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To read comments to this article, go here
OK. But What Does It Mean? (Jacobsen v. Katzer)
Thursday, August 14 2008 @ 02:30 PM EDT

I've been getting a lot of requests to tell you what the appeals court ruling in Jacobsen v. Katzer means. Some would like me to simplify and just tell you the bottom line, so here it is, my take on what it all means:
It means that while OSI's handling of a list of approved licenses worked very well for a community made up of FOSS programmers, who are decent folks all on the same page overall, now that enemies of FOSS are attacking, we need a new organization to vet licenses going forward a lot more carefully, one made up of experienced FOSS lawyers, none of them with a history of hostility to, or ignorance of, the GPL, with the community as advisors.

Well, you asked me "what it means", and that is my opinion. Licenses now matter in a way that they didn't in the good old days, and it's time for programmers to realize that writing a license, and choosing one, is best left for lawyers, because what you write and what you choose can impact the entire community in ways you don't even understand, in ways that can undermine and even destroy it.

I'll write an article explaining why that is my opinion in due time, but it's so complex, this case, that it will take some time. But that is the bottom line as I see it. This case was very nearly a serious disaster for FOSS, in part because the Artistic license was vulnerable to attack, and the FOSS lawyers had to do a lot of work to get this to come out the right way. Going forward, we need to make sure we avoid obvious pitfalls in license language, and licenses that don't meet a set bar should not be approved.


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