November 21, 2003

Lawyer gets paranoid about GPL

Your employee could grab a piece of open-source code off the Internet and you no longer have a proprietary
product. Your $50,000 software package is now worth zero," Steve Henry, a senior intellectual property lawyer with Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C.,
told the Software Business 2003 Conference in Boston.

This "time bomb" lurks because a popular license for open source, the GNU General Public License, (GPL) is "viral." The license attaches to any
product with GPL-licensed code, including a derivative work, he said. The entire software package becomes open source and the company thus must
distribute it freely and let anyone copy it. A widely used open-source utility, for instance, could "infect" hundreds of software products and destroy
their commercial value. Henry and Liza Vertinsky, an associate with Wolf Greenfield, made a joint presentation on open source issues. They said that
any company considering or already using open source, whether to acquire software, to distribute its own software, or to collaborate with others, must
know the risks and opportunities and how to avoid the pitfalls.



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