Rutgers Law JournalFall 2004Articles
“INFECTIOUS” OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE: SPREADING INCENTIVES OR PROMOTING RESISTANCE?Greg R. Vetter[FNa1]Copyright (c) 2004 Rutgers University School of Law, Camden; Greg R. VetterAbstractSome free or open source software infects other software with its licensing terms. Popularly, this is called a viral li-cense, but the software is not a computer virus. Free or open source software is a copyright-based licensing system. Ittypically allows modification and distribution on conditions such as source code availability, royalty free use and otherrequirements. Some licenses require distribution of modifications under the same terms. A license is infectious when ithas a strong scope for the modifications provision. The scope arises from a broad conception of software derivativeworks. A strong infectious ambit would apply itself to modified software, and to software intermixed or coupled withnon-open-source software. Popular open source software, including the
GNU/Linux operating system, uses a licensewith this feature. This Article assesses the efficacy of broad infectious license terms to determine their incentive effectsfor open source and proprietary software. The analysis doubts beneficial effects. Rather, on balance, such terms may pro-duce incentives detrimental to interoperability and coexistence between open and proprietary code. As a result, opensource licensing should precisely define infectious terms in order to support open source development without counter-vailing effects and misaligned incentives.Table of ContentsI. Introduction 56II. Open Source Software andInfectious License Terms70A. Open Source Licensingand Software Development711. Conditioned Permissionsfor Copyright Protected Software742. Open Source DevelopmentNorms and Practices7936 RULJ 53 Page 136 Rutgers L.J. 53© 2009 Thomson Reuters/West. No Claim to Orig. US Gov. Works.