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Delicious Details of Open Source Court Victory 202

jammag writes "Open source advocate Bruce Perens tells the inside story of the recently concluded Jacobsen v. Katzer court case, in which an open source developer was awarded $100,000. Perens, an expert witness in the case, details the blow by blow, including how developers need to make sure they're using the correct open source license for legal protection. The actual court ruling is almost like some kind of Hollywood movie ending for Open Source, with the judge unequivocally siding with the underfunded open source developer."
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Delicious Details of Open Source Court Victory

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  • Good Guys (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arizwebfoot ( 1228544 ) * on Monday February 22, 2010 @01:25PM (#31231466)

    Sometimes the good guy doesn't finish last.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bbbaldie ( 935205 )
      This is why "Blammer" just Blamms on about Linux infractions of MS patents, but doesn't actually file suit: If it ever went to court, FOSS might in fact win many millions.
      • by Trelane ( 16124 )
        That, and as soon as he lays out what patents he's talking about, the proceedings can begin to get those patents invalidated.
  • Thaaaaaaat's my problem! I've been using zeros this whole time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) *
      Nobody told you that the answer was 42?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nacturation ( 646836 ) *

      Yes... from the summary:

      Perens, an expert witness in the case, details the blow by blow, including how developers need to make sure they're using the correct one for legal protection.

      Make sure you're using the correct expert witness.

      • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:14PM (#31232526) Homepage Journal
        Jammag just wrote this submission in a hurry. It means use the right Open Source license.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Chyeld ( 713439 )

          I think both interpretations are correct.

          • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

            I absolutely agree. too many times Judges make decisions based on information that is highly flawed or even obfuscated to them. An eloquent writer is needed to clearly and directly inform a judge as to the technical details and ideas involved.

            Two of my personal "tech heros" are Bruce Perens and Richard Stallman. From all writings I have read from both, and they have been many, I certainly would pick Bruce to write something to a judge over Richard. It's not just the content but how it's packaged.

            Most pr

  • Believe It or Not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 22, 2010 @01:27PM (#31231554) Journal

    There were a few people that smart at Pixar when I worked there, but there seem to be tons of them in the Open Source world.

    Believe it or not, your two categories are not mutually exclusive. I discover more and more that the brilliant people I am paid to work with have made improvements to open source projects. Both through work and in their free time.

    I think something the open source community could use is an adjustment of this attitude that you're either gainfully employed or working for free ... when I can attest that both are possible at once. Just be mindful of what you signed when you were hired by your employer. Some companies have terrible "everything you do even outside of work is ours" clauses. Wish the employers would realize that it's a benefit for you to experience contributing and learning from open source.

    • Re:Believe It or Not (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @01:34PM (#31231712) Homepage Journal
      I am gainfully employed in consulting companies, mostly, that are trying to cope with Open Source but still have the old mindset. That's what they have me there to fix. Of course lots of people who are gainfully employed get paid to work on Open Source today. But it's interesting, when I visit these companies, that I already know their hottest programmers - through Open Source.
      • Re:Believe It or Not (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 22, 2010 @01:53PM (#31232108)

        Bruce, do you also explain to these companies that not all open source software is created equal?

        I've had to deal with several large companies who see "open source" as meaning basically nothing but Linux, MySQL, PHP and Apache HTTPd. The moment I suggest using a better technology, often with a much less restrictive license, they get all uneasy.

        They can't seem to understand that OpenBSD is more secure than almost any other OS. They can't understand that PostgreSQL is better at handling large data sets and heavier workloads than MySQL is. They can't understand that Ruby allows for faster and more reliable web application development than PHP does. They can't understand that nginx offers better performance and reliability than Apache HTTPd does.

        Keep in mind that they are just considering the use of open source software in their operations, without actually planning on contributing back any changes. So I don't think it's a licensing problem. Nor is finding support a problem. I always provide them with a lengthy list of consultants and specialists, both individuals and companies, who I've personally worked with before and know to do top-notch work.

        It's probably just a hype and marketing problem. They've only heard marketing yells of "Linux!", "MySQL!", "PHP!" and "Apache!" thrown out by various vendors and industry rags. They're ignorant of anything else.

