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Delicious Details of Open Source Court Victory

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the tooting-his-horn dept.

Open Source 202

jammag writes "Open source advocate Bruce Perens tells the inside story of the recently concluded Jacobsen v. Katzer court case, in which an open source developer was awarded $100,000. Perens, an expert witness in the case, details the blow by blow, including how developers need to make sure they're using the correct open source license for legal protection. The actual court ruling is almost like some kind of Hollywood movie ending for Open Source, with the judge unequivocally siding with the underfunded open source developer."

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Good Guys (4, Interesting)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231466)

Sometimes the good guy doesn't finish last.

Re:Good Guys (2, Interesting)

bbbaldie (935205) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232144)

This is why "Blammer" just Blamms on about Linux infractions of MS patents, but doesn't actually file suit: If it ever went to court, FOSS might in fact win many millions.

Re:Good Guys (1)

Trelane (16124) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232698)

That, and as soon as he lays out what patents he's talking about, the proceedings can begin to get those patents invalidated.

May be GAY guys? The headline is a LOTTA GAYYYY (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31232960)

Harley rider, rya?

Re:Good Guys (0)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232436)

This is by far the best article I read on Slashdot, and one of the most insightful cautionary tales about open source and the convoluted world of software patents in the U.S. Congratulations to Slashdot to let this indeed delicious article to filter through the usual two minutes of hate, and also to Bruce Perens, for writing this simple and concise summary of what must have been a neverending story of legal slapfest.

"the correct one"? (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231472)

Thaaaaaaat's my problem! I've been using zeros this whole time.

Re:"the correct one"? (1, Funny)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231762)

Nobody told you that the answer was 42?

Re:"the correct one"? (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231950)

No, that's not 1's or 0's. You must mean 00101010.

Re:"the correct one"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31232254)

It was 1s and 0s in my tcpdump...

Re:"the correct one"? (2, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232366)

Yes... from the summary:

Perens, an expert witness in the case, details the blow by blow, including how developers need to make sure they're using the correct one for legal protection.

Make sure you're using the correct expert witness.

Re:"the correct one"? (3, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232526)

Jammag just wrote this submission in a hurry. It means use the right Open Source license.

Re:"the correct one"? (2, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232940)

I think both interpretations are correct.

Believe It or Not (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231554)

There were a few people that smart at Pixar when I worked there, but there seem to be tons of them in the Open Source world.

Believe it or not, your two categories are not mutually exclusive. I discover more and more that the brilliant people I am paid to work with have made improvements to open source projects. Both through work and in their free time.

I think something the open source community could use is an adjustment of this attitude that you're either gainfully employed or working for free ... when I can attest that both are possible at once. Just be mindful of what you signed when you were hired by your employer. Some companies have terrible "everything you do even outside of work is ours" clauses. Wish the employers would realize that it's a benefit for you to experience contributing and learning from open source.

Re:Believe It or Not (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231712)

I am gainfully employed in consulting companies, mostly, that are trying to cope with Open Source but still have the old mindset. That's what they have me there to fix. Of course lots of people who are gainfully employed get paid to work on Open Source today. But it's interesting, when I visit these companies, that I already know their hottest programmers - through Open Source.

Re:Believe It or Not (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31232108)

Bruce, do you also explain to these companies that not all open source software is created equal?

I've had to deal with several large companies who see "open source" as meaning basically nothing but Linux, MySQL, PHP and Apache HTTPd. The moment I suggest using a better technology, often with a much less restrictive license, they get all uneasy.

They can't seem to understand that OpenBSD is more secure than almost any other OS. They can't understand that PostgreSQL is better at handling large data sets and heavier workloads than MySQL is. They can't understand that Ruby allows for faster and more reliable web application development than PHP does. They can't understand that nginx offers better performance and reliability than Apache HTTPd does.

Keep in mind that they are just considering the use of open source software in their operations, without actually planning on contributing back any changes. So I don't think it's a licensing problem. Nor is finding support a problem. I always provide them with a lengthy list of consultants and specialists, both individuals and companies, who I've personally worked with before and know to do top-notch work.

It's probably just a hype and marketing problem. They've only heard marketing yells of "Linux!", "MySQL!", "PHP!" and "Apache!" thrown out by various vendors and industry rags. They're ignorant of anything else.

