The use of Open Source Software (OSS) has expanded enormously and that trend seems unstoppable for the time being. Even large software companies like Microsoft and IBM have embraced Open Source Software and actively contribute to the development of Open Source Software. It is not clear to everyone what the legal rights and obligations under an Open Source license are. 

Variety of licences

Open Source Software is available in various forms. Examples include Linux operating system, word processing products of OpenOffice.org and the Mozilla web browser. There are also dozens of types of open source licences, the best known of which are the Apache License, the GNU General Public License (GPL), Lesser or Library GPL (LGPL), the Mozilla Public License (MPL) and BSD License programs. These licences stipulate the rights and obligations of the user of the pertaining Open Source product. Important principles are that the software should not contain any restrictions as to the distribution of the software, the source code must be freely available and that it must be allowed to distribute derivative software products under the same conditions.

The importance of legal advice

If you use Open Source Software commercially you might encounter legal problems if you are not aware of the licensing provisions. Consider the situation that you want to use Open Source Software as part of your own product and wish to exploit the entire product commercially. The applicable Open Source licence may expressly prohibit this form of commercial exploitation. Open Source licences may also play a role in business acquisition irrespective of whether you are the acquiring or selling party.  Are the licences present really Open Source licences or “regular” licences? You should have a clear picture of the licences present because these can have a direct effect on the value of the company.

Further information

We can inform you about all legal aspects of Open Source Software. Do you have questions about this topic or would you like to discuss a case? Please contact the Company and Insolvency section.