        • Re:Believe It or Not (Score:4, Informative)

          by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:06PM (#31232380) Homepage Journal
          Most of my customers are in embedded systems. Sometimes, it concerns Android, and I have told them that Android does not represent the quality that should be expected out of an Open Source project. But their customers are asking for Android. So, we don't really get to make that decision.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by trapnest ( 1608791 )
            What do you mean exactly? Android (cyanogen specifically) seems higher quality then most other open source projects.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              The kernel code from Android is crap and very unlikely to be merged as part of the mainstream kernel tree. Google seems to not care, and they wrote it in such a manner that no one else is interested in doing their dirty work for them.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) *
                Not just the kernel. The utility code is crap too, hard-coded in places where it shouldn't be, etc. And some people don't like the fact that they dropped LIBC and put in their own version. They'll fix it eventually.
                • Bruce, I am interested in how the Android kernel will get merged into the mainline.

                  When I say that phones have different needs, lots of people get all up in arms and ask which needs are those, and no there aren't any.

                  Much like embedded kernels, a phone kernel should probably be able to:

                  - let me make a 911 call with a minimum of delay no matter what else is going on. Android doesn't do this now. Lots of other phone OSs don't either. They should.

                  - accomodate some hardware, specifically hard keys. Android do

                  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) *

                    I am not running the Android kernel project. If I get to run any embedded manufacturer's project, I will try very hard to get the code into the kernel, and I know how to make the technical and economic case for that.

                    Most cell phones have two processors. The radio modem is in the smaller one, and is awake much of the time, and the PDA in the larger one, and is not awake nearly as often. That's how stand-by can work for so long on such a little battery. The radio uses a real-time OS and the PDA of course has

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  Come on Bruce. Your argument for why Android low quality is that the kernel has patches and the "utility code is crap"?

                  Has it escaped your notice that unlike on the (presumably?) high quality desktop Linux distributions, the following things actually work in Android:

                  • Sound mixing
                  • Real-time software updates
                  • Anti-malware sandboxing
                  • Hardware acclerated video decoding

                  Android is selling by the truckload, it's doing far better than any other consumer open source OS ever has. Your customers want it because they know

                  • Re:Believe It or Not (Score:5, Interesting)

                    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:46PM (#31237546) Journal

                    the following things actually work in Android

                    You didn't list a single thing that doesn't work on Desktop Linux.

                    the quality of an OS is not determined by how "hard coded" its "utility code" is

                    If you were a programmer, you'd understand that hardcoding generally does determine the quality of an OS -- if not its current capabilities, then its future capabilities. By avoiding things like that, we get flexibility -- and the flexibility of the Linux kernel is why something like Android could be written in the first place.

            • ...and I can tell ya, it is not yet up to the standard of excellent OSS.

              However, Cyanogen is barely part of the android community. He's clever, aggressive, and actually willing to work within the constraints, but he's also a bee in Google's bonnet. He does what they won't do, cause he caters to a smaller population of smarter users. To implement much of Cyanogen's stuff in OTA relases would require more testing, and of course trusting users like me with root. Some of us would be fine. Others would be c

        • by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:24PM (#31232716)
          Most companies doesn't care about the best technical solution for a problem. They also take in account availability of workforce to use that particular solution, suppliers interested in working and giving support and a some other factors, like cost. Take the example you mention, the LAMP stack. PHP programmers with knowledge of MySQL are a dime a dozen, and you can filter through them to pick and choose the real competent ones. Most hosting providers already have an already optimized and time tested stack that supports these technologies, so companies can filter through them to choose the cheaper and more reliable. It gets the job done so other potential better solutions gets overlooked. Technical merit is not the only factor when choosing the right tool for the job.
        • While I agree with pretty much everything you said, the “faster” is not true for Ruby. I’ve seen tons of tests, and Ruby is veeeery slow. It’t quite a feat to be even slower than PHP, but it is. (Oh, and Python is not much faster too.)

          But that low (12-25 times slower than C) that’s not that relevant anymore anyway. Since if one cares for speed, one wouldn’t use any of those languages anyway. :)

          • I think he means faster to develop. The reality is that it is fast enough when it is running that the cost is in the time to develop and the time to market rather than the use of computer resources.

