[NetBehaviour] A Big Change for Open Source.
marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Sat Oct 4 15:06:32 CEST 2008
A Big Change for Open Source.
By Bruce Perens.
An appeals court has erased most of the doubt around Open Source
licensing, permanently, in a decision that was extremely favorable
toward projects like GNU, Creative Commons, Wikipedia, and Linux. The
man who prompted that decision could be described as the worst enemy a
Free Software project could have. This is the story of how our community
was able to benefit from that enemy.
For a decade there'd been questions: Are Open Source licenses
enforceable at all? Are their terms, calling for a patent detente or
disclosure of source code, legal?
Are they contracts, which require agreement by all parties to be valid,
or licenses, which are binding even if you don't agree to then? What
legal penalties can a Free Software developer employ: only token
damages, or much more?
The court's ruling makes the answers to these clear. Did such weighty
questions come up in cases involving IBM, Sun, HP, or Red Hat? No, this
is the quirky world of Free Software: it was a court case about model
The reason for so many questions about Open Source licenses was simple:
there weren't any court cases about them, so nobody could say with any
confidence how a judge would rule. The few cases that did start up never
reached a verdict, because the parties settled their dispute and kept
the details of their agreement secret.
More information about the NetBehaviour