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

Red Hat News

Leftovers: Ubuntu

Linux Devices

  • AsteroidOS 1.0 Alpha on the Asus Zenwatch 3
    In a previous article, I published a small userspace image and Linux kernel for the Zenwatch 3 that enables root access with SSH over USB on the watch. By now, I reached my initial goal to get AsteroidOS, the alternative Android Wear operating system, running on the Zenwatch 3. Similar to SailfishOS and Ubuntu Touch, AsteroidOS uses the original Android kernel - a patched Linux kernel - with a GNU/Linux userspace that, in turn, also uses some of the original, closed-source Android libraries to access certain hardware like the GPU. As the Android libraries expect a different software ecosystem, e.g., a different C library called bionic, we cannot simply call the Android libraries from within a common GNU/Linux application. Instead, we need an additional software layer that translates between the Android and the common GNU/Linux world. This layer is called libhybris.
  • How Ironic: Harman Kardon’s Microsoft Cortana Speaker Is Powered by Linux
    Harman Kardon, the company recently acquired by Samsung, has developed its very own Cortana speaker, which is very similar to the Amazon Echo but featuring Microsoft’s famous digital assistant. And since Cortana is the key feature of this little device, it only makes sense for Harman Kardon to turn to Windows 10 to power the device. And yet, it looks like the so-called Harman Kardon is actually running Linux.
  • MontaVista® Launches Carrier Grade eXpress®(CGX) 2.2 Linux® for 5G and IoT at MWC 2017
  • The Numbers Article for Mobile in 2017 - All the Statistics You Could Ask For
    Mobile is the hottest industry. Banking and payments are rushing to mobile. Governments doing healthcare and education with mobile. Travel from airlines to taxis to trains and busses to hotel bookings is going mobile. Your driver's licence is migrating to the mobile phone as are your keys to your home. And all the other big tech stories from Internet of Things (IoT) to 'Big Data' analytics to Cloud computing - are all dependent on mobile. And next week we have the massive industry event in Barcelona, Mobile World Congress. My brand new TomiAhonen Almanac 2017 is now finished and is released today. So this is the perfect time to do my annual 'State of Mobile' blog of the major statistics. What are the big numbers. Lets start with reach. Yes, mobile is by far the most widely-spread communication technology humankind has ever witnessed.
  • Tizen Store Expands Its Service Coverage to 222 Countries
    The Tizen Store, as the name suggests, is the Tizen Application Store for developers to publish their free and paid for Tizen apps. In April 2015, we saw the store expand it’s coverage to include 182 countries, which was mainly for FREE apps, but we saw this as setting the foundation for providing paid for apps further down the road.

Android Leftovers