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Technology, the law and you: Open-source software

Jon Gold | Aug. 28, 2015
The software that companies use for the basics says a lot about them – there are stodgy Microsoft shops with creaky legacy apps from the Windows XP/IE6 days, feather-light Google Apps startups with everything in a browser, and so on.

“It’s a little vague as to what the scope of that disclosure requirement is,” said Bill Weinberg, Black Duck Software's senior director of strategy.

The AGPL isn’t a concern for most companies, though Weinberg said that vendors doing dual licensing – i.e., there’s both a proprietary and an open version of the product, a la – are starting to use it to push customers toward the commercial option.

“Its use has grown, I would not say organically, so much as it’s grown as part of a poison-pill regime,” he said. “If you want to encourage people to buy your commercial goods, as opposed to just using your open-source version, then you make the open-source license onerous to as many people as possible.”

Needless to say, this has made the AGPL unpopular with large sectors of the open-source community, who see it as a way for vendors to reap the rewards of the open model without having to offer a meaningful free version of their product.

As such, it’s pretty much the only legal pitfall we can think of for open-source end-users, who otherwise don’t have much to worry about where the law is concerned.


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