TPF Support of Artistic License (Jacobsen v. Katzer)

First, I'm not a lawyer and I'm not even particularly well versed in all of the issues surrounding open source licensing, the Artistic License, and copyright law. However, I am a member of The Perl Foundation and part of our mission is to support both versions of the Artistic License.

As many readers of this blog already know, there is a court case in the federal district court in San Francisco which involves code licensed under the Artistic License, version 1. You can find a summary of the Jacobsen v. Katzer case on the JMRI web site. The code is not TPF code, but code created and used by model railroaders. The case is complicated, and includes patent claims and many other issues that have nothing to do with open source. The legal community in general, and the open source legal community specifically, have several reasons to wish for a cleaner case to test these important licensing issues. (At the Gartner Open Source Summit this year, Karen F. Copenhaver, Partner in Choate Hall & Stewart's Business & Technology Group, gave a talk about GPL version 3 and I asked about this case. She rolled her eyes a bit and said it's a very difficult case to comment on.)

My main point in posting is to note that TPF is one of the groups supporting an amicus brief filed in the case to clarify issues surrounding an earlier finding of the court having to do with what kind of remedies might be available to the copyright holder if someone violates Artistic License version 1. The brief is quite interesting and clearly lays out how crucial copyright law is to open source software.

One interesting snippet is offered in response to the argument that there can be no remedy to a copyright holder who chooses not to charge money for their work. It also gives an interesting slant on the role of open source with innovation.

Copyright law does not discriminate in favor of some business models and against others. Those who choose to license their work under conditions designed to increase innovation should not be penalized with inadequate protection and diminished enforcement rights. Rather, they should retain the full array of remedies that other licensors retain.

The brief also notes that "many public licensors forego likely private gain in exchange for a public good -- further innovation around the work being licensed."

Indeed we do, in many different ways. Like it or not, this is clearly an important case and one that required support. And of course our support of this case is made possible by your support of us, so thank you.


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