back to article Sovereign immunity blocks DMCA suit against Air Force

Federal software contractors take note: A federal appeals court in the US recently ruled that a software owner couldn't sue the government for copyright infringement and anti-circumvention violations after the US Air Force refused to pay for a software license and cracked controls built into the software to control unauthorized …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    This is it!!!

    all we have to do it petition our Congress to force our government to reverse-engineer the Windows XP source code, and release the source code to the public! The government ignores its own laws, takes no responsibility for its actions, and we gain the full source code at last!!!

    Why didn't they think of this earlier!?! Now they can stop the anti-trust monopoly Microsoft has, and make future OS's better as a result!


  2. A J Stiles

    Copyright comes from Government

    Copyright is an agreement administered by the Government. They would have been entirely within their powers just to annul the copyright on the software in question, and cite National Security if anyone asks for a reason.

    Still, the Air Force must have lose somt credibility points for allowing this to happen.

    There's an old saying, "Don't pay the ferryman until he gets you to the other side". Maybe we should update that: "Don't pay the Programmer until he gives you the Source Code".

  3. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Like a proverbial broken tub from a Russian fable...

    That greedy schmuck should have taken the promotion and the extra pay and be happy instead of trying to blackmail the service into making him a "government contractor" - it just does not work like that.

    "Because he wrote the software on his own time, and therefore it was his code."

    When you are in the army you don't have "own" time.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Copyright law differs by region

    Ignoring the Military, which this story is concerning itself with, in the US, an individual retains a degree of control to the rights to an innovation that they had even if it is done on company time. This is the reason why Sun were able to set themselves as a company using software technology largly developed when Bill Joy and the other the founders were working or grad students for University of California, Berkley. They did cross license it, but the fact that they had retained some of the rights gave them a great lever to do so. I thing that Bill Joy's name is still listed explicitly on some copright notices on BSD derrived code.

    This can be altered by employment contract, but is then subject to being challenged in court.

    In the UK, copyright for an innovation made on work time, or using work resources are owned exclusivly by the employer. This is how IBM and others in the UK can own all innovations by their employees in the UK. Their contract of employment is quite explicit about this, and contains the clause Slik Fandango commented about earlier. I knew a clever bod who had to get explicit agreement from the management to participate in BSD 4.4 development, even though he had been involved with this before joining IBM.

    So please be aware that just because you were able to do something, it may not be possible in another country.

    In this case, the US military and government are involved, so all bets are off.

    I wait for IBM or the black-hats to track me down!

  5. Trevour Crow

    First right

    To the guy who compared it to art: The government(and most IT employers) generally only practice first-right; that it, you can do anything with your creation you want, so long as they don't want it(I recall something like this happening with HP and Jobs related to the Apple). The military generally won't take your pretty pictures, but code is gold.

  6. Tony Lewis
    Jobs Horns

    Law's... we don need no steenking laws!

    "Oh, and AC, the US principle of Sovereign Immunity doesn't apply to foreign governments. Sorry."

    Maybe not the US principle, but since 911 any Government can just make-up laws without regard to international law, since the biggest proponent of such laws arbitrarily decides which rules apply to them.

    Or in other words, if you can't follow rules, don't expect anyone to listen to you regarding "the rules." It's a free for all now.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Davenport was on taxpayer's dime, period...

    IMHO, even though Davenport created the core program at home, he was still a military goon in the Air Force and thus on the U.S. taxpayer's dime. Therefore, USAF owns the software, not Davenport.

    If he really wanted to make a buck, he should have left the Air Force and become a consultant (back into the USAF). I have seen this happen many times while assigned as a contractor for a USAF base.


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