The importance of maintaining the open source software value proposition

23 October 2017. Despite the success of the OSS ecosystem, some companies are advocating for standards-development organizations (SDOs) to host OSS projects under an IPR policy that allows contributors to preserve a proprietary interest in the intellectual property rights of their contributions to the OSS project – allowing those contributors to seek patent royalties from users of the code generated under the project. Of concern is that the proposal violates core OSI principles of the Open Source Definition, making it clear that the proposed license model is not a true Open Source Software model. Rather, as discussed more fully in this paper, it is more appropriately viewed as a proprietary software development model.

What’s in a name? When it comes to the meaning of Open Source Software – everything! The Open Source Software (OSS) ecosystem has matured over the last 40-plus years to become a major engine for innovation and economic growth across the breadth of the high-tech industry. OSS is the foundation of many applications, operating systems, cloud services, databases, analytics platforms, and more. As such, the use of OSS is nearly ubiquitous, and it is integrated into or implemented by much of the world’s most popular products, services and applications.

The OSS ecosystem thrives, in large part, because it was built on the free and open sharing of code reflecting different ideas, techniques, and solutions, and on the premise that the resulting software and software development acumen would evolve and improve over time. To promote this ideal, the OSS community has, from the very beginning, considered the intellectual property rights (IPR) necessary to make its ecosystem work. The community has continued to hone and refine the language and scope of OSS licenses to address the salient IPR considerations associated with software, as they were understood at the time. Today, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) is the industry’s recognized guardian of what OSS means and of the accepted IPR licensing principles under which OSS is distributed and used. It defines OSS licenses as “licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition – in brief, they allow software to be freely used, modified, and shared”. The Open Source Definition contains a total of 10 principles, which are available on the OSI’s webpage.


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