McAfee warns over open source use

Large companies face legal action over their use of software protected by the open source General Public License (GPL)

McAfee has warned investors that the "ambiguous" nature of open source licensing could turn into a business threat.

In a recent filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) McAfee repeatedly warned of possible dangers to the company's intellectual property regime presented by open source. The warnings come as several large companies face legal action over their use of software protected by the open source General Public License (GPL), the most widely used open source licence.

"To the extent we utilize 'open source' software we face risks," McAfee said in its 10-K annual report, filed at the end of December.

The company said its ability to commercialize products could be harmed because of "ambiguous" open source licence terms that could result in "unanticipated or uncertain obligations regarding our products."

Furthermore, it could be difficult to determine whether open source software infringes on third-party intellectual property rights, McAfee said.

The GPL is of particular concern, according to McAfee, since its scope and requirements "have not been interpreted in a court of law" and use of GPL-covered software "could subject certain portions of our proprietary software to the GPL requirements."

The GPL requires derived works to be covered under the GPL's own "copyleft" terms, which include a requirement to provide users with software source code and with the right to themselves modify and redistribute the software.

The GPL is currently facing several tests in court. Last month the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) filed a copyright lawsuit against Verizon Communications, alleging that routers the company uses with its Fios broadband service violate the GPL.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the developers of BusyBox, a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities commonly used in embedded systems. The SFLC has previously filed copyright lawsuits on behalf of the developers against three other companies, but Verizon is by far the largest target.

Last year Skype was found guilty of violating the GPL by a Munich, Germany regional court. The decision found that Skype had violated the GPL by the way it distributed a voice over IP (VoIP) handset, the SMCWSKP100, which incorporates the GPL-covered Linux kernel in its firmware.

Also last summer the Free Software Foundation (FSF) released the GPL version 3, including changes connected to intellectual property rights.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matthew Broersma

Techworld.com
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?