|Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit Overturns Jacobsen v. Katzer - Ruling as text
Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 01:21 PM EDT
This just in: the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has just overturned [PDF] the lower court's decision in Jacobsen v. Katzer, the model train case.
The appeals court held that open source license conditions are enforceable as a copyright condition and that the Artistic License is no different in that respect. Proskauer Rose's New Media & Technology Blog explains the case, and here's the most important piece:
This is a highly significant opinion that will greatly bolster the efforts of the open source community to control the use of open source software according to the terms set out in open source licenses.
The central issue in the case is whether the conditions in the open source Artistic License limit the scope of the license (in which case a failure to comply with those conditions constitutes copyright infringement) or whether those conditions are in fact merely covenants, the breach of which gives rise only to a cause of action for damages. For an open source licensor, the difference between those two causes of action is particularly relevant because because injunctive relief usually is not as easily available in a breach of contract action. In a copyright infringement action, however, statutory damages and injunctive relief are more readily available, regardless of whether actual damages can be shown.
The appeals court concluded that the Artistic License "on its face … creates conditions." The court pointed to the literal language of the license, which expressly refers to "conditions under which a Package may be copied," and the use of traditional language to create conditions, i.e., the use of the term "provided that," which creates a condition under California law. The appeals court concluded that the district court failed to credit the explicit restrictions in the license that sought to govern the rights to modify and distribute code licensed under its terms...
Whew! As the court put it, "Copyright holders who engage in open source licensing have the right to control the modification and distribution of copyrighted material." Now the case goes back to the lower court to reconsider, based on this ruling, the question of injunctive relief. So. "The heart of the argument on appeal concerns whether the terms of the Artistic
License are conditions of, or merely covenants to, the copyright license," the court of appeals writes. And it finds that they are conditions, so relief is by means of copyright law, not contract. That matters a lot, because, as you've seen in the SCO saga, copyright law has teeth -- including injunctive relief -- that make policing infringements easier.
You can find the court filings here. The appeals filings are here, and you'll see that there was an amicus brief [PDF] filed by Creative Commons Corp, The Linux Foundation, The Open Source Initiative, Software Freedom Law Center, Yet Another Society - d/b/a The Perl Foundation, and the Wikimedia Foundation urging the appeals court to reverse the lower court ruling. I suspect that will indicate that a lot of community folks saw it as important to appeal. The opening paragraph explains why this matters:
The District Court's decision that the asserted violations of the Artistic License at issue in this case sound in contract, not copyright, was erroneous. If the decision were applied broadly, it could disrupt the settled expectations of literally millions of copyright holders who have depended upon the copyright system to secure the right to enforce public licenses.
The GPL is another example of a license that depends on copyright law for enforcement, because it's a copyright license, not a contract. Although this model train case is about a different license, because the US is a legal system based in part on case law, every decision matters. And so you know a bit more on what the earlier decision was all about and how it was viewed at the time, here's a snip from Mark Radcliffe's Law & Life: Silicon Valley blog last year explaining the lower court decision:
The plaintiff alleged a number of causes of action, but the most important was the alleged breach of the Artistic License (and copyright infringement for acting beyond the scope of the license) due to the removal of all of the original copyright notices to the original authors and the substitution of Katzen's company's name.
The decision makes two important points: (1) the Artistic License is a contract and (2) the failure to include the copyright notices was not a "restriction" on the scope of the license. The first point is important because the Free Software Foundation and some lawyers have taken the position that open source licenses are not contracts. They have good reasons for wishing to avoid some contract formalities, but this position has complicated discussions about the enforceability and remedies for open source licenses. This decision does not settle the issue for the GPL because it does not apply to the GPL and it is only a District Court decision, (lawyers really prefer to have an appellate decision, such as from the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court) but it does suggest how courts would approach the issue.
The analysis is, of course, now answered by the appeals court, which happily disagreed. AntiGPL forces found the lower court decision to drool over, naturally.
Update: Larry Lessig
says this is huge:
So for non-lawgeeks, this won't seem important. But trust me, this is huge.
I am very proud to report today that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (THE "IP" court in the US) has upheld a free (ok, they call them "open source") copyright license, explicitly pointing to the work of Creative Commons and others. (The specific license at issue was the Artistic License.) This is a very important victory, and I am very very happy that the Stanford Center for Internet and Society played a key role in securing it. Congratulations especially to Chris Ridder and Anthony Falzone at the Center.
In non-technical terms, the Court has held that free licenses such as the CC licenses set conditions (rather than covenants) on the use of copyrighted work. When you violate the condition, the license disappears, meaning you're simply a copyright infringer. This is the theory of the GPL and all CC licenses. Put precisely, whether or not they are also contracts, they are copyright licenses which expire if you fail to abide by the terms of the license.
Important clarity and certainty by a critically important US Court.
