Open Source Taint?

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Open Source Taint?

Ben Woosley
Hey Folks,

I've recently been offered employment by a large software company, and
in discussing the terms of my employee agreement, it's come up that
browsing the source of open source projects, particularly those under
the GPL, should be avoided because it may "taint" the software I later
produce.  That is, someone could claim I'm violating the derivative
works stipulation of the GPL.

I'm a bit puzzled by this, as I'd previously considered it analogous to
an author reading books or a filmmaker watching movies.  As open-source
licenses simply represent conditional re-assignment of copyright rights,
I can't see any clear differences between the three acts.  Nothing in
the GPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html) strikes me as opposing
this view.

I'll be speaking more with the company's lawyers on this over the next
few days, but I was hoping someone who might have legal knowledge of
open source could help elucidate my view on this matter.

Regards,
Ben Woosley
http://ben.woosley.name/

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Re: Open Source Taint?

ompaul
Ben Woosley wrote:

>
> I'll be speaking more with the company's lawyers on this over the next
> few days, but I was hoping someone who might have legal knowledge of
> open source could help elucidate my view on this matter.

Hi Ben,

The right place for this is really sounder. IANAL - how obvious is that.
:-)

The very short answer for you is that RMS walked away from some code he
was reading when he realised that is was from Unix. The fear of tainting
Free Software was his concern at that time.

If you take it to sounder you will get many longer and more reasoned
replies.

Regards,
Paul O'Malley

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Re: Open Source Taint?

Jan Claeys-3
In reply to this post by Ben Woosley
Op wo, 15-02-2006 te 21:23 -0600, schreef Ben Woosley:
> I've recently been offered employment by a large software company, and
> in discussing the terms of my employee agreement, it's come up that
> browsing the source of open source projects, particularly those under
> the GPL, should be avoided because it may "taint" the software I later
> produce.  That is, someone could claim I'm violating the derivative
> works stipulation of the GPL.

This same problem exists when you change employers; you might
accidentally use something you wrote for your previous employer, who
might have more money to sue them than an average open source
developer...

(And I agree with Paul O'Malley that the sounder list is a better place
to ask such questions.)


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