Open Source software and hardware have many advantages, but there are big differences when it comes to the obligations involved. Because of this, we organised a series of seminars in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, during which we examined Open Source and looked at how it fits into a business model.
Open Source is now a familiar concept in the sphere of software and computer hardware and has a number of obvious advantages, such as high quality, rapid development, input from the community and low costs. Yet it is also frequently the subject of confusion and misinformation. This is partly because Open Source is a collective name for dozens of different licence formulas, with each licence carrying its own rights and obligations. What most Open Source licences have in common is the right to use, study, share and amend the work.
The obligations are a very different story. Most open licences only require that the name of the original creator of the work is cited. More restrictive licences may stipulate that all derived works are released under the same licence (and, for instance, free of charge). Open Source licences may permit parts of the software or the product to be protected by patents. Other licences demand that all patents are released.
During the seminars, we explained alternative business models which are a good fit for the open nature of Open Source. We focused particularly on achieving a good fit between Open Source and a company”s own business strategy. Users need to arm themselves with plenty of information about the various obligations arising from the licence(s), as this can make the difference between a product that can be marketed on a commercial basis and a product that can be freely copied.