Copyright, Contract and FOSS
(Forthcoming 2013, Oxford University Press) Free and Open Source Software: Policy, Law and Practice (N. Shemtov and I. Walden eds.)
41 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2013 Last revised: 15 May 2014
Date Written: February 27, 2013
Over the course of this chapter three crucial aspects of the law’s relationship with FOSS licenses are reviewed. Firstly, a comparison of the licenses themselves is outlined with particular regard to copyright provisions. In this respect, it is noted that while there is a great diversity of FOSS licenses, the licenses broadly fall into one of three categories – ‘no copyleft’, ‘weak copyleft’ and ‘strong copyleft’. Secondly, the debate over enforcement is discussed, focusing on the question of whether these licenses typically operate as ‘bare licenses’ or whether they are in fact ‘contracts’. This is an important issue because different legal consequences flow with regard to each category. Moreover, this is an issue which is difficult to resolve given the fact that FOSS typically operates online, across national boundaries, while different legal rules apply in various national jurisdictions. Thirdly, the compatibility of the most significant FOSS licenses is examined.
Keywords: open source, software, copyright, contract, compatibility, license, FOSS
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