Open Source Software

Lawyers who understand open source licensing and project representation.

Open Source Software Attorney

  • We are open-source lawyers.  They are not.  Our Open Source Attorneys have the knowledge and experience to handle your open-source software issue, including open-source licensing, open-source code audit, dual licensing models, commercial licenses, contributor agreements, copyright infringement, and helping clients extend their licensing and monetization plans around the open-source business model.  An experienced open-source lawyer knows how to help you build asset value. An open-source licensing lawyer is a better option to help you with your software risk assessment.
  • Open Source Projects Continue to Grow in Popularity.  In recent years, the landscape of open-source projects has undergone a transformative shift, primarily fueled by groundbreaking advancements in blockchain and artificial intelligence technologies. As legal experts specializing in technology issues, we have been at the forefront of this evolution, offering unparalleled representation to open-source initiatives. Our deep-rooted understanding of the complex legal frameworks surrounding blockchain and AI positions us as thought leaders in the field and empowers our clients to navigate the intricate regulatory and intellectual property challenges that come with open-source development. With the popularity and adoption of open-source projects, the need for specialized legal guidance has never been more critical. We are committed to providing that expertise, ensuring that innovation continues to thrive in an environment that is both legally secure and conducive to collaborative development.
  • Dual Licensing Requires Lawyers Who Understand Open Source. In the complex landscape of software development, dual licensing has emerged as a strategic approach to balance the freedom of open source with the commercial viability of proprietary software. Our legal team specializes in dual licensing, offering a nuanced understanding of open-source and proprietary licensing models. We guide technology companies in structuring dual licensing strategies that protect intellectual property and maximize revenue streams for corporate and other institutional users. Our expertise extends to navigating the intricacies of compliance, ensuring that your software remains accessible for community contributions while retaining its commercial value. Our tailored legal solutions empower you to leverage the best of both worlds, fostering innovation and driving business success.
  • Contributor License Agreements, Assignments, and Patent Clauses.  Drafting robust contributor agreements is a cornerstone of successful open-source and proprietary software projects. These agreements delineate the terms under which contributions are made, safeguarding intellectual property rights and ensuring compliance with licensing models.  Retroactively securing the necessary rights for ongoing projects can be challenging, involving negotiations with multiple stakeholders. Having contributor agreements in place at the inception of a new project provides a clear legal framework.  Our open-source lawyers specialize in navigating these issues, offering tailored strategies to secure essential rights for current and future projects, enabling you to focus on innovation.
  • Know Your Code.   Open Source software continues to become essential to the innovation technology ecosystem. If your attorney does not know how open-source software and licensing works, then your chance of success is at risk.  The first step to managing open source is to understand how much you have in your code and where it’s used. Our lawyers use special software that scans and audits your code.  We then prepare a risk assessment identifying issues and recommending the next steps.  Ignoring license compliance can result in bad publicity, copyright infringement lawsuits, damage the company’s reputation, and impact asset value. Open-source licensing can be tricky.  We can help.
  • Identify OSS Risks.  In some instances, copyright infringement litigation around open source becomes necessary. An experienced open-source copyright infringement attorney can protect your IP and get the results you seek. Once an audit is completed, you can determine if you are at risk for a copyright infringement lawsuit for violating an open-source software license.

We conduct open-source software audits for our clients.  We can conduct a software audit for you.

You need to know what is in your source code. We can help. We use proprietary search technology and methods to identify open-source code and software licenses in any source code file. Outsourced code methods cost less than other vendors.  We are software and copyright attorneys who can asses and reduce your risk. Contact us today for more information about our software code audit capabilities.

Other Open Source Software Services We Provide

  • Open Source licensing models and licensing agreement drafting and negotiation.
  • Copyright Infringement litigation, including plaintiff-side and defense.
  • Contributor Agreement Drafting.
  • Dual Licensing Development and License drafting.
  • Acting as General Counsel for Open-Source Projects.
  • Copyright Infringement Cease & Desist/Demand Letters and Responses.
  • Copyright Licensing for Open Source Developers
  • Copyright License Audits for Software Developers and Investors.
  • Arbitration of open-source issues and drafting arbitration agreements.

