Episode 62

Richard Fontana on the Legal Side of Open Source


December 7th, 2020

42 mins 27 secs

Your Hosts
Special Guest

About this Episode


Alyssa Wright | Richard Littauer


Richard Fontana

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! Our special guest is Richard Fontana, who is a lawyer for Red Hat, where he focuses on legal matters relating to open source software, though his work has also involved a broader range of intellectual property and transactional issues arising out of all phases of the software development lifecycle. He has specialized in open source law for over 15 years, with over 10 of those years having been at Red Hat, and previously worked at Hewlett-Packard and the Software Freedom Law Center as well as several law firms. For several years he was a board director for the Open Source initiative and chaired its license review committee. We will discuss a blog post Richard recently wrote, Kyle Mitchell’s License Zero, API licenses, and if someone wants to become fluent in open source licenses where can they get information. Also, today, we have Alyssa Wright joining us as a new panelist!

[00:01:34] Richard tells us how he became a lawyer at Red Hat and what he does.

[00:05:53] Richard mentioned it’s quite uncommon that there are open source specific or lawyers with expertise in open source and he tells us why that is the case. Also, Alyssa asks him if he would advocate for more lawyers in the open source ecosystem, and what can we do as open source practitioners to make legal experts part of the conversation.

[00:11:16] Richard recently wrote in a blog post about looking to get the open source definitions improved or revamped.

[00:15:56] Richard tells his thoughts on Kyle Mitchell’s License Zero.

[00:19:42] We learn more about API licenses from Richard.

[00:23:40] Alyssa returns back to the article Richard wrote and she wants to know what inspired him to write it, to suggest a revision of the definition now and why is it relevant for what’s happening now in open source.

[00:29:04] Alyssa asks how someone can become fluent in open source licenses and Richard Littauer mentions choosealicense.com.

[00:31:49] Alyssa asks Richard if there’s anything reminiscent of open source software development that exists in the legal field.

[00:35:05] Richard tells us where we can find him and about his stuff on the internet. Also, what he is most excited about going on in the licensing world and the open source legal world.


  • [00:38:52] Alyssa’s spotlights are working on the Digital Infrastructure Grant and Quadratic Funding Expirations with Gitcoin.
  • [00:40:17] Richard Littauer’s spotlight is Kevin Mitchell’s website.
  • [00:40:42] Richard Fontana’s spotlight is Youtube-dl.



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