- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 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: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,519,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Understanding Open Source and Free Software Licensing 1st Edition
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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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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. If he had done so, the discussion around each of the licenses could have been presented and understood in a more straightforward manner.
That leads to my second criticism of the book. He treats each type of license (GPL, MIT, BSD, GNU General Public License, etc) individually, which made it more difficult to cross reference. As a reader interested in the best type of license to work with or how to understand a license presented, I would preferred to have each element of s standard license discussed, followed up by a comparison of how each license type addresses this issue. At the end (or even as an addendum), a chart showing the relationships, restrictions, permissions, etc of all the licenses would have been very useful.
This is not to say that the book is without merit. He does make it easy to see how people and companies/corporations can easily slip up in how they approach open source/free software. He also talks about how these different types of licensing models have evolved over time. And without saying it, he started my mind thinking about the concept of "legal capacity" and contracts. In most of the United States, a widely held legal concept is that an unemancipated minor (i.e. someone under the age of 18) does have the legal capacity to enter into a contract and these contracts cannot be legally enforced. If this continues to be held as a legal principal, how can any software license be enforced against young people who buy, sell, trade, "liberate" ( a nicer word for stealing copies), or do other things with software they have purchased? This might make for an interesting discussion down the road.
So who should read this book? This book should be retained by business control, purchasing/acquisition and information system audit professionals as a guide when reviewing licensing issues related to internal controls and IS governance. These professionals should read and digest the material, with the help of legal counsel, and educate developers, administrators, and line of business project sponsors as to what it means and how it applies. It is not a book for developers and administrators should have themselves unless they really want to get into legal nitty gritty.
The Business Controls Caddy Rating: Bogey on Short Par 4.
Christopher Byrne, IBM CAAD/CASA
The Cayuga Group, LLC
"The Business Controls Caddy"
Author Andrew M. St. Laurent does an excellent job explaining all these various licenses, what you can do and can't do, the various benefits and shortcomings of the licenses and pitfalls to watch for. If you are doing development in this arena, have made an improvement to one of the programs, or have written a program for internal use that might have resell value you can't afford to not understand the nuances of the various licensing agreements. Understanding Open Source & Free Software Licensing is highly recommended and required reading for anyone in this situation.
Let me first begin by saying that the author did a great job of being concise. I'd had some free time today, and was at first hesitant to begin, as I thought it may be too dry for a saturday afternoon. St. Laurent did a great job of reeling me in though, with a quick, easy to understand example of basic copyright as it stands in the US, along with brief explanations on how closed-source and open-source licensing influences that copyright.
The book then goes into different types of open source/free software licensing: GPL, LGPL, Apache, Qt, Creative Commons, BSD, etc - all of the usual suspects, and then some. Then, in chapter 5, the author talks about "Closed Source" licensing, for the reason being that "understanding proprietary licenses can also be important, as companies...(are) attempting to reap some of the benefits of a more open development model."
Chapters 6 and 7 get to the heart of the matter, discussing the legal aspects, derived works and forking of OS projects, choosing a license and even the "negative" aspects of OS licensing.
I would say that the author deserves your hard-earned sheckles for this book. He does a good job of delivering a widely debated, legal topic to the folks who need to understand it the most, software developers and their IT collegues.
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Understanding Open Source and Free Software Licensing is a very needed book and...Read more
Andrew M. St. Laurent