Court: Open Source Can Dictate the Rules

    August 18, 2008
    Chris Crum

It’s no secret that there’s money in open source software. So naturally, along with it comes some rules.

"Copyright holders who engage in open source licensing have the right to control the modification and distribution of copyrighted material."

So says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

In a recent case (Jacobsen Vs. Katzer) between model railroad software companies, the dispute was over the rights to a wireless train control program.

Jacobsen and his crew developed the code for the program, and Katzer used that code in a competing product.

To make a long story short, Jacobsen said that Katzer didn’t comply with the Artistic License requirements, and the court says that the creator of the code can place it’s restrictions on it.

"The court demonstrated it understood that just because open source code is free doesn’t mean it has no commercial value," says Charles Babock at InformationWeek. "On the contrary, if software is available for free download and is adopted by a large number of users, that translates several ways into value for the company behind it."

It should be noted that while users of open source code may have to comply with some regulations, circumstances will still dictate to what extent that holds true.