Re:Believe It or Not (3, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232380)

Most of my customers are in embedded systems. Sometimes, it concerns Android, and I have told them that Android does not represent the quality that should be expected out of an Open Source project. But their customers are asking for Android. So, we don't really get to make that decision.

Re:Believe It or Not (2, Insightful)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232554)

What do you mean exactly? Android (cyanogen specifically) seems higher quality then most other open source projects.

Re:Believe It or Not (2, Informative)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232954)

The kernel code from Android is crap and very unlikely to be merged as part of the mainstream kernel tree. Google seems to not care, and they wrote it in such a manner that no one else is interested in doing their dirty work for them.

Re:Believe It or Not (2, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233152)

Not just the kernel. The utility code is crap too, hard-coded in places where it shouldn't be, etc. And some people don't like the fact that they dropped LIBC and put in their own version. They'll fix it eventually.

Re:Believe It or Not (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233358)

Bruce, I am interested in how the Android kernel will get merged into the mainline.

When I say that phones have different needs, lots of people get all up in arms and ask which needs are those, and no there aren't any.

Much like embedded kernels, a phone kernel should probably be able to:

- let me make a 911 call with a minimum of delay no matter what else is going on. Android doesn't do this now. Lots of other phone OSs don't either. They should.

- accomodate some hardware, specifically hard keys. Android does well with this on my G1 with the volume keys, byt some others not so much. Not exclusive to Android, I know.

- answer the radio and get incoming calls serviced without delay. Seems like if nothing else, a smartphone should be a phone FIRST.

Then again, these could just be bugs. Not features. But Android going its own way for libraries etc is pure Google. They can't do that with mainline kernels, but I wonder if Google uses a mainline kernel now in their internal servers...

Re:Believe It or Not (2, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233586)

I am not running the Android kernel project. If I get to run any embedded manufacturer's project, I will try very hard to get the code into the kernel, and I know how to make the technical and economic case for that.

Most cell phones have two processors. The radio modem is in the smaller one, and is awake much of the time, and the PDA in the larger one, and is not awake nearly as often. That's how stand-by can work for so long on such a little battery. The radio uses a real-time OS and the PDA of course has Linux. Often their communication is over the Hayes modem protocol, believe it or not. So, when you want to call 911, Linux sends "+++ATDT911" or something similar.

I have a hard time believing that the Linux kernel is a fundamental problem regarding anything about the call, given the above architecture. I am sure that there are design flaws.

I'm an Androind luser.... (2, Interesting)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232992)

...and I can tell ya, it is not yet up to the standard of excellent OSS.

However, Cyanogen is barely part of the android community. He's clever, aggressive, and actually willing to work within the constraints, but he's also a bee in Google's bonnet. He does what they won't do, cause he caters to a smaller population of smarter users. To implement much of Cyanogen's stuff in OTA relases would require more testing, and of course trusting users like me with root. Some of us would be fine. Others would be calling their carrier and complaining about something they deleted. Well, they probably do that anyways, but for modded ROM users, we pretty much talk amongst ourselves and take the arrows.

Android is moving so fast it will take a while to settle down and get excellent. And then something else will come and take its place on the bleeding edge.

Re:Believe It or Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31233072)

What's wrong with Android? I know it has as much hype behind it as any OSS project ever has. But in any case, it's an Open Source mobile platform that rivals the usability and polish of other platforms (ahem, Apple's) but isn't tied to a single handset developer or network. I understand that you don't want your customers to choose a package based solely on it's name, but neither should a name be the only reason to avoid a project either. I don't understand why you say Android doesn't represent the quality expected of open source. Do you mean it's better? or worse?

Re:Believe It or Not (3, Insightful)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232716)

Most companies doesn't care about the best technical solution for a problem. They also take in account availability of workforce to use that particular solution, suppliers interested in working and giving support and a some other factors, like cost. Take the example you mention, the LAMP stack. PHP programmers with knowledge of MySQL are a dime a dozen, and you can filter through them to pick and choose the real competent ones. Most hosting providers already have an already optimized and time tested stack that supports these technologies, so companies can filter through them to choose the cheaper and more reliable. It gets the job done so other potential better solutions gets overlooked. Technical merit is not the only factor when choosing the right tool for the job.

