House Subcommittee Report Highlights Market Tension Between Cloud Services and Open Source Licensing

In June 2019, the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary initiated a bipartisan investigation into competition in digital markets, spearheaded by the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. In its investigation, the Subcommittee examined the business practices of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. After over a year of investigation, subcommittee issued a report last week criticizing various business practices, and noting that “each platform now serves as a gatekeeper over a key channel of distribution.”

Among many other details, the report mentions issues surrounding the dominant market position of Amazon Web Services (starting on page 315). It observed, “The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the centrality of cloud computing to the functioning of an increasing swath of businesses—highlighting how cloud services have come to resemble critical infrastructure.” (page 321).

Notably, on page 327, the report mentions the recent tension between commercial open source businesses and AWS. “Amazon’s practice of offering managed service versions of open-source software has prompted open-source software companies to make defensive changes, such as closing off advanced features and changing their open-source license to be less permissive…. Amazon’s conduct has also reduced the availability of features in open-source software. Confluent, Redis Labs, and CochroachDB, along with several other open-source software vendors, have made similar license and business model changes, reducing the level of access to their software.”

Author: heatherjmeeker

Technology licensing lawyer, drummer, dancer

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