Free Software Isn’t Shareware

There are a lot of people that confuse Free Software (and Open Source) with Shareware.

Though all three types Free/Open/Share may well be available for free (as in zero cost), there are some fundamental licensing issues that make them each separate  and distinct.
When it comes to Free Software and Shareware, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) is now taking aim to make sure that Free Software developers’ legal rights are not infringed by those who would attempt to distribute their efforts as Shareware.

The SFLC has a new paper out that explains to Free Software developers how they can deal with Shareware related license infringement.

with free software licenses is important, even for shareware. It’s the
license that makes the software free,” said James Vasile, SFLC Counsel
and author of the paper.

The SFLC argues that violations are common with Shareware.

To date though the SFLC has not acted publicly with any sort of legal action against a Shareware site or vendor. The SFLC has however had four high profile settlements involving GPL license related infractions on behalf of BusyBox.

The SFLC itself is a pro-bono operation, though as of this week it now also has a division that will actually charge for services. Moglen Ravicher LLC (headed by Eben Moglen and Dan Ravicher) is set to handle Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) clients that don’t qualify for the pro-bono offer.

Moglen Ravicher LLC already has its first client — the OpenNMS open source enterprise grade network management solution. The move by OpenNMS to retain legal counsel could well be a signal that they see some kind of infringement of their code.

It will be interesting to see what (if any) legal action or settlements will be forthcoming on both the Shareware and the OpenNMS fronts.

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