October 03, 2008

Fed. Circuit: Open Source Licenses are Protected by Copyright

A squabble among model railroad enthusiasts has derailed some assumptions about the
enforceability of “open source” licenses, generating a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Federal Circuit that could expose users of free software to claims of copyright
infringement.  Jacobsen v. Katzer supports the rights of computer programmers
to control downstream use of open source programs, including distribution, modification,
and reproduction of software.  The ruling also signals potential liability of those who
violate open source licensing agreements, establishing that when certain conditions of
these agreements are breached, the violators are copyright infringers.

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