Open source gets its first legal journal

Despite the impact open source has had on software, its legal mechanics are still largely misunderstood, which should be alleviated by a new international law journal.

As a law student doing my thesis on open-source licensing (PDF), it was nearly impossible to find any substantive legal papers on the topic. In fact, the only one I can remember is Ira Heffan's excellent "Copyleft: Licensing Collaborative Works in the Digital Age" from Stanford Law Review in 1997.

This week, in a sign of just how far open source has come in the past decade, the International Free and Open Source Software Law Review (IFOSSLR) was launched, aiming to "bring the highest standards to bear in analysis and comment on all aspects of Free and Open Source software."

It's about time.

The journal is peer-reviewed by an editorial committee made up of members of the European Legal Network which, despite its name, actually includes legal experts from all over the globe. A few of the better-known names include Andrew Katz, Amanda Brock (Canonical), Mark Webbink (former general counsel at Red Hat), and Lawrence Rosen (noted author and author of the Open Source License). The journal will be released biannually.

As companies like Qualcomm seek lawyers with deep open-source expertise, journals like the IFOSSLR are critical to elevating the depth and breadth of open-source analysis, moving it well beyond the intellectual battleground of opposing ideologues.

The first issue is now available online. As Glyn Moody notes, despite the legal nature of the journal, its contents are genuinely interesting--fascinating at times--and relevant to anyone in the business or development of open-source software.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.

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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