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Open Source used for a web application - implications?

Posted on 2009-12-30
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Hi!

I am very new to web development and the use of Open Source. I have tried to read about the GPL, BSD, MIT, LGPL licenses, but cant seem to understand what they mean to me in real life.

I am asked to develop a web based application for a customer. My agreement with them is that they pay a fixed fee for my development of the application and I then have the rights to the code and can use the code for simillar products to other customers, as long as they are not direct competitors to the original customer. The original customer also have the right to get my code so they can hire someone else to update/change it etc if they want to.

The original customer will use the web application internally and let their retailors use it too.


My research so far has led me to conder the use of the following:

A web hotell with MySQL (GPL) and PHP (BSD-like) enabled.
Some server side PHP scripts talking to a MySQL database.
Some client side Javascript/AJAX + jQuery (MIT/GPL) + jSON (own minimal license)+ a LGPL licensed plug-in for jQuery.


Now, if I use these langauges etc, will any of this be in conflict with my agreement with the company or my future intentions to sell variations of this web application to others?

Do I have to do anything like showing copyright text in the web application or publish the code I write?

I suspect the need for that could be with jQuery + the LGPL-license plug-in since they are included/redistributed in my code?.....or are they just linked to from the code, and does that then help?.....but then anything sent to the browser is public in a way anyway.......and what about the mySQL and PHP code, that is not really a redistribution of mySQL or PHP itself, so then OK, or?.....


Hope some of you could come up with easy to understand answers to my conserns!

Rgds
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Question by:pmagi
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VanHackman earned 2000 total points
ID: 26151463
First that all I AM NOT A EXPERT IN LAWS.

Anyway, I am a web developer/ Freelancer and I am starting my own company,
I have investigated about licenses and using Open Source Software.

So, here my Opinion:

About the PHP scripts:

If you code the scripts you have all the rights to use it and sell it.

"and what about the mySQL and PHP code, that is not really a redistribution of mySQL or PHP itself, so then OK, or?"

You are right. people code Php/MySql aplications for commercial purposes all the time, and there are no problem with it. Only take care about NOT USE Php scripts that YOU DON'T CODE and don't have a explicit permission to be used in commercial applications.

About  Javascript:

The same... if you code your own JavaScript you have all the rights of use it in commercial applications or distribute it free.

About jQuery:

Thanks to God Jquery could be used in commercial applications!!

jQuery is dual licensed under the MIT and GPL licenses (http://docs.jquery.com/License), which means that it is 100% free for commercial use.

You can read a interesting story about it, here:

http://marcgrabanski.com/article/getting-jquery-into-big-corporations


Finally about plug-ins:

Well, if  they have a LGPL license there are no problem using it in commercial applications,
becuase LGPL is less restrictive that GPL.  The only problem will be if you try to modify that plug-ins and sell the derivative work.

But anyway, I recommend you include a copy of the licenses of all the third-party resources that you use in your application.  And make mention in your own license that your application use Open Source components.

I will glad to hear opinions of more experts, specially from experts that had the same question in some point of his life. =P

I hope that my answer helps you.

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by:Ray Paseur
ID: 26154853
Regarding this, "they pay a fixed fee for my development of the application and I then have the rights to the code and can use the code for simillar products to other customers, as long as they are not direct competitors to the original customer"

I would be very careful about the language there, and I would recommend that you hire a lawyer, if only to be able to ask the questions and get a tutorial in IP law.

If the client pays you to develop code, you are at risk of (1) producing a work for hire, which gives them the copyright and (2) becoming a legal employee.  You want to reduce these risks to zero in your contract language.  The danger of the second would be obvious, but the first might not be.  It is simply that they own the code you wrote and that they control whether you may use the code in any other circumstances.  In fact they could sue you if you used the code with a company that was not a competitor but later became a competitor.

Regarding this, "customer also have the right to get my code so they can hire someone else to update/change it etc if they want to." -- that means that you will no longer have any enforceable copyright.

So to sum up, I do not think that any of the Open Source licensing agreements are a problem for you; I think the terms of the development agreement are your biggest risk.  You will do all this work, and your customer will pay you for it - once - then they can hire a freelancer to make little changes, and they can sell your work products forever, without ever compensating you again.  That's maybe not the business relationship you want.  But if it is what you want, then you should ask the company to hire you as a regular employee and pay for your benefits and retirement plans!

It's a new year, so best of luck with your project, ~Ray
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Author Closing Comment

by:pmagi
ID: 31671435
Thanks for great answer! I would still like to hear more comments from others, or further comments from you. For example: Are there any limitations or pitfalls in real life when using open source like I intend to do here? And, sounds like a jQuery plug-in with a GPL license could mean problems?
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by:VanHackman
ID: 26155177
@pmagi:

Thanks for the points!.

Here a interesting site for web developers/freelancers:

http://www.safecreative.org/

"I do not think that any of the Open Source licensing agreements are a problem for you; I think the terms of the development agreement are your biggest risk."

I agree with Ray_Paseur in that. The terms of the development agreement is your best defense in any circumstance. So, I recommend you take some time to read about Intellectual
Property and using Open Source in commercial applications.

http://www.llrx.com/features/opensource.htm
http://www.qnx.com/download/feature.html?programid=15362
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_open_source_applications

I have a couple of links that can help you:

http://freelanceswitch.com/general/7-intellectual-property-resources-every-freelancer-should-know-about/

And a very extensive guide About Web Design/Development and legal issues:

http://websitetips.com/business/legal/

"sounds like a jQuery plug-in with a GPL license could mean problems?"

Yes, In my experience, most of plug-ins with a GPL license are provided for be used in non-commercial projects. If you want to use it in a commercial project you need ask to the plug-in creator for a explicit permission.


I hope that my answer helps you and have luck with your project! =)
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