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Kevin Xu for COSS Media

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Open Source Creator Series, Part 1: Licensing Fundamentals

At any given moment, thousands of developers around the world are creating new open source software – to solve a problem that has no good existing solution or to scratch a technical itch. Regardless of what originally motivated the project, as it matures, you'd likely want more and more people or companies to use it. Getting adoption, however, requires much more than good engineering. (It's a tough but recognized truth that the best technology doesn't always "win".)

Today, we are launching the "Open Source Creator Series" to help you – the technology creators – understand and bootstrap some of the essential non-technical elements of building a successful project, which are likely not in your area of expertise or comfort zone.

The first topic we will explore is "licensing fundamentals" by Heather Meeker, who's the preeminent open source licensing expert, wrote one of the definitive books on the topic "Open Source for Business", and is a partner at OSS Capital.

(In future posts, we will discuss topics like: product marketing, capital efficiency, building community, technical writing and documentation, etc. Comment below if you have topics you'd like us to cover.)

Below is a video slide presentation by Heather on open source licensing fundamentals. Although the presentation is mostly speaking to the needs of corporate adopters, knowing how companies approach adoption and licensing is critical, because the policies they follow will drive adoption rates of your creation, and ultimately determine its future potential and impact.

Understanding how they understand licensing and compliance is just as important, if not more, as your own point of view on how your creation ought to be used.

Heather also explains how corporate adopters balance the risk and reward of adopting open source software, and identifies their pain points in following the requirements of open source licenses.

Ultimately, the licensing model is supposed to serve the development model of open source, not vice-versa. Software adoption is both a technical and a business decision. Licensing is a part of it, but so is total cost of ownership (TCO), sustainability and supportability, etc.

We hope this material from Heather helps you grasp open source licensing fundamentals and put the topic in proper context, as you continue building your creation.

Please note: This presentation does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. The principles presented here may not apply to the facts of your situation.


  • Heather Meeker's Book, "Open Source for Business"
  • Link to slides in the video

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