Andy Updegrove has more:
The underlying facts, and the legal counsel involved, were hardly major figures on the commercial landscape: the open source software at issue had been developed for model train buffs under an infrequently used free and open source license, and the attorney was young and inexperienced. But as often happens, a small case between small parties can have huge implications. And decisions that may make good strategic sense to the parties can also have disastrous consequences for those that are not in the same situation....
It's been going on for quite awhile, and a lot of people have spent a lot of time behind the scenes helping make sure that it came out the right way....
What the lower court had said is that if a licensee does something under the particular license in question (the "Artistic License" from the Creative Commons project) that it wasn't supposed to do, then that doesn't constitute copyright infringement - it's just a violation of a contract term. That sounds abstruse, until you then look to what the consequences are under one legal theory versus the other. Under contract law, the remedy is monetary damages. But what are the monetary damages for misusing free software? Well, none, arguably, or certainly not much.
On the other hand, copyright infringement carries statutory damages (a set amount that you get without having to prove monetary damages) and also allows you to recover attorney fees. And, most importantly for licenses such as the GPL, it means that your rights to use the copyrighted work at all disappear....So this, finally, is the big reason why you are hearing such rejoicing over the Jacobsen case.
BBC News quotes other attorneys involved.
Here's the appeals court decision, as text, and as always, for anything that matters, please go by the PDF:
United States Court of Appeals
MATTHEW KATZER and
KAMIND ASSOCIATES, INC. (doing business as KAM Industries),
Victoria K. Hall, Law Office of Victoria K. Hall, of Bethesda, Maryland, argued for
R. Scott Jerger, Field Jerger LLP, of Portland, Oregon, argued for defendants-appellees.
Anthony T. Falzone, Stanford Law School, Center for Internet and Society, of
Stanford, California, for amici curiae Creative Commons Corporation, et al. With him on
the brief was Christopher K. Ridder.
Appealed from: United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Judge Jeffrey S. White
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
MATTHEW KATZER and
KAMIND ASSOCIATES, INC. (doing business as KAM Industries),
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in
case no. 06-CV-1905, Judge Jeffrey S. White.
DECIDED: August 13, 2008
Before MICHEL, Chief Judge, PROST, Circuit Judge, and HOCHBERG, District Judge.
HOCHBERG, District Judge.
We consider here the ability of a copyright holder to dedicate certain work to free
public use and yet enforce an "open source" copyright license to control the future
distribution and modification of that work. Appellant Robert Jacobsen ("Jacobsen") appeals
from an order denying a motion for preliminary injunction. Jacobsen v. Katzer, No. 06-CV-01905 JSW, 2007 WL 2358628 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 17, 2007). Jacobsen holds a copyright to
computer programming code. He makes that code available for public download from a
website without a financial fee pursuant to the Artistic License, an "open source" or public
Appellees Matthew Katzer and Kamind Associates, Inc. (collectively
"Katzer/Kamind") develop commercial software products for the model train industry and
hobbyists. Jacobsen accused Katzer/Kamind of copying certain materials from Jacobsen's
website and incorporating them into one of Katzer/Kamind's software packages without
following the terms of the Artistic License. Jacobsen brought an action for copyright
infringement and moved for a preliminary injunction.
The District Court held that the open source Artistic License created an "intentionally
broad" nonexclusive license which was unlimited in scope and thus did not create liability
for copyright infringement. The District Court reasoned:
The plaintiff claimed that by modifying the software the defendant had
exceeded the scope of the license and therefore infringed the copyright.
Here, however, the JMRI Project license provides that a user may copy the
files verbatim or may otherwise modify the material in any way, including as
part of a larger, possibly commercial software distribution. The license
explicitly gives the users of the material, any member of the public, "the right
to use and distribute the [material] in a more-or-less customary fashion, plus
the right to make reasonable accommodations." The scope of the
nonexclusive license is, therefore, intentionally broad. The condition that the
user insert a prominent notice of attribution does not limit the scope of the
license. Rather, Defendants' alleged violation of the conditions of the license
may have constituted a breach of the nonexclusive license, but does not
create liability for copyright infringement where it would not otherwise exist.
Jacobsen, 2007 WL 2358628 at *7 (internal citations omitted).
On this basis, the District Court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction. We
vacate and remand.
Jacobsen manages an open source software group called Java Model Railroad
Interface ("JMRI"). Through the collective work of many participants, JMRI created a
computer programming application called DecoderPro, which allows model railroad
enthusiasts to use their computers to program the decoder chips that control model trains.
DecoderPro files are available for download and use by the public free of charge from an
open source incubator website called SourceForge; Jacobsen maintains the JMRI site on
SourceForge. The downloadable files contain copyright notices and refer the user to a
"COPYING" file, which clearly sets forth the terms of the Artistic License.