Re:Believe It or Not (1)

bosef1 (208943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233274)

I wish I had some mod points for you; this is the same experience that I've had, as both a software writer and as a software architect. The Linux / open-source community is great for providing mutli-tool solutions to efficiently and effectively accomplish a task. Unfortunately, people who can work well in such an environment are hard to find and expensive. So instead of an elegant solution, you get the solution that can be implemented by four people you are paying $45,000 a year.

Re:Believe It or Not (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233162)

While I agree with pretty much everything you said, the “faster” is not true for Ruby. I’ve seen tons of tests, and Ruby is veeeery slow. It’t quite a feat to be even slower than PHP, but it is. (Oh, and Python is not much faster too.)

But that low (12-25 times slower than C) that’s not that relevant anymore anyway. Since if one cares for speed, one wouldn’t use any of those languages anyway. :)

Re:Believe It or Not (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233648)

I think he means faster to develop. The reality is that it is fast enough when it is running that the cost is in the time to develop and the time to market rather than the use of computer resources.

Rails 3.0.0beta is faster, anyway, Ruby 1.9 is faster, and I'm sure that trend will continue.

Re:Believe It or Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31233656)

They can't understand that niggers offers better performance and reliability than Apache does.

That's how I read it the first time... :-/

Re:Believe It or Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31233436)

Just be mindful of what you signed when you were hired by your employer. Some companies have terrible "everything you do even outside of work is ours" clauses.

The company for which I work gave me one of those to sign. I never signed it.

For me, it works on a reciprocity basis. If the company wants to own everything I do outside of work, then the company needs to PAY ME for everything I do outside of work.

Time in front of Wii? PAY ME (gives me game ideas)
Time on toilet? PAY ME (quiet time to think)
Time sleeping? PAY ME (dreaming up new ideas)
Time having sex? PAY ME (less distracted by internet porn when at computer)

Now, if the company wants to go for something a little more reasonable, like paying me for 40 hours/wk instead of 120 hours/wk, then maybe they'd be willing to let me keep the rights to my little World of Warcraft AddOn that they probably don't give two shits about?

Thought so.

ummm... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31231582)

"...using the correct one..." - the correct what? Bad summary.

what has this got to do with open source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31231584)

Isn't it just an abuse of the patent system being corrected for?

Who knows? There's simply no information (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231684)

Look, we all want to know if this has something to do with open source, or if it is just an abuse of the patent system being corrected, but that information simply does not exist. There is no way we could, for example, click on a link and just read about it. We're all in the same no-clue-having boat as you.

A few corrections to the preface here at Slashdot (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231602)

It's actually the appeals court that was sympathetic. Twice. The lower court seems to have had less understanding of the Open Source developer's plight.

Using "the right one": means the right Open Source license. A real key here is getting one that had competent legal help in its drafting. There are a few real duds on the OSI list, including a font license that I swear allows you to convert the font to the public domain. Only the programmers who wrote it don't see it that way.

Sorry about the lack of paragraph breaks. I tend to write too many of them and the editor responded by using too few of them. He might have fixed that and the web cache hasn't been flushed yet.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (3, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231920)

including a font license that I swear allows you to convert the font to the public domain.

Which one is that? IANAL, but I wanna play "spot the contract bug", too.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232124)

It's the SIL font license. This is the problem paragraph:

5) The Font Software, modified or unmodified, in part or in whole, must be distributed entirely under this license, and must not be distributed under any other license. The requirement for fonts to remain under this license does not apply to any document created using the Font Software.

The problem is, if you embed the font, it explicitly says the license doesn't apply any longer. If you then extract the font, the authors of this license assume that the license magically applies once more. I am far from sure that is the case.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232338)

Not a lawyer here, but I would imagine that their intent was that if you embed the font you are no longer licensed to use it at all. Your license is revoked. So now you can't distribute your document to anyone because you would be breaking their copyright on the font. Now, I am NOT saying that their license SAYS that - but I would guess it is what they meant.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (2, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232452)

No, they told me that they meant that if you embed the font in a document, you can distribute the document under any license that you desire to use. But you can't sell the font separately, or convert it to another license.

