The days of open source software free lunches are rapidly coming to an end, and that means enterprises that fail to stick to the terms of open source licenses can expect to be sued.
That’s the stark warning from Mark Radcliffe, a licensing expert and partner at law firm DLA Piper.
“We are entering a different era for open source, shifting from a special universe where people were cooperative and collaborative to a more hard-nosed commercial one,” he explains. “Now people are applying the same criteria for the enforcement of their open source software rights as for proprietary software, and looking at how they can use them strategically in their business.”
He says the days when people were concerned about what a lawsuit would do to the open source community are now gone. “Now it’s more a matter of, ‘Hey, I have contributed to a project and I can use that as leverage against my competitors.'”
Versata v. Ameriprise: GPLv2 Licensing
Radcliffe says this shift is only just beginning, but for evidence he points to the case of Versata v. Ameriprise. In summary, Versata’s proprietary software product, Distribution Channel Management (DCM), used an open source XML parsing utility that was licensed under GPLv2 from a company called XimpleWare. (XimpleWare also offers its utility with a commercial license to companies that don’t want to be subject to an open source license, but Versata did not use that commercial license.)