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Big 10 open source companies give users a licence reprieve

With the roll-out of GNU GPL 3.0 open source licensing, the industry is expecting discrepancies, and hopes an open discussion will help to debug it

Ten companies have made a public commitment to providing greater predictability to open source users under the new GPL (General Public Licence) v3.0 licensing.

CA Technologies, Cisco, HPE, Microsoft, SAP and SUSE have joined Red Hat, Facebook, Google and IBM in their efforts to extend the GPLv3 approach for licence compliance errors.

The companies aim to extend additional rights to cure open source licence non-compliance which, according to Red Hat, will lead to greater cooperation with distributors of open source software to correct errors and increased participation in open source software development.

Red Hat initially announced its plans in November 2017, when it said: “Red Hat believes that enforcement of open source software licences should be judged by whether the activity fosters or discourages adoption of the software and collaboration and participation in open source development. Legal proceedings are generally a poor tool for achieving licence compliance, and should almost always be avoided. In the rare situation that they do occur, they should be conducted in a way that is fair, rational and predictable. We are particularly concerned about the possibility of opportunistic enforcement of open source licences for financial or personal gain and disparate court or other interpretations.”

SUSE CEO Nils Brauckmann said: “SUSE believes promoting more equitable and consistent practices in open source licence enforcement will increase both participation in the open source community and actual value derived from open source software by developers and users.”

Christopher Herbst, vice-president and assistant general counsel at CA Technologies, said: “Open source software is an important component of the modern software factory. As an active participant in open source and open standards, and consistent with our mission to eliminate the barriers between ideas and business outcomes, we are happy to join in this commitment to bring greater predictability to open source licensing.”

Read more about open source in the enterprise

  • The use of open source software is commonplace in enterprises, but many organisations are still reluctant to contribute their own code, despite the benefits it can bring.
  • Open source breaks the rules on corporate procurement, but developers never play by the rules and now open source has sneaked in through the back door.

Discussing its support, Microsoft said: “The commitment offers licensees of GPLv2 code a reasonable period of time to correct licence compliance issues, building on emerging community norms already in place in the Linux kernel community. We believe it is very much in keeping with the spirit of the open source community to allow for such ‘cure’ opportunities, as evidenced by the inclusion of such terms in the GPLv3 and other commonly-used open source licence forms.”

In a post on the company’s website, HPE CTO Mark Potter wrote: “In continued recognition and appreciation of the devotion and invaluable contributions of the developer community, we at HPE joined forces with our peers in the tech community this week to ensure that developers can continue doing what they do so very well and users can continue to consume that work, but without fear of retribution for trying to do the right thing.”

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