That's what they meant, anyway. What it says, however, can be parsed about four different ways. So, we have to get a judge and let him/her pick one.

Good license writers make them clear enough that there aren't ambiguities in the license itself to litigate.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233076)

Common sense comes in to play here, and even in court.

Its rather common for allowing a font to be embedded in a document under a different license.

You'll find roughly the same phrase in fonts used by Adobe.

Of course Adobe products like to claim Adobe copyright on documents they create. Illustrator will throw in a 'Copyright Adobe Systems, 2010' for any SVG exported from it.

In both cases, the intent is understood by everyone in the industry that the copyright only applies to the font itself, and that reselling it by itself is not acceptable.

Font licenses are retarded anyway, I feel no sympathy for 'font designers' or the companies they work with.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (2, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233208)

"Understood by everyone in the industry" is my job. I tell the judge if that's the case or not. As does an expert on the other side. Obviously, we often contradict each other. And then the judge has to decide which of us he trusts. So, what the industry understands is only unreliably communicated to the courts.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31232370)

Actually, this is a symptom of a broader problem with font licensing. Legally, any document created using any font does not attract the copyright of the font used. Period. Yes, it was stupid to state it explicitly, because it will make it impossible for the license to benefit from future clarification of the law, but they just stated what is basically the case already.
Of course, currently distributing any font you extract from a document (whether you OCR, or extract an embedded font) is illegal, but you can get around that easily by not distributing and doing the extraction yourself, which would require a police state to check.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232746)

Actually, this is a symptom of a broader problem with font licensing. Legally, any document created using any font does not attract the copyright of the font used. Period. Yes, it was stupid to state it explicitly, because it will make it impossible for the license to benefit from future clarification of the law, but they just stated what is basically the case already. Of course, currently distributing any font you extract from a document (whether you OCR, or extract an embedded font) is illegal, but you can get around that easily by not distributing and doing the extraction yourself, which would require a police state to check.

I think the font "program" can be copyrighted but the actual outline of the font can't. Currently. Here. It's different in other countries. I am mostly concerned with machine extraction of the font, which is really trivial in the latest generation of document files that are actually archives of a directory full of files.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31232656)

The license grants you rights. If the license doesn't apply that means you don't have these rights anymore. Without a license granting you the rights you are not left with public domain but with standard copyright law, which isn't very much.

Thanks Bruce (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232552)

As someone who has occasionally been a critic of some of your bloggings, I must say Good Job !! It was always clear to me that the first cases in this area MUST be won, else we have unfortunate precedents.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (2, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232794)

Nice writeup.

While it may be a win of sort for Jacobsen, I don't find it an encouraging precedent for OS people.

Threats and harrassment, five years of hassle, outright fraud (copyright infringement), all that resulted in measley 100k settlement over 18 months (minus 30k Jacobsen had to fork out previously?) after several trips up and down the appeal lanes, all with probono attorney service and even some prominent OS advocates' help.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (2, Insightful)

Cornelius the Great (555189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233046)

The win here is that the case remains public so that it can be used as a precedent in the future. A sealed case would be all for naught for the OSS community.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31233060)

This is good news, Bruce. Too bad your writing style is sub-par. "the right one" What might that be, Bruce?

I discount anything Bruce Perens says about any subject due to his past demonstrations of laziness. The way this article is written only reinforces that decision.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31233196)

You, sir, are a douche.

Did you even bother to read the article or Bruce's testimony?

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31233430)

Hey, idiot: Bruce didn't write the summary. Way to go, Ox.

Re:A few corrections to the preface here at Slashd (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233182)

My code is horrible. I wouldn't ever go to court to defend ownership of it. If someone else wants to claim my crappy work as their own, fine.

Is there an open source license for this? "If you plan on stealing, please let us know" Public License?

So, the article is about cocaine? (-1, Troll)

afabbro (33948) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231652)

Perens, an expert witness in the case, details the blow by blow, including how developers need to make sure they're using the correct one for legal protection.

Fine editing there, Taco. What exactly does this sentence mean?

  • Developers need to us the correct Arabic numeral for legal protection?
  • Developers need to use the correct cocaine for legal protection?
  • Developers need to use the correct Bruce Perens for legal protection?

