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Developer CEO 'liable for copyright infringement' over unlawful tool

Court injunction bans 'JDownloader2', but exec may appeal

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The chief executive of a software company in Germany has been found liable for copyright infringement after software developed by the company was amended in an open source environment to allow copyright-protected material to be accessed unlawfully.

Appwork created "JDownloader2", a download management tool, but allowed any external developers access to the underlying code to test and upgrade the software. A beta-version of the software which was adapted in an open source environment to allow an encryption tool that prevents the downloading of copyrighted material to be circumvented was subsequently made available for download and use commercially.

A regional court in Hamburg said it was an infringement of German copyright laws to circumvent the technological protection measure. It ruled that the chief executive of Appwork was liable for that infringement after finding that the company had opened the possibility for open source integration, allowed the infringing version to be labelled as Appwork's own product, and failed to provide any restrictions against the downloading of such unofficial, infringing versions of its software.

"Open source" is a term that refers to software constructed using underlying code that is made available by developers for others' use without the need to pay licensing fees but that may be subject to other requirements.

Munich-based copyright law expert Igor Barabash of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the Hamburg court set an injunction against Appwork's chief executive in the ruling. The injunction bans the company and the chief executive from developing, making publicly available and possessing for commercial purpose the respective software as long as the software provides the possibility to circumvent security measures specified in the ruling and therefore provides the possibility to download and save secured video streams containing copyrighted material of the applicant in the proceedings.

Barabash noted, however, that the chief executive may yet be able to overturn the injunction if the case progresses to a full trial.

Copyright © 2013, Out-Law.com

Out-Law.com is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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