            Rails 3.0.0beta is faster, anyway, Ruby 1.9 is faster, and I'm sure that trend will continue.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          There are a lot of weaknesses in your statement, but I will concentrate on one point. It appears that you are not taking into consideration the amount of time, effort and money it costs to change platforms, tech or language. Such change-over costs can be prohibitive.

          First consider who would need to learn the new tech/system/language. How long would that take to bring that person up to the same level of competence compared with the old tech/system/language. In the best case scenario you are looking at a

  • It's actually the appeals court that was sympathetic. Twice. The lower court seems to have had less understanding of the Open Source developer's plight.

    Using "the right one": means the right Open Source license. A real key here is getting one that had competent legal help in its drafting. There are a few real duds on the OSI list, including a font license that I swear allows you to convert the font to the public domain. Only the programmers who wrote it don't see it that way.

    Sorry about the lack of paragraph breaks. I tend to write too many of them and the editor responded by using too few of them. He might have fixed that and the web cache hasn't been flushed yet.

    • including a font license that I swear allows you to convert the font to the public domain.

      Which one is that? IANAL, but I wanna play "spot the contract bug", too.

      • It's the SIL font license. This is the problem paragraph:

        5) The Font Software, modified or unmodified, in part or in whole, must be distributed entirely under this license, and must not be distributed under any other license. The requirement for fonts to remain under this license does not apply to any document created using the Font Software.

        The problem is, if you embed the font, it explicitly says the license doesn't apply any longer. If you then extract the font, the authors of this license assume that the license magically applies once more. I am far from sure that is the case.

        • Not a lawyer here, but I would imagine that their intent was that if you embed the font you are no longer licensed to use it at all. Your license is revoked. So now you can't distribute your document to anyone because you would be breaking their copyright on the font. Now, I am NOT saying that their license SAYS that - but I would guess it is what they meant.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) *

            No, they told me that they meant that if you embed the font in a document, you can distribute the document under any license that you desire to use. But you can't sell the font separately, or convert it to another license.

            That's what they meant, anyway. What it says, however, can be parsed about four different ways. So, we have to get a judge and let him/her pick one.

            Good license writers make them clear enough that there aren't ambiguities in the license itself to litigate.

            • Common sense comes in to play here, and even in court.

              Its rather common for allowing a font to be embedded in a document under a different license.

              You'll find roughly the same phrase in fonts used by Adobe.

              Of course Adobe products like to claim Adobe copyright on documents they create. Illustrator will throw in a 'Copyright Adobe Systems, 2010' for any SVG exported from it.

              In both cases, the intent is understood by everyone in the industry that the copyright only applies to the font itself, and that resell

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) *
                "Understood by everyone in the industry" is my job. I tell the judge if that's the case or not. As does an expert on the other side. Obviously, we often contradict each other. And then the judge has to decide which of us he trusts. So, what the industry understands is only unreliably communicated to the courts.
              • by JSBiff ( 87824 )

                "Common sense comes in to play here, and even in court."

                Wow, what court is that? I've seen way too many U.S. court cases where common sense was chucked out the window in part or in whole, to believe that's the case in the U.S.

        • by arose ( 644256 )
          Can you suggest an alternative to the SIL font license? I guess GPLv3 with a specific font exception would work, since it would remain compatible with other GPLv3 stuff, but the specific language of such an exception is what I'm looking for.
    • As someone who has occasionally been a critic of some of your bloggings, I must say Good Job !! It was always clear to me that the first cases in this area MUST be won, else we have unfortunate precedents.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oldhack ( 1037484 )

      Nice writeup.

      While it may be a win of sort for Jacobsen, I don't find it an encouraging precedent for OS people.

      Threats and harrassment, five years of hassle, outright fraud (copyright infringement), all that resulted in measley 100k settlement over 18 months (minus 30k Jacobsen had to fork out previously?) after several trips up and down the appeal lanes, all with probono attorney service and even some prominent OS advocates' help.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The win here is that the case remains public so that it can be used as a precedent in the future. A sealed case would be all for naught for the OSS community.
    • My code is horrible. I wouldn't ever go to court to defend ownership of it. If someone else wants to claim my crappy work as their own, fine.

      Is there an open source license for this? "If you plan on stealing, please let us know" Public License?

