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
    Willton, 17 Apr 2009 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Unfortunately for the world, he's probably spot on. There's no logical reason for an attorney to spread misinformation like this unless they are having their pockets lined by someone who would benefit from this or it helps one of their cases about to be tried in the future.

    Seriously, YOU don't see why he might say that?


    I see why Ima Fish would say that: he hates lawyers. I don't see how a reasonable person would say that in this context, however, especially because no one has pointed out WHO the person is that would benefit from a lawyer characterizing the decision in this way. And trust me, if the article really is off-base, there's little reason to believe that it would help one of W&C's cases in the future, as judges are not bound by it, and the article would likely get roundly criticized by fellow lawyers and websites like this one.

    Lawyers write articles like this to gain prestige or notoriety, not because their clients tell them to do so. If the article mischaracterizes the Jacobsen decision, then it's not because the lawyer is trying to spread misinformation; it's because the lawyer is just wrong.

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