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Feb 24, 201412:40 PMLegal Login

with Mindi Giftos

Is open source software right for your company?

(page 2 of 2)

The second concept is known as “permissive licensing” or “copyfree.” Copyfree licenses are not as restrictive as copyleft. They generally require only that you add certain copyright notices and that you disclose the source code of the OSS and any direct modifications you make to the OSS. You generally do not have to disclose all of your own proprietary source code used in conjunction with the OSS. Thus, copyfree and permissive licenses are generally less restrictive and easier to comply with.

Of course, some licenses are hybrids of the two. The key is understanding that license terms apply and knowing whether you can or want to comply.

Is using OSS a good idea?

If you are using OSS for entirely internal applications — e.g., in applications that are not provided to third parties — OSS is often a great tool. You don’t have to disclose your source code, and IP protection may not be as critical to you. However, if you distribute a product/service with OSS, there are important factors to consider in determining whether the use of OSS aligns with your business needs. Some are:

  • Are you willing to disclose your own proprietary source code?
  • Do you want to protect the IP rights in your products/services?
  • Do you provide your customers with warranties (OSS is often “as-is”)?
  • Do you intend to ultimately sell your product/services/business to a third party, who may require representations and warranties as to the software and use of OSS?
  • Do you have the resources to develop an OSS compliance strategy and program?

Using OSS is an important business decision that will vary from company to company and product to product.

Tips for compliance

If you are using OSS, be sure you understand and are in compliance with the license terms. Develop a tracking and monitoring strategy so you can make appropriate representations and warranties on your own products/services. Ensure that applicable licenses do not conflict, and if needed, obtain a traditional license. Work closely with your legal team to ensure that your licensing strategy is low-risk and ideal for you.

Melinda Giftos is an attorney with the law firm of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C., practicing in the areas of intellectual property and technology law. She can be reached at 608-234-6076 or mgiftos@whdlaw.com.

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About This Blog

Mindi Giftos and her colleagues in Husch Blackwell’s Technology Law group handle a wide variety of issues related to emerging and established technologies, including intellectual property, development and licensing, commercial contracting, and corporate transactions across a broad range of industries.

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