Software Pluralism

Software Pluralism

Law

As the free and open source software (“FOSS”) movement gains momentum in commercial settings, lawyers need to address the legal problems associated with the sometimes vague and contradictory tenets of intellectual property law as it pertains to software, and the often ambiguous or contradictory terms of FOSS licenses. Of greatest concern is the so-called “viral” nature of the GNU General Public License (GPL), which purports to place restrictions on integration of proprietary software components with software covered by the GPL. Central to this question is the definition of “derivative work” under the Copyright Act, and the public position of the Free Software Foundation on the definition of this term, which some believe to be broader than that used by the Copyright Act as interpreted by courts.

The following articles explore these and other legal problems associated with open source licensing. The following materials also include an overview of other legal areas relevant to OSS, including moral rights, trademark, copyright, and patent.