In case you think that “spin” is restricted to the political domain: Code sleuths [pdf]
Similar scenes are playing out at software firms and other businesses across the country, as engineers frantically search their files for something they hope not to find: open-source components. Their improper use, in the worst case scenario, could subject companies to costly litigation from parties like the SCO Group of Lindon, Utah. SCO claims to own intellectual property in the Linux open source operating system and has set off alarm bells in executive suites by suing IBM Corp. and three other Linux-using companies over the past year.
“It’s almost like you’ve got be a lawyer now to develop software,” grumbled Jothy Rosenberg, chief executive and chief technical officer of Service Integrity, who earlier this month ordered a 24-hour scanning of his company’s Sift 3.5 software during a “code freeze” before its launch. “In this day and age, anybody building a commercial piece of software has got to do this. It’s like buying insurance on your building.”
[…] The most serious conflicts, highlighted with red bars in the Black Duck protexIP software used by Service Integrity, involve code covered by the so-called General Public License. Under that license, anyone who acquires and modifies open-source code must make their modified versions freely available to the public. Depending on how many files of code are covered, and what is in them, such a requirement can sometimes be a showstopper for a proprietary software company. (Fortunately for Service Integrity, its scan identified only open-source license conflicts the Newton company was able to resolve.)
In other words, a GPL violation could now open a company up to an “SCO-like” lawsuit?!?! Given the state of the suit, this can only mean that the writer is actively looking to slam free/open source by trying to conflate the GPL with SCO, or he was too lazy to contact the lawyers who *do* work with companies that end up in violation of the GPL. After all, the point of the SCO lawsuit is whether the software at question can be/is GPLed!!
We’ll leave for another day the naivite demonstrated by thinking that this quote was news (not to mention to wonder about the qualifications of a CTO of a software firm willing to be quoted saying this) — ”’It’s almost like you’ve got be a lawyer now to develop software,” grumbled Jothy Rosenberg, chief executive and chief technical officer of Service Integrity….’
What to do you think? Feel free to let the Boston Globe, as well as the writer (whose email is at the close of the article), know.
And I agree entirely with Prof Madison that any credible software firm has to do a code audit in this era (hence the question about naivite) — particularly in the face of software patenting. I would estimate that coping with GPLed code is a simple task compared with that one.
Later: GrokLaw commentary – Plugging the Knowledge Gaps on FOSS Licenses – OSDL Conference
The bottom line is always the same: If you steal someone’s code, there will be consequences. That’s true for the GPL (if you distribute the code — you are free always to use any GPL code in-house without any consequences at all), but it’s not unique to it. If you steal Microsoft’s code, there are consequences also. You do have to respect other people’s intellectual property rights, as lawyers call them. That’s true for all licensed code, including the GPL. If, in the past, some didn’t take the GPL seriously enough, they do need to wake up and smell the coffee. But SCO has nothing to do with companies needing to pay attention to FOSS licenses, except perhaps that their stepping like fools straight into quicksand helps other companies to know where not to step. By all means, study up about FOSS licenses so you don’t do what SCO did to itself.