22.01.2018 in Law
Open Source Software

Open-source software is computer software which is made available in source code structure: the source code as well as certain other rights is usually reserved for copyright holders; in addition, this software is developed under a software license which permits users to improve, change, study and even distributes the software (Gerges, 2008). Some open source software is made available within the public domain and they are often developed in a collaborative, public mode. Open-source software is the most outstanding example of open-source improvement and often compared to user-generated content as well as open content movements. Open source software is also described as a broad type of software license which makes source code publicly available with nonexistent or relaxed copyright restrictions. According to Karl (2006), One key feature of open source is that it offers no restrictions on the distribution or use of software by any user or organization. In fact open source assures continued access to derived sotware even by the key original contributors.

The open software movement began in 1983 when a group of software engineers advocated that the name “free software” ought to be replaced by “open source software”  since its less vague and more comfortable to the corporate world (Muella, 2007). Software engineers and developers may want to distribute their software based on the open source license, so that any person can develop the same software or comprehend its internal operations. Open source software normally allows anyone to build modifications of the software, install it to the new processor architectures or operating systems; market it and share it. According to Ryan and Carson, (2008), there are several benefits of open source software over other proprietary software such as: increased security, more affordability, better transparency and interoperability. Ryan and Casson argue that government authorities have a fiduciary duty to its citizens when it comes to purchase of proprietary software and implementation of open source options.

Elson, (2007), found that most popular and prominent open source license is the (GPL) GNU General Public License, which permits free distribution of software as long as further applications and development are classified under the same license. While open source distribution makes the source code of a product publicly available, the open source licenses permits the authors to regulate such access.

According to Knight, (2006) “Open source label was created during a strategy conference held in April 1998 in Palo Alto; It was a reaction to Netscape’s declaration of a source code release for the Navigator” p 88 . Prominent individuals at the conference included John Gilmore, Phillip Zimmerman, Guido van Rossum, John Ousterhout, Paul Vixie, Greg Olson, , Eric Allman, Sameer Parekh, Brian Behlendorf, Larry Wall, Jamie Zawinski, , Tom Paquin, Linus Torvalds and Tim O’Reilly. It’s worth noting that many people believe that the birth of the Internet fueled the open source movement, while others do not make a distinction between free software movements and open source movements.

The (OSI) Open Source Initiative began in February 1998, headed by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond. The OSI presented the idea of open source software to commercial firms such as Netscape. The OSI believed that the adoption of the label “open source,” would eliminate vagueness, particularly for individuals who view “free software” to be anti-commercial. Their goal was to bring a higher profile to the realistic benefits of freely accessible source code; in addition, they wanted to take major software firms and other high-technology industries into open source. On the other hand, the (FSF) Free Software Foundation began in 1985, to promote free distribution of open source software: since many free software were already free of charge, they became closely associated with zero cost, which was perceived as anti-commercial.

Hoffman, (2004) argues that Open Source licenses ensure licensees the right to redistribute, modify source code (or content). Additionally, these licenses sometimes impose obligations such as: alterations to the distributed code that are must be made accessible in source code structure; an author ascription must be placed in a documentation/program using that Open Source.

Authors of open source software initially derive a right to grant a license to their software based on the legal theory which upon creation of the software the developer owns the copyright in that software. What the licensor/developer is granting when they grant permission to redistribute, modify and copy their work is the right to utilize the developer’s copyrights (Elson, 2007). The author still preserves ownership of copyrights; the licensee is merely allowed to use those rights, as contracted in the license, as long as they maintain the requirement of the license. Miller, (2001) argues that open software developers have the alternative to license or assign/sell their exclusive right as well as the copyrights to their software; whereupon the new assignee/owner controls the copyrights. The possession of the copyright is distinct and separate from the ownership of the software.

When software developers contribute codes to any Open Source project such as Apache.org, such an act is undertaken through an explicit license such as the Apache Contributor License Agreement. Implicit licenses are also issued to developers where necessary. It’s worth noting that some open source software projects do not incorporate contributed code under a license, but essentially require (joint) assignment of the developer’s copyright in order to allow code contributions into the software project such as Joint Copyright Assignment agreement. (Lipscomb & Berg, 2008)  The only major weakness of open source software is the proliferation of open source licenses since its almost impossible to track such proliferation.

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