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, 20 Apr 2009 @ 9:07am

    For every "benefit" there is a counterpart "detriment", and the Jacobsen case is but one example. Yes, at last one court has examined an open-source license and declared it enforceable, while at the same time making the point that in some circumstances a cause of action may also lie for copyright infringement.

    The author of the piece you vilify is merely stating the obvious in light of standard industry practices when it comes to software licensing. In the case of proprietary software, licensing terms have been crafted over the years that are generally well understood and protect downstream users from financial liability in the even an upstream licensee has screwed up. Licensing under open source has been much more casual in such instances, and this case does serve as somewhat of a wake up call for downstream licensees to treat such licenses in a manner more in line with mainstream licensing approaches.

    To say the the author is "twisting" the decision is plainly wrong.

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