Copyleft Expansion: What should -- and shouldn't -- be on the table?
By Deb Nicholson, Bradley M. Kuhn, Harald Welte, Heather J. Meeker, John Sullivan

Copyleft generally uses copyright rules to yield software and cultural freedoms. We have seen some these important rights curtailed in recent years. This panel will explore whether copyleft needs updating either because of the changing policy landscape or because of the way we interact with technology. Copyleft is the strongest tool in our toolbox, so we obviously reach for it. Can that work to solve these problems? Deb Nicholson will moderate this panel with Heather Meeker, John Sullivan and Bradley Kuhn

Monday 11:10 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

Copyleft generally uses copyright rules to yield software and cultural freedoms. We have seen some these important rights curtailed in recent years. This panel will explore whether copyleft needs updating either because of the changing policy landscape or because of the way we interact with technology. Copyleft is the strongest tool in our toolbox, so we obviously reach for it. Can that work to solve these problems?

Deb Nicholson

Deb Nicholson is a free software policy expert and a passionate community advocate. She is the Director of Community Operations at the Software Freedom Conservancy where she supports the work of its member organizations and facilitates collaboration with the wider free software community. She is also a founding organizer of the Seattle GNU/Linux Conference, an annual event dedicated to surfacing new voices and welcoming new people to the free software community. She lives with her husband and her lucky black cat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Bradley M. Kuhn

Bradley M. Kuhn is the Policy Fellow and Hacker-in-Residence at Software Freedom Conservancy and editor-in-chief of copyleft.org. Kuhn began his work in the software freedom movement as a volunteer in 1992, as an early adopter of Linux-based systems and contributor to various Free Software projects, including Perl. He worked during the 1990s as a system administrator and software developer for various companies, and taught AP Computer Science at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. Kuhn's non-profit career began in 2000, when he was hired by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). As FSF's Executive Director from 2001–2005, Kuhn led FSF's GPL enforcement, launched its Associate Member program, and invented the Affero GPL. Kuhn began as Conservancy's primary volunteer from 2006–2010, and became its first staff person in 2011. Kuhn holds a summa cum laude B.S. in Computer Science from Loyola University in Maryland, and an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Cincinnati. Kuhn's Master's thesis discussed methods for dynamic interoperability of Free Software programming languages. Kuhn received the O'Reilly Open Source Award in 2012, in recognition for his lifelong policy work on copyleft licensing. Kuhn has a blog and co-hosts the audcast, Free as in Freedom.

Harald Welte

Harald is a developer working on Free Software and Open Source Hardware for more than 20 years. He is most known for his past work on netfilter/iptables, the Linux kernel firewalling subsystem. He later started gpl-violations.org, enforcing the GNU GPL in hundreds of cases against companies violating the license. During the last decade, he dedicated his career on implementing FOSS in the area of cellular communications protocol stacks, developing projects like OsmoBTS, OpenBSC, OsmocomBB and many others collectively known as Osmocom. He runs sysmocom, a small company in Berlin, Germany, which provides professional products and support services around the Osmocom projects.

Heather J. Meeker

Heather Meeker is a partner in O’Melveny & Myers’ Silicon Valley office in the Mergers and Acquisitions practice group and a Founding Portfolio Partner at OSS Capital. Meeker advises technology clients on intellectual property matters, including licensing and collaboration arrangements, software copyright and patent issues, technology procurement, open source licensing strategies, and intellectual property issues in investments, mergers and acquisitions. She is an internationally-known specialist in open source software licensing. Her latest book, ​ Open Source for Business , ​ is a definitive handbook for lawyers, engineers, and businesspersons on open source licensing in business. Her ​ Technology Licensing: A Primer ​ , ​ is a widely used handbook for technology licensing specialists​ . In 2019, Meeker was named by ​ Business Insider ​ as one of the ten people transforming the way the technology industry does business, along with the CEOs of Salesforce, Stripe, and Microsoft. She was the only lawyer on this list. Meeker is widely recognized for her leadership in intellectual property licensing law, with Chambers USA ​ , the ​ Legal 500 ​ , ​ Best Lawyers in America , ​ and ​ SuperLawyers ​ naming her among the industry’s top lawyers in multiple years. She received the prestigious IP Vanguard Award for private practice from the Intellectual Property Section of the California state bar for 2016. In 2012, ​ Best Lawyers ​ named her its “San Francisco Information Technology Law Lawyer of the Year.” In 2018, she was named one of the top Women Leaders in Tech Law by ​ The Recorder ​ . The​ Daily Journal ​ named Meeker to its list of “Top 100 Women Lawyers in California” in 2013, and has named her twice to its list of “25 Top IP Portfolio Managers (Licensing) In California.” ​ Managing IP ​ named her to its “IP Stars - Top 250 Women in IP” list in 2013. She is a member of the Advisory Council for the American Law Institute’s projects on Principles of the Law of Software Contracts (2010) and Restatement of Law, Copyright (ongoing).

John Sullivan

John Sullivan has worked in several different positions at the Free Software Foundation since 2003, including Shipper, Campaigns Manager, and Manager of Operations. He became Executive Director in 2011, and Vice President in 2019.

Since 2011, the FSF has grown by over 50% in staff size. John is deeply involved in every area of the Foundation's work, including outreach and advocacy, licensing education and enforcement, technical development and infrastructure, and business operations.

His background is mainly in the humanities, with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, and a BA in Philosophy from Michigan State, but he has been spending too much time with computers and online communities since running a BBS on a Commodore 64. He's a dedicated GNU Emacs user, and has contributed code to several of its extensions.

Prior to the FSF, John worked as a college debate team instructor for both Harvard and Michigan State University. He prefers he/him/his.

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