Court Rules in Favour of Open Source Licenses

Court Rules in Favour of Open Source Licenses

By Greg McNevin

August 20, 2008: The open source community is rejoicing following a ruling by the US federal appeals court that will see the software’s use protected, despite the fact that it is distributed freely.

The case focuses on some free, model train-running software that was written and released by an enthusiast. According to the original case, the software was picked up by another developer and used to create a commercial product.

The ruling will have wide ramifications for the open source community as, if it holds true, it decrees that free licences do have power to dictate the use of copyrighted work – a point that was denied by an earlier court decision.

“Copyright holders who engage in open source licensing have the right to control the modification and distribution of copyrighted materials,” reads the decision by Judge Jeffrey White according to

“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 few could have imagined just a few decades ago.”

The decision is important for Creative Commons licensing, as there are few precedents currently backing up open source code. It also makes it far easier for copyright owners to pursue infringement claims and enforce their rights.

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