Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Jason Bloomberg, Automic Blog, Yeshim Deniz, Derek Weeks

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog

Open Source Cloud: Article

Buying Proprietary Software?

Protect your organization from open source surprises

Open source software has probably been the biggest driver of complex software solutions in the last decade. Access to a large variety of quality, peer-reviewed software has accelerated product development, reduced product introduction intervals and lowered the costs for producers of software and for those of us who leverage third-party software in our projects.

Many of us have heard about the trouble that organizations have come across when using open source improperly... remember Cisco/Linksys, Katzer, and the BusyBox chronicles? You may think that your organization is safe because you are buying proprietary software. However, if your software supplier unknowingly incorporated open source into its product, your organization may face unexpected legal and financial consequences arising from open source licensing obligations and the resulting intellectual property infringement claims. The good news is that there are various tools available at your disposal that can assist your organization in protecting itself from such open source surprises, such as contractual measures such as representations and warranties and indemnities; and extra-contractual tools such as software audits and a structured Open Source Software Adoption Process (OSSAP).

Some Basics About Commercial Contracts Relevant to Software Purchases
Commercial contracts include various provisions that protect and allocate risk among buying and selling parties. Among the most important are representations and warranties ("reps and warranties") and indemnities. Reps and warranties are assurances made by one party that are intended to provide certainty to the other party that relies on them. For example, a hypothetical software company ("Softco Supplier") may represent and warrant that it owns all of the intellectual property rights in the software it sells. If Softco Supplier does not in fact own all of the intellectual property rights in the software, the buyer ("Softco Buyer") has a right to claim damages for Softco Supplier's misrepresentation.

However, in many instances it is impossible for contracting parties to fully guarantee the accuracy of a statement. In these cases, parties opt to provide reps and warranties that are qualified by the knowledge of the party providing them. These types of reps and warranties can be problematic from the perspective of the party that seeks to rely on them. We will return to this in the following section, which specifically deals with the application of reps and warranties, and indemnities to open source.

Indemnities provide security against losses that are triggered by the occurrence of contractually specified events. Unlike reps and warranties, recovery from indemnities is not contingent upon whether a misrepresentation was made. In our example, if Softco Supplier (the "indemnitor") indemnifies Softco Buyer (the "indemnitee") for any intellectual property infringement claims against the software being sold, then in the event that such claims arise, Softco Supplier is obligated to compensate Softco Buyer for its losses.

Reps and Warranties vs. Indemnities in an Open Source World
In the software procurement context, it's important for buyers to determine whether open source code is incorporated into the software that is being purchased. The primary reason for this is that open source license obligations are binding. Failure to comply could have a diminishing impact on software value, as some open source cannot be mixed into products that have trade secret value. In addition, if a buyer purchases software without the knowledge that it includes open source, the buyer runs the risk of commercializing the product in a manner that violates the license that covers the open source code. This can leave the buyer exposed to costly intellectual property infringement claims.

The recent focus on open source reps and warranties and indemnification is linked to the growing instances of intellectual property infringement claims involving open source software. As courts in the United States, Germany and elsewhere have acknowledged the enforceability of open source licenses, notable violators have succumbed to costly settlements, and enforcement organizations such as the Free Software Foundation have become more aggressive in launching suits.

Because of the immense financial and legal implications of intellectual property infringement suits, a software buyer will often require its supplier to represent and warrant that the software being purchased does not contain any open source code. If open source is later discovered in the software, the buyer is entitled to seek damages from the supplier for the breach of the representation. However, as mentioned earlier, it's often difficult for contracting parties to fully attest to the accuracy of a representation. This situation arises in instances in which the contracting party experiences knowledge gaps. In these cases, a contracting party will seek to limit its liability by narrowing the representation to apply to the knowledge that it possesses. Taking our earlier example, if Softco Supplier had acquired code from a third party, or engaged in outsourcing of programming, it may not be positioned to fully attest to the fact that the software it sells does not contain any open source. As a result, Softco Supplier will represent and warrant that ‘to the best of its knowledge, open source is not incorporated into the product.' In this case, Softco Buyer is only entitled to damages if it can show that Softco Supplier knew that its representation was untrue at the time that it was made. If this fact cannot be established, Softco Buyer is left without a remedy for any losses arising from Softco Supplier's misrepresentation.

Unlike reps and warranties, recovery from indemnities is not contingent upon whether a misrepresentation was made. Thus, if Softco Supplier indemnified Softco Buyer for open source infringement claims against the software, Softco Supplier would be obligated to fully cover the losses arising out of any such claims. In this case, it would be irrelevant whether Softco Supplier had knowledge of the presence of open source, as liability is triggered by the occurrence of the contractually specified event (the presence of open source) rather than the misrepresentation made by Softco Supplier.

