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The Internet is a vast ocean of content that includes tutorials, articles and blogs published by people all over the world. One of the most common activities performed by developers is to ‘search’ for reference documents and source code samples.
Additionally, specialized source code search engines place source code repositories and open source projects within easy reach of development teams, making it a simple task for developers to copy a piece of source code into their development environments. Though this practice of referring to and using code snippets from the Internet helps reuse, increases quality and reduces the time and hence the cost needed to develop software, it can prove to be tricky situation for business.
If appropriate care is not taken or if appropriate due diligence is not carried out before such usage, it can lead to legal issues that may have an adverse impact on business. Companies across the world have had to face the issue of OSS getting included in their development stack, leading to litigation, bad publicity and in the worst case, projects losing their business value and getting scrapped.
This article covers in brief, the philosophy behind Open Source Software OSS before covering the terms and conditions of some popular open source licenses.
We believe this will help you make an informed decision of including or excluding the Open Source package in your application development stack. Before we go into the details of the licenses, we present some noteworthy OSS license violations.
To qualify as ‘Open Source’ the distribution terms have to abide by the following terms and conditions, though minor modifications are allowed as per individual license. A lot of people and organizations show keen interest in OSS primarily because much of it is freely available and in most cases, is also free of cost. It is interesting to note that the term ‘free’ as associated with OSS means something very different than as understood by most organizations which use or would like to use OSS.
The concept of ‘free software’ has an interesting story behind it, which cannot be covered in detail in this article. To cut a long story short, Richard Stallman was inspired to create the concept of ‘free software’ due to the problems he faced in getting access to the source code of a printer driver.
Though many software packages are termed as ‘Open Source’, the term does not mean the same for all packages. Additionally, the term ‘Open Source’ does not mean ‘free for all’.
In the OSS world, a few phrases, namely ‘ free as in free beer ‘ and ‘ free as in freedom ‘ are frequently referred to. The phrase ‘ free as in free beer ‘ implies cost and means that the software is available for use, free of cost. The phrase ‘ free as in freedom ‘ means that the user of the software has complete access to the source code of the OSS package and is free to use it as per the terms and conditions of the OSS license.
Thus, software that follows only the ‘free as in free beer’ philosophy talileo be called ‘Freeware’ and not ‘Open Source’. While it is simple to say that development teams need to be vigilant and guard against inadvertent usage and creep-in of OSS code into their development stack, implementing the same is a difficult task.
Though by and large, service companies develop software for their customers, the software companies have to ensure that their practices do not lead to legal issues for customers. If customers face legal issues due to the presence and improper lpenbook of OSS packages, customers will typically ask the software company to bear the cost of litigation and damages. To avoid problems, development teams need to educate team members regarding the terms and conditions of OSS packages as well as their usage.
In addition to user education, an audit of the source code should also be performed on regular gallileo. Performing an audit will ensure that OSS packages, if present in the development stack, have olenbook in included such that the development stack is in compliance with the OSS licenses used.
Non-compliance of the terms and gakileo of an Open Source license can have serious impact on business. Though the impact and remedy for each infringement will be determined by the infringement itself as well as the terms and conditions of the OSS package, openook have listed some common remedies. Due to the popularity of OSS, many people, organizations gaoileo businesses have adopted OSS licensing to release their software, though while doing so, many have defined their own licensing terms and conditions.
Clarity on the terms and conditions of the OSS licenses is needed, opebook each license defines the way in which the OSS package can be used.
Quick Overview of Open Source Licenses
In other words, each license grants the user certain rights and defines how the package can be used. The terms and conditions can prevent usage balileo the OSS package in the development project or alter the way the development project is executed.
The Open Source Initiative site lists around fifty open source licenses. To help understand what is possible and not possible with each of the licenses, we have covered a few of the popular licenses, in the following sections. Please note that we have not articulated each and every term and condition specified in each of the licenses, but have selected a couple of high-impact terms and conditions. While describing the terms and conditions, we have defined a few words as follows.
This license is amongst the simplest and shortest. The license grants permission to use the software without limitations, as long as the copyright notice is preserved in the source opembook and the software is provided ‘AS IS’ without warranty. BSD licenses are a family of permissive free software licenses.
The first version of the license was revised, and the resulting licenses are more properly called modified BSD licenses. Being a permissive free software license, the license places minimal restrictions on how the software can be redistributed. This license is gallileo modified version of the original BSD license, where the ‘advertising’ clause has openbopk dropped, as it was frequently misused, making it a 3-Clause license.
