Get your head around software licensing

By   |  August 28, 2006

The use of free and open source software is growing rapidly and more and more users are being attracted by the appeal of community-driven free software. But for many organisations and businesses the notion of a “free” software licence is confusing, and sometimes even threatening.

Particularly for organisations that build their businesses on software, there is a constant need to understand their rights — and their responsibilities — when using a particular piece of software. Many free software applications are not only free to download but they also demand that anyone who develops on the application makes any additions to the softwre freely available to other users.

In an effort to increase understanding of free software licences, the International Open Source Network (IOSN) has released a free book that outlines the most popular free software licences available today and their respective obligations.

IOSN says the primer is “designed to provide [users] with some basic knowledge about copyright law, copyrighted software and FOSS licences. Legal issues may vary in different jurisdictions, therefore this e-primer may not be able to provide answers to all situations. But, hopefully, it will serve as a bridge between lawyers and non-lawyers in this joint venture of FOSS development.

The book looks at different proprietary and FOSS licences that use copyright law to regulate the use of software, and discusses how the FOSS movement uses licences as a way to create a different model of software development.

The book also includes examples to highlight possible copyright issues regarding the use of FOSS by end users, developers and vendors, and addresses common questions and misconceptions regarding copyright and licensing.

This book is part of the IOSN’s free and open source software primer series.

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