[License-discuss] Licenses for commercial products

Langley, Stuart Stuart.Langley at disney.com
Mon May 4 22:30:00 UTC 2020

>Something I never understood is the handling of the disclaimer.
>Commercial software will have to take some responsibility even
>for those parts that it has incorporated from open-source programs
>whose license dislaims *all* responsibility for errors. How do they
>do it?

Anyone distributing the software commercially will have to take on the responsibilities with respect to their customers.  Even the responsibilities of the author who disclaimed all responsibility.  It is the cost of doing business, and overall it's a good thing that this falls on the commercial distributor.  It gives them incentive to verify the quality of the OSS and they are best positioned to protect their consumer.  In most cases, the risk associated with errors in OSS are no greater than risks associated with proprietary code; some would argue the risk is much less.

>Suppose my software is published under the Fair license and the
>commerical vendor has decided to modify it to their needs. Will
>they distribute the modified version under my copyright? Will it
>not misinform whoever encounters my copyright in code I never
>wrote (because it may be heavily modifed by the commercial vendor)?

The commercial vendor in your scenario has created a derivative work and should include your copyright.  They should also clarify their own copyright interest in what they contributed.  Practical problems in doing this abound.

>> No, they can't just strip off the copyright and add their own.
>> That is intentional copyright infringement, and you can sue for
>> treble damages (as long as your software's copyright is
>> registered).

>And if it isn't?

If you have not registered your copyright you can and must do so before you sue someone.  

> Most open source software isn't associated with
> commerce, but if yours is, the treble damages can be significant
> enough to get a lawyer's attention. She will then be willing to
> sue for a portion of the damages, costing you nothing.
> If you were thinking of licensing your software with a license
> which isn't open source, well

Although it is not the initial topic of the thread, but I am
interested publishing some of my company's code under an
open-source license.

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