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July 24, 2008 05:43 AM

Categories: Licensing Issues

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Joined: 09/02/2005


There is an open source software that is a client - server based software. This is licensed on the GPL V3. Many other companies have built ontop of the original software, and have developed a web based interface to the same software. And to that these companies have added a trade mark and attribute license. We also have done exactly the same thing, we also have taken the same client - server code and provided our own interface to it. Will the GPL license allow us to close our modifications to the code ? Can we sell our product on a commercial license ? Is building a web based interface a type of closed source add ons.

What kind of a lawyer should we contact regarding these issues ? Is it okay to ask a lawyer for references ? Is there any lawyer-client confidentiality issues that prevent us from asking for references.?


Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-5 of 5 | Latest Comment

July 24, 2008 6:11 AM

My ***wild guess*** would be that if you have written a client that interfaces with a GPL server, then you are free to package and license that code in any way that you choose -- assuming you have been very careful about not including ***any*** bits and pieces of GPL code (#include files for interfaces, for example) in your product.

But that's just a wild guess, and as you indicated, you need an attorney to give you a real answer. I'm sure there are many attorneys who are familiar with these issues. Probably, your main factors in choosing one would be (1) geography -- is s/he licensed in your jurisdiction and convenient to your location and (2) personality -- do you feel comfortable with him or her. Findlaw.com can probably help you.

One easy choice would be SoftwareCEO Legal forum moderator Chip Cooper. Chip's a nice guy and an attorney who specializes in software issues, especially some of the more recent issues like SaaS and Open Source. You can find his contact information if you look at the Operations and Legal forum here.

Sure, you can definitely ask for references. I would think any attorney should be able to provide a couple of references without violating attorney/client privilege. You're certainly free to ask. Not violating his or her clients' privilege is the attorney's problem, not yours.

July 25, 2008 11:23 AM

Thanks Charles. To us small time technical people this free advice is a great help. Yes we might be able to close our part of the code. But we will consult with a IT lawyer in India first.

Yes we just might use Chip's company when we do come to US later. And you said we will certainly ask for lawyer references. These might seem such simple obvious answers to an experienced IT person, but to us small time vendors ,we come from a technical instead of a business background and we have to learn in the market :-(. We asked the above question because the first lawyer told us that he would be breaching the Attorney-Client confidentaility, and how would we know if that is correct unless we ask around ? Thanks Charles, thanks SoftwareCEO.

July 25, 2008 11:48 AM

Any service provider (including doctors) can call a client and ask if they would be willing to talk with a prospect. Some will and some won't.

Any service provider who is unwilling to do this is either unwilling to take you on as a client (unlikely) or is a fool (more likely). Either way they won't work out.

FWIW, if a prospect asks for references, we save that until they are ready to sign up and make that the final condition. Our references are very valuable and shouldn't be contacted by tire-kickers.

BTW, you ought to join SWCEO and pay to access the member benefits. The information available will make you more business savvy...

(When people are unwilling to pay for SWCEO benefits, they are like the service provider who won't try and find or give references.:D)

Jim Geisman

[COLOR=DarkRed][B][URL="http://www.softwarepricing.com"]Software Pricing Partners, Inc.[/URL] [COLOR=Black]+508-647-0330[/COLOR][/B][/COLOR]

July 25, 2008 12:00 PM

Any professional unwilling to give references is either very unusual in his or her attitudes, or else has no or few good references (perhaps because s/he is just starting out, not because s/he is a poor professional).

OTOH, as Jim says, we tend to be wary of giving out the names of our best references to every ***possible*** client that calls up and says "we might want your services -- give us some references." References develop fatigue. A reference that starts out saying "Jim was a great resource" ends up, about 20 calls later, going "Jim's a jerk." I tell prospects "let's get down to the point where the only issue is a reference check, where you are ready to go ahead assuming my references are as good as I say, and then I'll give you three people to contact."

July 28, 2008 9:12 AM

The obligations of any GPL license, including GPLv3, are triggered by the physical distribution of code and not by access to the code┬?s functionality through a network.

GPlv3 states that ┬?mere interaction with a user through a computer network┬? does not constitute a ┬?conveyance┬? that triggers obligations under the GPLv3 license.

This exclusion for online functionality (sometimes referred to as the ┬?ASP Loophole┬?) permits a company to modify GPL code and provide online access to the code┬?s functionality through a computer network without having to make the source code for the modifications available.

However, if you physically deliver the modified code, GPLv3 would apply to the modifications unless an exception applies.


Disclaimer: my comments on this forum are for informational purposes only; they do not constitute legal advice, and should not be construed as such.

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Back to Top | Comments 1-5 of 5 | Latest Comment

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