GPL issue at my work place

Arnoud Engelfriet arnoud at
Thu Jan 17 10:24:21 UTC 2008

Dirk Dierickx wrote:
> - You don't need to 'share' the code of your program if it is a web
> based application, as long as you use it internally and not depending if
> it is used by employees or contractors (eg. not sell or give the actual
> program to somebody else).
> - Applications written in the LAMP stack, are _not_ a modification, and
> such you also don't need to provide any code for it.
> - GPL 3 does not affect RH 4 (I'm not sure about this one, though).

This is a very difficult issue, and something you're not going to
resolve by pointing to postings on a mailing list. As secretary and
legal counsel in a corporate OSS board in a big firm I know how hard 
it is to get the right kind of attitude in place.

Your legal department's main job is to ensure the company does not
get sued. There's this old Dilbert cartoon where the company lawyer
rejects any contract "because someone may sue us for something".
That's an exaggeration, but only slightly. 

If you're doing something that involves legal risks for the company,
no matter how theoretical, the legal department will say no when
they can't assess the impact of that risk. Brendan Scott calls this
the "siege mentality" in a company:

My view is always that if you worry about "exposure of IPR", you're
going about it the wrong way. Open source is not a risk to your IPR,
it's a solution that helps you extract value from your IPR. And just
like you need to select the right supplier for your hardware components,
you need to select the right source for your software solutions.

This means education. And more importantly, it also means that they need 
to get involved in the business process that calls for open source. Why
does your company want to use OSS? 

I've written about this in _Intellectual Asset Magazine_, whose
catchy name may make a bigger impression on your lawyers than this
mailing list post.

If your company is at all interested in open innovation, then maybe
this article would be a good start:
For your businesspeople that is, not the lawyers. Your business needs
to take the lead and decide that OSS makes sense for your products or
services. It is then up to the lawyers to find a legally sound way
of using OSS.

Feel free to e-mail me if you need more information.


Arnoud Engelfriet, Dutch & European patent attorney - Speaking only for myself
Patents, copyright and IPR explained for techies:
              Arnoud blogt nu ook:

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