Sunday, August 17, 2008

It’s the law: open source doesn't mean no copyright

Open source software has long been accepted as a legitimate software license by tech-savvy crowds. It's become recognised by business. And even the courts are taking seriously open source software authors rights despite the fact no money has changed hands. This month an Artistic License was tested in court in the case of Robert Jacobsen vs KAM Industries, and upheld as enforceable copyright conditions. It was a landmark decision ratifying the philosophical basis behind FOSS.

First things first; the defendant – KAM Industries – has not been found guilty of violating copyright; the case is not yet over and has been remanded for further proceedings. This case is of significant interest to open source authors and aficionados because of the legal weight it gives to free and open source software, protecting the interests of authors and project teams but no value judgment ought to be made against either of the players.

The story begins many years ago. Robert Jacobsen had been hosting a project on SourceForge called JMRI (Java Model Railroad Interface.) This project commenced on May 7th, 2001, with the goal of providing Java interfaces and sample implementations for controlling a model railroad layout from a personal computer.

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