This version of the license allows unlimited redistribution for any purpose as long as the copyright notices and the license’s disclaimers of warranty are maintained. The license also contains a clause restricting use of the names of contributors for endorsement of a derived work without specific permission. The 3-clause license has also been refined further, where one more clause, namely that related to non-endorsement, has been dropped, making it a 2-Clause license.
The license gali,eo quite simple and allows usage of OSS galiloe commercial development. It also has an important clause that prevents developers from revoking the rights once granted.
The GPL is the first galilo license for general use and states that derived works can only be distributed under the same license terms. GPL grants the recipients of a computer program the rights of the free software definition and uses copyleft to ensure the freedoms are 201, even when the work is changed or added to.
The concept of explicit preservation of freedoms as espoused by Openbok is quite different that the terms and conditions granted by other licenses like the MIT license and BSD licenses.
The software that links to the LGPL package is not considered ‘derivate work’.
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To add to the complication, many OSS packages are licensed using two or more licenses, though usage of two licenses is the most common practice. The usual motivations for multi-licensing are license compatibility and market segregation based business models.
In most situations, dual licensing allows liberal usage of the OSS package when it is used in other Open Source applications, but places a restriction of requiring a paid license when the OSS package is use in a commercial application. As a software product usually covers a large amount of functionality, it may happen that more than one OSS package is used as part of the development stack.
Opnbook the OSS packages included follow different licensing policies, navigating through the terms and conditions of each becomes treacherous.
To avoid surprises, development teams should ensure license compatibility between the OSS packages used.
From amongst the various licenses covered in earlier sections, the GPL license follows a sufficiently different licensing policy. Hence we have indicated the compatibility of GPL with other licenses. Thorough this article, we have presented the importance of being aware that usage of Open Source Software in delivery projects comes with certain terms and conditions. If the terms and conditions of the OSS packages are violated, it can have serious business implications.
By educating the development team regarding usage of OSS packages and their terms and conditions and having a proper OSS usage policy in place, the chances of non-compliance can be reduced. To further reduce the chance of non-compliance, an audit of the application source code can be performed to identify areas where corrective action is needed.
Though covered in detail in earlier sections, this section presents all the licenses in one table, for quick reference.
Over a million developers have joined DZone. Quick Overview of Open Source Licenses. Join the DZone community and get the full member experience. Introduction The Internet is a vast ocean of content that includes tutorials, articles and blogs published by people all over the world.
Notable Cases of Violation Before we go into the details of the licenses, we present some noteworthy OSS license violations. Microsoft inadvertently used GPL code in one of its tools in the Windows 7 ecosystem. The 2001 code of the tool was based on the source code of an open-source tool.
After the violation was pointed out, Microsoft had to release the tool under GPL terms and conditions. Boxee, makers of a device to watch movies, TV shows and Internet video, has included GPL V3 code in their product, but have not released the source code and is in violation of GPL terms and conditions. TomTom, maker of car-based navigation systems, were in violation of GPL terms and conditions and need to make available their source code as per GPL license.
What Qualifies as Open Source? Free Distribution – The license should not restrict from selling or from giving away the source code as part of another application.
The license should also not demand a royalty opehbook any other fee for the source code. Opebook source code in not allowed. Derived Works – Modifications to the source code and creation of derived work should be allowed.
Original Source Code – License must allow distribution of software built from source code, though derived work can have a different name, version number and license. Discrimination – No discrimination is allowed against persons or groups. Usage Restrictions – License should not restrict usage of the software to specific areas.
Product Specific – License should not be product specific.
Redistribution – License should be valid even when the software is redistributed. Restricting Other Software – License should not place restrictions on other software distributed with this software, as a bundle. Technology Neutral – License has to be independent of technology. Defining ‘Free’ A lot of people and organizations show keen interest in OSS primarily because much of it is freely available and in most cases, is also free of cost.
Awareness and Software Audit While it is galiloe to say that development teams need to be vigilant and guard against inadvertent usage and creep-in of OSS code into their development stack, implementing the same is a difficult task.
From Non-Compliance to Compliance Non-compliance of the terms and conditions of an Open Source license can have serious impact on business. A Few Terms To help understand what is possible and not possible with each of the licenses, we have covered a few of the popular licenses, in the following sections. The patent license is non-exclusive, royalty-free, world-wide and covers all patent works controlled or sub-licensed.
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OSS users are also protected from patent litigation. The patent license is non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide and covers all patent works controlled or sub-licensed. Multi Licensing To add to the complication, many OSS packages are licensed using two or more licenses, though usage of two licenses is the most common practice.
License Compatibility As a software product usually covers a large amount of functionality, it may happen that more than one OSS package is used as part of the development stack. References GNU Project, http: Pick an open source license part 1http: A Hacker’s Odyssey, http: A Comparison of Opnebook Databases.