One Drawback to Open Source Software

Imagine this scenario:   You are a development shop and your master services agreement gives customers exclusive ownership of deliverables--i.e., items you create or prepare for the client under a statement of work.  This can be confusing if the deliverable is made from open source. 

The reason for the confusion is some widely-used open source programs are controlled by “copyleft” license terms.  Copyleft licenses are specifically designed to reverse ownership rights you or your customer might have had to programs created by modifying software covered by the license.     

If you’re the developer, the upside is you may not be blocked from re-using or modifying the same program for other customers.

If you’re the customer, you will be unhappy if you were expecting the developer to create proprietary software.

When using open source to develop software for others, be aware of the ownership issues that can result and how that may affect your customers downstream.  Examine the associated licenses, understand the limitations that apply, and create a system for monitoring compliance.  

Questions about a development agreement or ownership of custom-made software?  Call (608) 469-3427 or email

Tripp Stroud