Open source software is generally available for anyone to use — as an option to using software protected by copyright — but be mindful that, even with open source works, rules usually govern how the software can be used, modified and distributed. For software protected by copyright laws, the owner has the right to authorize how the work can be used, modified and licensed and to collect fees for a license to use the work. The theory of open source software rejects the notion that anyone should own, control or have to pay for using software and, instead, allows open usage to promote collaboration an improvements. While some open source software remains available with no constraints, guidelines usually apply to most open source software that future users and redevelopers must adhere to. In essence, the guidelines are a copyright owner granting a royalty-free license to use the work created. Creative Commons has become a common framework for how open source software can be used and modified. Original developers choose a particular Creative Commons license to govern use of their work; any downstream user must abide by the conditions put on any software the subsequent are adopting. Different licenses address various attributes, such as the right to copy and publish, provide attribution to the creator, use the work commercially, modify and adapt the original, and change the terms of the license. Anyone incorporating open source software into their own software or app should know what type of license applies to the works they are using, and abide by those rules, as if it were a license from a copyright owner.
Ned T. Himmelrich
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