Hope College. It shows.

Re:So, the article is about cocaine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31231828)

The correct three. Yes.

Re:So, the article is about cocaine? (1)

newdsfornerds (899401) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231908)

Heh. His lack of composition skills is apparent but I doubt it has much to do with where he went to college. Is Hope College that awful?

Re:So, the article is about cocaine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31232052)

I Hope it is, otherwise one can only imagine the reasons behind his disability.

Re:So, the article is about cocaine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31232228)

i think you mean the correct one.

A victory with a high cost... (5, Interesting)

ndykman (659315) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231858)

At the start, the open source developer got hit with a large SLAPP fine (urgh), and finally got the judgement reversed and was awarded damages, but the article notes that: "This doesn't fully compensate Jacobsen for all of his time and expense over 5 years, but it was the best he could get." So, by not using the right OSI license, the developer opened himself to years of legal hassles and woes.

Also, one wonders if by proactively suing, he ended up being worse off than by not waiting and then countersuing. Finally, it is noteworthy that since the DMCA was used on behalf of the open source developer, this may not be seen by opponents of that law as a victory at all, as it provides validation (if weak) of it's existence.

If this is victory for the little guy, I'd really hate to see what defeat is like.

Re:A victory with a high cost... (5, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232050)

It's more of a victory for you and me, because we have the benefit of Bob's court precedents. Katzer had previously intimidated at least one other person with patent threats, and Bob felt that the team could not go on with their project with this hanging over their heads. But I agree that the Open Source developer really paid, paid big, to get this. I've taken tons of s**t for what I attempt to do for the community too. You'd better believe in what you're doing, because there isn't always a thank-you.

If you read the second appeal, I don't think DMCA is a big deal in it. But if we're going to have dumb law, let's at least make it work for us. IMO worse than DMCA is the entire concept that cases like this can bankrupt someone before they have a chance to win. How can there be justice if that's the case?

Re:A victory with a high cost... (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232130)

Thank you, Bruce.

Re:A victory with a high cost... (3, Interesting)

raddan (519638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232476)

Bruce, I wonder-- did Katzer know that the Artistic License was weak, and did that motivate some of his behavior? I'm wondering if the choice of a different license would have actually deterred this guy.

Re:A victory with a high cost... (3, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232880)

The court said that Katzer deliberately misappropriated and obfuscated. My guess is that he would have done so to anyone he thought he could beat. The failure of the license took what should have been a short case and made it longer. Of all the terms in Open Source licenses, I never saw myself having to fight a case over the right to be attributed properly. We had just a little thin thread to fight with, IMO.

Re:A victory with a high cost... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233318)

I've taken tons of s**t for what I attempt to do for the community too. You'd better believe in what you're doing, because there isn't always a thank-you.

Thank you, Bruce, I do think you do good work (though I have criticized you when I felt you deserved it). Honestly I think part of that might just be from your initial involvement with OSI, which comes off to a lot of people as extremely heavy-handed and self-aggrandizing.

Victory? (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231918)

Over 5 years, Bob Jacobsen put in thousands of hours of work on this case. He was threatened with loss of his employment, and with all of the money and property that he had. The $100,000 he eventually received doesn't compensate him for this. But I'm sure that the feeling of achievement does.

If you count being tied up in court for five years, getting lots and lots of pro bono lawyer time and still not breaking even. I call this "How to snuff out a potential upstart for $100,000" even though he probably wasn't competition in the first place.

Re:Victory? (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232292)

If you look at how many presentations, etc., Bob did at the recent NMRA (National Model Railroading Association) conference, he hardly got snuffed. It almost looks as if people were going to the conference just to see him.

Katzer spent a lot of money, has no product he can legally sell today (his web site currently only points to a list of articles) and his reputation is in the pits over this with anyone who might have otherwise been a customer.

But yes, anyone less tenacious than Bob would have lost, and it wouldn't have been terribly expensive for the patent holder. The patent system is so tuned to incent the bad guy that it really stinks.

Re:Victory? (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233566)

If you look at how many presentations, etc., Bob did at the recent NMRA (National Model Railroading Association) conference, he hardly got snuffed. It almost looks as if people were going to the conference just to see him.

