1. Open Source Software: Context

(This video can be downloaded from Media Hopper Create.)

OSS Watch

OSS Watch is an independent, non-advocacy service. They are experts on free and open source software, but do not insist on it as the solution to every problem, nor are they tied to any particular solutions or providers. Read more http://oss-watch.ac.uk/

Cetis LLP

Cetis specialises in technology innovation and interoperability standards in learning, education and training. We are active in the development and implementation of open standards and represent clients in national, European and global standards bodies and industry consortia. Read more http://www.cetis.org.uk/

What is Free and Open Source Software?

Open Source Software is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.

Fundamental to “Free Software” that is free to share, study, and modify. Importantly, it must embody all four freedoms of the Free Software Foundation. Read more http://www.fsf.org/about/

The Four Freedoms

  1. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Any piece of software described as Free and OSS must embody all four freedoms.

A piece of software cannot be described as Open Source Software if it restricts commercial use.

Activity: Discussion question

The developer of Json had a condition of use, which was: “This software must always be used for good and never for evil”.  Is this Open Source Software? Is this Free Software?

How is Open Source Software Produced at Universities?

  1. Researchers produce software as part of the deliverables of a research project e.g. Weka
  2. A ‘side effect’ of some kind of research activity where the software helps to deliver the end goal
  3. Produced to help manage their own workflow e.g. web components to deliver their own website

N.B. University produced Open Source Software is rarely developed with commercialisation in mind.

What are the advantages of using Open Source Software for commercialisation?

  • Permissionless innovation – No restrictive contracts restricting use. This can allow you to pivot in the early stages of business
  • Reduced Development Time – Entrepreneurs can focus on other aspects of the business such as service or procurement.
  • Time to Market – Businesses can create or adapt products and save a lot of time in development.
  • Reduce cost – a popular product will have an ecosystem supporting it, which means that training developers is minimised as there will be plenty of experts in the ecosystem
  • Specialist Components – enables the development of a component of software that would take a lot of specialist expertise to build yourself

Activity: Discussion question

What are the pros and cons of using university produced Open Source Software for commercialisation?

What should I consider when choosing open source software?

  1. Is the software a good fit for what is required?
  2. Is there a sustainability plan in place?
  3. Is there a supporting community and ecosystem around it?  (Sustainability)
  4. Is there a diversity of businesses and projects around it?
  5. Is the software linked to a larger organisation such as the OSS Foundation?
  6. Can it be operationalized? (Turned into a service)
  7. Can it be adapted to operate at scale?
  8. What support would be needed to turn it into a service?
  9. Is the licence flexible enough that I can pivot and change use at any time? (Permissionless Innovation)
  10. Has there been appropriate due diligence around the origins of the code?
  11. Is it patched and secure?
  12. Should I consider an alternative such as proprietary software, or software as a service?


What are the opportunities to use open source software in your own project or business? Using your journal or brainstorming in a group, list the requirements, features, functions and benefits that you would need from the software. Prioritise the items on your list according to:

  1. Importance to the business or project operations
  2. Estimated time and cost to develop.


Open Source Software (OSS) – software licenced using licenses approved by the Open Source Initiative

Free Software – This does not mean free of charge but instead, supporting freedom. Free software” uses a license approved by the Free Software Foundation and embodies the four freedoms

Cloud computing: the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.

Service business: A commercial enterprise that provides work performed in an expert manner by an individual or team for the benefit of its customers. The typical service business provides intangible products, such as accounting, banking, consulting, cleaning, landscaping, education, insurance, treatment, and transportation services.

Software as a Service: Software as a service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as “on-demand software”

Product business: In this case a business based on selling software or software components as a range of products. Software products are produced and have a combination of tangible and intangible attributes (benefits, features, functions, uses) that a seller offers a buyer for purchase
Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/

Proprietary software: Proprietary software is software that is owned by an individual or a company (usually the one that developed it). There are almost always major restrictions on its use, and its source code is almost always kept secret.

Interoperability:  The ability of computer systems or software to exchange information with one another and make use of that information. Often “interoperability is between devices made by different manufacturers” or developers.

Permissionless Innovation  – guarantees you can use it for any purpose allows you to pivot and change the use mid-project.

Due Diligence – A comprehensive appraisal of the software to establish its assets and liabilities and evaluate its commercial potential. In the case of software the existing licencing and that a business can build on a license appropriately will be key in this.

Find out more