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Book review: Understanding Open Source and Free Software Licensing

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When you develop an open source work or use an open source work, it is important that you understand the license. A well written license protects both you and the user. According to the information found on the O’Reilly website, “Andrew M. St. Laurent is an experienced lawyer with a long-time interest in intellectual property, particularly software licensing”. Rest assured, after reading this book you will have a new appreciation for those who work daily with licensing issues.

At first, I was a little intimidated by the overwhelming number of licenses available. There are so many licenses that would seem to have the same purpose; keeping our software free (as in freedom). But simply looking at the index, I quickly realized there must be something more to this topic. The author has done a thorough job of breaking down each license and explaining what each section of the license is accomplishing. If you have struggled in the past, as I have, to read an entire End User License Agreement (EULA) in one sitting, this will walk you through it one step at a time. It might not make them any more entertaining to read, but now you will be able to better understand what you are reading. This is one of the prices we pay for creating or using free software—making sure we keep it free.

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