A good day for Free Software
Red Hat's Rob Tiller, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, IP, writes in a blog post
The Federal Circuit not only corrected the error of the trial court, but also provided a short primer on open source projects and licensing. It explained that such licensing “has become a widely used method of creative collaboration that serves to advance the arts and sciences in a manner and at a pace that few could have imagined just a few decades ago.” The appeals court acknowledged that with open source “software programs can often be written and debugged faster and at lower cost than if the copyright holder were required to do all the work independently.” The court also wrote about the substantial economic benefits associated with free and open source software, including product improvements from independent sources.
As to the licensing issue, the Federal Circuit correctly determined that the Artistic License was enforceable through copyright law, because the relevant restrictions were conditions rather than mere covenants. The more important point is the general one that “copyright holders who engage in open source licensing have the right to control the modification and distribution of copyrighted material.” The court found that an open source licensor’s choice to impose requirements such as disclosure and an explanation of changes, instead of requiring monetary payment, was entitled to legal recognition.
Congrats to all involved.