifications within the license of each group’s definition & permissions.


    E. Human Rights

    Some of my colleagues developed CGPL, which includes the Declaration of Human Rights in the license, and protections against patenting. I like the idea of contractually binding users of our research to some basic standards of decency, since one of my primary concerns with both CC and open source is the end use of the research, depending on who gets their hand on it. 

    While of course we can’t enforce these rules for those who would not listen anyway, any deterrent and legal standing is always a step in the right direction, and taking a stand for human rights is something we are well positioned to set a good example for. As with the other licenses we could use all, or modify as needed. 

    http://cgpl.org/the-license


    F. Custom License

    I don’t know any of these licenses word for word, and even if I did it is unlikely that any of them are 100% suitable for all of the scenarios on our plate.

    So whatever licenses we decide are most appropriate for each IP & user group, need to go through a couple stages of review:

    • Review of the licenses ourselves, keeping what is appropriate and removing what is not, per IP category / user group
    • Review of our modifications by a legal team


    Okay this is probably enough to process for now. And please anyone do correct me if I have any misunderstandings.

    And my next task [ hahaha since I said that several posts ago I think ] is to review Foldit & Rosetta licenses in the context of this conversation. But I think it is helpful that we rounded out the idea first of what we want, before being influenced by it, so I think the conversation has been very helpful, thanks to all! :)
    (Edited)
    Photo of machinelves

    machinelves

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    Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the license discussion at the community chat today!

    Here is the transcript:

    http://eternawiki.org/wiki/index.php5/2015.09.18_Community_Chat


    Summary of Community Chat Perspective

    It sounds like we have community support for:

    • Implementing whatever license structure devs & Eterna legal team determine that we need to keep our research going, and move into production for Eterna Medicine goals.
    • Support for a human rights clause. 
    And it sounds like we have questions about:
    • Non-profit vs For-profit ( which one are we to pursue in production relationships - is this only a tax classification matter, or are there compatibility issues to consider with the origin of our initial grant funding? i.e. Did we accept any grants that prohibit for-profit use of the research or derivative integrations / applications of the research? )
    • Commercial vs non commercial ( as it also relates to previously accepted grants, pre-existing licenses, and future production partnerships )
    • Will getting future grants be affected by the license we choose? ( regarding profit / commercialization ) If so, can we support continued research only with grants that permit commercial / for profit use and/or or funding through partnerships without such grants?


    Human Rights

    As I mentioned, my colleagues developed CGPL, which I can get into discussing more at a future juncture if there is interest. It is based on GPL but with some key differences. The first of which being that it includes the Declaration of Human Rights, and the second being that unlike GPL, CGPL derivatives don’t require all sublicenses to also be under / compatible with CGPL terms. ( If I understand correctly, and if so it would still be good to get some additional consultation and legal advice on the pros and cons of this. ) 

    I’m not attached to using CGPL in part or in full, it’s an option if it makes sense. And if not, we don’t even use CGPL for all our own software since it is specifically for open sourced projects. So if we want a more locked down license, what we do is include the Declaration of Human Rights as a clause and appendix in our other custom commercial licenses, and also clauses that stipulate restrictions on using the software for specific categories of nefarious purposes.

    So I will be happy as long as some aspect of human rights is considered and integrated into our end license structure. The Declaration of Human Rights is an excellent start:

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/


    Transitioning from CC to x License

    Another big question is whether we can sell licenses to software built using pieces of research that was originally published under CC non commercial share alike license.

    My understanding after consulting with some colleagues who work on open source and commercial licenses, is that we cannot remove a license that has been given, however the copyright holder can issue a new license under other terms to anyone they like, as long as they hold the copyright. The reason for this being that a license is different than copyright. i.e. the owner of the copyright can create and define whatever licenses they want.

    A small disclaimer break to keep in mind that we all acknowledge none of us are lawyers, and fact checking any and all statements made by any of us in this thread with legal is necessary before moving forward. But for the sake of discussion and trying to untangle our options in order to be as prepared as possible for those conversations, I will continue.

    :)


    EULA & Copyright Transfer

    So if the above is confirmed to be the case, then to apply pre-existing Eterna research currently under CC license to a new license, the copyright holders of the specific content will have to give permission to use a new license. 

    It sounded like we have general consensus supporting this during the chat, but the actual gathering of this permission will have to be on a per user basis. 

