Court Ruling Upholds Legality Of Open-Source Licenses

software copyright

The case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Robert Jacobsen versus Matthew Katzer and Kamind Associates, stemmed from a dispute about software for controlling model railroads. Jacobsen licensed the software to Kamind under an "artistic license," a type of open-source license, and Kamind used it to develop a competing product.

A lower court ruled that the case involved broken contractual promises rather than violations of copyright law. But the higher court, which has top jurisdiction over copyright and patent laws, disagreed in its ruling, concluding that the covenants and conditions in the license were covered by copyright law.

"Copyright holders who engage in open source licensing have the right to control the modification and distribution of copyrighted material," Judge Jeffrey R. White wrote in his 15-page decision.

"Open source licensing has become a widely used method of creative collaboration that serves to advance the arts and sciences in a manner and at a pace that few could have imagined just a few decades ago," White wrote.

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