Most Popular Open Source Licenses

  1. Apache 2.0 License: The Apache License 2.0 is a permissive open-source license that allows for free software use, modification, and distribution. It is widely favored for its flexibility, enabling integration into commercial and non-commercial projects. A distinguishing feature of this license is the express grant of patent rights from contributors to users, which provides an added layer of legal protection against patent claims. This makes it a popular choice for developers and organizations looking for freedom and security in their software endeavors.
  2. MIT License: The MIT License is one of the most permissive and straightforward open-source licenses available. It grants users the freedom to use, modify, and distribute the software in any setting, including both proprietary and open-source projects. This flexibility makes it highly appealing for a wide range of applications, from individual developers to large corporations. Unlike some other licenses, the MIT License doesn’t impose many restrictions, making it easier to integrate the software into various types of projects without worrying about legal complexities. Overall, the MIT License is favored for its simplicity and permissiveness, offering a high degree of freedom with minimal constraints.
  3. GNU General Public License (GPL):  The GNU GPLv3 is a strong copyleft license that mandates any derivative work to be distributed under the same license terms. Unlike permissive licenses like MIT and Apache 2.0, the GPL ensures that modifications and extensions of the original software remain open-source. This creates a chain effect, encouraging the growth of open-source ecosystems by requiring that derivative works also contribute to the community. While this may limit its use in proprietary projects, it fosters collaboration and guards against the privatization of community-developed software. Overall, the GPL aims to maintain the open-source nature of software, making it a popular choice for projects that prioritize community contributions and software freedom.
  4. Affero GPL (AGPL): The Affero General Public License (AGPL) is closely related to the GNU General Public License (GPL), but it addresses a specific loophole concerning software accessed over a network. While the GPL requires derivative works to be open-source if they are distributed, the AGPL extends this requirement to software that users interact with over a network, even if the software is not explicitly “distributed” in the traditional sense. This ensures that modifications to software running on servers are also made available to the community, thereby closing the “application service provider” loophole. Overall, the AGPL aims to maintain the open-source integrity of software in networked or cloud-based environments, making it a preferred choice for projects that are accessed remotely and prioritize software freedom.
  5. Lesser General Public License (LGPL): The Lesser General Public License (LGPL) is a more permissive variant of the GNU General Public License (GPL), designed to be more accommodating for use in proprietary software. While the GPL requires that any derivative work be also open-source, the LGPL allows for linking to proprietary software without imposing the exact open-source requirement on the entire project. This means that you can incorporate LGPL-licensed libraries into your proprietary software without having to release the entire codebase as open-source. However, any modifications to the LGPL-licensed component must still be released under LGPL terms. Overall, the LGPL offers a middle ground, aiming to promote software freedom while providing more flexibility for integration into commercial projects.
  6. Eclipse Public License (EPL): The Eclipse Public License (EPL) is an open-source license commonly used for business software and enterprise applications. Unlike strong copyleft licenses like the GPL, the EPL allows for combining EPL-licensed code with non-EPL code, offering greater flexibility for commercial use. This makes integrating EPL-licensed components into proprietary projects easier without requiring the entire codebase to be open-source. However, any modifications to the EPL-licensed code must be made available under the same EPL terms.  Overall, the EPL strikes a balance between promoting open-source collaboration and accommodating the needs of business-oriented projects, making it a popular choice for commercial software development.
  7. Mozilla Public License (MPL): The Eclipse Public License (EPL) is a business-friendly open-source license offering a balanced software distribution approach. It is particularly popular for business software and allows EPL and non-EPL code to coexist within the same project.  This flexibility enables developers to integrate EPL-licensed components into proprietary or other types of licensed software without mandating that the entire project be open-sourced. However, it’s important to note that any changes to the EPL-licensed code must be released under the same license.  Overall, the EPL is a versatile choice that supports both open-source collaboration and commercial development, making it well-suited for a wide range of software projects.

