September 28, 2007
Damages for Violation of Open Source License?
It's an interesting questions: What contract damages does a software developer who doesn't charged for the software suffer when a user violates the license agreement? That's one of the issues in what is being called the "first known case filed in the U.S. to enforce an open-source license." We may not learn the answer, though, since it looks like the two parties -- the Software Freedom Law Center and Monsoon Multimedia, Inc. -- are looking to settle.
In the case, Monsoon allegedly used free software called BusyBox but failed to abide by the GNU Public License. If failure to abide by the license is treated as copyright violation, then statutory penalties would presumably apply. But if the agreement is looked at as a contract, there's a serious question whether any damages would be available, and injunctive relief (even if available) only locks the door after the violations have taken place. The license, moreover, might be vulnerable on the same grounds that wiped out the one in Specht v. Netscape Communications.
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