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Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0131487871
ISBN-10: 0131487876
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

A complete guide to the law of open source for developers, managers, and lawyers

Now that open source software is blossoming around the world, it is crucial to understand how open source licenses work—and their solid legal foundations. Open Source Initiative general counsel Lawrence Rosen presents a plain-English guide to open source law for developers, managers, users, and lawyers. Rosen clearly explains the intellectual property laws that support open source licensing, carefully reviews today’s leading licenses, and helps you make the best choices for your project or organization. Coverage includes:

Explanation of why the SCO litigation and other attacks won’t derail open source
Dispelling the myths of open source licensing
Intellectual property law for nonlawyers: ownership and licensing of copyrights, patents, and trademarks
"Academic licenses": BSD, MIT, Apache, and beyond
The "reciprocal bargain" at the heart of the GPL
Alternative licenses: Mozilla, CPL, OSL and AFL
Benefits of open source, and the obligations and risks facing businesses that deploy open source software
Choosing the right license: considering business models, product architecture, IP ownership, license compatibility issues, relicensing, and more
Enforcing the terms and conditions of open source licenses
Shared source, eventual source, and other alternative models to open source
Protecting yourself against lawsuits

From the Back Cover

“I have studied Rosen’s book in detail and am impressed with its scope and content. I strongly recommend it to anybody interested in the current controversies surrounding open source licensing.”
—John Terpstra, Samba.org; cofounder, Samba-Team
“Linux and open source software have forever altered the computing landscape. The important conversations no longer revolve around the technology but rather the business and legal issues. Rosen’s book is must reading for anyone using or providing open source solutions.”
—Stuart Open Source Development Labs

A Complete Guide to the Law of Open Source for Developers, Managers, and Lawyers

Now that open source software is blossoming around the world, it is crucial to understand how open source licenses work—and their solid legal foundations. Open Source Initiative general counsel Lawrence Rosen presents a plain-English guide to open source law for developers, managers, users, and lawyers. Rosen clearly explains the intellectual property laws that support open source licensing, carefully reviews today’s leading licenses, and helps you make the best choices for your project or organization. Coverage includes:

  • Explanation of why the SCO litigation and other attacks won’t derail open source
  • Dispelling the myths of open source licensing
  • Intellectual property law for nonlawyers: ownership and licensing of copyrights, patents, and trademarks
  • “Academic licenses”: BSD, MIT, Apache, and beyond
  • The “reciprocal bargain” at the heart of the GPL
  • Alternative licenses: Mozilla, CPL, OSL and AFL
  • Benefits of open source, and the obligations and risks facing businesses that deploy open source software
  • Choosing the right license: considering business models, product architecture, IP ownership,
  • license compatibility issues, relicensing, and more
  • Enforcing the terms and conditions of open source licenses
  • Shared source, eventual source, and other alternative models to open source
  • Protecting yourself against lawsuits
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131487876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131487871
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #722,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you're looking to get an in-depth understanding of open source licensing and all the issues surrounding it, you should read Open Source Licensing by Lawrence Rosen (Prentice Hall).

Chapter list: Freedom and Open Source; Intellectual Property; Distribution of Software; Taxonomy of Licenses; Academic Licenses; Reciprocity and the GPL; The Mozilla Public License (MPL); The Common Public License (CPL); The OSL and the AFL; Choosing an Open Source License; Shared Source, Eventual Source, and Other Licensing Models; Open Source Litigation; Open Standards; The Open Source Paradigm; Appendices; Index

On the positive side, this book will teach you more about licensing than you thought existed. This book deals with all the legal issues that either have arisen or could become a problem as open source continues to make inroads against commercial software. The analysis is detailed as only a lawyer can do it. Another positive aspect of the book is that the author covers how different open source licenses mesh with each other. You may be forced into choosing a certain type of license if you've incorporated software that already uses a license that you're expected to apply to your software. All good stuff.

On the negative side, I don't think the book delivers on its promise to present "a plain-English guide to open source law for developers, managers, users, and lawyers". I see this as a book by a lawyer for lawyers needing to understand software licensing and how open source licensing fits into that. Companies that are building a business model around open source will need this material, but the typical developer and nearly all users will be bored to death as individual words are pulled out and dissected as for potential legal interpretations that could be applied.
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Format: Paperback
The Open Source/Free Software movement can be very confusing because it is a mixture of ideology, politics and business. To choose the proper license for your purposes you first have to understand the purpose of the various licenses. Some, specially GNU/GPL, are mostly political and ideological in nature in that they try to create a 'right to software.' Others are designed to further either academic or business interests through free software.

Except for Chapter 10, I found the book to be eminently readable. Unfortunately, Chapter 10: Choosing an Open Source License, which can be considered the core of the book, turned my brain to mush and was no help at all choosing a license. The author states:

"If you expect a checklist method to select a license, don't bother reading this chapter; it cannot be so easy."

While from an attorney's point of view this might be correct, from a developer's point of view you don't really have an alternative to creating your own checklist to pick a license. An attorney will give you the attorney's standard solution: "consult your attorney." When you do, your attorney will not pick a license for you, he'll rehash everything in the book and you still have the burden to pick a license. So why not nip in the bud this Catch-22 situation?

My own checklist, created mostly from what I learned from this book, is as follows:

1.- Ideological intent? What is your prime intent, to make a political statement or is it something else like promoting academe or running a business?

2.- Reciprocal licensing? What is more beneficial for your project, reciprocal licensing which limits contributor's choices or non-reciprocal which allows alternative licensing modes for derivative works?

3.- Can you afford an attorney?
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Format: Paperback
At the core of the open source movement are licensing issues. These are still relatively new and potentially confusing to many. Here, Rosen offers a major clarification of the key ideas. He discusses the basic motivation underpinning the most common licenses, like GPL, CPL, OSL and MPL. These are compared with each other and with what might be considered the closest previous type of license - that used in academia. While the final choice is yours, he gives you a solid basis for determining that choice.

For many readers, there will be an interesting analysis of the SCO versus Open Source fracas. In essence, he suggests that after all the dust has settled, it will break no new ground in contract law. Nor will it stymie or halt the open source movement. A relief to many, if his assessment proves true.
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By E on June 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is not straight forward. Instead of teaching the basic concepts and then moving on to a more detailed analysis, the author first complains about all of the problems about this or that license. Then, in the process, you get only bits of basic information. It's a jumbled mess.

The editor really let the author down. It's the editor's job to make sure the information is edited to be clear and logical.

If you need to learn about open source licensing, watch the FREE training videos from Black Duck Software. Just Google "black duck webinars". I believe the author of this book is involved in those as well.

I've found other open source licensing books that get high ratings on Amazon, but none of those are very good either. Well written books on open source licensing seem to be hard to find.
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