Indemnification from copyright or patent infringement?

by Daniel H. Steinberg

My friend writes that his company won't let him "use tools like Tomcat, Eclipse, JUnit, or Ant, unless a vendor provides the software and the vendor indemnifies" his employer. Think about what that might mean at your company.


"How far does this insanity go?," he asks. Well, since his company "can't find a vendor that will indemnify PERL, they are seriously talking about removing PERL. Yikes, can you imagine a system admin doing his job without PERL?"


If you can answer his concerns below, please use the talkback to provide advice. His letter continues:
"there have been some issues arising about indemnification
from copyright or patent infringement. If a developer
contributes a piece of software to the Open Source community
that contains intellectual property, and I use that open
source software, am I liable? As far as I know, open-source
licenses do not indemnify me from liability of copyright
infringement.



Questions:

1. Is this a real concern? Has anybody heard of a case
where a company has been held liable for using Open Source?


2. Is there a work around for this problem? In other
words, is there a company that will take on the
indemnification role?"



How do you help him convince his company that it's safe to use Open Source software?


4 Comments

anonymous2
2002-09-22 22:02:19
Not just Perl ...
There's also Sendmail, but they could live without that, however, there is also Bind ... without this, they must cease all Internet activity because if not their DNS, their upstream DNS or one upon which it depends will also be Bind-based, and Bind is their evil open source. There's more, of course, but Bind is sufficient.


Thus, yes, they can do it. They can live entirely in indemnified proprietary software. All they need do is cease using the Internet ... at once. Do them a favour, shut down all their servers when you leave.

anonymous2
2002-09-23 17:48:40
accidental inclusion
What is the customer doing to prevent 'accidental patent material inclusion' by in-house developers?
wayn3
2002-10-04 05:56:17
What's wrong with that?
Using Open Source tools is great. If vendors have comparable tools and they can fully support them, *even better*, because you don't have to assume the support costs yourself. However, if the goal of management is to reduce costs (which wasn't mentioned), you'd have a better argument for going down the Open Source route.


If you want to make a persuasive argument, do it in terms than upper management can understand: financial. It is obvious they didn't understand the legal aspect.


The legal aspects of open source should be more fully explored.


adamsj
2003-03-28 13:11:11
I'm curious about this, too...
...as indemnification is an issue that pops up even when talking to people who would like to be using Open Source. None of the posters have come up with a useful strategy--anyone else?