Katzer/Kamind offers a competing software product, Decoder Commander, which is
also used to program decoder chips. During development of Decoder Commander, one of
Katzer/Kamind's predecessors or employees is alleged to have downloaded the decoder
definition files from DecoderPro and used portions of these files as part of the Decoder
Commander software. The Decoder Commander software files that used DecoderPro
definition files did not comply with the terms of the Artistic License. Specifically, the
Decoder Commander software did not include (1) the authors' names, (2) JMRI copyright
notices, (3) references to the COPYING file, (4) an identification of SourceForge or JMRI as
the original source of the definition files, and (5) a description of how the files or computer
code had been changed from the original source code. The Decoder Commander software
also changed various computer file names of DecoderPro files without providing a
reference to the original JMRI files or information on where to get the Standard Version.
Jacobsen moved for a preliminary injunction, arguing that the violation of the terms
of the Artistic License constituted copyright infringement and that, under Ninth Circuit law,
irreparable harm could be presumed in a copyright infringement case. The District Court
reviewed the Artistic License and determined that "Defendants' alleged violation of the
conditions of the license may have constituted a breach of the nonexclusive license, but
does not create liability for copyright infringement where it would not otherwise exist." Id. at
*7. The District Court found that Jacobsen had a cause of action only for breach of
contract, rather than an action for copyright infringement based on a breach of the
conditions of the Artistic License. Because a breach of contract creates no presumption of
irreparable harm, the District Court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction.
Jacobsen appeals the finding that he does not have a cause of action for copyright
infringement. Although an appeal concerning copyright law and not patent law is rare in our
Circuit, here we indeed possess appellate jurisdiction. In the district court, Jacobsen's
operative complaint against Katzer/Kamind included not only his claim for copyright
infringement, but also claims seeking a declaratory judgment that a patent issued to Katzer
is not infringed by Jacobsen and is invalid. Therefore the complaint arose in part under the
patent laws. See 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a); Golan v. Pingel Enter., 310 F.3d 1360, 1367 (Fed.
Cir. 2002) (explaining that "[i]n the context of a complaint seeking a declaration of
noninfringement, the action threatened by the declaratory defendant . . . would be an action
for patent infringement," and "[s]uch an action clearly arises under the patent laws"). Thus
the district court's jurisdiction was based, at least in part, on 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a) as it
relates to the patent laws, and we have appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(c)(1).
See 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a) ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil
action arising under any Act of Congress relating to patents, plant variety protection,
copyrights and trademarks."); id. at § 1295(a)(1) (The Federal Circuit shall have exclusive
jurisdiction "of an appeal from a final decision of a district court of the United States" if (1)
"the jurisdiction of that court was based, in whole or in part, on section 1338 of this title" and
(2) the case is not "a case involving a claim arising under any Act of Congress relating to
copyrights, exclusive rights in mask works, or trademarks and no other claims under
section 1338(a)."); id. at § 1292(c)(1) (Federal Circuit shall have jurisdiction over appeals
from interlocutory orders of the district courts refusing injunctions "in any case over which
the court would have jurisdiction of an appeal under section 1295").
This Court looks to the interpretive law of the regional circuit for issues not
exclusively assigned to the Federal Circuit. Hutchins v. Zoll Med. Corp., 492 F.3d 1377,
1383 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Under Ninth Circuit law, an order granting or denying a preliminary
injunction will be reversed only if the district court relied on an erroneous legal premise or
abused its discretion. Wright v. Rushen, 642 F.2d 1129, 1132 (9th Cir. 1981). A district
court's order denying a preliminary injunction is reversible for factual error only when the
district court rests its conclusions on clearly erroneous findings of fact. Sports Form, Inc. v.
United Press Int'l, Inc., 686 F.2d 750, 753 (9th Cir. 1982).
In determining whether to issue a preliminary injunction, the Ninth Circuit requires
demonstration of (1) a combination of probability of success on the merits and the
possibility of irreparable harm; or (2) serious questions going to the merits where the
balance of hardships tips sharply in the moving party's favor. Perfect 10, Inc. v.
Amazon.com, Inc., 487 F.3d 701, 713-14 (9th Cir. 2007); Dep't of Parks & Recreation v.
Bazaar Del Mundo, Inc., 448 F.3d 1118, 1123 (9th Cir. 2006). In cases involving copyright
claims, where a copyright holder has shown likelihood of success on the merits of a
copyright infringement claim, the Ninth Circuit has held that irreparable harm is presumed.
LGS Architects, Inc. v. Concordia Homes of Nev., 434 F.3d 1150, 1155-56 (9th Cir. 2006).
But see MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 518 F. Supp. 2d 1197, 1212 (C.D. Cal. 2007)
(noting that "the longstanding rule that irreparable harm can be a presumed after a showing
of likelihood of success for purposes of a copyright preliminary injunction motion may itself
have to be reevaluated in light of eBay [Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388
(2006)]"). Thus, for a preliminary injunction to issue, Jacobsen must either show (1) a
likelihood of success on the merits of his copyright infringement claim from which
irreparable harm is presumed; or (2) a fair chance of success on the merits and a clear
disparity in the relative hardships that tips sharply in his favor.
