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Understanding Open Source and Free Software Licensing First Edition,Annotated Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0596005818
ISBN-10: 0596005814
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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

guide to Navigating Licensing Issues in Existing & New Software

About the Author

Andrew M. St. Laurent is an experienced lawyer with a long-time interest in intellectual property, particularly software licensing.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; First Edition,Annotated edition (August 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596005814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596005818
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Byrne on September 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
In his book, "Understanding Open Source and Free Software Licensing" (193 pages , O'Reilly Media, 2004, ISBN 0-596-00581-4), Andrew M. St. Laurent attempts to help readers understand the variations and complexities involved in deciding what kind of licensing model to apply to software being developed and how to understand the complexities and requirements of open source and free software licensing that someone may want to use and incorporate in software packages being developed for internal use and/or external distribution. If you are willing to slog through this short book (I say slog because it is full of legal terminology) to filter out his explanations, you may find this book useful. If you are not, you may find yourself frustrated.

As a lawyer, Mr. St. Laurent does a very capable job in explaining the history of copyright law and then picking apart what the individual sections of licences actually mean. But he lost me early on by the very way he organizes and characterizes certain fundamental concepts, and this presentation is carried through out the book. At the outset, he talks about the fact that licenses are in fact contracts, but does not get into detailed discussions of how contracts are formed and the issues of contracts until Chapter 6. In this chapter he talks about assumptions about contracts and meanders his ways around to discussions of the required elements to have a contract, but never addresses them as such. Instead, he treats them as "concepts" as opposed to requirements. This discussion, which should have been covered in Chapter 1 as a succinct discussion of the required elements of a valid contract, easily gets lost as the readers may have struggled through all of the legal jargon and analysis that proceeded it.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Chad on January 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am an attorney who does open source software license work for a living. When this book came along, I picked it up, mostly because I was interested in seeing how O'Reilly does branching out well beyond its usual technical subjects. As you are probably aware, 2004 was the year of open source, according to some publications. Well, it was also the year of open source books. I have seen at least five that deal with the topic directly.

Getting to the merits of St. Laurent's book, I struggled with whether to give it three or four stars. You see, even as a lawyer I found it lacking in clarity and flow. Overall, I am opposed to the route he took in excerpting almost every term of each license and then providing exposition of his own that was a lot of times hardly more helpful than the original license language. A better approach to explaining the licenses can be found in Larry Rosen's wonderful book "Open Source Licensing." However, this downside becomes an upside when using the book as a reference, instead of an educational guide (justifying the fourth star). St. Laurent's approach here is useful for going into more depth on a particular license. Perhaps that was the goal all along.

Another advantage this book has over Rosen's is its broader treatment of the growing array of licenses and license types. St. Laurent covers more licenses and for that I am thankful. In the end, I would recommend having a copy of both Rosen's and St. Laurent's book handy. And whatever you do, skip Rod Dixon's "Open Source Software Law."
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Barry Hawkins on January 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Understanding Open Source & Free Software Licensing

Andrew M. St. Laurent


When sharing with others that I was reviewing an O'Reilly book through their User Group & Professional Association Program, the first question was always the same: "What book are you reviewing?" After saying the title was "Understanding Open Source & Free Software Licensing", responses ranged from "What's that?" to "Well, you won't have any trouble sleeping!" One might think that this list of people included relatives and coworkers who were not attuned to the open source community and its issues. On the contrary, the responses came from those within my circle of acquaintances that include software developers, system administrators, and even an intellectual property lawyer. Licensing is not exactly the sort of topic where people slide forward in their seats and ask to be told more. Such is the appeal of software licensing; however, the importance of understanding licensing, particularly within the context of open source development, cannot be overstated.

Those familiar with the O'Reilly product offerings have no doubt seen or purchased one or more their Pocket Reference series ([...] They are not comprehensive references, but rather convenient guides for a specific topic to provide the sort of information one is not likely to have committed to memory, particularly as the trend of having cross-disciplined technologists continues. This book could be considered the analog of pocket guides for open source and free software licensing. Open source licenses and their legal interpretation are subject matter that easily warrant a "pocket reference" that is a full-sized book of nearly 200 pages.
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