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Indian Legal Approach to Licensing of Open Source Software Distribution: An Exploratory Study
National Seminar on Open Source Software Systems Challenges and Opportunities, 20-22 June 2011, Department of Library and Information Sciences, University of Kashmir, Srinagar (2011)
  • M. Tariq Banday
Abstract
The pervading applications of Computer Technology are largely attributed to software. The developments in software technology have resulted in the growth of business as well as methods of business. There is a constant hunt for newer methods of developing and distributing software which has given birth to the “open source movement.” Open source software is developed in an open manner in which the source code (human readable version of the software) is widely available for review and modification by any developer, subject to the terms of the open source license. Open source software is becoming ubiquitous because of its low cost, ability to modify and ease of change to a different type of software. Many open source licenses require that the distribution of the object code (which is human readable) include either a copy of the source code or the right to receive the source code. Furthermore, these licenses give the licensee the rights, without charge, to (a) modify the software and (b) redistribute the software (whether or not modified). Open source software can be distinguished from other traditional forms of software by the structure of the license agreement under which open source software is made available. These license agreements have raised a host of legal issues that have far reaching implications which are compounded by the fact that there is no uniformity in laws in vogue in different jurisdictions. For instance, in US, the owner of the copyrighted work may license that work either in whole or in part with or without receiving a royalty or fee in exchange for the license. As against this, prior to amendment, Germany requires that the copyright owner receives adequate compensation in exchange for a license to that work. Only recently Germany has introduced what is popularly called as Linux Clause in its copyright law which makes it possible to grant a simple license to the general public for no fee or only a minimal fee. The obligations imposed by the open source licenses are generally complex and at times unclear or even ambiguous. The potential implications of using, modifying and distributing open source software vary greatly with each license. An attempt is made in this paper to explore the possible cause of action in Indian context which an open source license agreement would entail for a licensee.
Keywords
  • Law; information technology; Free and Open Source Software; OSS Distribution; OSS Licencing Issues; OSS Licencing.
Publication Date
Summer June 20, 2011
DOI
10.13140/RG.2.1.2355.7203
Citation Information
National Seminar on Open Source Software Systems Challenges and Opportunities, 20-22 June 2011, Department of Library and Information Sciences, University of Kashmir, Srinagar