      • The problem is that someone could try to take your home, car, and savings for using their patent in your crappy code. And unfortunately even if you put the whole darned thing in the public domain you can't get away from it. Maybe you should leave it by the roadside anonymously like an abandoned baby. Don't count on many people running it, though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Toonol ( 1057698 )
        "This code is free to redistribute, so long as no mention of the author is made. Leaving the credits attached will revoke the license."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RogerWilco ( 99615 )

      Mr. Bruce Perens,

      I just want to say that I think it's very much appreciated that you spend time to not only be an expert witness in these cases pro bono, but also to discuss this at length here and elsewhere and pointing out such things as flaws in certain licences.

      I'm not sure if you will read this, but I've learned that especially in the more technical professions, we do not often enough give compliments when they are appropriate.

  • by ndykman ( 659315 ) on Monday February 22, 2010 @01:41PM (#31231858)

    At the start, the open source developer got hit with a large SLAPP fine (urgh), and finally got the judgement reversed and was awarded damages, but the article notes that: "This doesn't fully compensate Jacobsen for all of his time and expense over 5 years, but it was the best he could get." So, by not using the right OSI license, the developer opened himself to years of legal hassles and woes.

    Also, one wonders if by proactively suing, he ended up being worse off than by not waiting and then countersuing. Finally, it is noteworthy that since the DMCA was used on behalf of the open source developer, this may not be seen by opponents of that law as a victory at all, as it provides validation (if weak) of it's existence.

    If this is victory for the little guy, I'd really hate to see what defeat is like.

    • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @01:50PM (#31232050) Homepage Journal

      It's more of a victory for you and me, because we have the benefit of Bob's court precedents. Katzer had previously intimidated at least one other person with patent threats, and Bob felt that the team could not go on with their project with this hanging over their heads. But I agree that the Open Source developer really paid, paid big, to get this. I've taken tons of s**t for what I attempt to do for the community too. You'd better believe in what you're doing, because there isn't always a thank-you.

      If you read the second appeal, I don't think DMCA is a big deal in it. But if we're going to have dumb law, let's at least make it work for us. IMO worse than DMCA is the entire concept that cases like this can bankrupt someone before they have a chance to win. How can there be justice if that's the case?

      • Thank you, Bruce.
      • by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:11PM (#31232476)
        Bruce, I wonder-- did Katzer know that the Artistic License was weak, and did that motivate some of his behavior? I'm wondering if the choice of a different license would have actually deterred this guy.
        • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:33PM (#31232880) Homepage Journal
          The court said that Katzer deliberately misappropriated and obfuscated. My guess is that he would have done so to anyone he thought he could beat. The failure of the license took what should have been a short case and made it longer. Of all the terms in Open Source licenses, I never saw myself having to fight a case over the right to be attributed properly. We had just a little thin thread to fight with, IMO.
          • by gknoy ( 899301 )

            The troubles in this case seemed to have been compounded significantly by the choice of a poor license (from a legal standpoint). What licenses would you consider to be the strongest? (I'd assume BSD and MIT license, I guess, but am curious about others.)

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) *

              BSD, MIT, etc. are simple, but they don't give you any protection from patent aggressors. And so I am wary of using them, because it's patent suits that are the largest problem.

              GPLv3, LGPLv3, AGPLv3 are the strongest within the constraints that RMS set. License not contract, no rights that you already had are restricted, etc. About 40 lawyers involved in drafting and review. Larry Rosen thinks his licenses are better for the absence of RMS. Look at both sets and make your own decision.

      • by npsimons ( 32752 ) *

        You'd better believe in what you're doing, because there isn't always a thank-you.

        On behalf of all computer users, I would like to say thank you. They may not think that I speak for them, but I believe that everything you have done (and continue to do) helps make the world a better place.

        And oh BTW, I'm still using Electric Fence on a daily basis. Thanks!

  • Victory? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday February 22, 2010 @01:44PM (#31231918) Homepage

    Over 5 years, Bob Jacobsen put in thousands of hours of work on this case. He was threatened with loss of his employment, and with all of the money and property that he had. The $100,000 he eventually received doesn't compensate him for this. But I'm sure that the feeling of achievement does.