Public licenses, often referred to as "open source" licenses, are used by artists,
authors, educators, software developers, and scientists who wish to create collaborative
projects and to dedicate certain works to the public. Several types of public licenses have
been designed to provide creators of copyrighted materials a means to protect and control
their copyrights. Creative Commons, one of the amici curiae, provides free copyright
licenses to allow parties to dedicate their works to the public or to license certain uses of
their works while keeping some rights reserved.
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 that few could
have imagined just a few decades ago. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (AMIT@) uses a Creative Commons public license for an OpenCourseWare
project that licenses all 1800 MIT courses. Other public licenses support the GNU/Linux
operating system, the Perl programming language, the Apache web server programs, the
Firefox web browser, and a collaborative web-based encyclopedia called Wikipedia.
Creative Commons notes that, by some estimates, there are close to 100,000,000 works
licensed under various Creative Commons licenses. The Wikimedia Foundation, another of
the amici curiae, estimates that the Wikipedia website has more than 75,000 active
contributors working on some 9,000,000 articles in more than 250 languages.
Open Source software projects invite computer programmers from around the world
to view software code and make changes and improvements to it. Through such
collaboration, software programs can often be written and debugged faster and at lower
cost than if the copyright holder were required to do all of the work independently. In
exchange and in consideration for this collaborative work, the copyright holder permits
users to copy, modify and distribute the software code subject to conditions that serve to
protect downstream users and to keep the code accessible. By requiring that users copy
and restate the license and attribution information, a copyright holder can ensure that
recipients of the redistributed computer code know the identity of the owner as well as the
scope of the license granted by the original owner. The Artistic License in this case also
requires that changes to the computer code be tracked so that downstream users know
what part of the computer code is the original code created by the copyright holder and
what part has been newly added or altered by another collaborator.
Traditionally, copyright owners sold their copyrighted material in exchange for
money. The lack of money changing hands in open source licensing should not be
presumed to mean that there is no economic consideration, however. There are
substantial benefits, including economic benefits, to the creation and distribution of
copyrighted works under public licenses that range far beyond traditional license royalties.
For example, program creators may generate market share for their programs by providing
certain components free of charge. Similarly, a programmer or company may increase its
national or international reputation by incubating open source projects. Improvement to a
product can come rapidly and free of charge from an expert not even known to the
copyright holder. The Eleventh Circuit has recognized the economic motives inherent in
public licenses, even where profit is not immediate. See Planetary Motion, Inc. v.
Techsplosion, Inc., 261 F.3d 1188, 1200 (11th Cir. 2001) (Program creator "derived value
from the distribution [under a public license] because he was able to improve his Software
based on suggestions sent by end-users. . . . It is logical that as the Software improved,
more end-users used his Software, thereby increasing [the programmer's] recognition in his
profession and the likelihood that the Software would be improved even further.").
The parties do not dispute that Jacobsen is the holder of a copyright for certain
materials distributed through his website. Katzer/Kamind also admits that portions of the
DecoderPro software were copied, modified, and distributed as part of the Decoder
Commander software. Accordingly, Jacobsen has made out a prima facie case of
copyright infringement. Katzer/Kamind argues that they cannot be liable for copyright
infringement because they had a license to use the material. Thus, the Court must
evaluate whether the use by Katzer/Kamind was outside the scope of the license. See
LGS Architects, 434 F.3d at 1156. The copyrighted materials in this case are
downloadable by any user and are labeled to include a copyright notification and a
COPYING file that includes the text of the Artistic License. The Artistic License grants
users the right to copy, modify, and distribute the software:
provided that [the user] insert a prominent notice in each changed file stating
how and when [the user] changed that file, and provided that [the user] do at
least ONE of the following:
a) place [the user's] modifications in the Public Domain or otherwise make
them Freely Available, such as by posting said modifications to Usenet or an
equivalent medium, or placing the modifications on a major archive site such
as ftp.uu.net, or by allowing the Copyright Holder to include [the user's]
modifications in the Standard Version of the Package.
b) use the modified Package only within [the user's] corporation or
c) rename any non-standard executables so the names do not conflict with
the standard executables, which must also be provided, and provide a
separate manual page for each nonstandard executable that clearly
documents how it differs from the Standard Version, or
d) make other distribution arrangements with the Copyright Holder.
The heart of the argument on appeal concerns whether the terms of the Artistic
License are conditions of, or merely covenants to, the copyright license. Generally, a
"copyright owner who grants a nonexclusive license to use his copyrighted material waives
his right to sue the licensee for copyright infringement" and can sue only for breach of
contract. Sun Microsystems, Inc., v. Microsoft Corp., 188 F.3d 1115, 1121 (9th Cir. 1999);
Graham v. James, 144 F.3d 229, 236 (2d Cir. 1998). If, however, a license is limited in
scope and the licensee acts outside the scope, the licensor can bring an action for
copyright infringement. See S.O.S., Inc. v. Payday, Inc., 886 F.2d 1081, 1087 (9th
Cir.1989); Nimmer on Copyright, § 1015[A] (1999).
