Open Source Software includes software code and components that are freely and publicly accessible for the purpose of being used in software development. It is made "open" as a way of embracing a collaborative, community-oriented development process. Open source is essential to the rapid prototyping and production of software and is integrated into much of the software on the market today. In fact, open source technologies like the Linux operating system form the backbone of the internet.
At its heart, open source software is about collaboration and sharing of intellectual property – but, open source software still requires users to comply with the terms of its license.
Programmers who use open source code receive a number of royalty-free rights, ranging from freedom to view, copy, use, alter, improve, and even incorporate modifications into the original code. But, open source is not a free-for-all. The license terms generally require that the user of the code not charge a license fee for that code, as well as adhere to a variety of other restrictions. Failure to acknowledge and comply with the licensing conditions for open source software can result in legal action, bad public relations, and much more.
To understand your legal obligations you have to understand the legal framework behind open source. How does it work when you leverage open source components in the development of your proprietary applications? Can you still get a patent? If you make beneficial modifications to the code, are you required to share them with the community? What methods of linking your code to the open source code are permissible?
Open source licensing can be complex and confusing, but the right legal support can help you understand how to manage open source compliance issues and properly prepare for a product launch. Decisions about open source need to be made early, as they touch on numerous issues at the heart of the development process. With my extensive experience as a software engineer, I can help your software development team understand, plan for, and comply with its open source software license requirements.