In re: Court says copyrights apply even for free software

The free software movement had a tough choice of whether to appeal a lower court decision that held freely distributed software couldn’t be protected through the use of copyright infringement claims (only contract claims).  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. overturned the lower decision saying that despite the traditional method for copyright owners selling their copyrighted material the court said. “The lack of money changing hands in open source licensing should not be presumed to mean that there is no economic consideration, however.”

This is big for a few reasons, one of which it helps keep the cycle of development in free products moving.  It requires those who wish to update or use the code to publish their changes or provide attribution (pointing people back to the larger movement).  The reason the usage of copyright infringement to protect this is so useful is the strength of copyright infringement claims compared to the breach of contract claims the lower court limited them to.

The “attribution and modification transparency requirements directly serve to drive traffic to the open source incubation page and to inform downstream users of the project, which is a significant economic goal of the copyright holder that the law will enforce,” according to the appeals court.’ See PC World article

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One Response

  1. Fell out of bed feeling down. This has brgtihneed my day!

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