When you’re developing software for a client, it often makes sense to use open-source code for at least part of the project rather than reinvent the wheel. It saves you time and the client money.
Although generally a win-win situation, it’s important to note a few things about doing this so that you and your client avoid legal issues down the road.
First, understand the terms and conditions of each open source license that governs use of the code. Although these licenses are often similar, there are important differences between them. Never assume you or the client have identical rights to code subject to different licenses.
And you’ll also want to disclose when open source code will be part of a project. That way there’s no surprises later with a client angrily pointing fingers while claiming you cheated.
Of course, never misrepresent third-party licensed code (including open source) as your own code if it isn’t. That goes beyond a legal “sin of omission” into flat-out fraudulent and deceptive trade practices.
What if you regularly use open-source or other third-party licensed code in your projects? Ideally you’ll use a software development agreement that addresses this in terms that fully disclose this fact while not creating objections for prospective clients who are considering your services.