McAfee's silly hypocrisy over open-source licensing

What do you do when you want to use software but you don't want to follow its license? You don't whine about it in your annual report.

McAfee is warning its investors that "ambiguous" open-source license terms are a threat to its business in its latest annual report, as noted on Slashdot. What's the problem? As InformationWeek reports:

McAfee said it's particularly troubling that the legality of terms included in the GNU/General Public License -- the most widely used open source license -- have yet to be tested in court.

This is a massive pile of rubbish. When was the last time your proprietary vendor's license was tested in court? The answer would be "Never" in virtually every case, and there are far more proprietary licenses out there than open-source licenses.

I think McAfee knows exactly what is expected of it with open-source licenses like the GPL. It just doesn't want to comply with them. It wants the software but not on the software's license terms. That's its problem, not the license's.

Updated: Thinking through this some more, are we going to start to see more proprietary vendors throwing around this canard as a way to spook customers? We shall see....

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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