The Software Engineer Meets the Lawyer at UVic Computer Science on 4/8

April 1, 2009 at 9:38 am (Uncategorized) ()


DATE: Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

TIME: 12:00 p.m. to 1.30 p.m.

PLACE: Engineering Office Wing Building (EOW), Room #430

TITLE: The Software Engineer Meets the Lawyer: The Legal Challenges of Software Reuse
SPEAKER: Daniel German, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science University of Victoria.


Software is protected by copyright law in a similar way in which music and literature are. Until recently this was an issue that concerned few.

The advent of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) changed this. FOSS licenses are legal documents that give access to the source code of a program and permit its reuse, modification, and redistribution. Suddenly developers and organizations alike, both FOSS and proprietary, realized that they need to understand the conditions and grants embodied in a FOSS license of software that they might want to reuse.

In this talk, I will describe our ICSE’09 paper regarding software licensing. In the first part I’ll describe the problem of “license mismatch”, when two or more FOSS components are used in a system, and the licenses of these components have conditions that cannot be simultaneously satisfied. FOSS developers have found what appear to be legal workarounds to solve this problem, and we document them in a system of patterns that I will describe.

In the second part I will describe “Code Siblings”. A code sibling is a fragment of code that is copied from one application to another, and hence evolves under a completely different environment than the original fragment. To exist, the license of the original fragment must allow the creation of the sibling. I will describe a study of the FOSS Unix kernels that is centred around the legal aspects of their code siblings.


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