Buyer's Duty
Another important distinction between reps and warranties and indemnities in our example is in relation to the duty imposed on Softco Buyer to mitigate its own loss. Common law imposes a requirement on parties relying on reps and warranties to take action to mitigate their own losses. In the context of open source reps and warranties, once a software buyer becomes aware that open source is embedded in the software, the buyer must take action to minimize its loss, for example by immediately replacing the code, or making the code freely available. In contrast, there is no parallel requirement for the beneficiaries of indemnities to mitigate their own losses.

Software Audit Can Minimize Exposure
Although open source reps and warranties and indemnities can provide software purchasers with remedies for losses arising from intellectual property infringement suits, they cannot shelter the buyer from being sued in the first place, or from experiencing the loss of goodwill in relation to litigation. As a result, reps and warranties and indemnities should not be regarded as due diligence replacements. Rather than taking the risk of open source surprises, software purchasers can engage resources (internal or external) that have the ability to analyze software to determine the presence of open source prior to executing the purchase.

A software audit entails code scanning aimed at detecting third-party and open source code. After the scanning stage, the purchaser is provided with an audit report detailing the identified code and associated license obligations. Performing such audits at the pre-purchase stage allows the buyer to understand whether the license obligations of the open source code are in line with the intellectual property policies of its organization, and if not, then the buyer is positioned to request the supplier to replace the code in question, or to engage an alternate supplier.

Software Audit in the Supply Chain
One of the contexts in which software audits are particularly beneficial is in the supply chain. Shortly after Cisco acquired Linksys in 2003, it was faced with an infringement suit relating to the use of GPL covered code in its router firmware. It turned out that the infringing chipset was provided to Linksys by Broadcom, which in turn outsourced the development to a third party. As a part of the settlement that was reached, Cisco was forced to make the infringing source code freely available on its website, appoint an open source compliance officer, and make a monetary contribution to the Free Software Foundation. As the Cisco case suggests, software audits can be a helpful tool at the pre-purchase stage when dealing with a supply chain context in which the immediate supplier has little control or knowledge over the code pedigree of the final product.

Review of Available Contractual Tools
Software purchasers have contractual tools (reps and warranties, and indemnities) at their disposal to protect their organizations from open source liabilities; however, it is important to remember that not all tools provide equal protection. While reps and warranties can provide the buyer with a remedy against misrepresentation, in instances where these assurances are qualified by the knowledge of the supplier, the buyer may be left without recourse. From this perspective, indemnities offer increased protection to software purchasers concerned about intellectual property infringement claims in relation to the use of open source.

Open source indemnities are also beneficial in comparison with reps and warranties, as they do not impose an obligation upon the party relying on them to take any action to minimize their own losses in the event of a breach.

Although open source reps and warranties and indemnities can provide software purchasers with means of recovery from intellectual property infringement claims, these contractual measures provide for an imperfect after-the-fact solution to a problem that lends itself well to management practices that would reduce the risk in the first place. Structured open source license management practices and software audits aimed at identifying third-party and open source code and ensuring open source compliance provide an optimal level of protection. These tools provide certainty regarding code pedigree, and enable software purchasers to avoid the negative consequences arising from intellectual property infringement suits.

More Stories By Diana Marina Cooper

Diana Marina Cooper obtained a BA in Politics and Governance and a MA in Globalization Studies. She is currently a JD Candidate (2013), and is pursuing a concentration in Law and Technology. Follow Diana @Diana_M_Cooper

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Val...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
The age of Digital Disruption is evolving into the next era – Digital Cohesion, an age in which applications securely self-assemble and deliver predictive services that continuously adapt to user behavior. Information from devices, sensors and applications around us will drive services seamlessly across mobile and fixed devices/infrastructure. This evolution is happening now in software defined services and secure networking. Four key drivers – Performance, Economics, Interoperability and Trust ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the USA and Europe, we work with a variety of customers from emerging startups to Fortune 1000 companies.
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Most Influential ‘Smart Cities - IIoT' Account and @BigDataExpo has been named fourteenth by Right Relevance (RR), which provides curated information and intelligence on approximately 50,000 topics. In addition, Right Relevance provides an Insights offering that combines the above Topics and Influencers information with real time conversations to provide actionable intelligence with visualizations to enable decision making. The Insights service is applicable to eve...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi LTD., will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) will be featuring the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) portfolio. This is the industry’s only offering that allows organizations to bring together object storage, file sync and share, cloud storage gateways, and sophisticated search an...