How to Safely Participate in an Open Source Project
Ira Heffan, Attorney, Goodwin Procter
Track: Open Source Business Review
Date: Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005
Time: 2:35pm - 3:20pm
Once a business decides to use open source software, whether in the enterprise or in software products, the next questions they often have are about whether, and to what extent, they should allow their developers to participate in the community working on that software. Should they allow their developers to submit bug reports? How about patches? Any problems with assigning developers to work part- or full-time on an open source project? And what about hiring developers to participate in open source projects on the company's behalf?
Businesses understand that community participation is important, not just because of the golden rule, but because practically it eliminates a need to "backfill" desired changes into newer versions of the code and, sometimes more importantly, it can be beneficial for a company to help steer project development in a certain direction. Still, businesses have concerns about managing their intellectual property and their employees, so as not to have put their other important technology at risk by virtue of their community participation.
Companies that contemplate launching or sponsoring an open source project have similar concerns, but on a somewhat greater scale. They also will need to undertake even greater responsibility for developing and managing a community, as well as managing intellectual property and employee issues.
This session will discuss the concerns - both legal and practical - typically expressed when companies consider creation or participation in open source projects. It will help companies understand whether they should they be concerned about submitting code, or otherwise allowing employees and consultants to participate in an open source project, and will discuss strategies for gaining the great benefits that come with the use of open source while avoiding risk.
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