Compliance Costs and the Apache License
As you probably already know, you don’t own software in the same way you own a chair or a desk. Instead, you license the software from the publisher; this gives you permission to use the software, but only under terms specified by the license.
In the case of Apache OpenOffice, this license is the Apache Software License 2.0, a free and open source software license. Like other open source licenses, the Apache License explicitly allows you to copy and redistribute the covered product, without any license fees or royalties.
The Apache License is a permissive license: companies and individual developers who create derivative products of OpenOffice can do so free of any constraints on the license to apply to the derivative product they release.
This makes OpenOffice an excellent choice for users and developers who want to avoid compliance woes and related risks and costs.
In the case of commercial software, the licensing terms typically say how many users or PC’s may access the software. The terms might even include a clause allowing the vendor to audit your usage of the software.
In order to avoid the expense and penalties of an audit from the Business Software Alliance (BSA), including those originated by employees turning in their employer for software piracy, organizations are increasingly adopting Software Asset Management (SAM) practices to ensure that their use of commercial software complies with the applicable licenses. These practices generally include employee education along with the purchase of software to track licenses and software use within the organization.
The combined cost of these SAM practices is the “cost of compliance” for using commercial proprietary software products. It is an expense that does not make your organization more productive. It is purely risk mitigation. Along with license, maintenance and training costs, it is one of the expenses of using commercial software.
Open source software like Apache OpenOffice, instead, comes with a license that explicitly permits free redistribution. This reduces the cost of compliance for many organizations, since tracking application usage is not needed.
The permissive nature of the Apache License means that developers and companies distributing derivative products needn’t worry about combining their code with the OpenOffice code and releasing derivative products under their license of choice.
The Apache License has no propagative (or “copyleft”, or “viral”) effects, i.e., it does not influence the license of the derivative product: if you base your product on source code distributed under the Apache License you have no legal obligation of releasing the entire source code tree to the users of the program. All that is required is an attribution of the Apache Licensed source code.
The Apache License thus reduces the need for employee education, the frequency of internal audits, the intensity of internal audits.