I received a sad piece of news today in my email: Mark Webbink is retiring from Red Hat, effective at the end of August. (I post this news with his permission.) Mark was Red Hat's first general counsel (starting back in 2000), and lent fire, intelligence, and a sense of humor to the company both publicly and privately.
He will be missed.
Mark is leaving on his own terms, and very amicably. (I was at Red Hat last week, and there is clearly no ill will between him and the company - quite the opposite.) In fact, he'll continue to represent Red Hat as special counsel on a range of matters. (Perhaps when apt historical references are required, he'll be the 'go to' guy. :-)
And he should, because Mark represents much of what is right with the law. Creativity in the face of adversity, for example: Mark is one of the chief architects of Red Hat's brilliant licensing/contracting strategy. Mark is a business attorney who understands how to make the law work for business, not the other way around.
Besides his work at Red Hat, what else will he be doing? Well, he'll be stirring up trouble/corrupting young, impressionable minds at Duke Law School this fall, for one. More than one concerned Proprietary Bloc parent will likely pull her child from Duke in the hopes that another school will not corrupt her child with notions like "freedom" and "no lock-in" and such. But with Columbia (Eben Moglen) and Stanford (Larry Lessig) also out of consideration, the choices are becoming few and far between. :-)
Mark did tell me that he's happy to offer advice/counsel to open source startups, and I fully expect to take him up on that offer. You should, too. But expect to get swatted if you come with a pseudo-open source story. As well you should be.