Open Source software is not unprotected!
June 3, 2012 1 Comment
Last Friday, Bart Clarysse gave us an interesting class about entrepreneurship. I was happy to learn about the protectability and complementarity of new ideas. However I was very surprised to hear Prof. Clarysse say things like “With Open Source software, you abandon your copyright” or “When you create Open Source software, it becomes automatically copyleft”.
There are a many reasons why someone would free its code under a free software license or an Open Source license. Fame, time, resources, support, … Although all these licenses and their derivatives do not all fit in it, they can broadly be defined as copyleft licenses that “describe the practice of using copyright law to offer the right to distribute copies and modified versions of a work and requiring that the same rights be preserved in modified versions of the work” [w]. So far, so good.
However, neither free software, neither Open Source software, neither copyleft software are left unprotected, without any copyright and without commercialization.
Copyleft software is still protected by copyright. When you use copyleft software in your enterprise, you don’t acquire the ownership of what was previously written, you cannot make whatever you want with this piece of software. Copyleft software is clearly protected by copyright. But on top of “author’s protection”, it gives 4 levels of freedom to the customer. But author’s rights are still there and they are already many cases of enforcement of this license.
And you can of course commercialize Copyleft software. As Bart mentioned, Redhat is a commercial company giving very good results and however based on Copyleft software (Linux – and Linux in itself is not a commercial project, another error made on Friday). Another well-known, profitable company based (at least in part) on Open Source or free software is Oracle (Java, OpenOffice, MySQL). But IBM also produces free software, as well. Pixar gave back to the Community (of free software developers) some software, as well as Google, etc.
But I agree that by allowing people to build upon your source code, you don’t take the risk of earning more money. I would be happy to further develop these facts and elaborate on ideas.
Note: I expect the same one-sided story against free software in the innovation class, next year … However …