Don Marti

Wed 25 Mar 2009 03:30:48 PM PDT

Open Source Risks and other OSBC notes

Same OSBC advice from two lawyers: Virginia Badenhope and Chad King. If you download software, keep a copy of the license! Don't rely on being able to go back out on the net and get a copy of the same license you got the code under.

Another big point that I get from several sessions here is that the "open source risks," and the costs of managing those risks, fall mostly on proprietary software companies. The more proprietary you want to be, the more of a problem for you open source is.

Dirk Hohndel, in a session with Chris DiBona, says that every developer at Intel has to do copyright training every year—even if the person only works on all proprietary software, all the time.

Hire a contract development firm to do something you want to keep proprietary, and you need to check compliance. Buy a company that claims to have copyright in its software product, and you need to scan all the source code as part of due diligence. (There's a reason why there's often a whole session on open source and M&A at these things. What happens when an old-school company with a real legal department buys a bunch of wild and wooly hackers?)

I wonder if Richard Stallman (who predicted most of the "open source business models" in the mid-1980s) had the attractive nuisance of free software in mind—every programmer in the world facing the constant temptation to copy reciprocally-licensed software, and driving up the cost to employ every programmer in the world, except for those employers who are completely down with reciprocal licensing. He probably did. Of course, reciprocal licenses are potential trouble for each other, and I doubt he would have predicted the mess of not-quite-GPL YAFLs out there.