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Open Bar is a not-for-profit organization founded with the goals of (i) developing clear information about the legal rights and responsibilities of software developers, legal professionals and users of software in the emerging arena of open source/free software; and (ii) educating software developers, legal professionals and the general public about the issues, rights and responsibilities associated with the development, use and distribution of open source/free software.

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Open source (or free) software is the fastest growing segment of the software development world. Worldwide, open source software has grown over the past decade from a niche occupied by cutting-edge developers to become the basis of the fastest growing operating system in the world. Open source and free software now powers desktop computers, televisions and settop boxes (like Tivo®, for example), huge communication routers, tiny cell phones, military and aircraft control equipment, and thousands of other devices.

Open source software programs are typically developed in a collaborative, on-line environment by multiple (sometimes hundreds or more) developers. Sometimes this software is proprietary, sometimes it is released in a relatively unrestricted manner; often it is posted on websites where anyone can download it. Sometimes the software is available for no charge; sometimes a fee is charged for the delivery. Correspondingly, to date, the development, modification, use and distribution of open source/ free software has been informally governed by multiple software licenses, which generally are written by the developers of the software with little input from legal professionals, if any. Enforcement of these licenses is largely untested in the courts, but rather has been assumed by individual developers and non-legal organizations such as the Free Software Foundation.

The demand for education and leadership from the legal community is high and increasing daily, yet until now no legal, non-political group has stepped up to stem the tide of conflicting information and lack of clarity. Open Bar seeks to fill this gap, by (i) fostering development of objective means for evaluating the strength and enforceability of the various licenses and (ii) educating legal professionals and other members of the open source and free software communities on their related rights and responsibilities.

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