Open Source Software

Abstract

Answer.com (n.d.) explained that open source software differs from licensed software with an important fact that the source code of such software is available to the public domain to use and modify from the original design. For an open source to be available for use in the public domain; a collaborative efforts from different entities such as community group, or individuals are used to improve the source code, and initiate many enhancement that can be used by others, and for generation to come. Such collaborative efforts are used for a free of charge and without an interest that can lead to any financial gain. Also, an important feature of the open source; is it’s a free of charge for public and no intellectual property can be claimed or financial gain of a group or person can be involved. The concept of the open source opened the door for public domain to exchange information, knowledge and different experiences for an effort to create a product that can be used by public and to benefit others. For software to be considered as open source software, certain conditions have to be met, and these conditions are:

 

  • The author or a group cannot collect a financial benefit from such software or collect royalties on distributing the software.
  • The source code of such software or development tool must be open to the public domain to view and be able to access the source code.
  • The modifications and the changes to the software must be allowed to the public domain.
  • The access to such software or tool can’t be denied to a certain group or to an individual.
  • No restrictions can be placed on such software to be distributed, and if it’s distributed, it should be done with an open license.

 What is an open source Software?

Answer.com (n.d.) explained that the movement of the free software started in 1983, where a group of individual prompted the idea of the term free software to be replaced by the open source concept. With such concept the software developers can publish their software with open source license so individuals can develop the same software, and allow others to modify the source code, and share it with other market. The concept of the open Source definition is used by the Open Source Initiative to determine if the software license is considered to be open source according to certain guidelines, and must be comply with the following criteria’s:

 

  • No restriction required by the software license to prevent the selling or giving away the software as a component to any other software distribution.
  • The software must include its source code and the distribution of such source code must be allowed as well as compiled.
  • The license of the software must allow modifications, and allow distribution under the same license of the original software.
  • The open source software shouldn’t have any discrimination against individual or groups.
  • License of the open source software must not restrict other software – The license of the open source software must not place restrictions on other software that can be distributed along with the open source software.
  • The license of the open source software must be technology-neutral.

 Legal issues associated with open source

There is a long debate about the open source license since most of the open source software is integrated into large systems. Such license can have its huge impact on organization and companies that are implementing the open source software as part of their applications architecture. Open source can reduce cost to any organization, however, I.T. managers have to be aware of the restriction issues, and the legal issues that can be a big hurdle in the future of any organization (Lerner and Lindberg,2008).

Dr. Dobb’s (2009) explained that the cost of the open source is used to reduce cost, however there are certain obligations that are important to be well known. One of these obligations is the understanding of the legal compliance to avoid the business risks, and the hidden cost that can rise because of the legal issues. Open source software can add huge benefits to any organization when the proper care and the adoption of the copyright and licensing obligation is will managed. It is also an important step for the I.T. managers to maintain the legal obligations when the open source is implemented before such software reach the market or implemented within the organization. The assurance of legal obligations includes the following aspects:

 

  • Define the intellectual property policy of the corporate to make sure that all associated products and services are complaint with such policy.
  • Establish an auditing process that can determine if the software complaint with the corporate intellectual property policy.
  • Design the process that will be required to fix the legal issues to comply all the software with the corporate intellectual property policy.

 The intellectual property should be aligned with the business goal of the organization, and for that reason it requires a serious involvement of both business side and I.T. side to reach an agreement on designing such policy. The intellectual property policy should be clear to all the entities within the organization and be enforceable through a quality assurance process.

Bennett and Ivers (2008) explained that the development with open source is very convenient to many organization and developers; however with distributing of such software with an open source license has to be followed to avoid the copyright legal issues. Making such decision within any companies to reduce cost due to tight budgets has to come with awareness of the implications of the legal issues, and required response accordingly. Also, developers have to understand that the open source software is free of terms and conditions, and that most of software is subject to a license agreement. Some of the steps that a company has to take to avoid the risks associated with open source software are:

 

  • Adopting a policy for an open source policy and addressing the risks associated to it is the right step toward the right practice.
  • Implement the awareness, and the education required to show case the importance of the risks and the obligations in the open source licenses.
  • Conducting an open source software audit to ensure compliance with the policy, and any open source policy.
  • Implementing a record-keep system to ensure full documentation of open source.
  • Isolating the open source development from the traditional development environment.
  • Monitor commercial software to make sure it is not embedded with open source software.
  • Implementing Open Source Risk Management that offers insurance policies to minimize the risk associated with open source.

