Open Source Software's Legal Issues Explained

Wednesday Nov 25th 2009 by Developer.com Staff
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Given the legal ramifications of using open source software, companies that use open source software should know how to do it legally.

Dr. Dobb's published a story recently about the legal ramifications of using open source software. The premise of the story isn't that companies shouldn't use open source software, but they should know how to do it legally.

"Open source code is generally cost free," writes Protecode CEO Mahshad Koohgoli. "But it is not without obligations, as it comes laden with licensing and copyright conditions, which are enforceable by law."

Microsoft learned that lesson last week when the software giant had to pull its Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool offline. The tool included open source software, but Microsoft illegally released it under a closed license. Now they're scrambling to get their code to comply and to release it—it could take several weeks.

"The issue is not with the use of open source," Koohgoli explained, "but with the unmanaged adoption and proper care to the copyright and licensing obligations it entails."

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