|| Open Bar is a not-for-profit organization
founded with the goals of (i) developing clear information about the
legal rights and responsibilities of software developers, legal professionals
and users of software in the emerging arena of open source/free software;
and (ii) educating software developers, legal professionals and the
general public about the issues, rights and responsibilities associated
with the development, use and distribution of open source/free software.
Open source (or free) software is the fastest growing segment of the
software development world. Worldwide, open source software has grown
over the past decade from a niche occupied by cutting-edge developers
to become the basis of the fastest growing operating system in the
world. Open source and free software now powers desktop computers,
televisions and settop boxes (like Tivo®, for example), huge communication
routers, tiny cell phones, military and aircraft control equipment,
and thousands of other devices.
Open source software programs are typically developed in a collaborative,
on-line environment by multiple (sometimes hundreds or more) developers.
Sometimes this software is proprietary, sometimes it is released in
a relatively unrestricted manner; often it is posted on websites where
anyone can download it. Sometimes the software is available for no
charge; sometimes a fee is charged for the delivery. Correspondingly,
to date, the development, modification, use and distribution of open
source/ free software has been informally governed by multiple software
licenses, which generally are written by the developers of the software
with little input from legal professionals, if any. Enforcement of
these licenses is largely untested in the courts, but rather has been
assumed by individual developers and non-legal organizations such
as the Free Software Foundation.
The demand for education and leadership from the legal community is
high and increasing daily, yet until now no legal, non-political group
has stepped up to stem the tide of conflicting information and lack
of clarity. Open Bar seeks to fill this gap, by (i) fostering development
of objective means for evaluating the strength and enforceability
of the various licenses and (ii) educating legal professionals and
other members of the open source and free software communities on
their related rights and responsibilities.