Subject: Re: "The Open Source Revolution"
From: "Tim O'Reilly" <>
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 1999 00:50:38 -0800

Joel Bresler wrote:
> Dear Mr. O'Reilly,
> First off, thanks for a great guest edit issue. I am fascinated by the
> principles you outlined for open source software, and was wondering if
> there might be possible parallels in open source databases? Do you know of
> any efforts along these lines? For example, the existing music discography
> databases are all proprietary. Companies such as Schwann, Muse, Valley
> Media, CDDB and others collect the information in pursuit of their own
> business models.

You're right.  This is a very interesting area, and in the
process of getting more interesting (at least from a political
point of view) as the holders of some of these databases are
trying to extend the reach of their copyrights, such that they
own the actual facts they've compiled, and not just the
compilation itself.
> You wrote, "Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow.'" 

It's actually Eric Raymond who said that.  I was just quoting him
in my summary of his paper.

I wonder if, given
> enough collectors, all databases are small? And there is another parallel,
> "monetary reward is rarely the primary concern of open source's best
> programmers. These people are involved in a reputation game..." The same is
> surely true in many different topical areas.
It's an intriguing idea to try to put together some cooperative
projects to create such databases.  The net does give enormous
power to communities of people to develop cooperatively what a
small group of individuals would have difficulty developing

And given the increasingly restrictive copyright climate,
projects like this might be important tests of the rights of
"users" versus the rights of businesses.

At the same time, you have to realize that the "community
development" angle is only one aspect of open source.  The
freedom to modify software has a functional side that is not
really at issue in databases such as you describe.  

> I would be interested in knowing of any open source efforts you are aware
> of in the content database arena, and will look forward to our correspondence.

Well, probably the best known is the Internet Movie Database, but
now that it has been bought by Amazon, who knows what direction
it will take.  I'm sure there are many others.

I've cc'd some other people who might have opinions and knowledge
on this topic.  I agree that it's worth some consideration.  

I imagine that there are groups more closely interested in the
issues here than the Open Source community.  Copyright is
becoming an increasingly significant battleground, and this is
not going unnoticed by a variety of advocacy groups.
> Best,
> Joel Bresler
> Joel Bresler
> 250 E. Emerson Rd.
> Lexington, MA 02420 USA
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Tim O'Reilly @ O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.  
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707-829-0515 ext 266, Fax 707-829-0104,