[jdom-interest] JDOM license evaluation

Bryan Thale thale at labs.mot.com
Thu May 17 16:20:13 PDT 2001

> I passed the JDOM license onto our corporate legal dept., and got this
> risk evaluation:

No offense meant toward your legal team, but their response sounds like
the usual not too well thought out response of most people toward open
source software.   What do you really get with a commercial software
license?  When you really look closely and examine real-world
situations, open source software is far less risky than commercial
software for inclusion in your own products.  *All* software is provided
"as-is and without any warrantee of fitness for a particular use" etc.,
etc.  Take a good hard look at just about any software license
commercial or otherwise and you'll see what I mean.  If most software
licenses were taken literally, you're not even entitled to your money
back if the package won't install or won't run without errors.   About
the only thing you are protected against is a failure in the workmanship
of the media the software was shipped on.  Talk about caveat emptor!

> 1. No warranty:  JDOM software is provided "as-is".  If it doesn't
> work, you have no recourse.

Sure you do.  Go buy a commercial package.  You'll be no worse off than
if you hadn't first given JDOM a try.  Alternatively, you can fix it
yourself, an option not even remotely possible with commercial software.

> 2. No indemnity:  You have no protection against intellectual property
> claims against the JDOM software.  If a patent claim is brought
> against JDOM code, <the company> is subject to unlimited liability for
> infringement.  <the company> may have limited liability clauses with
> our customers that might limit our exposure for what we sell, but <the
> company> faces unlimited liability for what <the company> makes.
> (Commercial code provides <the company> with indemnities that allow
> <the company> to escape such liability to certain extents.)

Hmmm.  Somehow I suspect that if your company had deep pockets and the
software vendor didn't, you'd find that their indemnification probably
ain't going to keep you out of court.  On the flip side, if you don't
have deep pockets, then you aren't worth taking to court anyway.

> 3. No Support:  Support for JDOM software may become a big problem
> once a <the company> product is introduced to market and its design
> team is reassigned to other projects.

Not true.  You are perfectly free to contract with any software
development firm you wish to provide you with support.  It's true that
support options are not necessarily pre-packaged for you, but at the
same time, you are not restricted in the kind of support arrangement you
want to go with either.

Here's a risk of using commercial software to consider:
You may be forced by the vendor to "upgrade" to an inferior or buggy or
bloated version of the software simply because they will no longer
support the version you are using.  With open source software, you need
never upgrade if you don't need or want to.  That is a particular
advantage for embedded products.

The opinions expressed are entirely my own and may not necessarily be
those of my employer.  Also, I am not now nor have I ever been a
lawyer.  My opinions are provided as-is with absolutely no warrantee of
merchantability or fitness for any particular use.  Besides, you can't
prove I typed this.  No body saw me type this.  Who says I typed this?


Bryan Thale
Motorola Labs, Networking and Infrastructure Research
mailto:thale at labs.mot.com

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