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Open Source licenses gain teeth

Lawrence Lessig

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Lawrence Lessig reports that free software licenses have been upheld.  According to Lessig, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has said that

CC licenses set conditions (rather than covenants) on the use of copyrighted work. When you violate the condition, the license disappears, meaning you’re simply a copyright infringer. This is the theory of the GPL and all CC licenses. Put precisely, whether or not they are also contracts, they are copyright licenses which expire if you fail to abide by the terms of the license.

The case in question has now been sent back to the District Court to determine whether there is grounds for an injunction to be granted to the plaintiff.

Although many businesses have treated Open Source code with respect for some time, this ruling adds teeth to Open Source licenses.  Violate the rights granted to you in an Open Source license, and you may land in court!  This should provide a tremendous boost to businesses like Protecode, who make tools for help track and manage the pedigree of code used by developers in their applications.

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{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Peter Childs August 14, 2008, 4:01 am

    As someone new to coding – I refer to coding forums and platform advocate blogs frequently to understand use cases, follow tutorials and for code samples.

    What I've found is that while the core of an Open Source project is covered by clear license terms often the documentation – sometimes requiring extensive code samples to illustrate – are left to community forums and advocates to develop and provide.

    What's frustrating – and frequently an impediment to re-using this work – is that no license information is provided on these sites.

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