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FREE SOFTWARE CULTURE
This article is from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groklaw

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License 

Groklaw

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Groklaw is a blog that was started May 16, 2003 by Pamela Jones (posting as PJ) at Radio UserLand. Groklaw's name derives from Robert A. Heinlein's neologism 'grok', roughly meaning "to understand completely", which had previously entered geek slang.

Origins

The blog had two purposes:

  1. To enable Jones to learn blogging software.
  2. To enable her to write on her favorite field - law.

The first article was entitled The Grokster Decision - Ode To Thomas Jefferson. It was a serious article about the effect of P2P on the Music Industry, and the recent (at that time) court decision in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc., et al., Plaintiffs, vs. Grokster, Ltd., et al., Defendants, by Judge Steven Wilson in favour of the defendants. The article also covered the previous Napster decision, and why it was different causing the Napster system to be shut down. The article included a quote from Thomas Jefferson, and references to David Boies, who was Napster's attorney.

The second post on May 17, 2003 also covered legal issues - it addressed the then new CALDERA SYSTEMS, INC., a Delaware corporation d/b/a THE SCO GROUP, Plaintiff, vs. INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation, Defendant, court case and was titled SCO Falls Downstairs, Hitting its Head on Every Step. It criticized Caldera Systems for the way they were handling the suit outside of court, and the article included quotes from Bruce Perens, Richard Stallman, Steve Ballmer, and Linus Torvalds. The article ended with this paragraph:

David Boies has agreed to represent SCO. I am trying to remind myself that our legal system is predicated on lawyers sometimes representing people they don't personally admire, and the system really does depend on someone being willing to take on unpopular clients. I know Boies doesn't use email, or at least he didn't the last time I checked. So maybe he doesn't quite get the tech ... ah, hang it all, there's no way around it: I feel bad he's chosen to represent them, especially after I posted an Ode singing his praises, and I hope he loses.

The blog soon became a popular place for Free Software advocates to hang out; it's popularity caused it to outgrow Radio Userland, and was transferred to ibiblio as a stand alone web site.

Main focus

The main focus of Jones's writing now became the Caldera Systems vs IBM litigation (note that Caldera Systems changed its company name to The SCO Group during this time). Jones is known among her audience for her ability to explain complex legal issues in simple terms and the excellent research she used in putting together every article.

The blog website became a community effort. While Jones, as a paralegal, understood law, she was not a programmer. Many of her readers were, so, when technical issues arose, she had a solid backing from those who did understand those issues. This enabled her to solicit guest commentary on a variety of issues, such as:

  • Linux Kernel coding practices
  • C Language programming
  • Operating systems programming
  • Operating systems history
  • Standards Organizations

Each of these issues appeared to have some application to the case, and most would be revisited many times. Additional topics include later lawsuits by The SCO Group against Daimler Chrysler, Autozone, and Novell, as well as the counter suit by Red Hat, which appeared to be related to the original suit against IBM. The implications of these were also covered.

Effects

Groklaw in effect became an application of Open Source principles to legal research. As such it has been cited by the attorneys for several firms in law journal articles. It has also won several awards:

  • 2005 Best News Site - ConsortiumInfo*.org - Pamela Jones/Groklaw: Best Community Site or Blog (Non-Profit)
  • 2005 Dana Blankenhorn - Corante - PJ - Best Blogger of the Year
  • 2004 The Inquirer - Groklaw: Best Website of 2004
  • 2004 TechWeb Network Readers Choice Award - Best Independent Tech Blog
  • 2004 Linux Journal Editors' Choice Award - Best Nontechnical or Community Website
  • 2003 OSDir.com Editor's Choice Winner - Best News Site

Neutrality

Jones has often stated that she stands for the rule of law. The blog itself however is not neutral - it is part of the Free Software Community, and Free Software values are openly espoused there.

Jones's articles have been opposed by a variety of parties over the years, including The SCO Group, who have been less than pleased at the negative publicity the blog has brought them. At one point McBride and Stowell claimed that Jones worked for IBM[1], [2], [3] which she denies[4], [5], as did IBM in a court filing[6]. She was also attacked by Maureen O'Gara who posted alleged personal details of PJ (including her address).[7] [8] [9]

Expanded coverage

Anticipating further legal threats against GNU, Linux, and the free software community, Pamela Jones launched Grokline, a Unix ownership timeline project, in May, 2004. One result of the Groklaw/Grokline work was obtaining and publishing the 1994 settlement in USL v. BSDi [10], which for over a decade had been sealed by the parties. The document was obtained through a California Open Access statute (the university being a publicly funded institution is required by law to make almost all of its documents public), and the release of the settlement answered many questions as to the ownership of the Unix Intellectual Property.

A further effort is the Linux documentation project Grokdoc.

Groklaw has also extensively covered patent problems with software and hardware, use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) against FSF ideals, Open Standards, DRM, GPLv3, and has published Peter Salus's Unix/GNU/Linux history The Daemon, the GNU & the Penguin.

MathFox assists as the webmaster for Groklaw and associated websites.

Editorial policy

Groklaw has comment guidelines that emphasize politeness and orderly conduct. Groklaw allows anonymous postings and does not screen comments before they are published. This means that some kind of moderation is needed to keep the site readable. However, the actual comment enforcement policy has been heavily criticized. The policy is enforced with warnings, removal of comments and threads, removal of accounts, and blacklisting IP addresses. PJ has stated repeatedly that two of her goals are to keep Groklaw acceptable reading for the legal profession and to supply a place where people interested in FOSS and Law can exchange views, ideas, and information.

Criticisms

The earliest complaints leveled against Groklaw regarded heavy handed censorship and deceptive practises to foil the detection of the censorship. This took the form of comments that were visible to the writer but not visible to any other readers. Long-time readers who complained about this deceptive practise found their accounts deleted without warning. This sparked a significant controversy on blogs outside of Groklaw, eg http://www.ip-wars.net/ and the Yahoo forums. However all discussion of the deceptive practises on Groklaw itself was quietly deleted. One of the vocal critics of this behaviour was Brenda Banks, a grandmother who had worked with PJ to establish Groklaw. Brenda was a well-respected moderator but she left Groklaw after raising the issues with PJ and then finding herself the victim of the same abuses. Brenda documented her experiences on Linux Blog.

The most significant complaint against Groklaw is that often isn't a discussion of law, but rather a pulpit for PJ to deliver her ideological opinions about open source software. This was highlighted most recently when PJ spoke out against Word import filters in OpenOffice, resulting in harsh responses from several Linux developers on the blog aggregator http://planet.gnome.org/. Miguel de Icaza wrote:

I would reply to each individual point from PJ, but she either has not grasped how open source is actually delivered to people or she is using this as a rallying cry to advance her own ideological position on ODF vs OfficeXML. [11]

Another critical complaint is that the articles and commentary are woefully inadequate once they stray outside Groklaw's core competency of legal explanations. The following quote is by Paul Hudson, author of several books on the PHP programming language and editor of Linux Format magazine:

But since the SCO case has quietened down, the site has started to post other “news” from the Linux world, and to be honest, now that it has strayed outside of its core competency of paralegalism, Groklaw is starting to suck. [12]

See also

  • SCO-Linux controversies
  • Weblog
  • Darl McBride
  • Ralph Yarro III
  • Canopy Group

References

External links

  • Groklaw
  • Grokline
  • Grokdoc
  • Linux Online interview with Pamela Jones
  • Lawyers Flock to Mystery Web Site's Coverage of SCO v. IBM Suit
  • Open letter to SCO
  • An accompanying research document for the Open Letter
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groklaw"