Popular Open Source Projects:

  1. Linux Kernel – GNU General Public License (GPL)
  2. Git – GNU General Public License (GPL)
  3. Apache HTTP Server – Apache License 2.0
  4. MySQL – GNU General Public License (GPL)
  5. TensorFlow – Apache License 2.0
  6. React – MIT License
  7. Kubernetes – Apache License 2.0
  8. Docker – Apache License 2.0
  9. Node.js – MIT License
  10. Elasticsearch – Apache License 2.0

Dual licensing is a software distribution model where the same codebase is released under two licenses: open-source and a commercial or proprietary license. This approach allows developers to offer the software freely to the open-source community while providing a paid version with additional features or support to commercial entities. By opting for dual licensing, businesses can leverage the innovation of open-source development while securing the rights and support that come with a commercial or proprietary license.

Contributor license agreements (CLAs) are crucial to dual-licensing projects for several reasons, primarily revolving around legal clarity and project governance. In a dual-licensing model, where the same codebase is distributed under an open-source and a commercial or proprietary license, contributor agreements serve as formal contracts that specify the terms under which contributions are made to the project. These CLAs clarify intellectual property (IP) rights, ensuring that the project maintainers have the legal authority to distribute contributions under multiple licenses. Without a clear transfer or licensing of IP rights from contributors to the project, it becomes legally complex to include community contributions in the commercially licensed version of the software. Contributor license agreements often outline the responsibilities and expectations of both parties, providing a framework for how contributions are to be handled, reviewed, and incorporated. This ensures that contributions align with the project’s dual-licensing strategy and that there are no ambiguities that could later lead to legal complications.

You’ll get a listing of all the open source licenses in your code. From there the first step is you need to identify if there are any problem licenses. So in the context of a distributed mobile application, you want to avoid anything that’s going to be copyleft, because copyleft means you have to make your own source code available to anybody you give the application to.

Every company that uses, develops or integrates software should audit their code on a continual basis for third party copyrights, especially open source licenses. If you are an investor, or purchasing a company, you need to know what you are buying.

M&A requires that you conduct reviews of software applications and embedded software to identify, assess and, if necessary, mitigate risks associated with noncompliance with open source licenses.

Copyright infringement on the internet is a serious problem.  If you think your copyright is being infringed, contact one of our Copyright Infringement Attorneys immediately as there is only a three-year Statute of Limitations to bring a copyright infringement claim. If you don’t protect your copyright against infringement, who will?

Not all use of a copyright constitutes infringement.  Courts consider four factors in determining whether using a copyright is Fair Use: (1) Purpose & Character; (2) Nature of the Work; (3) Amount & Substantiality; and (4) Effect.  This four-factor Fair Use analysis is determined on a case-by-case basis. No hard and fast rules can be pulled from the case law, but some governing principles can aid in the analysis conducted by your attorney.

“So what this means for proprietary software developers is that you need to know what other licenses may exist in your code. If there is copyleft code in your proprietary code, you may have a big problem says litigation attorney Enrico Schaefer.”

A copyright licensing attorney knows how important it is to draft the license agreement to your advantage.  One of the primary values of owning and registering a copyright is that you can transfer some or those rights to third parties in exchange for royalties. Copyright licensing is contractual in nature and can either transfer all of the copyright rights in a work or only some of the rights provided by the Copyright Act. Copyright licenses are common, but often poorly drafted.

Traverse Legal’s Attorneys are globally recognized for their experience and results in the legal areas of: Complex Litigation, Internet, Trademark, Copyright, Patent, Cybersquatting, Drone, Defamation, Trade Secret, Non-Compete, and Business Law.

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We’re here to field your questions and concerns. If you are a company able to pay a reasonable legal fee each month, please contact us today.