Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Commercial Open Source?

Filed under
OSS

Here’s a wrinkle that many devotees of open source either don’t know about, or don’t talk about. As it turns out, open source projects can get acquired by commercial software companies. And to prove that point, one of the more popular open source projects on sourceforge.net was acquired last week. To what extent the acquisition of an open source project results in its being taken out off the open source shelves depends on many things. For example, how many people were contributing to it before the acquisition, who are they, and what are their plans now that their open source project has been acquired?

To acquire an open source project, the acquirer has to, with almost 100 percent certainty, be sure that they are acquiring the copyrights to all of the code being used in the project. Those copyrights ultimately belong to the individual contributors to the project who, up until the point of acquisition, would have been bequeathing certain rights to their code to others under whatever open source license is behind the project. To the extent that licensing that code under an OSI-approved license is what let the code out out of the box and into the open source wild, there’s nothing that the acquirer can do to put it back in the box. That code will always remain available under whatever open source license it was published. But, by acquiring the copyrights and any trademarks that are associated with that code, the acquirer also acquires the right to modify and distribute the original code without having to make those modifications available under an open source license. In other words, future versions of the open source software could become closed source. So, how could this play out?

With a project like Linux, there’s pretty much a zero probablility of the project ever being acquired because of how many contributors are involved. Not only would it be difficult to track them all down, establish with some degree that they are indeed the copyright holders, and reach some mutually beneficial financial arrangement to give an acquirer all the rights they need. There’s also the high likelihood that some passionate group of developers would take the core body of source code that was already available under an open source license (the GPL), and exercise their rights to continue the evolution of an open source version of Linux. The end result, even if someone successfully "acquired" Linux, would be a tangible forking of the code. One fork would be open source version that the passionate community carried forward. The other would be the commercial derivative that was some percentage open source (by virtue of the "grandfathered" code base), and some percentage closed source.

But what about a popular open source project that has far fewer developers with far fewer copyrights to track down? Sure, the developers could sell their copyrights to the acquirer, but nothing prevents them from continuing to evolve the already open-sourced code under an open source license. That is, unless, in the process of acquiring the copyrights to the source code, the acquirer also hires the most passionate developers — the driving forces — behind the open source project.

Full Story.

More in Tux Machines

today's howtos

Leftovers: Ubuntu

  • Ubuntu Phone, Sep 2016 - Vorsprung durch Touch
    The Ubuntu Phone is getting better, and with every new iteration of the OTA, my little BQ Aquaris E4.5 is gaining more speed and functionality. Like in the air force, with an avionics upgrade, which transforms ancient wings into a powerful and modern bird of prey. Only the pace of advancement is lagging behind the market. See what Android and iOS can do, even Windows Phone, and you realize how late and insufficiently meaningful the Ubuntu Phone really is. This has to change, massively. This latest round does bring some fine goods to the table - more speed and stability, better icons, more overall visual polish, incremental improvements in the applications and the scopes. But that's not enough to win the heart of the average user. A more radical, app-centric effort is required. More focus on delivering the mobile experience, be it as it may. Ubuntu cannot revolutionalize that which is already considered the past. It can only join the club and enjoy the benefits of a well-established reality. And that is a kickass app stack that makes the touch device worth using in the first place. Still, it's not all gloomy. E4.5 is a better product now than it was a year ago, fact. Ubuntu Phone is a better operating system than it was even this spring, fact. So maybe one day we will see Ubuntu become an important if not dominant player in the phone and tablet space. It sure is heading in the right direction, my only fear is the availability of resources to pull off this massive rehaul that is needed to make it stand up to the old and proven giants. And that's it really. If you're keen on Linux (not Android) making it in the mobile world, do not forget to check my Ubuntu tablet review! Especially the convergence piece. On that merry note, you do remember that I'm running a wicked contest this year, too? He/she who reads my books might get a chance to win an M10 tablet. Indeed. Off you go, dear readers. Whereas I will now run the same set of tests we did here on the Aquaris tablet, and see how it likes the OTA-12 upgrade. The end.
  • Ubuntu 16.10 Unity 8 - new window snapping feature
  • Ubuntu Online Summit for Ubuntu 17.04 is Taking Place In Mid-November
  • Ubuntu Online Summit: 15-16 November 2016

Leftovers: OSS and Sharing

  • 10 Top Open Source Artificial Intelligence Tools for Linux
    In this post, we shall cover a few of the top, open-source artificial intelligence (AI) tools for the Linux ecosystem. Currently, AI is one of the ever advancing fields in science and technology, with a major focus geared towards building software and hardware to solve every day life challenges in areas such as health care, education, security, manufacturing, banking and so much more.
  • List of FLOSS International Conferences September 2016 Materials
  • This Week In Servo 78
    Our overall roadmap is available online and now includes the initial Q3 plans. From now on, we plan to include the quarterly plan with a high-level breakdown in the roadmap page.
  • Firefox 49 Release: Find out what is new
    Firefox 49.0 is the next major stable release of the web browser. Firefox 48.0.2 and earlier versions of Firefox can be updated to the new release.
  • Open-Source Climate Change Data From NASA, NOAA, & Others Available For 1st Time
    Climate change has many components — rising sea levels, alterations in rainfall patterns, and an increase in severe storm activity, among others. Communities around the world are faced with the need to plan for climate change but don’t have the information available to do so effectively.
  • Another Setback for 3D Printed Gun Advocate Cody Wilson as Court of Appeals Rules That National Security Concerns Outweigh Free Speech
    It’s been a long, drawn-out battle, beginning in 2013 when Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, published the open source files for his 3D printed handgun, the Liberator, online. The State Department ordered that he take the files down, and Wilson complied, but not before thousands had downloaded them and spread them elsewhere on the Internet. In 2015, with the help of gun rights organization The Second Amendment Foundation, Wilson filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the State Department had violated not only his Second Amendment but his First Amendment rights. By suppressing his right to share information online, Wilson argued, the State Department was violating his right to free speech.
  • In 3D-Printed Gun Case, Federal Court Permits Speech Censorship in the Name of Alleged National Security
  • Oracle tries playing nice with Java EE rebels
    With Oracle now trying to get back on track with advancing enterprise Java, the company is seeking rapprochement with factions that had sought to advance the platform on their own. The two groups involved are mostly amenable to patching up the relationship. Oracle's Anil Gaur, group vice president of engineering, said this week he had already been in touch with some of the concerned parties. The two factions include Java EE Guardians, led by former Oracle Java EE evangelist Reza Rahman, and Microprofile.io, which has included participation from Red Hat and IBM.

GNU News