Ruling Is a Victory for Supporters of Free Software
SAN FRANCISCO — A legal dispute involving model railroad hobbyists has resulted in a major courtroom victory for the free software movement also known as open-source software.
In a ruling Wednesday, the federal appeals court in Washington said that just because a software programmer gave his work away did not mean it could not be protected.
The decision legitimizes the use of commercial contracts for the distribution of computer software and digital artistic works for the public good. The court ruling also bolsters the open-source movement by easing the concerns of large organizations about relying on free software from hobbyists and hackers who have freely contributed time and energy without pay.
In March 2006, Robert G. Jacobsen, a physics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Katzer claiming that his company was distributing a commercial software program that had taken software code from the Java Model Railroad Interface project and was redistributing the program without the credits required as part of the open-source license it was distributed under.
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