    If you count being tied up in court for five years, getting lots and lots of pro bono lawyer time and still not breaking even. I call this "How to snuff out a potential upstart for $100,000" even though he probably wasn't competition in the first place.

    • Re:Victory? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:00PM (#31232292) Homepage Journal

      If you look at how many presentations, etc., Bob did at the recent NMRA (National Model Railroading Association) conference, he hardly got snuffed. It almost looks as if people were going to the conference just to see him.

      Katzer spent a lot of money, has no product he can legally sell today (his web site currently only points to a list of articles) and his reputation is in the pits over this with anyone who might have otherwise been a customer.

      But yes, anyone less tenacious than Bob would have lost, and it wouldn't have been terribly expensive for the patent holder. The patent system is so tuned to incent the bad guy that it really stinks.

      • If you look at how many presentations, etc., Bob did at the recent NMRA (National Model Railroading Association) conference, he hardly got snuffed. It almost looks as if people were going to the conference just to see him.

        Katzer spent a lot of money, has no product he can legally sell today (his web site currently only points to a list of articles) and his reputation is in the pits over this with anyone who might have otherwise been a customer.

        It surprises me that a business would seek to alienate their customer base; especially one that is relatively small and somewhat tight knit. Hobbyists, especially serious ones, spend a a lot of time with other hobbyists with similar interests and reputations are made and lost via word of mouth. Getting them mad is a good way to lose business and potentially ago out of business; especially if you sell a niche product.

        BTW - did he also get the SLAPP payments back?

  • are like lawyers writing code -- attempting to go beyond their field of expertise. division of labour [] rocks. It's one reason our modern world is so productive. This isn't to say that an individual programmer might have legal training, or that an individual lawyer might not also know how to program. But it means that you'll get better results by doing what you are good at and enlisting the help of others who are good at what they do.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by nomadic ( 141991 )
      Interesting to note that two of the slashdot stories for today are programmers giving legal analyses of cases...
  • by twmcneil ( 942300 ) on Monday February 22, 2010 @01:52PM (#31232088)
    When I heard about this ruling last week, I was shocked that this apparently open and shut case had taken so long to conclude. If I recall the details I read about years ago when this all started, it seems that Jacobsen was really being taken advantage of badly. IANAL or a judge but I would have thought this case would have taken all of 45 minutes to decide, not years.

    There's something really wrong when someone like Katzer (or SCO) can so completely snow a court. The crux of both cases come down to code ownership/authorship. Is that something that just goes "Whoosh" to all judges?
    • The crux of both cases come down to code ownership/authorship. Is that something that just goes "Whoosh" to all judges?

      I completely agree. If I photocopied a famous author's work and printed it with my name in the author's spot, I'd lose in a heartbeat. That's because there is an existing legal tool called "copyright" that the judges *do* understand, with an entire set of procedures and precedents. Because nobody is paying for open source - which looks to normal people like hobbyist dabbling - nobody has paid lawyers to establish the parallel precedents.

      IANAL, so this is just opinion: Instead of trying to create new li

      • I think to the lower court this might have been seen as businessman v. hacker.
        • I think to the lower court this might have been seen as businessman v. hacker.

          It's absolutely shameful that (a) a court should so easily fall into a stereotype like that and (b) that a stereotype like that should even influence a court's decision in the first place. So much for justice being blind.

        • by schon ( 31600 )

          I think to the lower court this might have been seen as businessman v. hacker.

          I think you're entirely correct. I also think it's a very sad state of affairs that such a characterization has any impact on a ruling. So much for justice being blind.

          Thank you for your hard work!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 )

        If I photocopied a famous author's work and printed it with my name in the author's spot, I'd lose in a heartbeat. That's because there is an existing legal tool called "copyright" that the judges *do* understand, with an entire set of procedures and precedents.

        As a judge, having no exposure to the idea of open source, creative commons, or other such issues, the only thing a judge can fall back on is the legislature and case precedence. In a simplistic sort of way, it's very easy to conclude that everyone

    • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Monday February 22, 2010 @03:24PM (#31233706)

      (I'd like to deeply, deeply apologize to Perens, Jacobsen and all the other People of Virtue who worked on this case for the wet blanket I'm about to throw. God knows you all deserve better.

