Recent patent wranglings involving open source software may have cast some doubt over decisions to base investments on software developed in this way, but analyst Gartner claims the confusion centres on matters of perception.

According to a research note published by Gartner users must demand the right to modify and redistribute the software code and the resulting products, as vendors start to fight over the true meaning, purpose and spirit of open source.

Gartner analysts Brian Prentice and Mark Driver said that some members of the open source software community were concerned about the role that vendors play in supplying and supporting the software.

“Vendors increasingly want to tweak the meaning of open source to include, for example, attribution licensing, which says the user can modify and re-distribute the software and make derivative versions based on it only if they give the author credit,” said Prentice.

“But ‘open source’ is simply a licensing agreement that allows unfettered modification and redistribution of software code. In fact, it is both a key sign of a healthy open source community and a key benefit to users.”

They said the current debate amongst open source vendors is about reconciling an inherent incompatibility.

“The incompatibility is not with the commercialisation of open source software, but rather between open source and traditional industry business models designed to achieve single-vendor dominance of products or technical standards,” Prentice said.

Gartner advised open source software users that the uncertainty around vendors’ claims would make sourcing and architectural decisions for open source software more difficult. To mitigate this problem, users must demand a strict definition of open source linked to the modification and redistribution of code and products, which are significant benefits of the open source model.