    We have already discussed having a EULA or some such agreement for a number of reasons, and in this we could codify exactly what kinds of content users release under which licenses. For example, scripts, puzzle / lab designs, strategy market submissions, etc. 

    The key being to politely ask for copyright with clear explanation about why, and how it will be used, so that everyone gives informed consent.


    Algorithms & Languages

    An additional consideration to discuss with the Eterna legal team is that it is not advisable to attempt copyright of algorithms and languages, because they are too close to nature or mathematics. 

    And that it is therefore a stronger approach to create a piece of software with a demonstrable process, and specific steps, rather than algorithms or anything small enough to be an equation ( with the amusing confusion that anything can be represented as an equation... so it is a bit of where do you draw the line, but in court patent wars it tends to lean in favor of high specificity of the process to its domain ).

    And similarly ( if I understand correctly ) we can package an sdk, create layers or web services or software etc., but not patent / copyright / license a language. This is relevant for example to anyone wanting to create a scripting language for others to hook into various tools that are created to analyze our data, etc. 


    Open Source & Commercialization

    If we want to form commercial licensing agreements similar to Rosetta / Foldit relationship, and also maintain some underlying kernel of open sourced research, we could consider the Red Hat Linux model of creating value added on top of open sourced research, and then the software layers / packages / web services that are created on top of that can then have other licensing, provided it is compatible with the underlying agreements. 

    This is different than the above issue with transitioning from CC to another license, but related in that it offers a method for maintaining some portion of our research as open source, while allowing for commercial licensure to various categories of partnerships.


    “Users” / Licensees

    • The law sees no user, only licensor & licensee. 
    • You can define user terms, and even categories of users based on definitions within the license of different categories of licensees.
    • The licensee receives software, and the click thru license once accepted is now an active agreement.
    • When you update software, whatever license you distribute it with at that moment is what licensees operate under. However you cannot retroactively change license terms, though many people try to insert clauses claiming this power. i.e. no ‘forward compatible’ clauses
    • Licensees can hold simultaneously actively valid different licenses & different versions of software.


    Open Source Code Distribution Requirements

    • For any license that says the source code is to be distributed ( like many GPL licenses ), that source code has to be provided to licensees. 
    • You can define in the license who is entitled to source code, & how it is to be distributed.
    • In determining distribution arrangements for source code, it is good to consider the overhead cost of gating access to different categories of licensees, since due to obligation to distribute source code in most GPL type licenses, if you’ve defined different levels of access to different categories of licensees, then you will have to maintain those records and distribution mechanism. Whereas a blanket free for all is simpler in terms of being able to just host the code publicly available in one free access repository.
    • As a side note, under most GPL style licenses we cannot charge for the cost of distribution to users, except for example raw costs like if it’s on a cd - but not for access to the source code itself, unless specifically stipulated for that licensee category and not otherwise prohibited by the chosen open source license.


    Open Source & Competition

    • Open source does mean we don’t have market control, and business partners get wary of this because then competitors can drive the price down by distributing our work for free or charging less or otherwise competing. However, if people want to make free medicine or do a better job of production and distribution that doesn’t sound so bad overall, as long as we can keep the lights on. Determining that is beyond the scope of my current information about our prospective partnerships.
    • We can mitigate the consequences of a competitive market by adding value on top of the source code through additional layers or packages, as mentioned above in the Red Hat Linux example. Redhat is the first open source company to be worth a billion dollars on the NYSE, and is a competitor to IBM, an international company. So it is possible to be open source, while making a profit. Even if IBM is your competition, starts running redhat kernels, forks the source and makes their own profit, there can be room for everyone if everyone is adding value. Redhat does this by charging for additional value on top of the open source foundation, through providing support infrastructure, precompiled versions of the source, and off the shelf packaged solutions. People are willing to pay a premium to have access to the originator of the technology and the support contract with it. http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/02/how-red-hat-killed-its-core-productand-became-a-billion-doll...
    • So, we could go open source and potentially still engage in commercial relationships capable of funding future research, if we create value added components on top of the open source foundation.


    Intermission 

    There’s actually more to be said about open source / GPL subtleties of LGPL vs. standard GPL rules on linking, etc. But before I invest time in researching and discussing that I’d like to hear whether we’re aiming for an open source foundation or not?


