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Usage of Open Source Software in Cloud Solutions

Ensuring compliance with notification obligations under license terms

The use of open source software in the development and operation of cloud solutions is increasingly popular, as there are more than a million OSS projects offering software solutions for almost any requirement.

Cloud solutions (such as software-as-a-service offerings, (content) platforms) often make use of Open Source Software components. Depending on the complexity of the respective solution, the number of OSS components can easily exceed several thousand.

In practice, however, businesses tend to overlook that open source software is subject to license terms and conditions, which must be respected. Otherwise, there is a risk of injunctive relief or temporary restraining orders being imposed or damage claims raised, and, potentially, even a risk of breaches being qualified as misdemeanors.

The license terms underlying the various groups of Open Source Software are many and varied. What they have in common is that at minimum the use of OSS components, their developers, as well as the license terms, must be mentioned. If this is not done correctly, it can lead to a license infringement, with often serious consequences, including requalification of the proprietary software that made use of OSS components as Open Source Software.

In this respect, it should be kept in mind that third parties can easily identify whether and which open source components have been used. Well-known watchdog attorneys are already using this to proceed against companies.

The article "Notification requirements for the use of open source software for online services", in the renowned German legal journal IT-Rechtsberater (IT attorney) 3/18, p. 59, 2018, explains how the corresponding obligations can be complied with in a pragmatic fashion in business practice.

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Article in German language published in: IT-Rechtsberater Heft 3/18, S. 59, 2018 

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