Law Firm Twisting Open Source License Ruling To Mislead About Open Source Software

from the that's-not-what-it-says-at-all dept

When CAFC ruled last summer about the legality of open source licenses and their connection to copyright in the Jacobsen case, we were a little worried that the ruling appeared to conflict with some other copyright rulings, in a way that could eventually cause problems. However, on the whole, it was a good ruling, putting weight behind the core concept behind open source/Creative Commons-style license, which mostly rely on copyright to backstop what those licenses require. However, a law firm has been running around trying to push the idea that the ruling means using any open source software increases your copyright infringement liability. Of course, that's only true if you don't abide by the terms of the license. In other words, the risks are no different than if you're using proprietary code: if you obey the terms of the license, there's no problem. If you don't, there is. All the ruling really stated was that there could be greater damages to those who don't abide by the license. So, really, the law firm's advice seems to be directed entirely to firms who plan to not live up to the requirements of an open source license. That's hardly an increased liability for those who comply.
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Filed Under: copyright, jacobsen, liability, licenses, open source


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2009 @ 11:31am

    No worries about BSA audits

    One huge liability you get with proprietary software is the possibility (or probability, based on company size) of a BSA audit. The audits can represent a huge expense even before they get to assessing penalties. And they probably will assess penalties if your company is big enough to have multiple offices.

    I know one company that tried to do a good job of tracking licenses (that is a cost in itself). They thought they were good, but they still got a significant charge from BSA. After the audit they went FOSS.

    It is funny how the Microsoft TCO studies never figure in things like the cost of tracking licenses, the cost of being audited, and the likely fines that will accrue even if you try to live up to the spirit and letter of the license agreements.

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