American Bar Association: Our Curious Amalgam: #125 Is This a Tragedy of the Commons? Antitrust Law and Open-Source Licensing

July 26, 2021

The American Bar Association’s Our Curious Amalgam podcast welcomed O’Melveny partner and open-source licensing expert Heather Meeker to discuss the emerging competition between cloud providers and open-source software companies with co-hosts Tammy Zhu and John Roberti.

Cloud providers are seizing on the broad access they are afforded when software development companies distribute their software under open-source licenses. How can open-source companies continue to thrive in the face of opportunistic behavior from cloud providers? Meeker commented on how these forces are impacting license agreements and some of the possible ways forward for developers.

“As a business strategy it is extremely effective for a company to put something out under an open source license in order to get people to adopt it quickly and get people interested in it,” Meeker explained, but the downsides are potentially helping out their competition and being unpaid as larger businesses profit from their work. Some of the strategies companies can employ during the licensing phase include permissive licenses that encourage customers to return to the developer for additional features, AFFERO GPL licenses that address usage without modification and thus help to combat strip-mining, and adding restrictions that prevent the user from starting up a competing SAS company.

Listen to the episode here.