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Institute for Legal Questions on Free and Open Source Software

What is Open Source Software?

It is generally held that in the definition of open source software provided at http://www.opensource.org/docs/osd correctly restates what the Open Source Community understands by the term "open source software." The decisive point of the definition is that the software license allows the comprehensive, free use of the program (→ How can I use open source software?) without providing any restriction of the licensee or areas of use, that is, it can be used by anyone for any purpose. The lack of license fees and the open access to source code are essential prerequisites for free use. The license agreement under which the software is offered is also decisive.
 
Openly accessible source code by itself is not sufficient for a program to be identified as open-source software.  However for marketing reasons, some suppliers use the term “open source software” for their programs without the other elements necessary for qualifying it as “open source."
 
Next FAQ: What is the difference between "free software" and "open source software?"
 
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