The issues with open source software development

Levesque (2004) explained that despite the fact that the open source exist as a new movement of the public domain, and the new trend of the development involved the open source software the accessibility of such software having a hard time in moving forward with the new trend. The fundamental issues that are holding the movement back are:

 

  • Lacking of user interface design that need focus, push the users away from the open software and causes users to move to the other direction with proprietary software.
  • Lacking of accessible, complete, and comprehensive documentation push users away from using such software.
  • Ensure the solid core of the software should be the main target of the developer instead of the features of the software.

Messmer (2008) explained that implementing open source software for corporations can represent a security risk since the security best practice rules are not usually implemented within the open source software. When most of the open source software claiming an enterprise-class capabilities, they are not adopting or even considering the industry best practices. Since the open source adoption by enterprises and governments are growing, the security practice implemented within the open source software need to be improved to avoid security breaches, and other risk factors that can be involved around such software. Another important part of the open source is the maintenance that can represent a hidden cost that can change the facts about the open source lower cost that can benefit any organization. That raises the questions among government agencies and corporations if they can mitigate the problems with open source software themselves by using the proper risk assessment, and code review or such issues can go back to the open source community to find the solutions for them.

Locke (2004) explained that the revolution of open source can tremendously cut business costs when it’s chosen wisely and implemented well. With the open source implementation within any business can also make new types of business possible, however considering the usability of such software has to be one of the factors of choosing such software. Free software not only means cost-free but also means freedom, freedom of the distribution, and the implementation. Having a license of the free software will ensure the freedom to distribute copies of the free software, and the user of such software is entitled to receive the source code or can get it if the user asked for it.

Conclusion

There are no doubts that with open source developers create a new successful paradigm for the software development and production. It’s obvious that open source works economically despite the fact that many people are thinking that open source has a negative impact on the proprietary software industry.

Mohseni (2002) explained that the Open-source movement impacting a lot of corporate I.T. departments and such movement are supported by various forces some of these forces are:

 

  •  The common publicity associated with technology trends.
  •  The current economic environment that affect the financial issues within any organization.
  • The cutting back on spending within the software companies due to the current market condition. Such cutting back effect the main difference between the open source, and the commercial software which is quality and support.
  • The open source software brings new opportunities and new challenges within any organization.

 Locke (2004) explained that an open source doesn’t only mean access to the source code but also the distribution of such open source software must comply with the following criteria:

 

  • The license of such software can’t restrict any party from selling or giving away the software.
  • The program must include the source code and allow the distribution of such source code.
  • The license must allow modification and deriver works.
  • The license of the software can’t discriminate against any group or any person.
  • The license can’t have a restriction of distributing such software along other software.

Finally, open source software can exploit the true economic value where everyone can have the opportunity to share and build upon. Also the open source software represents the incremental building of bodies of traditional knowledge that can benefit all economic fields.

 

References

Answers.com (n.d.) Open-source Software [Online]. Available from: http://www.answers.com/topic/open-source-software (Accessed: 6 March 2010).

Bennett, M. & Ivers, K. (2008) Open Source Software: Your Company’s Legal Risks [Online]. Available from: http://www.ecommercetimes.com/rsstory/64378.html (Accessed: 6 March 2010).

Dr. Dobb’s (2009) Legal Compliance: Open Source and Quality Assurance [Online]. Available from: http://www.drdobbs.com/linux-open-source/221901137?pgno=1(Accessed: 6 March 2010).

Lerner, R. & Lindberg, V. (2008) Book Review: Intellectual Property and Open Source [Online]. Available from: http://ostatic.com/blog/book-review-intellectual-property-and-open-source (Accessed: 6 March 2010).

Levesque, M. (2004) Fundamental issues with Open source software development [Online]. Available from:http://131.193.153.231/www/issues/issue9_4/levesque/index.html (Accessed: 6 March 2010).

Locke, J. (2004) Open Source Solutions for Small Business [Online]. Available from: http://site.ebrary.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/lib/liverpool/docDetail.action?docID=10061218 (Accessed: 6 March 2010).

Messmer, E. (2008) Open source software a security risk, study claims [Online]. Available from: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/072108-open-source-security-risk.html (Accessed: 6 March 2010).

Mohseni, P. (2002) The Open Source Impact on Corporate IT Departments [Online]. Available from: http://www.developer.com/open/article.php/1024841/The-Open-Source-Impact-on-Corporate-IT-Departments.htm (Accessed: 6 March 2010).

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: