The High-touch Legal Services® Blog…for Startups!

© 2009-2020 Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law

Which Open Source License Should We Choose?

Logo for the Open Source Initiative, which can help developers choose which open source license to useSoftware developers may have decided to provide open source software, but they may not know which open source license to use. This post describes three resources developers can consult to help make that decision.

First, Open Source Initiative maintains a comprehensive list of open source software licenses. Licenses are grouped into categories, starting with the most popular licenses. However, the OSI site does not provide any tools to help decide which open source license to use.

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Open Source Developer Wins Big – But Can He Collect?

BusyBox Logo

BusyBox Logo

Erik Anderson developed certain software that he contributed to BusyBox, a compact set of embedded Linux utilities licensed under the GNU General Public License, Version 2 (the “GPL”). In October 2008, Anderson registered a copyright on the code that he contributed.

On September 2, 2009, Anderson’s counsel notified Westinghouse that it was infringing Anderson’s copyright because it was distributing BusyBox – both integrated into Westinghouse televisions and separately with other software – on terms that are more restrictive than the GPL. Westinghouse continued infringing Anderson’s copyright.

Anderson and the Software Freedom Conservancy brought suit against Westinghouse and 13 other defendants on December 14, 2009. Westinghouse initially mounted a defense, but stopped participating in the suit when it filed for bankruptcy.

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Open Source Developer Prevails in Copyright Infringement Suit

Photo of model trains, subject of open source software involved in copyright infringement litigationA federal court of appeals held in 2008 that an open source developer case sue for copyright infringement despite the breadth of the open source license. The closely-watched case recently settled, meaning that the opinion may well be cited for many years to come.

Plaintiff Robert Jacobsen holds a copyright to certain computer programming code that he makes available for public download for free pursuant to the Artistic License, an open source license.

Defendants Matthew Katzer and Kamind Associates, Inc. develop commercial software products for the model train industry and hobbyists. Defendants copied certain materials from Jacobsen’s website and incorporated them into one of their software packages without following the terms of the Artistic License. Jacobsen sued for copyright infringement and moved for a preliminary injunction.

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SaaS Use of Open-source Software is not Distribution (Who GNU?)

GNU logo

I recently answered a LinkedIn question about whether providing Software as a Service (SaaS) is considered a “distribution” under the open-source GNU General Public License. The question and answer (no longer available on LinkedIn) are reproduced, in slightly edited form, below.

Q. Is hosting a software as a SaaS offering considered as “distribution” under GPL / LGPL open source licenses?

A. I believe that SaaS hosting is not intended to be considered distribution.

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The Top Ten Legal Mistakes of Startup and Early-stage Companies

I am pleased to make the article “The Top Ten Legal Mistakes of Startup and Early-stage Companies” available as a Free Download on the Downloads page.

Here are the ten mistakes that are discussed:

  1. Failing to comply with corporate formalities
  2. Pretending that employees are independent contractors
  3. Neglecting to provide and update an employee handbook
  4. Failing to establish or adhere to discipline or termination procedures
  5. Failing to ensure that the company owns its intellectual property
  6. Believing that “open source” means “no restrictions”
  7. Thinking that all NDAs have the same terms
  8. Believing that websites can unilaterally change their terms of use
  9. Using another company’s standard-form agreement
  10. Giving “family jewels” to an overseas supplier

Related post: Top Ten Intellectual Property Mistakes of Startup Entrepreneurs

Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law  +1 510 547-0545  dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.

A Practical Guide to GPL Compliance

I am pleased to make available on this blog’s Downloads page “A Practical Guide to GPL Compliance”, published by the Software Freedom Law Center.

In my opinion, this is a must read for anyone who is preparing or distributing software that is governed by the GPL.

This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

Top Ten IP Mistakes of Small to Mid-Size Tech Companies

On June 18, I will make a presentation to the East Bay MashEx. The title: “The Top Ten Intellectual Property Mistakes of Small to Mid-Size Technology Companies”. (The handout is available as a Free Download on the Downloads page.)

Here are the mistakes that I will talk about:

  1. Failing to use employee invention agreements
  2. Assuming that the company owns contractors’ work product
  3. Using another company’s license agreement
  4. Thinking that patents are the only IP that matters
  5. Filing for a provisional patent before the scope of the invention is clear
  6. Treating the federal government like non-government infringers
  7. Neglecting to identify and protect trade secrets
  8. Believing that “open source” means “no restrictions”
  9. Giving the “family jewels” to an overseas supplier
  10. Registering the wrong entity as the owner of IP

This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.