The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has validated the open source Artistic license in a key ruling handed down yesterday. DLA Piper attorney Mark Radcliffe called the case, “…the first real test of the remedies for breach of open source licenses in US courts.”
The gist of the case is simple enough. Robert Jacobsen accused Matthew Katzner and Kamind Associates of copying certain materials from Jacobsen’s website and incorporating them into one of Katzer/Kamind’s software packages without following the terms of the Artistic License. According to the court documents Jacobsen brought an action for copyright infringement and moved for a preliminary injunction.
The CAFC’s ruling from the way I read it is all about validating the Artistic licence itself as legal contract within the jurisdiction of the US legal system.
We consider here the ability of a copyright holder to dedicate certain work to free public use and yet enforce an “open source” copyright license to control the future distribution and modification of that work.
Precedence is a key characteristic of the US legal system and with this ruling there is now a precedent for courts to validate open source license as being legal. In my simple (non-lawyer) opinion, until a license (or patent) is court tested there is always a question about its validity. When it comes to open source that question has now been removed.