      I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, and here goes...)

      You should never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity.

      But no Court is this stupid. At some point you have to concede the problem is corruption.

      Katzer's outright theft is painfully obvious. It took $30,000 up front and five years of legal wrangling. WORLD CLASS MINDS had to engage on the side of the good guys. Look at the outcome.

      $100,000 over 18 months and future disputes are sent to arbitration.

      $100,000 does not even begin to cover the legal costs of the angels here. If the good guy attorneys hadn't been working pro bono, our Hero would still be in ruinous debt. If not for the amazing charity in this case, Jacobsen's victory would be declaring bankruptcy. $100,000 probably doesn't even put a chip in the profits Katzer made by his theft. $100,000 isn't even $100,000 since it's being paid over time, which means the real net present value is less.

      Worse, "Both parties have agreed to ... arbitration." Do some googling on modern arbitration. It's so blatantly rigged you can't even properly call it a fraud. Corporate interest prevail over the little guys in something like 98% of all cases, and the remaining two percent get such token amounts you can't legitimately call it a "win." Katzer is free to pull some heinous new stunt tomorrow -- like filing entirely new patents claiming ownership of Jacobsen's work -- and he can remain comfortable in the knowledge that he has a 98% chance of getting away with it.

      "Aw, shut the Hell up, man. We got the precedent and that's what really counts."

      Really? A precedent that costs $30,000 up front to try to use?

      "Dude, seriously, STFU. We're making incremental progress towards a larger victory here. FOSS is gaining legitimacy in the legal world, and that's what really matters."

      I know. I've been hearing that for 20 years now. After twenty years of gaining legitimacy, it still only takes five years, two appeals and a team of pro bono attorneys to recover a token amount of somewhat less than $100K and a decision that all future disputes will be resolved in the favor of the bad guys. We're making wonderful progress. A few more such victories and we'll be lost.

      "Frackin' Hell, man, what the frack is your problem?!"

      My problem is that I want everyone else to come to the same excruciating conclusion I have. The System has a horrible bias in favor of the rich and powerful. The System will go out of its way to screw the weak and defenseless. That by Bruce's own admission, the System will take a tool like SLAPP, expressly designed to level the playing field, and use it to deny justice to those not rich enough to afford it. If Jacobsen hadn't had an extra $30,000 laying around, this case would have been over before it began.

      Justice is no longer blindly weighing merits, but is instead whoring herself out to the highest bidder. I want to change that, and we can change that when enough of my fellow citizens begin to understand just how corrupt things have become.

      But wearing rose-colored lenses and seeing this as a "victory" doesn't help us. Jacobsen and company had to wage a heroic, epic battle for a very. very tepid victory. The real costs of his case weren't covered, he hasn't been made whole for the time he lost, Katzer kept his profits and is still out there free to start stealing again tomorrow.

      We shouldn't be celebrating this outcome. It doesn't vindicate the Courts.

      It indicts them.

      (And again, my sincerest apologies and deepest thanks to the wonderful people who fought this fight.)

      • Oh, you've noticed you're a slave, then.

        Next step: what are you going to do about it?

        • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:47PM (#31235356)

          With respect, I'm not a cynical college kid who just discovered nihilism, Bruce. I have children, so I fear for the future. I speak. I write. I vote. I'm up for anything short of flying a plane into a building. You got a hill you wanna take, General Perens, I'll be there.

          I began my life as a homeless kid. I've had a miraculous outcome, built a life against all reasonable expectation; college, wife, kids. But as good as my life is -- and it is good -- I am embattled on all sides. I am fighting the good fight -- and I will proudly go down fighting the good fight -- but I can see the battlefield.

          I paid for my own education. I went into a lucrative, practical, growing field. I have watched salaries and opportunities plummet. I know that chances are good I'll be declared too old to hire before my hair even goes grey. Looking back, I would have been better off skipping college and becoming a plumber.

          There is a medical issue that has wiped out my family's finances. I have insurance. Insurance has been worse than useless. There are databases filled with other families in the exact same trap. We make a lot of noise, but we're not making much progress.

