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Copyleft Gets Rights

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The blogging community is abuzz that open-source software gets copyright protection. Maybe as a member of the EU, I don't see the point. Why does it take a US federal appeals court decision to tell an author, what rights he or she has with their own creation? Further as a non-native English speaker, I don't understand the difference between copyleft, artistic license, GNU, and why all this is different from copyright.

It seems to me like an awful lot of hairsplitting. In the endgame, an US federal court has determined an author gets to say, what can and cannot be done with their work, even as they are "giving it away" as in the case of open source.

Specifically, a US federal court of appeals has ruled in Jacobsen v. Klatzer that Artistic License has the same remedies for infringement as any other author's creation under copyright rules. What I do not understand is, why did this take caselaw to become "real" law? The United States government's own website on copyright states, that copyright is created "at the moment of creation". That filing paperwork with Washington, DC, only increases the punitive damages possible in the event of a copyright violation.

It appears specifically that in the case of Jacobsen v. Klatzer the defendant was attempting to reduce the theft of intellectual property, to that of a matter of a contract violation. In United States law, this is considered a less serious offense. Now, certainly I'm not a lawyer on either side of the pond. And reading the finding from the same court that settled matters of a similar nature, between Sun and Microsoft, there is now clear definitions in US caselaw, that says open source, artistic license, GNU and other licenses, which put out intellectual property for "the public good" can and do in fact have the limitations as defined by the creator.

In this particular case, the plaintiff took source code, removed the copyright notice, and further instructions from the author. Under copyleft or apparently similar arrangements, this is possible, if the person or company acquiring the source code does "make other arrangements with the copyright holder."

The court ruling continues to state the plaintiff did not make such "other arrangements."

Further that:"the clear language of the artistic license creates conditions to protect the economic rights at issue in the granting of the public license. These conditions govern the rights to modify and distribute computer programs and files included in the download software package. The attribution and modification transparency requirements directly serve to drive traffic to the open source intubation page and to inform downstream users of the project, which is a significant economic goal of the copyright holder that the law will enforce. Through this controlled spread of information, the copyright holder gains creative collaborators to the open-source project; by requiring the changes made by downstream users be visible to the copyright holder and others, copyright holder learns about the users for his software and games others' knowledge that can be used to advance future software releases."

Again, I don't see why it takes a US court to determine the taking somebody's intellectual property, removing its copyright and attempting to profit by the work of it's authors is not plagiarism. The argument that within limitation, the author put it out there for the "public good", means he is given up his rights makes no sense on any side of the pond. I'm certainly glad to hear it doesn't in the United States either.

As there is no indication of an appeal of this ruling, it appears final. Copyleft has Rights.

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