FOSS (free/open source software) is a growing player in the end-user market,
as evidenced by the popularity of everything from Wordpress to Firefox. One of its key appeals to developers is the egalitarian nature of its “access for everyone” model, which allows everyday users to develop and share tweaks that make the program more useful to them. In executing these goals, however, developers can often get lost in the world of legalese surrounding available FOSS licenses. Often, developers choose a license without a full understanding of its contents, or even attempt to draft their own. One of the biggest risks in the wording of a license is that of the “condition”/“covenant” dichotomy. Incorrectly worded, a covenant-based license runs the risk of foreclosing copyright-based remedies and limiting the scope of arguments available when a user breaches a program’s license. In approaching the choice of which license to apply to a new program, then, both developers and their attorneys should be aware of the critical importance of its choice of words.