October 2007

In his book Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law, Lawrence Rosen defines licensing as "the legal way a copyright and patent owner grants permission to others to use his intellectual property". When you consider that the bread and butter of a company usually revolves around its intellectual property, it's not suprising that open source licenses are often regarded with suspicion. How is it possible for a company's interests to be protected by a license written by another party? And how can a company provide "open" access to its intellectual property without "giving away the store"?

Simon Phipps, Chief Open Source Officer for Sun Microsystems, once stated in an interview: "While open source licensing lets people have access...this doesn't have to mean that chaos ensues." This issue of the OSBR provides insights to help navigate the chaos that is often associated with open source licenses.

We're pleased to include articles from two lawyers specializing in technology law. Lawrence Rosen, quoted above, describes the new QNX hybrid licensing model which is intended to meet the needs of embedded systems developers within the QNX ecosystem. While this model does not meet the requirements of the Open Source Definition, its goals and processes will be familiar to anyone involved in open source. Thomas Prowse draws upon his experience with corporate clients to provide a practical framework for managing open source licenses.

While working with enterprise customers, Stormy Peters from OpenLogic was surprised to discover that the licenses used by their customers differed from the usage statistics commonly encountered in the media. Her article also provides an overview of enterprise best practices.Kamal Hassin provides an overview of case law applied to open source licensing and Bruce Montague describes the origins of the BSD and GPL licenses, their intents, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Finally, two project leaders describe the process they used to determine which license best suited their needs and what they learned along the way. While both projects happened to select the same license, the decision making process may lead other projects with different goals to decide upon a different license.

As always, we look forward to your feedback. Let us know about your licensing experiences by sending an email to the Editor. We'll publish those of interest to OSBR readers in next month's Letters to the Editor section.

Dru Lavigne,


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