    Disclaimer

    Just one more friendly reminder that I am a human being not an omniscient robot lawyer from planet iamalwaysright9, so obviously everything I have mentioned needs to be fact checked before being assumed, and if anyone can add clarity to any points in this conversation that would be most appreciated!


    :)

    (Edited)
    Photo of machinelves

    machinelves

    • 155 Posts
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    also I found this informative:

    American Chemical Society AMA 

    Question
    "Hi Amy, glad to see this AMA from you.
    The biotech industry, particularly in this post genomic era, is known to consist of many startup successes and arguably many failures.

    When it comes to starting with a basic idea from research and bringing it to a business model, what are some key elements of business that researchers are often initially unaware of when considering founding a startup?


    Answer
    Thanks for the question. There is huge potential for scientists and business leaders to work together in more seamless ways. Bob Langer, pioneer of drug delivery systems and human tissue engineering and founder of the Langer Lab at MIT, is a wonderful example of success at this intersection. Bob has cofounded 25 companies that have scaled to over $100 million in annual revenue. He has also licensed technology to over 250 larger pharma companies. Check out his model as an example. 

    Specific to your question, one of the things underestimated by scientists (and new entrepreneurs) is the significance of funding. Startups need more funding often than they anticipate and one of the main factors related to startup failure is running out of funding. Technical transfer and patent law is another area that needs close consideration. There is huge potential in bringing research into the marketplace! Scientists and researchers need to first and foremost find good business partners."

    http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/3e26al/american_chemical_society_ama_we_are_amy/
    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31111835
    http://web.mit.edu/langerlab/langer.html
    http://web.mit.edu/langerlab/
    Photo of JR

    JR

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    You say "we"
    • Implementing whatever license structure devs & Eterna legal team determine that WE need to keep our research going, and move into production for Eterna Medicine goals.
    and "Partnering" but I think you need to define who we is and who the partners are.
    Who are we
    Who are the key we's
    Who are the partners and how are we getting partners
    Who are the eterna legal team and how are they paid
    Where is the funding
    Who is getting the funding
    Who is doing the lab work
    Who is doing the analysis of the lab work

    Has foldit done this and why not. They have come closer to producing results than eterna has.

    You said this discussion has the blessings of Rhiju, I think Rhiju is not sure as to the direction  Eterna (his little monster) should next take and is asking for suggestions.

    You sound like you are on track for commercialization which I feel is a fools road paved with
    good intentions. You bake a good pie but lack all the ingredients.

    We can't even produce an article, how exactly are we going to do anything else.


     
    Photo of machinelves

    machinelves

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    Thank you for sharing your questions and concerns. It’s very helpful to have your input so that we can thoroughly examine this topic. 

    Please do remember to be kind, as we’re all working together on the same team!

    Thanks again for your questions, which we will consider and reply to.

    :)
    Photo of JR

    JR

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    There is that "we" again.

    I would prefer that you start a group, call it what you want, then you can do and say whatever you want as representative of the group, but using "we" means I have
    implicitly bought into your strategy which I haven't. And once you do form the group
    I will be more than happy to keep my mouth shut, you now represent the members of that group so when you say team, you mean those people in that group.
     
    And, unfortunately, business, if I understand your direction correctly, isn't kind.


     
      
    Photo of Jennifer Pearl

    Jennifer Pearl

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    Sorry for my late comments. 

    I read through this long thing and I am not a lawyer and only have minimal interest in legal stuff but it sounds like people are trying to think this through.  

    I only have a few concerns and a couple ideas. My biggest concern is human rights and how anything we develop can be used. I believe that anything that comes out of our research being sequences, or algorithms/bots/programs, or pretty much anything that could be used to engineer some type of whatever from our research should be held under a strict human rights clause. My interpretation of human rights is to not torture, kill, deny nourishment, withhold shelter, or prevent the exercise of their free will as well as what the UN defines human rights as. If anyone uses our work against human rights they will be subject to penalties. Whatever these penalties are I don't know to what the limits are but I would like to see them punished under US and UN human rights laws. This applies to jacking up the cost of medicine or life saving stuff developed to prices that only the rich or well off can even come close to affording. The important thing though is that the penalty is proportionate to the crime. If someone is injured money needs to be paid and if someone is killed people need to be jailed kinda thing. Unless a penalty costs a company a lot of money they will not care about breaking the rules. 

