This week I’m venturing beyond the marketing world and into the techie side of things. A few interesting things last week in the world of open source software caught my attention – at least because of the irony they both represent.
First, Apple’s App Store was subject to a suspicious, and slightly malicious, incident. An application called ”I Am Rich,” which sold for $999 a pop, merely displayed the image of a ruby on one’s iPhone screen. Said to be a joke by its developer (uh huh!), the application was more of an ironic insult to the ”open source-like” idea being promoted by Apple. After all, the open source movement has long been a community of progressive individuals dedicated to technology innovation, not profit like the kind Apple makes with its fat-margin iPhones.
Then there was the appeals court ruling in the case of Robert Jacobsen vs. Matthew Katzer/Kamind Associates, which further bolstered the idea of copyright infringement in open source. First, some background: Software developer Jacobsen created open source code used in software for controlling model trains. Kamind Associates downloaded parts of Jacobsen’s project, stripped out the copyright notice and other identifying information, and began redistributing the modified version without Jacobsen’s approval.
Jacobsen sued for violation of the terms of the license under which he created the open source code.
Last week a federal appeals court overruled the decision of a U.S. district court, which had ruled that the open source license was so broad that violations did not fall under the category of copyright infringement. The appeals court agreed with Jacobsen that Kamind did indeed infringe on copyright. Unsurprisingly, this is hailed as a victory for smaller developers in the open-source world.
But it seems to me like this also gives legal precedent to larger corporations like Apple or Google – because the ruling may help allow large corporations the exclusive right to control the open source process. If a developer somehow violates their terms, they can be held as a copyright infringer. Could this precedent give rise to censorship in the corporate-backed open source world?
What do you think?
Shaneli Ramratan, Marketing Manager, mobileStorm