Open source software: when is it really “free”?

Free and open source software (FOSS) offers a free, time-saving solution to many software developers.  However, “free” does not always mean “without cost”.   As my colleague David Wormser wrote in a recent article:

[S]ometimes even “royalty free” can be too expensive.  FOSS almost invariably comes with strings attached. . . . Depending on the FOSS and the developer’s plans for it, complying with the applicable license may be relatively easy and painless.  But, if it a developer wants to avoid potentially serious consequences, it needs to take a systematic approach to managing the FOSS opportunity.

The legal challenges flow from the terms of the license agreements themselves. The license agreements are essential to the developer’s legal ability to use FOSS code. . . . Each license imposes a specific set of requirements and limitations on developers wanting to modify and/or redistribute the FOSS in question. Unfortunately, from the developer’s point of view, complying with the license can be complicated, particularly when the developer intends to use in a single software product FOSS from a variety of sources.

For Dave’s full article and recommendations on how best to manage the use of open source software in your company, click here.

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