Posts Tagged ‘court case’

Freedom (from lawsuits, to a point)

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Today (yesterday? timezones are confusing) the jury in the long-long-long-running case of SCO vs. Novell returned a verdict. on the question whether the copyrights (to UNIX) were transferred to SCO. The jury answered “no”, which bring to a sort-of-close the whole lawsuit. You can find more coverage at Groklaw (kind of gloaty, though), Ars Technica (annoying with Konqueror though) or The Register.

I say it’s sort-of-closed, simply because the decision and final verdict belongs to the judge, not the jury (as the parties in the suit had requested — see Groklaw). So things could still change around. In any case, this means (modulo final decision, appeals, and whatnot) that the copyrights to UNIX still reside with Novell and SCO has no case to bring copyright infringement suits against contributors to Linux. Novell has the copyrights, so it would be Novell’s prerogative to do so if such claims had any merit.

To put it more simply still: the spectre of suits “against Linux” on the basis of copyright infringement from UNIX is now banished. That’s a form of freedom.

[[ Another case, Palm vs. Artifex, has its first hearing today if I read the court schedules right a ways back; that's the suit brought by Artifex against Palm for Palm using the mupdf (GPL) libraries but not shipping the sources of the PDF viewer application. A suit that, to me, exemplifies yech, gross on both sides of the suit: Palm for not doing the usual compliance move, Artifex for shipping wretched source for mupdf and bringing suit from a licensing rather than compliance angle. ]]

On damages and responsibility

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

My newspaper — the NRC — contains an item de uitspraak on page two once a week that deals with some recent court ruling. This week it is a copyright-related item, probably spurred on by last week’s controversy about rights payments on embedded videos on personal websites.

I’ll translate and quote parts of the column here, because it is of interest. This is transformative in nature and thus creates a derived work. Let’s think that this particular derivative work falls under “fair use” (which doesn’t exist as such in Dutch copyright law).

To start off, it’s not actually a copyright item; a 15-year old posted a copyrighted photograph which he had found with image search on his own website. He did this twice. An earlier case awarded the rightsholder (the photographer) EUR 4000 in damages. That seems a bit excessive to me, but .. in any case, the kid did not pay, and now the rightsholder is suing the parents for the same damages.

So this case actually is about claiming damages from parents, in particular because of the responsibility that parents have for the actions of their children. Dutch law says “Responsibility for damages caused to third parties by a child, 14 or 15 years old, lies with those who exercise parental control, except if they cannot be blamed for not preventing the actions (causing the damage) by the child.” Ugh, that’s convoluted, and “parental control” is something called “ouderlijk gezag,” which may be exercised by natural parents or foster parents or in some cases an institution.

According to de uitspraak, the considerations in this case were that a 15-year old has a reasonable expectation of autonomy and that non-stop surveillance is not to be expected (heck, I don’t watch non-stop over my kids when they’re surfing, and they are 5 and 6 — but then I do try to start them in a safe place of the net). So letting kids do “stuff” on the net is not a reason in itself a reason to expect surveillance. The judge also states that it need not be considered unusual for kids to maintain a website. As a result the parents are not held responsible for the damages.

Note that this says nothing about the damages awarded earlier: presumably the kid still owes 4k from the original case. It does, however, say something about where parental oversight is expected for kids doing things on the net.