Video games developer Valve has decided to produce games for computers running the Linux operating system. For those unfamiliar with Linux, it’s an alternative to Windows and is supposed to have few licencing restrictions and be more “open source”. But Valve uses DRM (digital rights management) technology to prevent users copying and distributing the games. The juxtaposition is therefore an interesting one.
Richard Stallman, who founded the Free Software Foundation and initiated the development of the GNU operating system (a precursor to Linux), argues that charging users for DRM-protected games on the open-source platform would be “unethical”. But he accepts that the move by Valve will also have some positive implications in bringing popular software to the Linux platform.
If your business develops software, you may find this set of template software licence agreements useful. Licences provide considerable protection for the intellectual property rights subsisting in software and indeed for the software itself. By clearly setting out what the user may or may not do with a piece of software in a software licence, developers can ensure that they maximise returns on their investments, restrict free-riding use of their creative and inventive work, and produce software that remains stable across a broad range of computer systems. You can alternatively download this set of open source software licences if you prefer Mr Stallman’s philosophy.