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BBC NEWS | Technology | Legal milestone for open source
Advocates of open source software have hailed a court ruling protecting its use even though it is given away free.

"Copyright holders who engage in open source licensing have the right to control the modification and distribution of copyrighted materials," Judge Jeffrey White wrote in his 15-page decision.

"Open source 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 few could have imagined just a few decades ago," Judge White said.

The ruling has implications for the Creative Commons licence which offers ways for work to go into the public domain and still be protected. These licenses are widely used by academic organisations like MIT for distributing coursework, scientific groups, artists, movie makers and Wikipedia among others.

"This opinion demonstrates a strong understanding of a basic economic principle of the internet; that even though money doesn't change hands, attribution is a valuable economic right in the information economy."


We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 06:50:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It should be seen as this: "...attribution is a valuable common economic right. It is a right that belongs to society.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 07:46:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree.  Still, it is a legal milestone to recognize that not everything of value can be measured in dollars or pounds or euros.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 08:56:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's either unworkable or irrelevant. You can't make something 'open' and then demand attribution credits for every component.

This will more or less work when you're dealing with a small project with fixed boundaries. But if I put together a giant mash-up of all kinds of everything - let's say I put together a three minute mix of hundreds of loops supplied under a Creative Commons licence from different sources - the attributions on their own will take a week or two to sort out.

This is not quite the incentive to collaboration that it's perhaps supposed to be. Especially if those attributions are supposed to be propagated indefinitely for every subsequent derivative work.

GPL has already been described as a legal virus attached to every piece of software it touches, and this isn't helping any.

I think if the Open Source community wants to define the legal status of derivative work it should decide whether work is pro bono and public domain, for profit, or make it explicit that the commodity being traded is the reputation of the creator, and not the functionality of the software.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 09:18:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, much better to keep it closed and not let anyone use it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 09:26:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The principle is that that which has been generated for non-commercial sharing, shall not be appropriated by others for commercial use. You are free to do your mash-up imo, as long as YOU share what what you have created under the same terms as its components were created.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 10:33:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference between this and conventional copyright is close to being medieval sophistry. In theory I suppose it's meant to encourage collaborative work, but in practice it's encouraging collaborative work which no one can profit from.

The problem remains - if I create a mash-up and want to sell it legally, I have to contact every originator and get clearance.

In practice, this isn't any different to conventional commercial copyright clearance. It's nice that people can dilettante around with other people's contributions legally without worrying about the copyright cops. But - with the inevitable list of Slashdotted poster-geek exceptions - that's not going to interest most professional artists either way.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 10:56:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you don't want to share, then you are protected by copyright if you mark the work so.

Non-profit collaboration is not always about the works themselves. It can be seen as educative, connecting, liberating, inspiring etc: i.e. values other than financial.

Like ET, the aim is not profitability but enablement.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 03:19:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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