Katzer spent a lot of money, has no product he can legally sell today (his web site currently only points to a list of articles) and his reputation is in the pits over this with anyone who might have otherwise been a customer.

It surprises me that a business would seek to alienate their customer base; especially one that is relatively small and somewhat tight knit. Hobbyists, especially serious ones, spend a a lot of time with other hobbyists with similar interests and reputations are made and lost via word of mouth. Getting them mad is a good way to lose business and potentially ago out of business; especially if you sell a niche product.

BTW - did he also get the SLAPP payments back?

seems a little inflated (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231946)

Over 5 years, Bob Jacobsen put in thousands of hours of work on this case. He was threatened with loss of his employment, and with all of the money and property that he had. The $100,000 he eventually received doesn't compensate him for this. But I'm sure that the feeling of achievement does.

Uhhh...thousands of hours? A full-time job is generally around 1800 hours a YEAR; we're expected to believe this guy spent more time than his lawyers should have? Doing what? And how exactly was his employment threatened?

Re:seems a little inflated (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31232034)

His employer got notices from the company.

Re:seems a little inflated (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232410)

His employer got notices from the company.

Doesn't necessarily mean he's going to lose his job. Especially with a government job, where the protections tend to be a little stronger than in the private sector.

Re:seems a little inflated (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232674)

Maybe it would have been more accurate for me to say "more than a thousand". If you look at his case journal on the JMRI website, it has tons of documents, and I know that there are actually more documents than are listed in the index.

Programmers writing licenses (1)

l2718 (514756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31231998)

are like lawyers writing code -- attempting to go beyond their field of expertise. division of labour [wikipedia.org] rocks. It's one reason our modern world is so productive. This isn't to say that an individual programmer might have legal training, or that an individual lawyer might not also know how to program. But it means that you'll get better results by doing what you are good at and enlisting the help of others who are good at what they do.

Re:Programmers writing licenses (2, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232760)

Interesting to note that two of the slashdot stories for today are programmers giving legal analyses of cases...

Open Source Won (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232054)

Alright, it's time for Open Source to take one for the team :-)

Long, Long Road for an Open and Shut Case (4, Insightful)

twmcneil (942300) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232088)

When I heard about this ruling last week, I was shocked that this apparently open and shut case had taken so long to conclude. If I recall the details I read about years ago when this all started, it seems that Jacobsen was really being taken advantage of badly. IANAL or a judge but I would have thought this case would have taken all of 45 minutes to decide, not years.

There's something really wrong when someone like Katzer (or SCO) can so completely snow a court. The crux of both cases come down to code ownership/authorship. Is that something that just goes "Whoosh" to all judges?

Re:Long, Long Road for an Open and Shut Case (1)

DutchUncle (826473) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232658)

The crux of both cases come down to code ownership/authorship. Is that something that just goes "Whoosh" to all judges?

I completely agree. If I photocopied a famous author's work and printed it with my name in the author's spot, I'd lose in a heartbeat. That's because there is an existing legal tool called "copyright" that the judges *do* understand, with an entire set of procedures and precedents. Because nobody is paying for open source - which looks to normal people like hobbyist dabbling - nobody has paid lawyers to establish the parallel precedents.

IANAL, so this is just opinion: Instead of trying to create new licensing concepts,I would pursue the same logic as a musician performing a "cover song" under a "mechanical license". Any artist is permitted to record any published song simply by paying the publisher; the original author has made the song available to everyone by publishing it, so the performer doesn't have to get specific permission. Similarly, open source projects should be copyrighted in the exact form they're released - meaning nobody can copy that exact form and claim it as their own - with the "mechanical license" cost being *specified* as attribution (including full history). Use the existing legal tools, in a way that the existing legal structure can equate to a precedent, and maybe we'd help them understand better.

Re:Long, Long Road for an Open and Shut Case (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232914)

I think to the lower court this might have been seen as businessman v. hacker.

Re:Long, Long Road for an Open and Shut Case (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233188)

I think to the lower court this might have been seen as businessman v. hacker.

It's absolutely shameful that (a) a court should so easily fall into a stereotype like that and (b) that a stereotype like that should even influence a court's decision in the first place. So much for justice being blind.

