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The Open Source Alternative: Understanding Risks and Leveraging Opportunities

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470194959
ISBN-10: 0470194952
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Editorial Reviews


"In her book, Heather Meeker does a good job describing the "border dispute" of the Copyleft provision in the GPL" (ccsblog, March 16th, 2009)

"So I would say, this is the book to read, for a good account of the legal aspects surrounding open source." (, 7/6/08)

From the Inside Flap

Almost every engineer developing technical products wants to use open source software. It's free, reliable, and can cut product development cycles. But convincing management to jump on board may be a challenge. Open source can have legal strings attached. How does a company use open source intelligently, without stepping on a lawsuit land mine? Based on the author's ten years of broad experience in the trenches of intellectual property licensing, The Open Source Alternative is a practical guide for anyone who needs to find out more about the legal intricacies, risks, and rewards of open source.

Written in plain English for both lawyers and professionals, The Open Source Alternative shows you how to implement open source intelligently, without compromising the value of your intellectual property. Coverage includes:

  • What is open source?

  • Philosophy of free software

  • The vocabulary of free software and open source

  • Common open source licenses and their structure

  • Due diligence and license housekeeping

  • Audits and compliance initiatives

  • Patents and open source

  • Trademarks and open source

  • GPL version 2 compliance and the "derivative works" controversy

  • Developing a corporate open source policy

  • Enforcement of open source licenses

  • Open source in acquisition and licensing transactions

  • GPL version 3.0 update

The Open Source Alternative fills the need for a practical, objective book on the implications of open source in business. Author Heather Meeker provides background on both legal and technical principles, complemented by a wealth of references for follow-up. The book also includes a glossary, index, and a collection of documents and forms to help you in your business.

Open source and proprietary software are likely to coexist for decades to come. The Open Source Alternative will help you better understand the legal principles at work in the heterogeneous software landscape of today.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (February 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470194952
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470194959
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alex on January 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have purchased this book after having read many other books on this topic. However, only in this one I managed to find answers on questions which I had after reading all previous ones (f.e. regarding direct licensing, description of possible issues during M&A procedures, technical aspects of linking and their influence on legal side of the matter, etc.). So I am very grateful to the author of this book for answers provided. I think that this book may be of most value to those, who already have basic knowledge of open source concepts and would like to advance his knowledge in this sphere.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Todd Smithline on March 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Three different domains - technology, law and business - intersect in the world of open source software and Meeker's book manages to address each of the three at an expert level while still synthesizing the larger issues relevant to everyone in the field. While the topic of open source has generated a flood of commentary, the type of careful and reasoned analysis offered in this book is in short supply and makes The Open Source Alternative stand apart from similar recent offerings. All that and it's very readable too!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sebastian Knight on February 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. Meeker's book is worth a read if you want a well-written, straight-forward overview of Open Source from a legal perspective. She has an obvious command of her subject, which is demonstrated by her ability to analytically structure the law relating to open source and write about it succinctly. I have found that many legal texts tend to "ramble" or fail to cohesively tie together the subject that they attempt to address. This book is easy to understand because it is so clearly written. "A charlatan makes obscure what is clear; a thinker makes clear what is obscure." Ms. Meeker is clearly a thinker. Her writing distinguishes her from other legal writers. Her writing is pithy. She uses an economy of words while not losing meaning or clarity. Again, her ability to simply explain legal subjects using very elegant writing demonstrates her command of the subject.

In terms of the content, she well covers all the key elements of open source. This is a perfect primer. If you want a solid analytical structure to approach open source, this is the book to get. I would recommend reading it before tackling lengthier texts. She effectively gives you the landscape of legal issues related to open source without overwhelming the reader. Also, she very effectively weaves in some of the more macro legal issues (i.e., a contract or a license?). She makes effective use of diagrams and charts to summarize the key ideas. She covers not only the major open source licenses but also the risks and benefits of using open source from a legal perspective. She also provides tips on putting in place a compliance program. I am a fan of Ms. Meeker's -- you really can't go wrong with this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a lawyer who does some technology work and was looking for a book on the subject that would give me a solid base. This book really does it. Its well written and reasonably simple to understand. I have since recommended it to several other lawyers to read as the book to read in order to get a basic understanding of open source law.
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