    As someone who writes software I desire that my work is able to be used for the greatest good. If I can make money off it then cool. If that money goes to Eterna instead to keep it alive then cool. My only desire is that I get credit for my code and that my code is used ethically. If my ideas are coded up into Eternabot then I want credit as the one who came up with the idea for the essence of that part of the code. I am not a fan of sharing my source code though if someone will be able to copy that and run off and change it and make money off it or use it to some negative ends without my knowledge. I may be a little paranoid but I think with legal things that is one of the times you should be a little bit. Also, until I know for sure my work can be used with Eterna Medicine im not publishing any new software or updates to software. I was told that at time of a major update you can possible update you licensing so I am going to hold out for that.

    The following are a few thoughts. I think that any RNA sequence that a player comes up with should belong to them but i am really torn about what to do with the data generated. I think that the specifications of the RNA should be the IP of the designer I also believe that others in the project should be able to benefit from the knowledge gained from the analysis of the design. In that, is someone else's analysis of that design infringement on that IP? Again I am not a lawyer but I think that a lot of this could be cleared up if we had a EULA that stipulated what was yours and what belongs to Eterna as an entity or group that you give up voluntarily. 

    I think in regards to some of JR's comments that this may be a good candidate for a steering committee. This seams like something that is serious enough to warrant it. I read that everyone sounds like they trust the devs to take care of it and this could be chaired by mostly devs with one or two players. There could be maybe some type of vote of confidence of the group since it seams like that sounds like it would be important to the Eterna devs to have the support of the players and they could run off and do their thing (reporting back along the way and of course always taking feedback).

    Those are my concerns. Have a good day!
    Photo of machinelves

    machinelves

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    Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts Jen! 

    Woohoo for supporting human rights!!!

    I have seen clauses that state things like any profits a company makes from exploiting IP that they have wrongly used must be relinquished to the owner of that IP. The legal team would have to speak to the solidity of that kind of clause and how to phrase it, but maybe we could state something like that, to outline clear consequences? 

    It would also be good to get feedback from the legal team as to how to draw the line between giving credit and actual IP / public domain / open source ownership works. I would think that we can give credit in terms of saying who invented what, while as you say stating in the EULA exactly what the ownership or license rights are of each type of IP.

    Thanks for all your hard work on developing dpat tools. I think it will be great to get the license sorted out so that people who contribute know what to expect moving forward.

    Hearing what matters to you as a creator of these materials is really helpful.

    :)
    Photo of Astromon

    Astromon

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    Very good points. I agree with all those points of view. Thanks. If you guys would like for me to ask my lawyer a few questions you can formulate some questions and post them to me. I am following this thread and receive emails from it.

    Photo of machinelves

    machinelves

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    Thanks Astro! I just posted a couple questions that a lawyer would know better than me, above in reply to Jen, and below as a new comment.

    Thanks for your participation!!

    :)
    Photo of machinelves

    machinelves

    • 155 Posts
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    The Cost of Medicine

    Along the lines of what Jen said above, one reason to consider the kind of license that Eterna uses moving forward is to prevent scenarios like this: ( thanks to Eli for noting the original story after I came across the second one! )

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/business/a-huge-overnight-increase-in-a-drugs-price-raises-protests.html
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/22/business/big-price-increase-for-tb-drug-is-rescinded.html

    It would be great to achieve balance in being able to both move into production, and to also protect our research and ensure that it is not exploited.

    I don't know if we can codify a hard upper limit on end costs charged using our research, but maybe our legal contacts know of some language in that ballpark that would set reasonable standards?

    Also, hopefully having an open source license, and also publishing our research into the public domain will ensure that it can't be locked down by one company that wants exclusive rights. 

    So that way even if x company tries to overcharge for the medicine, y company would still be able to go into production using the same research, and charge a reasonable fee, thus undercutting company x and making their overpriced product obsolete. 
    (Edited)
    Photo of bekeep

    bekeep, Learning Researcher

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    Hi all,

    Don't know who is still following this thread, but here is a crack at a plain-language EULA.

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lVXRWfCc009V2hMcnxnWXTfk1O3EE2CuqKwIZIyWYEM/edit?usp=sharing

    Please give feedback and comments here.

    Thanks,
    Ben
    Photo of Jennifer Pearl

    Jennifer Pearl

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    I like it. I hope that the complex version has human rights in it.
    (Edited)