Open Source Series

Episode 1: Understanding Open Source


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Instructor: Todd Smithline
Length: 30 minutes
CLE: None
Roundtable: Yes
Created: 7/16

Use of open source software is ubiquitous, yet how the licenses work and the consequences of non-compliance are not widely understood. In this first Episode in our Open Source Series, we introduce open source licenses, divide them into easily understood categories, teach you how to provide attribution and explain the importance of compliance.

This program takes the perspective of counsel to a proprietary technology company, but should be useful to anyone trying to understand the legal implications of using and distributing open source software.

Specific Topics
  1. What’s Our Lens? The presentation takes the perspective of in-house counsel at a proprietary software or SaaS company.
  2. How Do Open Source Licenses Work? Open source is a form of conditional copyright (and sometimes patent) license. In most licenses, distributing the open source code is what triggers your obligation to comply with the license terms, including the requirement to pass through the copyright notice and license to your downstream recipients.
  3. License Types & Matrix – We divide open source licenses by type into two main categories, “Permissive” and “Viral”, and explain how each works from a legal perspective. We also show you how to use our Open Source License Matrix to find the license type for open source licenses you encounter in your practice.
  4. Special Focus – GPL. The most common type of Viral license is the “General Public License” or “GPL” family of licenses. We discuss the three main types of GPL licenses and explain the particular legal and intellectual property risks associated with each.
  5. Why Bother? We review why it’s so important to comply with open source licenses, including a discussion of license enforcement and the consequences of non-compliance, which can include both damages and injunctions.
  6. Questions from the Roundtable – We share questions and answers from our first Roundtables for this Episode.