Enforcing open source licenses

An American court has ruled in favour of Robert Jacobsen – a man who wrote software for model trains and released it under an open source license. Ignoring the requirement in the license that derivative work credit the original and provide the original code, a commercial company made a product using the code. Under this court decision, the violation of the open source license means that the company’s behaviour consitutes copyright infringement.

I personally see a lot of value to the ‘some rights reserved’ approach of Creative Commons and others. By not requiring payment for non-commercial usage, such licenses can avoid blocking the experimentation of hobbyists. By reserving rights over later commercial usage, they prevent the abuse of materials created for general public usage. Such licenses provide the flexibility to share, along with the assurance that others will share in return.

Seeing the legal integrity of such contracts upheld is thus especially gratifying. For information on the Creative Commons license applied to my blog posts and photographs, see this page.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

3 thoughts on “Enforcing open source licenses”

  1. Open source license ruled enforceable, hippies rejoice

    By Nilay Patel on oss

    Good news, open source fans — copyleft licenses just got a big boost from the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which ruled last week that the open source Artistic License is valid and enforceable, and that violating the terms of the license constitutes copyright infringement. (You might be familiar with the Artistic License — it’s what governs Perl.) That’s a big deal, as it’s the first open source license to get put to the test — while traditional EULAs have been upheld for years, open licenses hadn’t been directly litigated like this yet, and it means that similar licenses like the GPL and Creative Commons now stand on firmer ground. As you’d expect, OSS advocates like Lawrence Lessig and the Open Source Initiative are all pretty pumped about the ruling, with Lessig calling it “huge and important news.” We’d agree wholeheartedly, but here’s some food for thought while you celebrate in the comments: if you’re okay with FOSS software developers enforcing open-source license agreements, are you also okay with commercial software developers enforcing their own EULA restrictions? We can think of one in particular that seems to have people pretty ticked off.

  2. huge and important news: free licenses upheld

    August 13, 2008 5:28 PM

    So for non-lawgeeks, this won’t seem important. But trust me, this is huge.

    I am very proud to report today that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (THE “IP” court in the US) has upheld a free (ok, they call them “open source”) copyright license, explicitly pointing to the work of Creative Commons and others. (The specific license at issue was the Artistic License.) This is a very important victory, and I am very very happy that the Stanford Center for Internet and Society played a key role in securing it. Congratulations especially to Chris Ridder and Anthony Falzone at the Center.

  3. More on copyright and intellectual property:

    Rejecting Canada’s new copyright act
    Friday, December 14th, 2007

    Border guards and copyright enforcement
    Thursday, May 29th, 2008

    If you can’t open it, you don’t own it
    Sunday, November 26th, 2006

    A bad new copyright bill
    Thursday, June 12th, 2008

    Your rights as a Canadian photographer
    Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

    Rejecting Canada’s new copyright act
    Friday, December 14th, 2007

    Public broadcasters and the web
    Sunday, September 9th, 2007

    On digitized books
    Friday, September 1st, 2006

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