McAfee Warns About the Risks of Open Source

McAfee — best known for their anti-virus software and security bulletins — has issued a different kind of bulletin to investors, warning of "unanticipated obligations" resulting from the company's use of Open Source software.

Apparently, someone within McAfee HQ failed to read the not-so-fine print on the GNU General Public License, especially the part where it requires those who use GPL code to released the resulting source code back to users. Though details haven't yet emerged, the tone of the warning suggests that there may be uncredited GPL code in one or more of McAfee's proprietary offerings — and that they may be forced to reveal the inner workings of those products as a result. McAfee cited "ambiguous" license terms as part of the problem, and noted the lack of court actions on the GPL as "particularly troubling."

The announcement is likely a response to the recent frenzy of activity against GPL violators, including four lawsuits filed by the Software Freedom Law Center on behalf of the developers of the open-source BusyBox project. Two of the lawsuits have already been settled out-of-court, while two others — including one against communications conglomerate Verizon — remain pending.

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Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.


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McAfee's next advisory should read...

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Risks of stealing open source code and getting caught

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