Editorial Committee of IFOSSLR
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The International Free and Open Source Software Law Review (IFOSS L. Rev.) is a collaborative legal publication aiming to increase knowledge and understanding among lawyers about Free and Open Source Software issues. Topics covered include copyright, licence implementation, licence interpretation, software patents, open standards, case law and statutory changes.

Latest documents

  • Editorial: Announcing The Journal of Open Law, Technology & Society

    This editorial article by the Editorial Committee of the Journal of Open Law, Technology & Society announces the change in name, and expansion in scope, of the International Free and Open Source Software Law Review.

  • The emergence of governance norms in volunteer-driven open source communities

    Free and open source software communities develop their governance norms and practises as they grow from small to medium to large sized social groups. Communities with a small number of participants typically organise informally. As the community grows, the need for coordination grows as well and at some point, a more structured organisation becomes necessary. The growth stages are defined by the coordination mechanisms applied – ad-hoc coordination for the initial small group, consensus focused auto-organisation for the medium sized group, and structured, more formalised coordination for the large sized group. The main interest of the communities is to attract and retain contributors and to facilitate contributions to their products. The communities studied in this qualitative embedded multiple-case study, exhibit governance related debates and conflicts, as they reached a large size, leading to difficulties in further growing the number of involved contributors and sustaining the community activities. The paper researches the emergence of governance norms in these communities and the role these norms, once established, play in the management of the communities in their then current stage. The study finds that the governance norms in communities are commonly developed by participants that do not think them necessary, for a community that does not want them at the time. The result is frequently implicit, under-documented norms that increase barriers to entry for newcomers and allow incumbent contributors the instruments to derail unwanted decisions. The paper focuses on the essential contradiction between the communities’ aim to maintain devolved authority at the contributor level and a requirement for effective decision making and policing mechanisms to implement and maintain that. It recommends that communities, instead of deferring or down-playing the need to set up explicit governance norms, purposefully develop norms that explicitly define structure and processes so that they support, enforce and protect the devolved authority their participants should have and encourages new participants. Keywords Free and Open Source Software; governance; code of conduct; meritocracy; FSFE; KDE Community; Wikimedia

  • GPL-3.0 in the Chinese Intellectual Property Court in Beijing

    With the increasing use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in the world, the licensing issues and disputes regarding such licenses have been litigated in various jurisdictions. In the past, these lawsuits were concentrated in Europe and the United States, but less so in the Asia Pacific region. However, in 2018, the specialized Intellectual Property Right Court in Beijing, China, acting as a court of first instance, issued a decision in a software copyright infringement lawsuit related to FOSS. The defendant chose to invoke the copyleft mechanism in the GNU General Public License 3.0 (GPL-3.0) license as a defense against claims of copyright infringement. Although the court did not directly interpret the GPL license at this stage, the decision strongly implies that the GPL and the other FOSS licenses can be treated as valid in China. Even so, quite a number of details regarding the use of the GPL in China still require clarification, included as to how the license can substantially be enforced and implemented.

  • Whither (Not Wither) Copyleft

    This article contains an edited version of Professor Eben Moglen’s speech at the SFLC Fall Conference 2016. It explores the topic of Copyleft, enforcement and community engagement from the perspective of one of the key individuals in the rise of Free and Open Source Software from interesting idea to a central pillar of the global technology industry.

  • The FOSSology Project: 10 Years Of License Scanning

    FOSSology is an open source project developing a Web server application and a toolkit for open source license compliance. As a toolkit it allows performing license copyright and export control scans from the command line. The FOSSology Web application provides a database and Web UI for implementing a compliance workfow. The FOSSology project published the frst version of its software in December 2007. Given this ten year anniversary of license scanning this article presents the motivation for building and using FOSSology its history and its status as of today. Because SPDX represents the de facto standard for exchanging license and copyright information about software packages an introduction to FOSSology’s support for exporting and importing SPDX documents is also presented.

  • Making Sense Of Git In A Legal Context

    The Git revision control system does not enforce correctness of data but instead is reliant on correct inputs for correct outcomes. Git records potential authorship rather than copyright ownership and this means that an additional process layer is needed to ensure fdelity and accuracy of data. The core implication is that the "git blame" tool does not show potential authorship with enough granularity to allow users make clear decisions, and additional review is required to determine potential authors of code contained in any Git repository.

  • Bitcoin: an open source currency and more

    The emergence of a cryptocurrency in the digital domain went unnoticed for years until the general press started to cover Bitcoin's more than tenfold raise in price in the space of a few months in 2017. Earlier on, technical and legal discussion revolved around one of its fundamental building blocks, but Bitcoin is more than the blockchain or an investment object. It is a revolutionary open source artefact that is bound to change the way we consider currency, as well as a proof-ofconcept for how parts of international trade could disfranchise banks and other institutions as payment service providers.

  • The Bid by OpenChain to Transform The Supply Chain

    OpenChain aims to increase open source compliance in the supply chain. This issue, which many initially dismiss as a legal concern or as low priority, is inherently tied to ensuring that open source is as useful as possible with as little friction as possible. In a nutshell, because open source is about the use of third party code, compliance is the nexus of where equality of access, safety of use and reduction of risk can be found. OpenChain is built to increase trust between organizations to accomplish this.

  • Software, copyright and the learning environment: an analysis of the IT contracts Swedish schools impose on their students and the implications for FOSS

    Free and open source software (FOSS) is commonly made available to students in schools, but the schools do not necessarily take a holistic approach to their provision of IT (including software) which takes into account the nature of FOSS. In particular, we have identified a number of contracts with which Swedish students who are provided with laptops by their schools are required to comply which set out conditions for the use of the laptops, and associated software and content. Many clauses in these contracts are legally incompatible with certain FOSS licences, or contain misconceptions about FOSS, licensing and culture. This paper explores the relationship between the contracts and FOSS licensing and culture, and suggests a number of resolutions to the contradictions and misconceptions, as well as considering related issues.

  • Twenty-five years of school? Analysis of Free and Open Source software license texts

    The licenses of Free and Open Source Software are expected to be read and understood by all software users. Analysis of these texts shows that it is not an easily achievable goal.

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