Principled free software license enforcement
An open source company perspective
During the last few years there has been significant debate over approaches to GPL enforcement in technical and legal communities. This talk presents a new and unique vendor perspective on free software license enforcement that emphasizes the goal of fostering greater collaboration and participation in community development and highlights the importance of transparency regarding funding relationships and conflicts of interest arising out of enforcement activities.
During the last few years there has been significant debate over approaches to GPL enforcement in developer and legal communities. This talk presents a unique vendor perspective on free software license enforcement that has been shaped by deep organizational involvement in free software development, longstanding cultural ties to GPL-using communities, and a strong corporate emphasis on ethical conduct.
Where compliance efforts adhere strictly to certain principles, they can provide a legitimate mechanism for ensuring that everyone plays by the rules established by the community through the license. But the ultimate objective of enforcement should be to foster greater collaboration and participation in community development.
The Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement published in 2015 by the Software Freedom Conservancy and Free Software Foundation represent a good first step in articulating an appropriately principled basis for copyleft enforcement. However, there are some gaps in the Principles that should be addressed by communities supportive of license enforcement. In particular, for enforcement to have community legitimacy, there needs to be an expectation of disclosure of funding relationships and exposure and resolution of the potential conflicts of interest that may arise in enforcement activity.