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Buyer Beware: Demystifying Open Source Software Licenses


Not too long ago, acquiring software was pretty easy: gather requirements, meet with vendors to evaluate products, select the winner. Legal review took place late in the process, and the final terms that both customer and vendor could live with were generally agreed to quickly.

That was then. This is now.

Open source software has gone from quirky and free to mainstream for the enterprise. Rather than handling objections about “free software,” I now find myself having to justify a non-open-source solution I may recommend to my prospects and customers. Customers are not interested just because it’s “free” — mergers and acquisitions in the commercial space have obsoleted so many products that open source is often the “safe” solution now.

The catch with open source software — the dark side if you will — is the potential for license mismatch. Let me explain.