Legal Issues surrounding Open Source Software

Open Educational Resources – London 20/02/2013 1

The Open Source Specialist Group (OSSG) will be holding an event on Open Educational Resources from 1800 hours at the BCS Central London Offices, First Floor, The Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London WC2E 7HA (

This bookable event is free and open to all with buffet and refreshments. To book a place to attend, please follow this link: (Closing date is 19th February at 11:59pm).

Open Educational Resource


Open Educational Resources (OERs) range from learning/teaching tools to complete courses freely available online. OERs are growing in popularity and have featured highly in JISC priorities in the UK. There is a global drive for open resources through organisations such as UNESCO, which hosted the World Open Educational Resources Congress, in June 2012. Some high profile institutions have also shown their support for OERs namely: Oxford University, Open University, The University of Nottingham in the UK and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in America.

The aim of this presentation is to clarify the main characteristics of OERs and provide the tools to find and evaluate OERs.  Key themes and issues within the area of Open Educational Resources will be discussed. Current research in the area will also be explored.


Ella Mitchell is currently Subject Librarian for the School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering at the University of East London. Ella has been working in academic libraries for 6 years and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). In March 2012 was awarded a short-term fellowship at the SCORE (Support Centre for Open Resources Education- based at the Open University. Prior to this she was involved in a project team that developed an innovative online Information Literacy tool, Info skills, at the University of East London.  Presently Ella is working on a project with colleagues from across the academic library sector to investigate ways of collating and disseminating Information Literacy Open Educational Resources.

Open Standards, FRAND, and FOSS – London 29/03/12 1

The BCS Open Source Specialist Group (OSSG) will be holding an event considering the relationship between Open Standards, Fair, Reasonable, And Non-Discriminatory terms (FRAND), and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) at the BCS Central London Offices, First Floor, The Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London WC2E 7HA ( on Thursday 29th March 2012, from 1800 to 2100 hours.

This bookable event is free and open to all with buffet and refreshments. To book a place to attend please email Mark Elkins at


The Cabinet Office opened an Open Standards Consultation on 9 February 2012 which closes for comments on 3 May 2012. Within question one is the sub-question:

How could adopting (Fair) Reasonable and Non Discriminatory ((F)RAND) standards deliver a level playing field for open source and proprietary software solution providers?

Dependent upon on your viewpoint FRAND is possibly one of the most contentious terms that could be applied to FOSS because it conflicts with some potentially important aspects of it. As well as the view of the UK Government and the awaited outcome of the Cabinet Office Open Standards Consultation there is activity taking place in the EU Parliament that may affect the use of FOSS due to FRAND.

Aim of event

This event aims to unravel the relationship between Open Standards, FRAND, and FOSS and therefore make it clear what affect this relationship has for the practical application of Open Source. For instance – Would the use of the GPL licence and other OSI approved licences be affected?; Would the UK Government be constrained in what Open Source software it could use? or Could ways be found around such problems?

The findings from this event will be passed on to the BCS Policy Hub to feed into an overall BCS response to the Cabinet Office Open Standards Consultation. The BCS Policy Hub Consultation can be found at where comments should be submitted by 18th April 2012.


Gerry Gavigan, Chair, Open Source Consortium (OSC), will discuss Royalty Free (RF) Open Standards and FRAND, which will involve active audience participation in that discussion.

Archived mailing lists

As part of the migration from Plone to WordPress and related pieces of software, the old mailing lists have been extracted from Plone and archived. Hereafter, mailing lists will be organised as follows:
This list is used for discussing committee business. The archives are open but only committee members may join the list.
This is a low-traffic list used for OSSG event announcements. Posting is restricted to committee members.
A members discussion list, though we would prefer members to discuss issues using the blog comment pages.

The old mailing list archives may be found here:

Committee Forum
Committee discussion
Discussion of issues surround business and open source.
Member Forum
Member event announcements
Licensing discussion
eGovernment and Open Source
Discussion of Open Source in eGovernment
Knowledge Management and Open Source
Using open source for knowledge management
Agile Methods and Open Source
Relationship between Agile Methods and Open Source
Legal Issues surrounding Open Source
Discussion of legal issues involvng Open Source
Accessibility and Open Source
Discussion of Accessiblity in Open Source
Education and Open Source
Use of Open Source in Education

Apologies for any duplicate messages etc. The archives were produced by screen-scraping the old Plone site. Not ideal.

Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) 1

The article shown below, which I originally posted on the now reorganized Members Forum in February 2005 has some relevance to the Licensing Issues in OSS Discussion Forum as well as topics in this Discussion Forum. It highlights an organization that has been created to provide free legal support to free and open source software (FOSS) projects.

The original article was prompted by a posting by cboldyreff at 2005-02-03 11:18 AM on a different topic about an ACM TechNews item headlined – Open-Source Leaders Accept New Challenges.

• Re: Open Source item in ACM TechNews Posted by markelkins at 2005-02-03 02:16 PM

Yes a very interesting article giving a snap-shot idea of the organization of Open Source Development.

On the same page as this article is another “Open Source Law Center Opens Doors”. The full article can be found at

Clearly with an initial $4 million investment from Open Source Development Labs for the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) things are getting serious on the legal front. Plans are being made to establish other centres outside the USA.

Mark Elkins

EU Software Patent Directive Proposal 2

According to an article in Computer Weekly (2005, 25 January, p.10) the proposed EU Software Patent Directive states that software that does no more than operate in a computer cannot be patented. It has to have a technical application to be patented. Therefore software that controls an aircraft would be patentable, but that used in a business process to book a flight on it would not be.

From an Open Source perspective this potentially means that a patent search would be required each time software for a technical application is created to ensure no legal infringement takes place. This might be seen as placing a straitjacket on creativity by some or a much needed control on plagiarism
by others.

What do other OSSG members think or know about this proposed EU Directive?

Mark Elkins