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Institute for Legal Questions on Free and Open Source Software

About ifrOSS: Objectives, Work, History

ifrOSS is a private institute aiming to follow the rapid development of Open Source Software from a legal perspective. The institute also deals with related fields such as Open Content and Open Access and legal issues from areas including IT-Law, intellectual property law, patent law, contract law and competition law. To this end, ifrOSS participates in the legal and political dialogue through petitions, statements and presentations. ifrOSS is an independent 'online institute' without library, conference rooms or organisational links to public bodies or institutions.

Free Software as a movement is not only important for the economy and society, but also raises legal issues. Developers of Free Software don't use their intellectual property rights to derive license fees but to secure the free availability of their software. Free Software can be copied, distributed and modified without obligation to pay license fees. But Free Software doesn't operate in a 'legal void' beside normal intellectual property law. Quite the opposite, various development projects regulate the availability of the programs on the basis of legally binding licenses. Especially interesting in this regard are projects which transpose the successful Open Source model from software development projects onto other works, such as Creative Commons or Wikipedia. The analysis and discussion of open source and open content licenses is one of the main areas of ifrOSS' expertise.

Some parts of the development community prefer the term free software, other the term Open Source Software. As an independent institute ifrOSS has a neutral stance on the issue and uses the terms free software and open source software synonymously. The ifrOSS institute was founded in the year 2000 by Till Jaeger and Axel Metzger in Munich. In 2001 Olaf Koglin, Till Kreutzer joined the institute. For some time, Dr. Julia Küng, Benjamin Roger and Dr. Carsten Schulz were also active members of ifrOSS. In 2012, Dennis Jansen joined the institute as regular contributor.
 

ifrOSS is active in the following areas:

  • Publications: ifrOSS accompanies the development of Free Software through Publications. This includes not only publications in legal journals but also in popular magazines.
  • Legislation: Through statements, petitions, comments and lectures ifrOSS participates in contemporary legal developments regarding Free Software and related issues.
  • Seminars: ifrOSS also provides trainings. In irregular intervals, seminars about legal issues related to free software are held. These seminars address employees in IT companies which deal with issues of contract formation but also legal professionals who deal with legal issues related to free or open source software.
  • Lectures: ifrOSS also offers lectures with regard to legal issues in the area of free- and open source software.
  • Documentation: A primary goal of ifrOSS is to document legal developments in the area of open source software. A primary tool for this are the Weekly News (often in German), which address current legal issues in the area of open source software as well as related issues. Additionally, ifrOSS offers the Licence Center in which free software and open content licenses are systematically listed. The FAQ area answers typical questions related to open source software. The website also present a great variety of information about the arguably most important free software licence, the GNU General Public License.
  • Analysis and assessment: ifrOSS creates analytical reports to assess specific legal issues related to free software. Please be aware that ifrOSS is not allowed to give specific legal advice on individual cases. However, of course we will refer interested parties to a specialized law firm or other body.