Re:Long, Long Road for an Open and Shut Case (1)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233630)

I think to the lower court this might have been seen as businessman v. hacker.

I think you're entirely correct. I also think it's a very sad state of affairs that such a characterization has any impact on a ruling. So much for justice being blind.

Thank you for your hard work!

Delicious? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232162)

We are talking about $100.000, my precious.

Re:Delicious? (2, Insightful)

raddan (519638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232504)

We don't need the extra precision unless our software is stealing from the boss, thanks.

Yay! (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232238)

So, when will this case be made into a major motion picture, with Julia Roberts playing the part of Victoria Hall?

Re:Yay! (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232802)

with Julia Roberts playing the part of Victoria Hall?

C'mon. She may be a little loose, but comparing her to Victorian architecture is not called for.

Re:Yay! (2, Funny)

mike260 (224212) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233282)

Yeeeesssss...I'm seeing Matt Damon as the earnest geek who refuses to back down, James Gandolfini as the litigious scumbag, and Brent Spiner as Bruce Perens.

The lesson? The Perl Man slips (1)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232332)

Larry Wall's Artistic License (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artistic_License) got ripped to shreds under court scrutiny.

Understand when to use the LGPL or the GPL: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/why-not-lgpl.html [gnu.org]

use them.

Re:The lesson? The Perl Man slips (2, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232566)

That should probably be: use the version 3 ones. There are a lot of lessons from experience in the v3 series.

It rather sounds as a defeat to FOSS (1)

gyepi (891047) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232454)

The article says that the $100.000 Jacobsen was awarded doesn't compensate him for going through the procedure.

If this is true and projects to future cases, then developers still won't have incentive to fight their case in the court (even if they have a decent chance to win), and infringing companies will have reason to think that they are not going to be brought to court, which rather increases the chance of indulging in infringement. The deterrence factor is low.

Re:It rather sounds as a defeat to FOSS (3, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233392)

Well, it says a number of things to FOSS developers. One is that your license choice matters. This case was much longer than it should have been, and was almost lost, because of the license. Second, it says the patent system still sucks and we're not fighting hard enough. And we still need tort reform.

But it has some significant value in deterrence, for the subclass of sane aggressors. Nothing deters the other ones, the only thing you can do is to make sure your own legal execution (your license, how you accept contributions, how you identify your developers) in order so that the court doesn't make things worse.

Bad news for Open Source (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31232462)

Open Source software has just become outlawed at a LOT OF COMPANIES. I realize that not all open source is that GPL stupidity, but with it still existing in a lot of projects like Linux and Samba, not many companies are going to bother making the distinction and the new policy will be "no open source at all".

Re:Bad news for Open Source (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232862)

...not all open source is that GPL...but...not many companies are going to bother making the distinction and the new policy will be "no open source at all".

So, by your own words, the companies that don't bother reading the open source licenses—that just rip off other peoples' code, in other words—will be at a disadvantage? Am I supposed to feel bad?

Re:Bad news for Open Source (3, Funny)

mqduck (232646) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233000)

Aww, such a cute little troll. Yes you are. Yes you are! Does my little Trolly need attention?

Good News for Open Source (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233624)

You know, I'm usually on the side of "GPL/FSF is a bit too fundamentalist" myself... But I find your obvious troll to be laughably ridiculous.

You're saying a court case that says "You can't use Open Source software in violation of said software's license" will cause companies to not use Open Source software? Then these are probably the companies we DON'T want using it in the first place! How is that not obvious to everyone?

Someone using your code in violation of the license you picked for it is not a "win" for you. If all a developer cared about was having as many people as possible use his or her code, then it would be released in the public domain. A developer of Open Source software obviously has different goals in mind.

Precedents? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232672)

What important precedents where set by this case. It seems like it was settled out of court, which would usually mean that a judge didn't rule, and therefore didn't set an precedents. The appeals court did rule that an attribution clause is legally binding, which is good. Was there anything else established?

Re:Precedents? (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233012)

It went to appeals court twice and the appeals court ruled both times, then handed the case back to the lower court. The main precedents come from the appeals court.

