2003 | Abstracts

Problems in Open Source Licensing

Jeremy Malcolm

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Despite their ubiquity, a legal cloud hangs over most OSD compliant software licences. There has never been a conclusive legal determination of the validity of the licences that we take for granted. Some of the problems with licensing free software include the fact that there are often hundreds of separate copyright owners, that licences are of an uncertain duration, and as to whether the terms of the licence can be unilaterally changed to make them more restrictive. To complicate matters further, different issues arise in different national jurisdictions, and there are distinct issues raised by each of the common licences such as the GPL, LGPL, BSD, Mozilla and Artistic licences. This presentation will examine these questions, and review some pointers from Australian legal authority on shareware licences as to the way that open source licences might be enforced.

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