A Method to Detect License Inconsistencies in Large-Scale Open Source Projects

TitleA Method to Detect License Inconsistencies in Large-Scale Open Source Projects
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsWu, Y, Manabe, Y, Kanda, T, German, DM, Inoue, K
Secondary Title12th Working Conference on Mining Software Repositories (MSR 2015)
Date Published05/2015

The reuse of free and open source software (FOSS)
components is becoming more and more popular. They usually
contain one or more software licenses describing the requirements
and conditions which should be followed when been reused.
Licenses are usually written in the header of source code files as
program comments. Removing or modifying the license header
by re-distributors will result in the inconsistency of license with
its ancestor, and may potentially cause license infringement. But
to the best of our knowledge, no research has been devoted
to investigate such kind of license infringements nor license
inconsistencies. In this paper, we describe and categorize different
types of license inconsistencies and propose a feasible method to
detect them. Then we apply this method to Debian 7.5 and present
the license inconsistencies found in it. With a manual analysis, we
summarized various reasons behind these license inconsistencies,
some of which imply license infringement and require the attention
from the developers. This analysis also exposes the difficulty
to discover license infringements, highlighting the usefulness of
finding and maintaining source code provenance.

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