Judge Makes Troubling Comments about Open Source

21st Capital Corp. v. Onodi Tooling & Engineering Co. was not about open source software licensing, just a garden-variety contract dispute.  It was not published (meaning it has no precedential value).  But it caused some hue and cry among open source advocates because of negative comments in the opinion about open source code.

The dispute concerned a software system that enabled the approval of invoices.  The facts surrounded an arrangement of assigning accounts receivable for painting of motor parts for the U.S. military.  The opinion is dry reading, and the facts are complicated.  If you want to be glad you are not in the factoring-invoices-for-painting–military-motor-parts business, by all means, enjoy.

The opinion said, “A problem [defendant’s engineer] saw was that 21st Capital used “open source code” and made changes, sometimes on a weekly basis, to its program code without testing or validating those changes. A large percentage of the open source code was “grabbed from several different sources on the internet” and only a small percentage of the code was custom. Open source code is problematic because anonymous people on the internet design it, and “holes” are not fixed by vendor updates. Notifications that there are issues with the code may not go out.”

The court quoted defendant’s witness as saying that open source code is “basically, a group of people on the internet, and they’re kind of anonymous people that work together to create, you know, a particular program or develop some software together through, you know, collaborating on the internet, and you have no idea who these people are.” 
In sum, the case was about the competency of software development, and by implication, the reliability and security of software.