Open Source Licensing in the Networked Era


The underlying principles of open source software are ‘openness’ and interoperability. The licensing infrastructure ensures that these values will be preserved. However, the ideology may be under threat in the networked era. Cloud computing is a maturing technology practice whose success is contingent on utilizing open source software. Open source licences apply when software is distributed – mere running or making available does not trigger the protection. The new licence, Affero GPL, aims to prevent a potential proprietary lock-in in the cloud. This article argues that the attempt is futile. The freedom to modify software may be relevant for hobbyists, not for the majority of commercial enterprises. In the current technology set-up the values of open source worth preserving are accessibility, interoperability, and re-usability. And these will not be saved thanks to a licensing scheme, but thanks to an open and flexible architecture.