Stand Up to the Lawyers -- Open Source Licensing and Intellectual Property Law 101 for Developers

Donald Smith (The Eclipse Foundation)
Business, Fundamentals
Location: Ballroom A4/A5
Average rating: ****.
(4.20, 5 ratings)

Have you ever had a manager or legal department slow down your project why they try to figure out software licensing issues? Or have you ever witnessed a flame war between two open source groups claiming each others licenses are horrible, yet not really understood what the big deal was? Would you like to be able to confidently defend why a particular license is OK for your development project? Have you ever, or do you plan to, write code for an open source project? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this session is for you.

Software licensing is an issue that has impeded developers for decades. There is nothing worse than quickly finding the right tool or framework for the job, only to have managers and “legal” spend weeks, months and years trying to ensure that the software is used legally. Unfortunately, this issue does not go away even with the prevalence of free open source software (F/OSS). There are many kinds of F/OSS licenses and each brings with it a set of requirements and issues that impact anything that use it. In fact, raising concerns over open source licensing is often used as a competitive point in commercial software.

This session will start off with an overview of intellectual property, trademark, copyright and patent terminology. We will then review the most important grants and sections in any software license, commercial or F/OSS. Finally, we will compare and contrast many popular F/OSS licenses including Apache, Eclipse and GPL. The point is not that any F/OSS license is “better” than another; the point is being able to choose and defend which one is best for your project depending on your situation.

Photo of Donald Smith

Donald Smith

The Eclipse Foundation

Donald Smith, MBA, MSc, is Director of Ecosystem Development for the Eclipse Foundation, an independent not-for-profit foundation supporting the Eclipse open source community. Prior to joining Eclipse, Donald was Director of Technology Evangelism at Oracle and has also worked for startups WebGain and The Object People. He brings over a decade of worldwide industry experience, from small “dot-com” through Fortune 50 companies. Donald speaks regularly about community development, persistence, business integration and politics at conferences and events world wide, including Java One, Oracle World, Sun Tech Days, Evans Developer Relations Conference, OOPSLA, JAOO, Server Side Symposium, Colorado Software Summit and others.

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  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • SourceForge.net
  • Sun Microsystems
  • Facebook
  • Gear6
  • Kaltura
  • Liferay
  • MindTouch
  • MySpace.com
  • Novell, Inc.
  • Open Invention Network
  • Rackspace Cloud
  • Schooner Information Technology
  • Silicon Mechanics
  • Symbian Foundation
  • Twilio
  • WSO2
  • Yabarana Corporation

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