That's the way it always is. Lower court precedents aren't terribly useful because only that court has to follow them. Appeals court precedents are more valuable, and the appeals courts are more respected as expert jurists so that other courts follow them even if they don't have to.

The precedents are that Open Source licenses can be enforced, and with all of the mechanisms that have been put in place to enforce proprietary licenses, including summary judgement. To get that, we had to show that the Open Source developer has an economic interest in his work even though he isn't paid by legitimate licensed users of the work, and is harmed by an infringer even though he isn't paid.

To you and me it seems odd that anyone had a problem with that idea. But we're inside the revolution.

These guys deserve support (4, Informative)

starseeker (141897) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232730)

Here's the link to their donations page:

http://jmri.sourceforge.net/donations.shtml [sourceforge.net]

I have to admire what these guys are doing and the good it will do for the open source community as a whole (at least in the US). I've seen this case pop up off and on over the years, and it always struck me as a scary plight for an open source developer to be in.

(Not affiliated with the project in any way and nobody asked me to post the link - I just think a slashdot effect is in order here given what they're doing and what he's been up against.)

These guys deserve support (0, Redundant)

starseeker (141897) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232820)

Here's the link to their donations page:

http://jmri.sourceforge.net/donations.shtml [sourceforge.net]

I have to admire what these guys are doing and the good it will do for the open source community as a whole (at least in the US). I've seen this case pop up off and on over the years, and it always struck me as a scary plight for an open source developer to be in.

(Not affiliated with the project in any way and nobody asked me to post the link - I just think a slashdot effect is in order here given what they're doing and what he's been up against.)

Re:These guys deserve support (1)

starseeker (141897) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232864)

whoops, sorry, browser misbehave - please mod down the dup posting above

Anoyiing at best. (5, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31232908)

Why the heck is Bruce Perens' name all over this and in the summary TWICE while Bob Jacobsen's name is only listed in the summary in case name?
It was Bob Jacobsen that paid for this case, risked his job, and wrote the software while Bruce Perens' did even go on the stand!
Here is a much better summery.

"Open source programmer Bob Jacobsen wins an historic case establishing the legal validity of Open Source Licenses ,
The court awarded Mr. Jacobsen $100,000 after years of appeals and many thousands of dollors of personal expenses.
The actual court ruling is almost like some kind of Hollywood movie ending for Open Source, with the judge so unequivocally siding with the underfunded open source developer.
Here is a link to Mr. Jacobsen's project JMRI http://jmri.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] where you can read about his software and contribute to his project to show your support and gratitude for the legal fight Mr. Jacobsen fought for all of our benefit."

"

Re:Anoyiing at best. (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233108)

If you read the story, rather than the summary, you will find that Jacobsen is of course all over it. The summary is written by an editor who wishes you to read the story based on the credibility of a writer whom you already know, yours truly. And I am, to some extent, telling the story from the perspective of my own involvement.

I am also taking the opportunity to advertise my work as an expert witness, which I get damn little chance to do because every other case I've participated in has sealed and thus I can't show anyone my writing samples!

Sorry if that annoyed you. All of the work on the case was done for free. I get a little money from Datamation, but far from enough to live on.

Re:Anoyiing at best. (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233156)

Umm, because Perens wrote the article? Why shouldn't his name be there, he created the content we are all reading. I don't see how that detracts from what Jacobsen did.

Settled Out Of Court (1)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233110)

Well correct me if im wrong here, but why is a so called 'settled case' a victory ? Doesn't this simply mean that there will be no precedent ? Why is that a victory ?

Crap, read that article *too* quickly ... (1)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233154)

.. And fucked up big time ... :(

Re:Crap, read that article *too* quickly ... (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233292)

Not your fault, this stuff is complicated.

Must be something wrong with me (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31233490)

I am continually and repetitively dumbfounded by the mere existence of people like Katzer. I cannot fathom how they would hope to profit and succeed in this way. I acknowledge that it has happened, is happening still and will continue to happen. But the concept and notion is hard for me to understand. I cannot identify with it in the slightest. That people like this even walk the streets masquerading as humans at all is disturbing to me.

When someone engages is these sorts of activities, there should be more than civil penalties. There should be criminal penalties as well. It is simply unbelievable.

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