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Can A Software Developer Legally Sell Open-Source Code Created By Someone Else?

Software License Scope: How Broad Or Narrow Should It Be?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.

If you need help with your software development agreement or software licensing issues, it’s probably time to schedule a phone consultation with Software Lawyer Mike Young.

Mike Young, Esq.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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