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The Courts Software Technology

Jacobsen v Katzer Settled — Victory For F/OSS 36

Andy Updegrove writes "A short while ago the parties to one of the most closely watched FOSS cases filed a settlement agreement with the US Federal District Court for the Northern District of California ending one of the most important F/OSS legal cases to date. That case is Jacobsen vs. Katzer, and the settlement marks a complete victory for Jacobsen, a member of the Java Model Railroad Interface (JMRI) Project. Jacobsen's victory establishes several important rights for the first time in the US: the right to prevent their copyright and authorship acknowledgments from being removed from their code, and the right to collect damages if the terms of the licenses they choose are violated. Until now, those rights had never been tested in court."
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Jacobsen v Katzer Settled — Victory For F/OSS

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  • by Andy Updegrove ( 956488 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:16PM (#31201876) Homepage
    Yes - the rulings made by the court do stand as precedents, notwithstanding the fact that the case settled. What the settlement means is that those rulings can no longer be appealed. If it had settled before going to court, then the settlement would have been irrelevant, but that's not the case here. - Andy
  • Re:Great news! (Score:4, Informative)

    by B'Trey ( 111263 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:17PM (#31201882)

    This case was settled, yes. But if you RTFA you'll note that there were several rulings that were issued and then appealed up to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Those rulings, which strongly favor F/OSS, ARE now binding, at least for that circuit.

  • Re:Great news! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Schnoodledorfer ( 1223854 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:39PM (#31202078)
    ... and the rulings will likely be influential in other circuits, as explained in TFA.

    TFA might be getting slashdotted, though. Google has it cached: []
  • by reebmmm ( 939463 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:42PM (#31202128)

    Sort of? If you mean the lower court by "the court," the answer is largely no it is not precedent because the lower court's rulings were overturned on appeal.

    However, the settlement came after an appeal to the Federal Circuit. The appeal resulted in a vacated judgment and the case was remanded to the lower court. The opinion of the appellate case, found here [], will be precedential and binding on all federal courts. This settlement ends the "further proceedings" part of the case. As a result, there is no final decision by the court, but there is a final appellate decision.

  • by WilliamX ( 22300 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:35PM (#31202706)
    The only thing that stands as a precedent is the very very very narrow decision by the appeals court, which is not very substantive at all. In the end, all they decided was to vacate the previous court's ruling that the license's broad terms were overly broad and thus couldn't rise to the standard required for a financial liability and enforcement. That was the ONLY ruling in by the appellate court, and it is very narrow, and applies only to the federal courts, who even the appellate court explained barely had jurisdiction in this case.
  • by spitzak ( 4019 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:29PM (#31203524) Homepage

    I don't know if this is a troll, but yes if it actually is a copy of the book (not the original), you are in trouble.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:45PM (#31203810)

    paid by the defendant to the plaintiff in three parts. $20K within 30 days, an additional $40K within 6 months and the final $40K within 18 months. The defendant may pay the plaintiff sooner. (I liked that clause.)

  • by imp ( 7585 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:53PM (#31204800) Homepage

    Almost correct. While the case precedents exist, they are still not as strong as you'd like because they have never been reviewed. This means they are still vulnerable to being replaced by precedents from other cases that do get fully reviewed. That's the bad thing about this ending in a settlement: since the case never wound its way entirely through the system, these rulings were never fully tested.

    So the fact that the case was weak enough for one side to settle is encouraging, but there's still a long way to go before there's a good level of case law on open source.

  • Re:Legalease (Score:3, Informative)

    by cybereal ( 621599 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @06:16PM (#31205092) Homepage

    It seems likely that they just applied an average contractor cost to the work demonstrated by their source control records. (Record in the context of your question being the general term for submitted evidence.)

    For example, they could've asked an unaware third party software contractor for an estimate to do the work that was already done, or just some of it, or similar work, or whatever, to prove that the work represented something that could be considered value in monetary terms.

    But it's hard to say for certain without more specific information about the actual submitted evidence just how they proved the monetary value. The article does not detail the submitted evidence. Though I think it's clear from context that the "record" term is being used in a judicial context. Either way, the judge agreed with whatever they submitted.

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