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This case deals with issues relating to copyright infringement and open source. Here, Jacobsen contended that Katzer downloaded and used part of DecoderPro in writing Decoder Commander in violation of Cases of Interest >  IP >  Copyright Cases of Interest >  Cyberlaw Cases of Interest >  Cyberlaw >  Copyright
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Jacobsen v. Katzer

Case: Jacobsen v. Katzer, 535 F.3d 1373 (Fed. Cir., 2008)
Facts: Jacobsen manages an open source software group called JMRI, which includes a program called DecoderPro? that allows model railroad enthusiasts to use their computers to program the chips that run model trains. DecoderPro? is available free as open source software. The software site contains copyright notices and sets forth license terms. Katzer offers a competing software called Decoder Commander commercially. Jacobsen contended that Katzer downloaded and used part of DecoderPro? in writing Decoder Commander in violation of the software license. Jacobsen moved for a preliminary injunction against Katzer’s program. The district court held that Katzer may have violated the license but there was no liability since it is open source software. Thus, there is no harm. Jacobsen appealed.
Holding: The court vacated and remanded the decision
Reasoning: The appeals court held that copyrighted open source software is subject to the same protection as copyrighted software sold for a price. It contended that the holder of the software, in licensing its use, can determine the terms of use such as modification and use in other formats. Jacobsen, as copyright holder, stated a prima facie case of infringement. Katzer violated the terms of the license. Attribution and modification transparency requirements in open source computer software license created conditions to protect economic rights in granting of public license, and thus were enforceable under the Copyright Act. Copyright holders who engage in open source software licensing have the right to control the modification and distribution of copyrighted material. The open source copyright owner has the same right of enforcement as does a copyright holder who sells copyrighted material. The appeals court also contended that the terms of the Artistic License are enforceable copyright conditions, and remanded the case back to the district court to consider whether other conditions required for an injunction were met in this case. The court claimed that 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. Examples are 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. In January 2009, the District Court again ruled on the preliminary motions. The court ruled that it would hear Jacobsen's copyright claims but dismissed his breach of contract claims. Regarding the preliminary injunction that was the focus of the Court of Appeals decision, the District Court again denied Jacobsen a preliminary injunction due to a lack of evidence showing any specific and actual harm suffered or imminent as a result of the copyright infringement. However, this ruling does not prevent the court from issuing an injunction after ruling on the merits of the case



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