More DMCA, FOSS, Copyright craziness: FOSS devs can collect damages from license violators

Posted on February 22nd, 2010 by bile
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Robert Jacobson, the developer behind the open source Java Model Railroad Interface (JMRI) project, finally prevailed in a long-running open source software license enforcement lawsuit against Matthew Katzer, the owner of a company that sells commercial model train software.

Katzer initially threatened Jacobson and JMRI with a patent infringement lawsuit in 2005, and demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing fees. Upon investigating Katzer’s claims, Jacobson was surprised to discover that Katzer had misappropriated significant amounts of JMRI code, using it without attribution in a commercial software package. Jacobson retaliated against Katzer’s patent suit by filing a copyright infringement suit.

The case has attracted considerable attention within the open source software community because it has broad ramifications for open source license legality. A federal appeals court that heard the case in 2008 ruledthat violating the terms of an open source software license constitutes copyright infringement, not just breach of contract. The distinction is important because the legal remedies for copyright infringement are generally stronger.

After the 2008 ruling, the case was passed back to the district court so that the appropriate remedy could be determined. In a summary judgement issued in December, the district court ruled that Jacobson is entitled to collect monetary damages from Katzer. The judgment also declared that Katzer’s removal of attribution and copyright information from the JMRI code constituted a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Although the ruling won’t set a broad precedent due to the fact that it emerged from a district court, it’s still a significant victory for open source software licensing enforcement. The threat of having to pay monetary damages will give software companies a big incentive to refrain from abusing or misappropriating open source software code. In response to the ruling, Katzer finally agreed to settle with Jacobson last week. The conflict, which originally started five years ago, has reached an end.

This story is particularly strange but the fundamental problems with artificial intellectual monopolies shines through. FOSS works not because of copyright but because it’s a better form of development for many software products. With regards to  the usage of the code against the terms of the license Jacobson was in no way harmed. No theft or coercion. He spoke aloud and complains others remembered his speech.

The only way to enforce so called intellectual property laws is by infringing on the actual property rights of others. By releasing source code to the world you’ve created in effect an economic free good. It has no scarcity. It’s use can not naturally be monopolized. By doing so artificially you slow progress, harm consumers and infringe on the property rights of those who wish to utilize the freed good.

For more on anti-intellectual property check out the various works at

Nintendo shuts down fan made Zelda film distribution

Posted on January 1st, 2010 by bile
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Hey, everyone. We just wanted to let you know that Dec. 31 was the last day that The Hero of Time was available for viewing. We came to an agreement with Nintendo earlier this month to stop distributing the film. In the spirit of the holiday season they were good enough to let us keep the movie up for you to watch and enjoy through the end of 2009, but not past 2009. We understand Nintendo’s right to protect its characters and trademarks and understand how in order to keep their property unspoiled by fan’s interpretation of the franchise, Nintendo needs to protect itself — even from fan-works with good intentions.

This has been quite an adventure for us and we have a real sense of peace bringing the project to a close. Between the screenings and the online release many of you were able to see the film and we hope to not have only inspired those of you that live, breathe and dream Zelda but we also hope to have inspired all of you aspiring filmmakers out there! Thank you again for all your patience with the project and we hope you had as much fun watching our movie as we did making it. Thanks for all your wonderful messages of encouragement and support! I’m sure our next project will be right around the corner! No, it’s not Majora’s Mask : )

With absolutely no fraud or theft performed by the makers of this film Nintendo has no right threaten them with trademark or copyright infringement. The authors made it abundantly clear that they were not Nintendo or working on behalf of Nintendo or connected to them in any way.

Another arbitrary monopoly priviliage that (in it’s current incarnation and enforcement method) has no place in a free society.