Thus, if the terms of the Artistic License allegedly violated are both covenants and
conditions, they may serve to limit the scope of the license and are governed by copyright
law. If they are merely covenants, by contrast, they are governed by contract law. See
Graham, 144 F.3d at 236-37 (whether breach of license is actionable as copyright
infringement or breach of contract turns on whether provision breached is condition of the
license, or mere covenant); Sun Microsystems, 188 F.3d at 1121 (following Graham;
independent covenant does not limit scope of copyright license). The District Court did not
expressly state whether the limitations in the Artistic License are independent covenants or,
rather, conditions to the scope; its analysis, however, clearly treated the license limitations
as contractual covenants rather than conditions of the copyright license.
Jacobsen argues that the terms of the Artistic License define the scope of the
license and that any use outside of these restrictions is copyright infringement.
Katzer/Kamind argues that these terms do not limit the scope of the license and are merely
covenants providing contractual terms for the use of the materials, and that his violation of
them is neither compensable in damages nor subject to injunctive relief. Katzer/Kamind's
argument is premised upon the assumption that Jacobsen's copyright gave him no
economic rights because he made his computer code available to the public at no charge.
From this assumption, Katzer/Kamind argues that copyright law does not recognize a
cause of action for non-economic rights, relying on Gilliam v. ABC, 538 F.2d 14, 20-21 (2d
Cir. 1976) ("American copyright law, as presently written, does not recognize moral rights
or provide a cause of action for their violation, since the law seeks to vindicate the
economic, rather than the personal rights of authors."). The District Court based its opinion
on the breadth of the Artistic License terms, to which we now turn.
The Artistic License states on its face that the document creates conditions: "The
intent of this document is to state the conditions under which a Package may be copied."
(Emphasis added.) The Artistic License also uses the traditional language of conditions by
noting that the rights to copy, modify, and distribute are granted "provided that" the
conditions are met. Under California contract law, "provided that" typically denotes a
condition. See, e.g., Diepenbrock v. Luiz, 159 Cal. 716 (1911) (interpreting a real property
lease reciting that when the property was sold, "this lease shall cease and be at an end,
provided that the party of the first part shall then pay [certain compensation] to the party of
the second part"; considering the appellant's "interesting and ingenious" argument for
interpreting this language as creating a mere covenant rather than a condition; and holding
that this argument "cannot change the fact that, attributing the usual and ordinary
signification to the language of the parties, a condition is found in the provision in question")
The conditions set forth in the Artistic License are vital to enable the copyright holder
to retain the ability to benefit from the work of downstream users. By requiring that users
who modify or distribute the copyrighted material retain the reference to the original source
files, downstream users are directed to Jacobsen=s website. Thus, downstream users
know about the collaborative effort to improve and expand the SourceForge project once
they learn of the "upstream" project from a "downstream" distribution, and they may join in
The District Court interpreted the Artistic License to permit a user to "modify the
material in any way" and did not find that any of the "provided that" limitations in the Artistic
License served to limit this grant. The District Court's interpretation of the conditions of the
Artistic License does not credit the explicit restrictions in the license that govern a
downloader's right to modify and distribute the copyrighted work. The copyright holder here
expressly stated the terms upon which the right to modify and distribute the material
depended and invited direct contact if a downloader wished to negotiate other terms.
These restrictions were both clear and necessary to accomplish the objectives of the open
source licensing collaboration, including economic benefit. Moreover, the District Court did
not address the other restrictions of the license, such as the requirement that all
modification from the original be clearly shown with a new name and a separate page for
any such modification that shows how it differs from the original.
Copyright holders who engage in open source licensing have the right to control the
modification and distribution of copyrighted material. As the Second Circuit explained in
Gilliam v. ABC, 538 F.2d 14, 21 (2d Cir. 1976), the "unauthorized editing of the underlying
work, if proven, would constitute an infringement of the copyright in that work similar to any
other use of a work that exceeded the license granted by the proprietor of the copyright."
Copyright licenses are designed to support the right to exclude; money damages alone do
not support or enforce that right. The choice to exact consideration in the form of
compliance with the open source requirements of disclosure and explanation of changes,
rather than as a dollar-denominated fee, is entitled to no less legal recognition. Indeed,
because a calculation of damages is inherently speculative, these types of license
restrictions might well be rendered meaningless absent the ability to enforce through
In this case, a user who downloads the JMRI copyrighted materials is authorized to
make modifications and to distribute the materials "provided that" the user follows the
restrictive terms of the Artistic License. A copyright holder can grant the right to make
certain modifications, yet retain his right to prevent other modifications. Indeed, such a
goal is exactly the purpose of adding conditions to a license grant.
The Artistic License,
like many other common copyright licenses, requires that any copies that are distributed
contain the copyright notices and the COPYING file. See, e.g., 3-10 Nimmer on Copyright
§10.15 ("An express (or possibly an implied) condition that a licensee must affix a proper
copyright notice to all copies of the work that he causes to be published will render a
publication devoid of such notice without authority from the licensor and therefore, an
It is outside the scope of the Artistic License to modify and distribute the copyrighted
materials without copyright notices and a tracking of modifications from the original
computer files. If a downloader does not assent to these conditions stated in the COPYING
file, he is instructed to "make other arrangements with the Copyright Holder."
