FOSS Legal Primer

Posted on February 20, 2008

Thank you /., the Software Freedom Law Center has released a A Legal Issues Primer for Open Source and Free Software Projects. Sections include:

  • Common Copyright Questions (Including breakdown of various styles of licenses)
  • Common Organizational Issues (Of particular interest to OpenSolaris right now)
  • Patent Defenses for FOSS Developers
  • Common Trademark Issues (Also of great interest to OpenSolaris)

The paper is an excellent overview of topics related to FOSS projects and anyone who’s spent the time to research legal issues will wish they’d had this primer to get them started. That said, it is just a primer and not an in-depth guide, so use this as your starting place and then dig deeper as you require or seek legal counsel.

One of the issues I’m currently researching is the issue of corporate trademark enforcement. Sun has stated that if it doesn’t strongly enforce its trademarks that it would “risk not only the OpenSolaris trademark, but the
Solaris trademark as well.” [quote from Mr. Franklin’s reply to the OGB]. I could surmise that if a legal entity is lax with its trademark enforcement that it might build up a dangerous president by which others could use as a defense, but Sun saying “International trademark law requires trademark owners to take certain specific actions to protect their brands” almost makes them sound victimized. I don’t believe that Sun is lying, but it does seem to exaggerate slightly, by implication anyway.