Vol 71 Issue 3 2004-01-19 Article 11962 from section "Free and Open Source Software"

Article Warns of the Potential Risks of Using Open Source Software

The Web site recently published an article by Steve
Henry and Liza Vertinsky discussing the potential hidden costs in open
source biotech software. While open source code offers great potential
to the biotech sector, users should be aware of possible third-party
copyright issues and other license terms.

Open source offers a great opportunity to the academic community. With a
broad community of users that freely contribute software code and
modifications, groups or organizations can obtain strong, specific code
that can be further modified for specific applications. As developers
turn the code over, it gets continually expanded, improved and benefits
from greater stability, reliability and strength.

But there are often some murky issues that users and developers of open
source code should be aware of. Some code may infringe on a patent or
copyright of a third party. While this is a cloudy issue, if a company
believes its proprietary code is being used without a proper license, it
can initiate action against the user.

Users and developers of open source code should also be aware that some
open source licenses are viral and remain in effect in derivative works.
Thus, a developer who creates a new application out of code that carries
one of these licenses is required to comply with the original open
source terms. This often means that developers must redistribute their
own code -- developed at great expense -- free of charge, and to anyone,
including competitors.

Details at

Have a custom version of 'System News for Sun Users' delivered to you
via email each week in PDF, text or HTML. Only the sections that you
select will be included in your copy of the news magazine. Subscribe at
(c) 2003 System News, Inc.