Commons Law

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Andrew Katz is partner and head of the IT/IP team at Moorcrofts LLP, a boutique law firm based in the Thames Valley providing corporate and commercial advice to knowledge-based industries. Andrew qualified as a barrister and requalified (and now practises) as a solicitor. He financed his way through bar school by jobbing as a (fairly incompetent) programmer (in turbo pascal). He now specialises in free and open source software law and has written and lectured widely. He is a founder editor of the International Free and Open Source Software Law Review, a fellow of the Free Software Foundation Europe and advises businesses and communities on free and open source licensing and strategy worldwide. He is slightly obsessive about live music. These are his opinions, and not those of his firm.

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Recent Posts

Open Source Law

Can the software model work in other industries?

I’m hoping in the next few months (possibly weeks) to practise what I preach: I’m working with a client, Emerge Open, to release a suite of legal documents under a creative commons licence, provisionally BY-SA (attribution-share alike, which means that...

Tags: copyright, creative commons, creative commons licenses, law, open source, programming

Open source: The evildoer's choice

Need some software to complete that death ray?

If you're an evil dictator with designs on world domination, and want the best database software to build your SDPMS (Superhero Death Plot Management Software), and if you also have an irrational (for an evil dictator) desire to remain compliant...

Tags: database, kitten death, law, licence, open source

Open source hardware: Announcing a new licence

Why copyleft may not be right for hardware

Open hardware is coming of age. I'm currently working on projects as diverse as open source cars, open source boats, open source wind turbines and open source electronics. A problem is that there are only two open licences designed for...

Tags: apache, gpl, hardware, infrastructure, it business, licence, open source

The road to copyright court is paved with good intentions

It's the act of copying that's the crime, not the idea

As I pointed out in my last post, intention is irrelevant when determining whether someone is infringing copyright (assuming that the Temple Island case I mentioned is appealed, and the Court of Appeal does the right thing*). I mentioned George...

Tags: copyright, law, patent, public sector

Copyright case spells trouble for developers

Is the idea/expression dichotomy no longer honoured in copyright law?

There's been a fair amount of coverage of a worrying judgement in a copyright case involving a couple of pictures of a red Routemaster crossing Westminster bridge. A good one is here (HT to Emily Goodhand for the link -...

Tags: copyright, developer, it business, law, patent

Helpful judgment from the Advocate General

A victory for sense in the legal process

Is it possible to claim that an API is covered by copyright, so that it can't be reverse engineered and a competing product built using a compatible API? Likewise, can a programming language be protected by copyright, so it's not...

Tags: api, code, copyright, europe, google, law, oracle, programming, sas institute, world programming

Avoiding patent liability by making things at home

More legal restrictions looming?

Section 60(5)(a) of the Patents Act 1977 provides that you can’t infringe any patents by doing an act in private and for non-commercial purposes. Patent holders have presumably been reasonably unconcerned about the odd lone tinkerer making potentially infringing...

Tags: open source, patents

Open hardware, or open source hardware?

Will we see a repeat of the debates in the software world?

Bruce Perens (co-founder of the Open Source Initiative) has been opining about the difference between open source hardware and open hardware. People have compared the debate to the difference between open source software and free software, and are concerned that...

Tags: andrew katz, bruce perens, moorcrofts llp, open source, richard stallman

Important GPL violation case to hit courts

Open source test case could have profound implications

For GPL watchers, a crucial case is due to be heard in Germany tomorrow. AVM produces DSL routers using firmware based on the Linux kernel. Cybits AG, produces web filtering software aimed at protecting children. It seems that one...

Tags: avm, cybits, gpl, of, open source

Why does the Government need to own the copyright in software it has developed?

Learn from the USA

Tech contract negotiations frequently involve a lot of argument about who gets to own the copyright generated. They essentially boil down to points of principle, rather than reasoned argument. Like many other complex issues, it’s worth going back to...

Tags: andrew katz, applications, open source, patents, public sector, software licensing