Finding the Balance Between Internet Freedom & Intellectual Property in the SOPA/PIPA Debate

Tim Yeaton | Open Source Delivers | January 20, 2012

Here at Black Duck, our business operates at this balance point, at least where free and open source software (FOSS) is concerned – and we think the FOSS community and ecosystem represent a compelling model for the US Congress to study regarding how to strike this balance. Developers around the world today are able to enhance their innovation by expanding their use of FOSS, and FOSS licensing and communities help ensure that FOSS content creators’ IP rights are respected. The model is all about enabling the use of content (open source code or otherwise) while simultaneously respecting the content creators’ IP rights, and it works well.

Open source projects aggregate contributions of code from (online) collaborators, then make that code available for free to the broader global development community. But while the code is free, FOSS comes with a license and associated obligations. The authors of this IP make their content available subject these obligations, which vary depending on the wishes of the authors. Some use GPL-style licenses which ensure that subsequent derivative works will remain free and build upon each works’ innovations; others use Apache- or BSD style licenses that allow for derivative works that only require proper attribution. In fact there are over 2000 different FOSS license variants…some going as far as requiring users creating derivative works to buy the author a beer when in the same locale…