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

When A Computer Is Ready for the Junk Pile

HBO//Devious Maids S04E01 Online 2016. HBO//Pretty Little Liars S7 E2 Online 2016.

Windows 'Upgrade'

  • When A Computer Is Ready for the Junk Pile
    To that point, there was a report that a mail server failure in a large business office remained a mystery for two days until someone found an old Pentium II back in the corner of some obscure closet with a burned out power supply. It is reported that the Slackware/Debian/Red Hat machine had been plugging away as a mail server for a number of years, completely unattended. That’s feasible I suppose, but I further suppose that it’s a modern day parable about how open source can indeed, carry the day.
  • Microsoft draws flak for pushing Windows 10 on PC users
    With about a month left for many PC users to upgrade to Windows 10 at no charge, Microsoft is being criticized for its aggressive — some say too aggressive — campaign to get people to install the new operating system.
  • Microsoft forks out thousands over forced Windows 10 upgrade
    Microsoft has had to pay a Windows user in California US$10,000 over a forced upgrade to Windows 10, according to a report in the Seattle Times. The user, Teri Goldstein, runs a travel agency in Sausalito, a San Francisco Bay Area city in Marin County, California.
  • A lawsuit over an unwanted Windows 10 upgrade just cost Microsoft $10,000
    Microsoft recently paid a (very small) price for its Windows 10 upgrade tactics, and that was before they became increasingly aggressive.
  • Updategate: California woman awarded $10,000 for borked Windows 10 upgrade
    A CALIFORNIA woman has set a precedent after a court ruled that she was entitled to damages over the installation of Windows 10 on her machine. Teri Goldstein, a travel agent, testified that the new operating system had auto-downloaded, started to install, failed, and left her Windows 7 computer running painfully slowly and often unusable for days. "I had never heard of Windows 10," Goldstein told reporters. "Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to update."
  • Microsoft pays out $10,000 for automatic Windows 10 installation
    Company withdraws appeal leaving it liable for $10,000 compensation judgment after botched automatic upgrade of travel agent’s computer
  • Microsoft Pays Woman $10,000 Over Its Forced Windows 10 Upgrade
    As a result of a legal suit, Microsoft has paid a woman $10,000 over the forced Windows 10 upgrade.
  • 'I urge everyone to fight back' – woman wins $10k from Microsoft over Windows 10 misery
    A California woman has won $10,000 from Microsoft after a sneaky Windows 10 update wrecked the computer she used to run her business. Now she's urging everyone to follow suit and "fight back." Teri Goldstein – who manages a travel agency in Sausalito, just north of San Francisco – told The Register she landed the compensation by taking Microsoft to a small claims court. Rather than pursue a regular lawsuit, she chose the smaller court because it was better suited to sorting out consumer complaints. Crucially, it meant Microsoft couldn't send one of its top-gun lawyers – or any lawyer in fact: small claims courts are informal and attorneys are generally not allowed. Instead, Redmond-based Microsoft had to send a consumer complaints rep to argue its case.

Canonical Releases New Kernel Update for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

We reported the other day that Canonical released a major kernel update for its Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) operating system, and it appears that it also affected users of the Ubuntu 15.10 (Wily Werewolf) distribution. Read more

This programmable, open source outlet can do things that off-the-shelf smart plugs can't

Excited by the idea of an open-source, Arduino-based outlet, capable of remotely controlling your various household devices? If so, you’ll definitely want to check out the Portlet: a versatile portmanteau of “portable” and “outlet,” which — despite only consisting of 4 buttons and a simple 2×15 character LCD screen — can be programmed to do everything from switching your lights on at a certain time to keeping your coffee heated at the perfect temperature. Read more