An international peer reviewed biannual journal focusing exclusively on free and open source software law has been launched recently. It is managed by an editorial committee made up of members of the European Legal Network.
The European Legal Network was founded by Free Software Foundation Europe to forge a community of legal experts in free and open source software. Unlike commercial software, users are usually given the right to use, study, modify and distribute free and open source software, subject to certain conditions.
While the International Free and Open Source Software Law Review (IFOSSLR) is supported financially by the Mozilla Foundation, which has been instrumental in the development of the Firefox web browser, among other things, its editorial committee says neither this organisation nor the others that support it exercise editorial control over it.
Digital rights issues
The journal will provide a centre of excellence for the very best in analysis of issues facing users and advisors in the development, deployment and governance of free and open source software, recognising the importance of digital rights issues to the daily professional and personal lives of many of the journals readers and the role that open solutions might play in their resolution, it said.
In the commercial world, the old proprietary software business models daily seemed less and less relevant to the modern market place, and free and open source software broke through as a serious player.
While free and open source software has gained ground as a robust business proposition, its proponents as well as opponents still occasionally address the subject as though they were engaging in a philosophical debate. There are also differences of emphasis, and a whiff of sectarianism among the proponents of the various standard licences, it said.
The journal will be of immense use in focusing on legal and policy issues that may come in the way of furthering free software, which is bringing about a shift in the way a digital society could be administered, said Nagarjuna G., chairperson, Free Software Foundation of India. Though each country may have different legal provisions, the concerns related to securing individual freedom in a digital society will not be different.
There are issues connected, for instance, with using public money to buy or produce proprietary software in the official domain, the digital encoding of Indian languages without standards, storage of public information in non-standard formats, UID-related privacy issues and so on. Legal experts have to understand these issues, and a journal like this will be able to bring these to the notice of advocates and judges, he reckons.
Among the articles in the maiden issue of the journal, which can be accessed free at http://www.ifosslr.org, is one on the Fiduciary Licence Agreement, which has been put forward as a model that allows developers to assign their copyright to a single person or organisation as a means of ensuring the legal maintainability of Free Software Projects.
This apart, the issue includes case law reports, book reviews and a section, Tech Watch, that deals with topical issues with important legal implications.