Katzer/Kamind did not make any such "other arrangements." The clear language of the
Artistic License creates conditions to protect the economic rights at issue in the granting of
a public license. These conditions govern the rights to modify and distribute the computer
programs and files included in the downloadable software package. The attribution and
modification transparency requirements directly serve to drive traffic to the open source
incubation 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 that changes made by downstream users be visible to the copyright
holder and others, the copyright holder learns about the uses for his software and gains
others' knowledge that can be used to advance future software releases.
For the aforementioned reasons, we vacate and remand. While Katzer/Kamind
appears to have conceded that they did not comply with the aforedescribed conditions of
the Artistic License, the District Court did not make factual findings on the likelihood of
success on the merits in proving that Katzer/Kamind violated the conditions of the Artistic
License. Having determined that the terms of the Artistic License are enforceable copyright
conditions, we remand to enable the District Court to determine whether Jacobsen has
demonstrated (1) a likelihood of success on the merits and either a presumption of
irreparable harm or a demonstration of irreparable harm; or (2) a fair chance of success on
the merits and a clear disparity in the relative hardships and tipping in his favor.
The judgment of the District Court is vacated and the case is remanded for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
VACATED and REMANDED
* The Honorable Faith S. Hochberg, District Judge, United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, sitting by designation.
Katzer/Kamind represents that all potentially infringing activities using any of
the disputed material have been voluntarily ceased. The district court held that it could not
find as a matter of law that Katzer/Kamind's voluntary termination of allegedly wrongful
activity renders the motion for preliminary injunction moot because it could not find as a
matter of law that it is absolutely clear that the alleged behavior could not recur. Jacobsen,
2007 WL 2358628 at *5. We agree that this matter is not moot. See also Adarand
Constructors, Inc. v. Slater, 528 U.S. 216, 222 (2000) ("Voluntary cessation of challenged
conduct moots a case . . . only if it is absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior
could not reasonably be expected to recur." (emphasis in original)).
For example, the GNU General Public License, which is used for the Linux
operating system, prohibits downstream users from charging for a license to the software.
See Wallace v. IBM Corp., 467 F.3d 1104, 1105-06 (7th Cir. 2006).
Jacobsen's copyright registration creates the presumption of a valid copyright.
See, e.g., Triad Sys. Corp. V. Se. Exp. Co., 64 F.3d 1330, 1335 (9th Cir. 1995).
The District Court held that "Defendants' alleged violation of the conditions of
the license may have constituted a breach of the nonexclusive license . . . [and] the Court
finds that Plaintiff's claim properly sounds in contract." Jacobsen, 2007 WL 2358628 at *7.
Thus, despite the use of the word "conditions," the District Court treated the terms of the
Artistic License as contractual covenants which did not limit the scope of the license.
Open source licensing restrictions are easily distinguished from mere "author
attribution" cases. Copyright law does not automatically protect the rights of authors to
credit for copyrighted materials. See Gilliam, 538 F.2d at 20-21 ("American copyright law,
as presently written, does not recognize moral rights or provide a cause of action for their
violation, since the law seeks to vindicate the economic, rather than the personal rights of
authors."); Graham, 144 F.3d at 236. Whether such rights are protected by a specific
license grant depends on the language of the license. See County of Ventura v. Blackburn,
362 F.2d 515, 520 (9th Cir. 1966) (copyright infringement found where the county removed
copyright notices from maps licensed to it where the license granted the county "the right to obtain duplicate tracings" from photographic negatives that contained copyright notices).
At oral argument, the parties admitted that there might be no way to calculate
any monetary damages under a contract theory.
|Authored by: SRL on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 01:38 PM EDT|
|Favorite quote: "The choice to exact consideration in the form of|
compliance with the open source requirements of disclosure and explanation of
changes, rather than as a dollar-denominated fee, is entitled to no less legal
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Totosplatz on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 01:39 PM EDT|
|Please make links clicky|
Greetings from Zhuhai, Guangdong, China; or Portland, Oregon, USA (location
All the best to one and all.
