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Archived updates for Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Primer on Open Source Software for Business People and Lawyers

Over the past several years, market forces have operated to bring about numerous variants of commercial and open source software, all of which have their own distinguishing features. Along that spectrum we can now find:
  1. commercial “closed source� software, for which the source code is not available to anyone other than the original developer;
  2. commercial “closed source� software, for which the source code is licensed to authorized users under strict confidentiality terms for their own use in maintaining and modifying the software;
  3. “shared source� software, for which the source code is made available to licensees for limited purposes and subject to restrictions on use and disclosure;
  4. community source� software, for which the source code is available to a limited community of users for broad purposes but still subject to restrictions on use, modification and distribution; and
  5. true “open source� software, for which the source code is made available for “free� use, modification and distribution, but the license for which may be subject to conditions or obligations that make it unsuitable for commercial use

The goal of this primer is to help the reader gain a basic understanding of the differences between open source and commercial software in terms of some of the practical implications of each and some of the broader issues that software developers, governments and commercial enterprises might want to consider in terms of their own policies and acquisition activities.

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