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"
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.
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
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?
Here is the transcript:
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.
- 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?
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:
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.
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?
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!
American Chemical Society AMA
"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?
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."
- 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.
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.
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!
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! )
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.
Don't know who is still following this thread, but here is a crack at a plain-language EULA.
Please give feedback and comments here.