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"Usenix president: Linux needs better paper trail"
"Usenix president: Patent challenges will invade open source landscape"

Subject: Usenix president: Patent challenges will invade open source landscape
Posted By: rmstock
Date Posted: 02 Jun 2004 10:14pm EST (03:14 GMT)

A scenario : i am hired by a contractor, and adjust some GPL software package to fit the contractors needs, at his premises. If the contractor wants to be the only one using the modified result, then the former GPL software package becomes a closed software combination only existing as a private company secret with a e.g. a NDA agreement.

Basicly it would be a in-house written patch on the GPL package. Now would the contractor need to fear about him being forced to publish his NDA patch under the GPL? If the NDA patch to the GPL package is only of use inside the contractors own industry, he certainly will not need to. He has just created a tailor made software package, which one can compare with a company secret, like maybe the Coca Cola recipe.

If however the contractor is a software company itself, then as a software company it can not resell the combined effort, GPL package plus NDA patch, without publishing the NDA patch under the GPL. I personally see that as a fair thing.

Basicly the GPL transfers the source code to the END USER.

The end user today, be it a fortune 500 company or a small business, is being offered very attractive starting points by GPL software on the Internet. Software company's will become more like programming/integration consultancy firms, which sell man hours and services aiding in the need for tailor made solutions for END USER company's. Basicly this is no news. The ERP consultancy industry has never done anything else. Its only the GPL preventing for annoying things like vendor lock-in and such.

Selling commodity software like standard shrink-wrapped boxes like Microsoft does, is indeed not suited in a GPL model. However high quality closed source software will never be download-able for free. Its all a matter of what quality is offered for the dollar. And also the EULA is of importance. If a large software corporation, no matter how powerful and huge, thinks it can wave away all legal liabilities inside a EULA, GPL-ed software as a starting point for a tailor made solution becomes attractive.

Robert M. Stockmann,

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