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Open Source Software

Open source software is computer software where the source code is made available under a copyright license that permits users to use, change, and improve the software, and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified form.

Using open source software: University researchers sometimes utilize open source software in research activities. Most of these open source licenses are click-and-accept licenses. Before you click and accept, you must have legal review of the software license. There may be restrictions in the copyright license or terms or conditions that the university, as a state agency, can not accept.

There may also be cases in which you do not want to utilize open source software in your research as it could impact the intellectual property rights from your research activities. Before using open source software on a sponsored research project, we must make sure the sponsor agrees to such use. You can also obtain guidance from Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, Inc. (VTIP) on the consequences of integrating open source software with Virginia Tech software.

Creating open source software:

For software developed at Virginia Tech there are a variety of circumstances where it is desirable to make it available as open source. This is often the case with software where the primary use will be for non-commercial research and users understand that Virginia Tech assumes no responsibility for the code, including ongoing development and support. This is the basis for Virginia Tech's Non-Commercial Purpose License. For modifications to Virginia Tech's Non-Commercial Purpose License to fit specific circumstances, contact OSP or VTIP.

Software that may have potential for commercial utilization should be disclosed to VTIP. As part of their review, VTIP will determine if open source licensing is the most appropriate means of meeting users′ needs, often depending not only on the commercial potential but also on whether the expected user community is likely to support open source. Open source can also be the initial step in commercializing early stage software, focusing first on building a user base.