          I'm lucky. My kids' school is filled with idealistic teachers doing all they can. The problem is they're doing all they can with the proceeds of a can recycling drive. They're gonna go down fighting the good fight too, and gallows humor pervades the place.

          For the first time ever last year, I saw a financial analysis that argued college was not worth it, especially if you had to pay for it yourself. Worse still, I couldn't refute it. What path do I offer my children when even education is a losing proposition?

          I've traveled. I've seen the Third World. I know where we're heading. I'm desperately hoping my fellow citizens can quit hitting the Fox News crack pipe long enough to notice our city bus just went off a cliff.

          What am I doing about it, Bruce? I'm standing on the walls of the Alamo, firing steady and sharpening my Bowie knife. I'm hoping in the future fat tourists in cotton shorts come to gawk at my heroic remains. I'm hoping my stand here gives General Houston time to run. Gregory Bloody Peck better play me in the movie.

          But I'm pretty sure I know how this chapter's gonna end. And like I said, I'm a man with kids. So I'm OK with that.

      • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:13PM (#31235904)

        FYI, the $100,000 doesn't include legal fees, the agreement specifically includes that Katzer will pay the "reasonable" legal fees of Jacobsen. What this means is that if Katzer thinks the legal fees are too high he can complain to the judge and the judge will review but otherwise Katzer is going to pay the legal fee's separately from the $100,000 he's paying Jacobsen.

  • We are talking about $100.000, my precious.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raddan ( 519638 ) *
      We don't need the extra precision unless our software is stealing from the boss, thanks.
  • So, when will this case be made into a major motion picture, with Julia Roberts playing the part of Victoria Hall?
    • with Julia Roberts playing the part of Victoria Hall?

      C'mon. She may be a little loose, but comparing her to Victorian architecture is not called for.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mike260 ( 224212 )

      Yeeeesssss...I'm seeing Matt Damon as the earnest geek who refuses to back down, James Gandolfini as the litigious scumbag, and Brent Spiner as Bruce Perens.

  • Larry Wall's Artistic License ( got ripped to shreds under court scrutiny.

    Understand when to use the LGPL or the GPL: []

    use them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) *
      That should probably be: use the version 3 ones. There are a lot of lessons from experience in the v3 series.
  • What important precedents where set by this case. It seems like it was settled out of court, which would usually mean that a judge didn't rule, and therefore didn't set an precedents. The appeals court did rule that an attribution clause is legally binding, which is good. Was there anything else established?

    • Re:Precedents? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:42PM (#31233012) Homepage Journal

      It went to appeals court twice and the appeals court ruled both times, then handed the case back to the lower court. The main precedents come from the appeals court.

      That's the way it always is. Lower court precedents aren't terribly useful because only that court has to follow them. Appeals court precedents are more valuable, and the appeals courts are more respected as expert jurists so that other courts follow them even if they don't have to.

      The precedents are that Open Source licenses can be enforced, and with all of the mechanisms that have been put in place to enforce proprietary licenses, including summary judgement. To get that, we had to show that the Open Source developer has an economic interest in his work even though he isn't paid by legitimate licensed users of the work, and is harmed by an infringer even though he isn't paid.

      To you and me it seems odd that anyone had a problem with that idea. But we're inside the revolution.

  • by starseeker ( 141897 ) on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:25PM (#31232730) Homepage

    Here's the link to their donations page: []

    I have to admire what these guys are doing and the good it will do for the open source community as a whole (at least in the US). I've seen this case pop up off and on over the years, and it always struck me as a scary plight for an open source developer to be in.

    (Not affiliated with the project in any way and nobody asked me to post the link - I just think a slashdot effect is in order here given what they're doing and what he's been up against.)

  • Anoyiing at best. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:35PM (#31232908) Homepage Journal

    Why the heck is Bruce Perens' name all over this and in the summary TWICE while Bob Jacobsen's name is only listed in the summary in case name?
    It was Bob Jacobsen that paid for this case, risked his job, and wrote the software while Bruce Perens' did even go on the stand!
    Here is a much better summery.

