US Federal Court Upholds Open Source Licenses

Aug 13th, 2008 | By | Category: Podcasting Law

Free content pioneer Lawrence Lessig notes at his blog today that a US Federal Court has upheld open source licenses (pdf), helping to build a case history for Creative Commons licenses that are frequently used in new media:

The Court has held that free licenses such as the CC licenses set conditions (rather than covenants) on the use of copyrighted work. When you violate the condition, the license disappears, meaning you’re simply a copyright infringer. This is the theory of the GPL and all CC licenses.

Put precisely, whether or not they are also contracts, they are copyright licenses which expire if you fail to abide by the terms of the license.

Creative Commons licenses are very popular with podcasters, musicians and others involved in new media, because they make it easy to share creative works and build on the works of others. The CC licenses are new enough, though, that there’s not history of how the courts will interpret them. This decision will help address that, which could pave the way for wider adoption of free and open source licensing. 

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