[ Reply to This | # ]
- OT - What if the government shoots weapons that run a copy of Linux? - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 03:05 PM EDT
- OT - What if the government shoots weapons that run a copy of Linux? - Authored by: tuxi on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 03:26 PM EDT
- OT - What if the government shoots weapons that run a copy of Linux? - Authored by: baomike on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 03:35 PM EDT
- OT - What if the government shoots weapons that run a copy of Linux? - Authored by: PJ on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 03:47 PM EDT
- OT - What if the government shoots weapons that run a copy of Linux? - Authored by: JamesK on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 03:55 PM EDT
- Duck !Grouse - n/t - Authored by: Tufty on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 04:07 PM EDT
- OT - What if the government shoots weapons that run a copy of Linux? - Authored by: bb5ch39t on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 04:23 PM EDT
- Was originally asked by a guy digging for troll material - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 04:52 PM EDT
- OT - What if the government shoots weapons that run a copy of Linux? - Authored by: GrueMaster on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 05:08 PM EDT
- Silly question, serious(?) answer. - Authored by: arch_dude on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 10:26 PM EDT
- OT - What if the government shoots weapons that run a copy of Linux? - Authored by: grouch on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 11:14 PM EDT
- Thinking copyright law can stop bombing cities is silly N/T - Authored by: Winter on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 03:00 AM EDT
- The viral software myth again - Authored by: PhilG on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 02:15 PM EDT
- Also problems with weapons that run Windows - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 02:49 PM EDT
- Nokia Give Out N810's to KDE Hackers at Akademy - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 05:39 PM EDT
- Caldera Linux Operating System network desktop? - Authored by: tiger99 on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 06:47 PM EDT
- 19 Open Source Applications That You Probably Want To Know - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 08:38 PM EDT
- Linux UI Copied From Windows? - Authored by: DarkPhoenix on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 09:50 PM EDT
- © - Steinbeck Descendants Lose Bid to Renegotiate Publishing Rights - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 01:16 AM EDT
- Record Abuse? - Authored by: sproggit on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 01:35 AM EDT
- Another stone falls in Malaysia - Authored by: Winter on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 02:58 AM EDT
- Don't Go There: Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest posts 2008 winners - Authored by: Aladdin Sane on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 06:25 AM EDT
- Wow. - Authored by: sgtrock on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 12:58 PM EDT
- SCO in trouble - Authored by: SpaceLifeForm on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 01:37 PM EDT
|Authored by: jesse on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 01:43 PM EDT|
|Corrections if any, or needed|
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 01:52 PM EDT|
This just in: the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal
Circuit has just overturned [PDF] the lower court's decision in Jacobsen v.
Katzer, the model train case. It held that open source license conditions are
enforceable as a copyright condition and that the Artistic License is no
different in that respect.
It held that ...
misread the sentence to mean that the lower court held that the open source
license conditions are enforceable. The story made no sense
The confusion would be relieved if the word 'It' were
replaced with 'The appeal court'.
Ok so maybe I'm just thick. ;-)
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: ThrPilgrim on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 01:53 PM EDT|
|Now class, which other case of note to GrokLaw does the phrase 'the literal|
language' apply? :-)
Beware of him who would deny you access to information for in his heart he
considers himself your master.
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Aladdin Sane on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 01:56 PM EDT|
|Discuss Groklaw News Picks here.
Please say which story you are commenting
"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you
wanted." --R. Pausch
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 02:48 PM EDT|
|Despite all the media attention the SCO case gets, this seems like a more|
important victory in the long run.
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: billposer on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 03:24 PM EDT|
|The presentation of this case is confusing. The previous Groklaw post to which|
the article links is about the patent dispute, but the present case is about
copyright. A better explanation in the introduction would be a big help.
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: deck2 on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 04:00 PM EDT|
|After reading the PDF, I saw that the district court's interpretation of the|
license would have gutted most if not all open source licenses if they were to
be treated as a contract and not a copyright license. The tragedy would then be
that an entity could take a very mature open source product and convert it to
closed source. When challenged the entity could just say thanks for all the
work but push off as we didn't sign a contract.
Hopefully this will infulence decisions in other circuits. I would love to see
something similar come out of SCOTUS (Supreme Court) therefore solidifying open
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: webster on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 05:11 PM EDT|
...Screams from the Woodshed
This is good and bad.
It is very good for the open "sourcerers." What a boon to the open source world
that Jacobsen had the resources and resolve to appeal.
This is a real
smackdown for the clueless District Court who is told to read the uncontested
evidence. The Circuit's is well written, simple and direct, but look what they
were working with. Here is a key point:
also admits that portions of the DecoderPro software were copied, modified, and
distributed as part of the Decoder Commander software. Accordingly, Jacobsen has
made out a prima facie case of copyright infringement. Katzer/Kamind
argues that they cannot be liable for copyright infringement because they had a
license to use the material. Thus, the Court must evaluate whether the use by
Katzer/Kamind was outside the scope of the license.
Everything is uncontested. Katzer admits to using the
copyrighted material. The Circuit then reads the license for the District and
tells it what it says. It also says not to ignore it because it is
The Circuit then sends it back to the District with this little
While Katzer/Kamind appears to have conceded that they
did not comply with the aforedescribed conditions of the Artistic License, the
District Court did not make factual findings on the likelihood of success on the
merits in proving that Katzer/Kamind violated the conditions of the Artistic
Do you think the District will dare find that Katzer
didn't violate the license despite admitting they did? The Circuit won't be
Other comments point out what a shame and waste that this case
had to be appealed to the Circuit. That's true but what a blast for the Open
Source License. This Circuit decision packs a much bigger
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 06:08 PM EDT|
How does this work for precedent? As the court notes, CAFC normally does
not deal with copyright cases. However, there was a patent angle here too,
which gave them subject matter jurisdiction.
