Editorial: Is Medsphere an Open Source Company or Not?

After years of publicly saying they are an Open Source company, and the ‘leading provider of Open Source software for the healthcare industry’, Medsphere Corp. has yet to release their core product OpenVista� as Open Source. It is entirely their right to use the Veterans Affairs VistA codebase, modify, rewrite and not release it to the VistA community. However, holding forth as loudly and as publicly as they have that they are an Open Source company while not releasing their core software, makes me question the sincerity of their claim of being the ‘leading provider’ of Open Source. Especially in the face of suing the founders of the company for many millions of dollars because they actually released company developed software as open source on Sourceforge.

The software was quickly pulled from Sourceforge and the lawsuit announced. How can a company that claims to be so firmly for Open Source behave in such a fashion? Again, it is Medsphere’s right to not distribute their software to the community. However, to most people, Open Source means community software development for the good of all. It seems as though Medsphere wants it both ways: to be seen as the standard-bearer of Open Source software in medicine while not releasing any significant Open Source software to that community that has fostered the public good will that Open Source enjoys.

The legal activities of Medsphere and its history suggest that there is a civil war going on inside the company between the founders, the big names the company employs and the venture capitalists that have funded the company for millions of dollars. It is a watershed moment in the history of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in medicine that there might actually be something to sue over, however, these are not the activities that Medsphere should be engaged in, especially if it claims to be the ‘…leading provider of open source software to the healthcare industry.’

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