Saturday, February 9, 2008

Open Source Think Tank: Legal Issues

This morning we are discussing legal issues at the Open Source Think Tank (for more information, please see I started by providing an overview of legal developments from 2007 based on my earlier post. I will summarize my predictions for 2008 in posting later this weekend.

We also had a "Brain Storming" session on the topic of "What are the three major licenses for commercial adoption?" The discussion groups noted that the use of licenses depends on the community, the business strategy and status of the project. For projects that are just launching and want to ensure that all of the developments are contributed back to the community, the GPLv2 is frequently the best choice since many projects use it and it is a clear signal that you intend to be live by the rules of the open source community. However, a project that is more mature could choose GPLv3 which resolves many of the ambiguities of GPLv2, but it is new and not completely understood. A company that is interested in widespread adoption and is not concerned about ensuring that contributions are returned to the community would choose either BSD or Apache. One group noted that Apache License is particularly attractive because of Apache's strong reputation for excellent code. One surprising statement was that the GPLv2 continues to be a problem for some companies: the representative of a major company recently released a project under a dual distribution model, the company was told by their "commercial" licensees that they would drop the software if the GPLv2 was chosen as the "open source" license in the dual distribution. This statement was particularly surprising since these licensees would receive the software under the commercial license.

We all agreed that legal issues will continue to be important for the industry and we are likely to continue see important legal developments this year.