Software Licensing

I’ve been too busy with deck-building and bathroom renovation recently to focus too much on blogging, but a recent article in The Economist caught my eye: “Business’s digital black cloud” describes how changes in chip architecture are messing with traditional (closed-source) licensing schemes for developers and customers of enterprise software (Oracle, SAP, etc.) From the article:

But if Margaret Lewis, AMD’s senior software strategist, is right, software pricing could be in for some radical rethinking. In her view, the open-source model of software licensing looks like being surprisingly attractive. This involves software firms licensing their products for nothing, while earning their keep from maintenance and support. Software firms such as Red Hat, Novell, Mandriva and a host of other Linux distributors already make their living that way.

Indeed, more and more suppliers of proprietary software are beginning to think along similar lines. Sun has recently made its flagship product, the rock-solid Solaris operating system, available with a form of open-source licence that permits it to be downloaded free of charge. Meanwhile, IBM has re-invented itself as a successful service company thanks to the way it has embraced open-source Linux and J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition).

The clincher is that if software firms continue to think they can cash in on every new increase in computer performance, they will only encourage more and more customers to defect. And today, unlike a decade ago, open-source software has become just too good to be ignored. MySQL or PostgreSQL, two powerful open-source databases running on Linux, have become attractive alternatives to commercial escort bayan levent products such as Oracle 9 or DB2 running on some proprietary flavour of Unix from Hewlett-Packard, Sun or IBM. The same goes for open-source servers such as Apache, JBoss and Samba.

Business-to-business licensing of software is badly understood in legal terms, whether we’re talking about conventional closed-source copyright-based licensing or nouveau open-source copyright-based licensing. The problem with the “open v. closed” view of licensing is that software licensing isn’t really an intellectual property problem at all, at least not primarily. escort bayan beylikdüzü UCITA was an ugly, smelly mess of a statute, but its proponents were on the right track when they approached the phenomenon from a commercial law perspective. Maybe open source theorists should do the same.