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Breakthrough ruling for open source copyright

Statutory damages awarded to developer


A new ruling is offering greater protection against copyright infringement when it comes to open-source software.

Open-source proponents applauded the ruling, saying it upholds the legal argument for open-source licensing that the community has supported for years.

Eben Moglen, Columbia University law professor and founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center, said the decision will reduce legal uncertainty and increase the "attractiveness of free software and open-source distribution models for both software developers and IT vendors."

"The Court of Appeals has agreed with the basic legal theory upon which we have relied for years," he said.

The ruling is also important given that the US Court of Appeals is a court that has the most authority on intellectual property cases in the US, Updegrove said.

"For the community, this wasn't about money at all, but about receiving the blessing of an important court that the foundations upon which the entire free and open source and Creative Commons philosophies are based," Updegrove said.

One of the major vendors of the Linux operating system, Red Hat, said it was pleased with the court's ruling. "Because open-source lawsuits are rare, a published appellate decision is especially significant," the company said.


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