Landmark Federal Circuit Decision holds that Open Source Copyrights are Legally Enforceable

Here is a great Federal Circuit decision on Copyrights in Open Source which the New Media & Technology Law Blog (Jeffrey D. Neuburger) describes as follows:

There are so few judicial opinions dealing with open source licenses that any single one is of great interest, but the pro-open source ruling of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Jacobsen v. Katzer, No. 2008-1001 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 13, 2008) easily goes to the top of the charts of this small category. This is a highly significant opinion that will greatly bolster the efforts of the open source community to control the use of open source software according to the terms set out in open source licenses.

Straight from Information Week and read the rest there:

Open Source Copyrights Legally Enforceable, Appeals Court Rules

The federal appeals court said open source users that do not comply with the software’s strict licensing terms can be sued for copyright infringement — even if the software is free.


A federal appeals court has struck down a lower court ruling that found that open source copyrights may not be legally enforceable if they’re licensed under terms that are “intentionally broad.

Ruling on an appeal brought by software developer Robert Jacobsen, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said Wednesday that open source users that do not comply with the software’s strict licensing terms can, in fact, be sued for copyright infringement — even if the software is free.

In the opinion for the Federal Circuit, District Judge Hochberg stated simply and clearly:

“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…..

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

That takes care of that.

Read the rest at Information Week and at the New Media & Technology Law Blog.

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