In the first lawsuit by a commercial open source vendor, Artifex, which uses a “dual licensing” model (providing the software under both the General Public License (”GPL”) and a commercial license) for its MuPDF rendering engine, has filed suit against Palm for alleged copyright infringement (in the interests of transparency, I have worked for Palm in the past, but I am not involved in this matter). Artifex alleges that Palm has violated its rights by using MuPDF in the Palm Pre but failing to comply with the GPL or, in the alternative, take a commercial license. The complaint has very few details so it is difficult to determine how the GPL was violated.
This complaint may signal the beginning of a trend by commercial open source companies with ”dual licensing” models: the success of that model, which is used by most commercial open source companies, depends on the difference in the scope of rights available under an open source license and a commercial license as well as the value of the additional protections (performance warranties, support and indemnification) available under the commercial license. Thus, one important component of this strategy is to ensure that the open source version of their software is used within the scope of the open source license. However, litigation has been uncommon in the open source community in the US until recently and we will see if the trend towards more litigation continues next year.
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