    "Open source programmer Bob Jacobsen wins an historic case establishing the legal validity of Open Source Licenses ,
    The court awarded Mr. Jacobsen $100,000 after years of appeals and many thousands of dollors of personal expenses.
    The actual court ruling is almost like some kind of Hollywood movie ending for Open Source, with the judge so unequivocally siding with the underfunded open source developer.
    Here is a link to Mr. Jacobsen's project JMRI [] where you can read about his software and contribute to his project to show your support and gratitude for the legal fight Mr. Jacobsen fought for all of our benefit."


    • Re:Anoyiing at best. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:49PM (#31233108) Homepage Journal

      If you read the story, rather than the summary, you will find that Jacobsen is of course all over it. The summary is written by an editor who wishes you to read the story based on the credibility of a writer whom you already know, yours truly. And I am, to some extent, telling the story from the perspective of my own involvement.

      I am also taking the opportunity to advertise my work as an expert witness, which I get damn little chance to do because every other case I've participated in has sealed and thus I can't show anyone my writing samples!

      Sorry if that annoyed you. All of the work on the case was done for free. I get a little money from Datamation, but far from enough to live on.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        I did read the article. I wasn't criticizing your article in anyway just the summary.
        In fact most of my summary came from your article. Including the name of the FOSS author, name of his FOSS project, and the fact that he paid for most of the lawsuit himself.

        If you take a look at the front page that summary is the only summary that in anyway reference the author of the original article at all. I thought your article was just fine.
        The summary which you didn't write was terrible IMHO. I feel it did you a di

    • Umm, because Perens wrote the article? Why shouldn't his name be there, he created the content we are all reading. I don't see how that detracts from what Jacobsen did.
  • Well correct me if im wrong here, but why is a so called 'settled case' a victory ? Doesn't this simply mean that there will be no precedent ? Why is that a victory ?
    • .. And fucked up big time ... :(
      • Not your fault, this stuff is complicated.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by lbalbalba ( 526209 )
          Thanks, that kind reply really means a lot to me. But my guess is that it's not really the subject matter per se that is complicated for me here ; rather, I believe it's my poor grasp of the English language that is the problem. Stating that " ... The case was not sealed like so many settled cases ... " at the top of your article falsely led me to believe that this case was also settled - just not sealed.
  • I am continually and repetitively dumbfounded by the mere existence of people like Katzer. I cannot fathom how they would hope to profit and succeed in this way. I acknowledge that it has happened, is happening still and will continue to happen. But the concept and notion is hard for me to understand. I cannot identify with it in the slightest. That people like this even walk the streets masquerading as humans at all is disturbing to me.

    When someone engages is these sorts of activities, there should be

    • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:07PM (#31234586) Homepage Journal

      When someone engages is these sorts of activities, there should be more than civil penalties. There should be criminal penalties as well. It is simply unbelievable.

      Lying on your patent application is perjury. It hasn't been prosecuted since 1974, when USPTO discontinued their enforcement division.

      I have so far had little success in evangelizing that it should be prosecuted again. If you know an organization that would like to sponsor work on that, I could use some help. I rarely can put food on the table through evangelism, and thus can't do it as much as I'd like.

  • The JMRI sourceforge page [] acccepts donations, a proper slashdotting could make make up the difference between expenses and $100k pretty quickly!

  • by Katyrnyn ( 90568 ) on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:11PM (#31234678)

    The outcome of this case is beneficial both for Open Source Software community and the Model Railroading hobby.

    In general model railroading is a very open and diverse hobby. Some are better with structural engineering and carpentry, others with electronics, model building, methods of railroad operation, et cetera. As a community we work together to share and improve our techniques, both to improve ourselves as modelers and to increase our satisfaction from the hobby. There are many well established venues for sharing our knowledge, from regular conventions (NMRA National, Regionals, and plenty of Special Interest Groups), a large number of printed an online periodicals, online communities, and just general "how did you..." questions at any old time.

    Unfortunately our openness attracts thieves and greedy sorts who are more interested in making a quick buck than improving the hobby, and manufacturers and other entities attacking hobbyists is nothing new. I imagine this greedy nature is present in all hobbies and walks of life, but it seems to be more common now than when I entered the hobby 20 years ago.

    Hopefully the outcome of this case will make others that prey on innocent hobbyists think twice.

    Thanks, Bruce, for your well-written summary of the case. I'd mod your article up +1: Insightful if the Internet gave out mod points.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger