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Open source and you

A number of questions are commonly asked in relation to open-source resources in general. Here is our response, which we hope will reassure you that OpenGALEN is usable at an organisational, as well as a technical level.

If I use open-source material, doesn't this mean that all my systems must be open-source?

No. Some open-source licences (notable the GNU GPL) do include this requirement. OpenGALEN, together with several other open-source licences, does not. The GALEN Open Source License (GOSL) allows you to use the OpenGALEN clinical terminology within your system, with no impact on your existing license arrangements for your own products.

How can I rely on something I haven't paid for? Who will support it?

Open-source resources, maybe counter-intuitively, are typically better-supported (and hence more reliable) than their closed-source, proprietary alternatives. With closed-source resources, you are reliant on the supplier responding to your requirements. What if:

  1. that supplier goes out of business?
  2. that supplier decides that your requirements are simply of no interest to it?
  3. that supplier gets bought out by one of your competitors?

In contrast, being open-source means that it is inherently supportable and maintainable by anyone that wishes to: either yourself, in-house; by leveraging the wider user community; or by specialist companies who offer support, and with whom you can take out a support contract. Of course there may be a choice of such companies. You only get as good as you pay for. Free software - like any free product - isn't up to it.

Open-source is sometimes spoken of as being free , but the term free refers to freedom in the sense of free speech , not free of cost in the sense of free coffee . In other words, the freedom we set out through the GOSL is the freedom for you to use, distribute and modify the OpenGALEN clinical terminology. You may still chose to pay money to get it in a packaged or editorially controlled distribution - perhaps also with a support contract - from elsewhere, or you can get the raw form for free directly from OpenGALEN.

There's no such thing as a free lunch. Where's the catch? Who makes the money?

There really is no catch, as has been demonstrated in the wider world of open source software (an experience which we are intending to emulate in the clinical terminology market). We - the originators of GALEN - make money by providing services and consulting around the OpenGALEN clinical terminology. You make money by building and delivering better clinical applications. It's a win-win situation. Others can make money by doing either or both of these things as well, in an open market.

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