Many individuals or entities will provide copyrighted material to the public and attempt to restrict the public’s ability to use the copyrighted materials for personal gain. A common example is the software industry’s use of open source materials.
Many software developers or programmers will provide their code to the public, but attempt to limit another’s ability to copyright anything that is created from their software code. In a recent case, Jacobsen v. Katzer and Kamind Associates Inc., the Federal Circuit upheld the ability of a copyright owner to publicly disseminate its code, grant a non-exclusive license, and still sue for copyright infringement.
How? Well, a Copyright Owner can put conditions on the non-exclusive license that restrict the public’s use of the software code. If the conditions are violated, then the copyright owner can sue for both copyright infringement and breach of contract for violating the covenants in the license agreement.
The Federal Circuit’s reasoning and ruling raises concerns for individuals and employers who may believe that use of open source materials or items in the public domain are free from copyright infringement claims. Having a good policy and practice of reviewing the conditions of use for any open source or publicly available materials is now a crucial business practice for any technology driven company.
To find out more about the opinion see: Jacobsen v. Katzer and Kamind Associates, Inc. open-source-license-agreements1