What You Need To Know About Open Source Licenses And Intellectual Property


January 28th, 2019

1 hr 2 mins 58 secs

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About this Episode


As a developer and user of open source code, you interact with software and digital media every day. What is often overlooked are the rights and responsibilities conveyed by the intellectual property that is implicit in all creative works. Software licenses are a complicated legal domain in their own right, and they can often conflict with each other when you factor in the web of dependencies that your project relies on. In this episode Luis Villa, Co-Founder of Tidelift, explains the catagories of software licenses, how to select the right one for your project, and what to be aware of when you contribute to someone else’s code.


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  • Your host as usual is Tobias Macey and today I’m interviewing Luis Villa about software licensing and intellectual property rules that developers need to know


  • Introductions
  • How did you get started as a programmer?
  • Intellectual property law and licensing of software, data, and media are complicated topics that are often poorly understood by developers. Can you start off by giving an overview of categories of intellectual property that we should be thinking of?
  • Most of us who have created or used software, whether it is open or closed source, have at some point come across various licenses. What may not be immediately obvious is that there are degrees of compatibility between these licenses. What are some guiding principles for determining which licenses are in conflict?
    • In an organization, who is responsible for ensuring compliance with software and content licensing within a given project?
    • When introducing new dependencies into a project or system what steps should be taken to evaluate license compatibility and compliance?
  • When creating a new project, one of the steps in the process is to select a license. What are some useful guidelines or questions to determine which license to use?
  • Another aspect of software licensing that developers might run into is when contributing to an open source project where a contributor license agreement might be necessary. What should we be thinking about when deciding whether to sign such an agreement?
  • In addition to software libraries, developers might need to use content such as images, audio, or video in their projects which have their own copyright and licensing considerations. What are some of the things that we should be looking for in those situations?
  • Another component of our systems that has grown in its importance with the rise of advanced analytics is data. We may need to use open data sources, pay for access to data repositories, or provide access to data that is under our control. What are some common approaches to licensing or terms of use for these contexts?
    • What should we be wary of when using or providing data in our applications?
  • How much of the work that you do at Tidelift is spent on educating developers and customers on the finer points of intellectual property management?
    • What are some of the most common difficulties or points of confusion that you encounter?
  • What are some useful resources that you would recommend to anyone who is interested in learning more about intellectual property and software licensing?

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA