Monday, November 3, 2008

Snatching Open Source Licensing from the Jaws of Legal Marginalization

A recent issue of DDJ has an fascinating article on the case of Jacobsen versus Katzer, pertaining to the legal strength of open-source licenses.

To quote author Michael Swaine: it's a big deal.

The nano-gist is:

  • Katzer threatened legal action on a supposed patent violation by Jacobsen.
  • Jacobsen looked at the facts (including that K had used parts of J's software), marshalled resources from the open-source community, and launched a pre-emptive lawsuit.
  • A U.S. district court judged in a manner that severely limited monetary damages awarded to J, based on a legal distinction between a condition and a covenant.
  • Later, an appeals court overturned the decision. i.e. The good guys win.
I didn't know about the case, so although the article is brief, it almost reads like the story-board for a thriller. I hope that, somehow, it is made into a documentary.

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