Why Self-Enlightened Contribution to Open Source Projects is Difficult

Self-enlightened contributions to open source projects are (code) contributions that come about because a company chooses to contribute. The opposite is forced open sourcing, which typically happens when a reciprocal license like the GPLv2 forces a company to lay open some source code.

Self-enlightened contribution is hard!

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Open Source License Compliance–Why and How? (Hendrik Schoettle, IEEE Computer Column)

I’m happy to report that the third article in the new Open Source Expanded column of IEEE Computer was published.

TitleOpen Source License Compliance–Why and How?
KeywordsOpen Source Software, Licenses, Software Packages
AuthorsHendrik Schoettle, Osborne Clarke, Munich, Germany
PublicationIEEE Computer, August 2019, pp. 63-67, vol. 52

Abstract: Compliance with open source software (OSS) license requirements is necessary but often overlooked. This article explains how OSS license compliance differs from compliance with commercial software licenses, why it is necessary even though OSS is generally free, and what requirements have to be met with OSS.

As always, the article is freely available (local copy).

Triple-Licensing Single-Vendor Open Source Components (Illustrated)

I thought I’d illustrate how I’d solve the current licensing conundrum of single-vendor open source firms like MongoDB and Elastic using some graphics. In short: While open source application vendors can still dual-license, open source component vendors (like the companies just mentioned) need to triple-license to get the benefits of open source yet keep their competitors at bay.

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Solving the Commercial Open Source Licensing Dilemma With Triple-Licensing

As you may have noticed, the move away from approved open source licenses to commercial almost-like-open-source licenses by single-vendor-owned open source projects has created a lot of bad press for the vendors behind such software. I don’t really understand this, because for all that I can tell, a triple-licensing rather than just a dual-licensing approach could have solved their problems. Let me explain.

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Free and Open Source Software Licenses Explained (Miriam Ballhausen, IEEE Computer Column)

I’m happy to report that the second article in the new Open Source Expanded column of IEEE Computer was published.

TitleFree and Open Source Software Licenses Explained
KeywordsOpen Source Software, Licenses, Computer Security
AuthorsMiriam Ballhausen, Bird & Bird, LLP, Hamburg, Germany
PublicationIEEE Computer, June 2019, pp. 82-86, vol. 52

Abstract: This installment of Computer’s series exploring free and open source software confronts a pressing issue, free and open source software licenses: what they are, the rights they convey, and the restrictions they impose.

As always, the article is freely available (local copy).

The Commercial Open Source Pledge

I’m pretty frustrated by some of the discussion around the recent relicensing decisions by commercial open source companies. A fair bit of it seems confused to me, and I think this is mostly due to commentators not understanding the purpose of community for the vendor. So I decided to write a hypothetical pledge for venture-capital backed companies that those can adopt to be clear about their intentions. Then, future behavior doesn’t come as a surprise. Non VC-backed companies may want to tone down the return-on-investment verbiage. With that:

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Market Segmentation in the Open Core Model

Life is exciting in commercial open source land. On Tuesday this week, another commercial open source vendor relicensed its product while at the same time disavowing the open core model, which they call a tiered approach to their business. This disavowel piqued my interest, not because the open core model is good or bad, but because the argument seemed confused to me and illustrates how important it is to understand your users and the resulting market segmentation.

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From the Bag of Commercial Open Source Tricks: Paying for the Upgrade

On a recent trip to Montreal, I reconnected with Marc Laporte, leader of the WikiSuite project and an old friend and fellow wiki enthusiast. Naturally, we talked about open source business strategies and he pointed me to one way of how commercial open source companies make money: They don’t provide you with a free upgrade path from one version to the next; you only get an upgrade if you pay.

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How to Convince Your Management of the Need for an Open Source Program Office

Here is the simplest eye-opener that I have found in my consulting practice to convince management of the need for an open source program office:

Ask your manager to look at the open source license section under legal notices on their mobile phone. Ask them to scroll down to the end (they’ll never finish). Then point out that your product needs the same but doesn’t have it yet (if it doesn’t).

The reasoning behind this recommendation is that many managers simply don’t understand the extent to which open source is in their products. There is no better demonstration than to show them using a device they use frequently.

Time to Curb Your Open Source Wording

I view open source mostly from an economic perspective. From this point of view, some of the words people use are curious. For example, people like to talk about “giving back” to the community or “donating a project” to the public. These idioms have community building power, like insider speak among those who speak it, but to non-insiders, they are mostly confusing.

I feel pretty certain that these idioms slowed down the growth and adoption of open source. So let me use the two I just picked as an example and translate them.

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