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There are important legal aspects involved in using open source software in commercial products. Here are answers to common questions on how to handle these issues to mitigate risk. The use of open source software in industrial products is growing rapidly because its many advantages are well known. However although we in industry understand liability and intellectual-property-right risks fairly well, the implication of OSS-related legal and managerial issues are new to many of us. Legal aspects can vary greatly from one piece of OSS to another depending on the license scheme used. We discuss the major legal aspects and risks in using OSS and how to mitigate them in product development. We've ordered the information in a top-down approach, starting with a definition of OSS, its benefits, and then some risks and experiences with managing it in software engineering practice.
Date of Publication: Jan-Feb 2004