A little while back I’d picked up on Roberto’s thinking around open source IP being protected by the anti-piracy organization, BSA. I asked if we’d ever see pure play open source companies, such as WS02, joining the BSA. WS02’s Paul Fremantle commented that this would not be necessary because WSO2’s code is available for free under the Apache 2.0 license.
Paul makes an extremely valid point. Because WSO2 is using the liberal Apache license, users, ISVs and SIs can do virtually whatever they want with the code itself. However, if we were talking about a GPL’d product (i.e. Alfresco), we could once again see a role for the BSA. If an ISV takes Alfresco code makes proprietary modifications and begins to ship a closed source product ABC, then ABC is violating Alfresco’s license, i.e. GPLv2, and Alfresco Co.’s intellectual property is being infringed.
In retrospect, I should have kept my examples to non-BSD-based open source licenses when asking if we’d see open source companies join the BSA.
Another question that surfaced during a discussion with a friend at school is how to stop “open source support piracy” (I’m sure there is a better name for this, but I can’t think of one at this moment). In the open source world, where the code is available for free, “piracy” occurs when a customer purchases support for X number servers and runs Y>>X copies of the product, generally for a different application than those running on the X servers. The customer then funnels any support inquiries that arise on the Y servers, through the support for the X servers. Open source vendors try to address this through support contracts that allow a limited number of named contacts who can log a support issue. At the end of the day, vendors must rely on the honesty of their users.
Clearly, the “open source support piracy” issue is not wholly different than traditional “piracy” in the closed source world. But in the closed source world, there is a concerted effort, however (in)effective to stop piracy. In the open source world, there isn’t much discussion about how to curtail “open source support piracy”. Maybe it is not as rampant as traditional software piracy? Or maybe we’re still too early in the lifecycle of paid open source usage to chase down “open source support piracy”?