So, suppose a similar case
arises in the 9th circuit, but does NOT have a
patent angle, so that CAFC would
not be the appellate court, if it were to go up
on appeal. Does the district
court follow CAFC or the 9th circuit appellate court,
if that differs from
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 07:24 PM EDT|
|As a long time Groklaw reader and also a user of JMRI, this is a fine day.|
I have known about the JMRI suit for some time, and I am more hopeful that the
JMRI team will win.
Without Groklaw, the proceedings would be harder to follow or understand. After
following the SCO saga for years, the ruling in this case now makes sense, both
what it means for JMRI and for the community at large.
IANAL, so the citations are obscure, but I understand how they are used.
Thank you PJ.
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 07:57 PM EDT|
|Finally a decent verdict by the court in this case. It's about time that|
obviously bad ruling was overturned by the appellate court. The language makes
it completely clear they thought the court was negligent as the repeatedly refer
to the license and it's "plain language". It reads a lot like them
telling the district court that they didn't read the license and even though
it's outside their scope they point out that KAM has already admitted to
infringement, probably to guide the district court in the decision they should
make on the injunction as it appears they have little faith in the district
court after overturning this judgement for being materially wrong in it's
interpretation of the facts.
I hope JMRI is able to get disgorgement of profits, damages and punitive awards.
The copyright infringement in this case is so clearly intentional and deliberate
as he had to manually delete the copyright notices. Not only that but the
appellate court rules the license was clear with plain language so he shouldn't
be able to claim ignorance although he could probably claim stupidity.
I hope they absolutely destroy KAM financially as a result of his illegal and
dishonest behavior and that if he tried to hide his business assets in
bankruptcy that JMRI is directly involved in the BK and seizes all the assets,
including physical and intellectual that KAM has including any patents whether
they are valid or not.
I hope they also remember to file a bar complaint for KAM's lawyer's behavior.
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: sk43 on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 10:13 PM EDT|
|Daniel Wallace has now become an important part of US Law. Just not the way he|
"For example, the GNU General Public License, which is used for the Linux
operating system, prohibits downstream users from charging for a license to the
software. See Wallace v. IBM Corp., 467 F.3d 1104, 1105-06 (7th Cir.
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13 2008 @ 10:17 PM EDT|
|PsyStar openly broke Apple's copyrights by modifying Mac OS X and selling it |
in its PCs.
This ruling affirm's Apple's right to the modification and distribution of it's
own copyrighted works under its own EULA - i.e. a copyright license.
Thus PsyStar is toast.
This ruling is good for all copyright holders - both open source and closed
source such as Apple.
Thank the court for this ruling. Yeah!
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 09:17 AM EDT|
|Do the SCO lawyers feel a cold wind blowing down the backs of their necks? What|
about MS lawyers? Do we know for a fact there is no GPL code in MS Windows?
What about the Novell/MS Cross license? Any GPL code involved there? Anyone?
OK then, moving on...
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 09:58 AM EDT|
|If the lower court thought that the Artistic License was a contract instead of a|
copyright license, wouldn't that mean that Katzen had no copyright license and
was infringing by default? How do you convey rights under copyright law without
a copyright license? The lower court's decision seems clearly nonsensical.
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 10:00 AM EDT|
I still fail to understand why something can't be both.
With some thought,
and observing SCOGs lawyers and how
they twist the tiniest word into their
point of view, I
can understand why it shouldn't be both, but not why
something can't be both. It shouldn't be both to keep
things much more
concise. If it's both, your opponent
could easily argue for the contract law
to apply which -
as Andy Updegrove indicated - would only result in base
Perhaps that reflects why in the legal circles it
be both. When you combine the concept of "double-dipping
it would make sense if something could only
be interpreted under one law or
another. So if they're
found guilty of contract infringement, they can't also
found guilty of copyright infringement?
If both contract and
copyright law should apply,
I imagine which would be applied would depend on
each of the legal teams argued and which argument the
more convincing unless one is explicitly
identified in the license/contract?
For example, if it
includes a clause such as:
Copyright law will apply for
the scope of this
Much as a clause that states:
contract/license will be enforced under
That kinda makes
sense, I'm just not too sure how close to
the head of the nail I've hit or
whether I've hit my
finger again ;)
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 11:03 AM EDT|
|Suggesting the use of a weapon as a means to educate? How very draconian.|
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: alisonken1 on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 12:17 PM EDT|
Register has some interesting photo's of MS BSOD during opening
Apparently, someone with quick fingers on their cell phone
caught the big-screen BSOD when the opening ceremony torch-bearer was flying
high to light the torch.|
- Ken -
Registered Linux user^W^WJohn Doe #296561
Slackin' since 1993
[ Reply to This | # ]
|Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 08:51 PM EDT|
|The dicta seem to indicate that the Federal Circuit strongly approves of Free|
Software. I wonder if they use any.
[ Reply to This | # ]