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Free software movement wins one in court

A court ruling has signaled a big win for makers of open-source software, otherwise known as the free software movement.

The suit, involving model railroad hobbyists, resulted with the federal appeals court in Washington finding that just because a software programmer gives his work away does not mean it cannot be protected.

The decision, reported the “New York Times,” legitimizes the use of commercial contracts for the distribution of computer software and digital artistic works for the public good. The ruling also bolsters the open-source movement by easing the concerns of large organizations about relying on free software from hobbyists and hackers who have freely contributed time and energy without pay.

It also has implications for the Creative Commons license, a framework for modifying and sharing creative works that was developed in 2002 by Larry Lessig, a law professor at Stanford. The ambiguity facing open-source licensing has been one of the hurdles facing the movement, said Joichi Ito, the chief executive of Creative Commons.